Customization is an integral part of the tennis scene. The exact feeling that one player gets does not at most times suit another player. This is the main reason tennis players/pros customize their tennis racquets. No matter what manufacturers do, there is never a one size fits all solution when it comes to tennis racquets. Other than that, no racquet comes out the assembly line matching the other as the technology to make identical racquets just isn’t there yet. A human’s touch is required to match professional racquets, and there are companies that provide that service for pro players.
When it comes to the question of whether you should be customizing your tennis racquet or not, the answer is a resounding YES. Not only does it inform you about the ins and outs of your tennis racquet, but it also helps you understand how pro players get the edge over their opponents. It is a cheap and effective way of changing how your racquet performs provided you do your research. As long as you do your research and perform measured adjustments that you can replicate, you will have a lot of fun.
Customization mainly involves changing three variables of a tennis racquet and I’ll try and explain these, so you can better understand what to do when you finally decide to take the leap and do some customization. Buying a racquet can be a little heavy on the wallet, and once you get a racquet you can feel locked out. It may be a little too light for your taste or a little unstable, and customizing can help with that as long you don’t get something that’s too heavy. Always buy a racquet that’s a little lighter than you prefer because if its balance doesn’t feel right or the swingweight feels lacking, you can just add a few inches of lead tape and you’ll be golden.
What Does Customization Involve?
Adding weight to different parts of the tennis racquet contributes to its customization. Three main things get changed when you add weight to the racquet: its swing weight, balance, and its static weight. The most important of the bunch is the swing weight but it’s also the hardest to understand, so I will try and tackle this in the end.
Most pros get their racquets matched to the specification of their choosing and they keep tinkering with these variables until they reach a sweet spot for their own game and playstyle.
Static Weight of the Racquet
The weight of the racquet the moment you hold it is called the static weight. It is also referred to as the pick-up weight as it is the weight of the racquet when you are just holding it in your hands and not swinging it. When you put it on the scale, it will give you that weight and it is the combined weight of the strings, frame and vibration dampener(if any).
Looking for racquets to get into customizing with? Check out my Babolat Buyers Guide and you’ll find something good to make your new testing racquet.
The Benefit of Increasing the Static Weight of a Racquet
The heavier the racquet is overall, the more comfortable your arms and shoulders are going to feel provided you maintain the balance and swing weight of the racquet. As long as the weight is concentrated close to the pivot point, then you won’t necessarily feel the weight of the racquet when swinging it. The benefit is that you will feel that the racquet is really stable when you go up to the net for volleys. There’s a reason Roger Federer’s volleys are the best in the business, he plays with a racquet that’s heavier than the average pro player’s racquet.
If you are the kind of player that has been struggling with volleys because the racquet does not remain stable, try and increase the weight on the handle of the racquet. You will feel a difference, I can guarantee that. My dad was having a little trouble with elbow and shoulder pains, and I offered him a little bit of lead tape in the handle of the racquet and all his problems went away.
So, it definitely works and there’s a lot of pro players that can testify to that. Keep on reading if you want to know how to do it; there are some good videos on Youtube that go over the methods and best practices.
How To Add Weight To the Handle of the Racquet
There are three main ways to add weight to the handle:
Lead tape is the easiest way to do it, lead tape is cheap and you can find rolls worth of tape pretty cheap on Amazon. Here’s a quick tip, there’s no need to buy a branded tape from Tourna or other companies, buy generic non-branded ones. They are more often than not cheaper and you get more for your money.
This is the one I personally got just to try out my hand customizing tennis racquets. I put around 6-8 grams worth of it on the handle of the racquet.
To show a more visual example, I followed the guide in this video.
Tennis Warehouse sells a pretty neat little thing called Tungsten Putty, Tungsten unlike Lead is non-toxic and you can use it without any problems.
Watch the video to get a detailed and visual look at the method.
Injecting silicone is probably the best way but is also the hardest way to increase the weight of the handle, and I will only recommend it if you have been doing some other customizations and have a knack of following instructions. This video shows you how to do it. It is not too hard when you get the hang of it; one tip when playing with silicone, do a few practice runs first outside the racquet just so you know how fast it comes out of the tube and you can control it.
Balance Point of The Racquet
The balance point of the racquet is the point at which the racquet becomes stable. Sometimes also called the pivot point, it tells if the racquet’s weight distribution is more towards the head of the racquet or towards the handle of the racquet.
When it comes to racquet terms, we say that the racquet is either more headlight or less headlight. This rarely is the case though, because the word head heavy is used quite a lot in the tennis scene.
Pros prefer headlight (more weight in the handle compared to the head) racquets because they provide higher maneuverability when making different strokes. Head Heavy racquets, on the other hand, are generally very light and designed to create power for players who can’t make their own.
Swing Weight or Plow Through
The swing weight of the racquet is basically the dynamic inertia of the racquet while static weight is the rest inertia of the racquet. To make things a little easier to understand, a moving truck will take a lot of force to stop dead in its track, that force required to stop that truck is basically the dynamic inertia.
As a measure of heft, the higher the swing weight, the more force has to be exerted to heave the racquet but it will also give the racquet little resistance against the ball. It will be like a truck moving at a slow speed, and even then causing a lot of damage in the case of a crash.
The benefit of a racquet having a higher swing weight is that it enables the racquet to do more work for the player in order to drive the ball deeper in the other player’s court. It also helps provide stability in returning fastballs (same truck analogy).
If the swing weight is left too low, then the racquet becomes susceptible to higher vibration and racquet head twisting.
To get nerdy about swing weights (which I tend to get sometimes), Racquet Tech put up a great video two years ago that I recently discovered. This is what really got me into racquet customization in the first place.
Can the Swing Weight Be Lowered?
Like a lot of other cases in which getting something lighter is beneficial when it comes to customization, getting a racquet that has a lower swing weight that you are used to is beneficial. But only if you are looking into customizing it.
It’s important to note that swing weight cannot be effectively removed from a frame in a way that is practical. Maybe you could trim the bumper guard or shorten the length of the frame, but those methods are barbaric and will destroy a perfectly good looking frame.
Using a string of a lower gauge can make some difference but even that does not make a lot of difference because the weight is concentrated throughout the hoop of the racquet rather than the tip of it.
To judge if the swing weight is too low, determine if you miss hitting balls because your swing speed is very fast and the head of the racquet is coming around too fast.
How To Increase The Swingweight of The Racquet
Without getting very technical, there’s a way to do it if you just want to try it. It’ll take 5-10 minutes max. Just be sure to wash your hands after as lead tape is known to be toxic, but if you don’t chew the thing you should be fine. The tools you’ll need for this operation are:
- Lead Tape
- A Scale to Measure
- A Racquet
- Balance Board
This video tells you how to do it since this is not easily explained in words. Just keep in mind that you should do it in small increments and always keep checking it on the balance board so that the racquet doesn’t get head heavy.
If it gets too heavy, supplement some weight on the tail of the racquet as shown above, as the racquet should remain either head-light or even balance. You never want to have a racquet that is head heavy as that will hamper your swing speed and maneuverability.
The tape used in the video is a little expensive, just buy the one I recommend as you just need a scale to measure it. Lead and Tungsten tapes, both will do the same thing.
Now that you’ve learned how to customize a tennis racquet, you might be wondering, do you really need to spend so much money on expensive tennis every two years? I have just the post covering that topic in my Do You Really Need Expensive Tennis Racquets To Play Your Best. This post covers a lot of stuff that gets hidden in all the endorsements.