In 2013, as my oldest son was about to turn six years old, I decided to introduce him to
tennis. I had played a lot of tennis growing up, and I wanted to see if he might develop the
same passion for the sport that I had as a kid. During this time of working with him and
teaching him basic fundamentals of the game, I remembered how much I loved playing as
a kid, and I began finding opportunities to play the game again more often myself.
One thing I quickly realized was that I was no longer a quick and nimble 14-year old kid, and I also realized that I'd forgotten some fundamentals myself during my multi-year tennis hiatus - particularly with my backhand stroke. The two-handed backhand that I'd used growing up now felt very awkward, it was inconsistent, and I had very little power with it. Frustrated, I decided that my foray back into tennis in my late-thirties would include a new one-handed backhand stroke. The idea was that it would give me more reach on the backhand side, and I would be able to generate lots of power and spin as I could more freely wield the racquet like I do on the forehand side. The beautiful, fluid Federer and Wawrinka one-handers were my inspiration.
I watched instructional videos to learn good one-handed backhand fundamentals, and I began focusing a lot of my drilling time on backhands to refine my swing path and build a more powerful backhand stroke. Over time I began to feel much more comfortable with my body positioning and my swing plane, and I started to develop much more power on my backhand shots. My consistency was still lacking, but I initially wrote it off to poor ball striking. I felt that my consistency would improve with more repetition. Slowly, I did improve my consistency, but really just in a backhand-only drilling environment. Alternating grips between serves, forehands, backhands and volleys during play presented new challenges. When I quickly had to rotate to my backhand grip, I did not know the exact angle of the racquet face. As with many players, I use a combination of wraps on my racquet - both a cushion grip and an overgrip - which made the handle rounder and smoother, and it muted the feel of the bevels. As a consequence, I was continually trying to find the right grip and right angle of the racquet face for the backhand stroke by looking at the racquet neck as I set up for the backhand and by trying to "feel" the angle of my non-gripping hand to the ground as I pulled the racquet back for each backhand stroke. Quite simply, I was guessing at what the right grip and racquet face angle should be on each backhand shot. As a result, I was very inconsistent during match play. One time I would hit a nice, driving backhand just over the net, and then the next time I'd drive it straight into the back fence. Then I'd dump one into the bottom of the net. Then I'd put another one into the fence. No consistency, no confidence in my stroke. I needed a system to help me get it right.
After months of continued frustration and some tinkering, the GripFinder concept was born. Though my initial, self-crafted solution was not the same as what the GripFinder band is today, the concept was the same. It was a system that provided me a stationary point of reference that I could feel every time I rotated the racquet, and it was comfortable and non-obstructive enough to use during regular match play. After some time, that end-of-pinky-finger reference point became something that I not only appreciated having, but it became something that I relied upon. Still today I don't play a match without a GripFinder on my racquet.
I tell this story because I know that my situation may not be unlike the situation that many other players face every day. They are looking for more consistency in their game, and they may have that one stroke that is more problematic than the others. For me, that stroke was my backhand. For others, it may be their serve grip, volley grip, backhand grip, or it may even be their forehand grip. Whatever the situation, I firmly believe that the GripFinder can help their game just as it's helped mine.
I wish you all the best in your future tennis endeavors.
Darby Klontz, Inventor of the GripFinder