Here’s the thing about a leather grip, it’s not actually that useful as a grip, but it does serve a very different purpose! I don’t know why anyone would actually use a leather grip without an overgrip, as it’s like trying to grip onto ice when your hand starts to get a bit sweaty. What it is great for though, is adding some weight to your racket, and changing the balance.
The Babolat Natural Leather Grip weighs in at 27g, which is about 10g more than a standard grip. If you add a 27g grip to a 300g racket, you’re certainly going to notice it, and it’s going to make a big difference to the balance.
This is a very useful way of optimizing your racket and one that many people use to get their racket exactly how they want it. By putting extra weight in the handle of the racket, you will change the balance, moving it towards the grip. This can be useful to add a bit more manoeuvrability to your stick, without taking too much away from the swingweight.
So, the answer is, you don’t want to buy this grip accidentally without realizing you’re actually adding a lot of weight to your racket! While I’m sure there are some people out there who like to play with a leather grip, its main use is in customization, and it is a bit of a trick of the trade to change the balance of your racket.
The good thing about customization is that if you don’t like it, it’s easy to change. I don’t really recommend messing around with your racket too much, because, at the end of the day, the racket companies put a lot of money into getting a good product to you. If you start adding weight here and there it might negatively affect the way it plays, but most importantly, it can start to give you injuries.
If you’re feeling like you could use a little more weight in the handle, however, then the leather grip is a good option, and Babolat do as nice a job as any with their natural brown leather grip.
Looks wise, I feel like the brown leather can be quite hit or miss, with a nice, minimalist white racket, it looks stunning, but with a complex paint scheme, it can start to look odd. I myself, am a huge fan of the Wilson Pro Overgrip, which looks brilliant with any racket and will go nicely over your new leather grip to make your racket something you can actually hold on to.
Still, there are some old-school players out there who seem to love the feel of the leather grip, so I have done my normal review as if I was going to go out and play a big match with it. I’ve started off by imagining that I’ve got six rackets with me, because at least 4 are going to break when they come flying out my hand on the serve.
Softness – 7.5/10
To some, the softness of a grip is important, and then there are Tourna grip users, who clearly have questionable regard for the skin health of their hands. I find the Babolat Leather Grip to be pretty comfortable for exclusive use of an undergrip – something I never use on its own.
The leather felt good in my hands, and it’s nice and squidgy to absorb some of the shocks you get when you miss the middle of the racket. It’s obviously not as soft as the Wilson Pro Overgrip, but it does a job none the less.
The Babolat Leather Grip felt very nice in my hands, particularly at the beginning of the practice, when the grip maintained a nice natural tac that kept my hand firmly in place and provided good comfort levels.
Overall, I’d say the Babolat Leather Grip gets a 7.5 out of 10. Tom has already established that the base score for this category is 5 when he gave the Tourna a 5 out of 10, so I’d put this grip right in the middle of the pack at 7.5.
Absorbency – 5/10
This is the major flaw with the leather grip. As soon as it gets a little bit damp it barely serves its purpose of keeping your racket in your hand. I’ve had the odd problem before where I hit my serve only to look up and see my racket at the other end of the court with my opponent, and that’s something I was very scared of during this playtest.
I’ve just bought some brand-new, beautiful Babolat Pure Strikes, which are now my pride and joy, so I didn’t fancy having to walk around the net to go and collect it smashed up after a big serve. Fortunately, I was playing outside on a pretty cold day, so it wasn’t such a big issue.
The thing is, I wouldn’t even say I sweat a great deal, and I still get problems with the leather grip. So, if you’re a big sweater then this is a no-go. When the grip is dry it has a little bit of tac to it which works well, but as soon as the grip gets a bit sweaty, the tac is immediately lost, and you’re left with nothing to hang on to.
Once again, I’m going to have to take Tom’s lead of using 5 as the lowest possible score and give the Babolat Leather Grip a 5 out of 10.
Thinness – 9/10
I rated the Wilson 10/10 for thinness, but obviously, it’s very different for an overgrip vs an undergrip. With an undergrip, the thinness is not that important as it’s more the connection you feel to the racket.
Connection to the racket is one of the main reasons cited for using a leather grip and it is true, you do get a lot feel with it. The Babolat Natural Leather Grip is pretty thin for an undergrip and isn’t super spongey like some of the more modern, synthetic undergrips.
This means the feel is less deadened than you might experience with a slightly thicker grip. Some people love this sensation, but for me, I prefer a slightly more deadened feel.
If you can manage to hold onto this grip, then it is probably the most natural feel you will get from a racket. I can see why people who grew up playing with these grips are so attached to them for this reason – it’s a very unique feeling.
Unique, yes, but certainly not for everybody! I gave the Babolat Natural Leather Grip a 9 out of 10 for thinness.
Conclusion – 6/10
I couldn’t wait to get this grip off my racket. First off, if I was to add extra weight to my racket, I would have it in the hoop of the racket, so the heavier grip threw me off quite a bit. Secondly, I don’t see how this grip is conducive to playing tennis, it might be one of the slippiest substances in the world when wet!
Having said all that, it is an excellent way of adding weight to your racket and making it a little more headlight. Once you’ve got it on your racket, you’re free to add whatever overgrip you like on top.
This makes scoring the Babolat Natural Leather a little bit difficult. As a customization accessory, I think it’s great. It adds substantial weight to the racket without making it too bulky and this can be invaluable to someone looking to change racket without having to buy a new one.
As a grip, it only has one flaw, but that flaw is so big that it makes it impossible for the majority of people to use. I know there will be people out there who can use it, but they must sweat glue or something.
So, a first for TheTennisBros.com – two scores! As a customization tool, it gets a 9 out of 10, it’s easy and effective, and can make a big difference to someone’s game.
As a grip though, I have given it a lowly 6 out of 10. I don’t know about everyone else, but when I’m serving with a $200 racket, I like to know that it’s still going to be in one piece at the end of the point. The Babolat Natural Leather grip does not reassure me of this, and it’s not something I could ever recommend to someone.
Review by: Will