The majority of today's touring pros play with customized racquets. Whether these players have their racquets customized during manufacturing or after-market, they want racquets tailor-made to their unique playing style, physique and strategic objectives. Just as the pros use customization to create the perfect weapon, there's no reason why you can't employ the same principles and methods to gain an edge over the competition.
The most common type of customization involves the addition of weight to strategic locations on a racquet. This is done to manipulate a racquet's overall weight distribution, which is the primary variable for controlling how a racquet will swing, feel and play. In addition to affecting things like stability, control, sweetspot location, arm-safety and power, weight distribution determines how maneuverable the racquet will feel to the player (which itself determines how effectively the player can generate power and spin). Weight customization is also used to ensure that all the racquets in a player's bag feel and play the same ("racquet matching").
Whenever weight is added to a racquet, it affects three major variables: static weight, balance and swingweight. Every serious tennis player can use weight customization to manipulate these variables in a way that suits his/her individual game. Of the three variables mentioned, swingweight seems to be the most elusive, so we will address that last. The other two, static weight and balance point, are a little easier to grasp.
The total mass of the racquet is referred to as static weight, or first-moment weight. It's the weight you feel when you pick up the racquet from the handle and are just holding it in your hand (at rest).
Balance point, sometimes referred to as pivot point, relates to where the majority of the racquet's weight is situated. Most competitive players use head-light racquets (more weight in the handle than in the head) finding racquet head maneuverability beneficial in stroke production and more effective in shot-making on a wider variety of strokes. Head-heavy racquets are generally super light and designed to generate power for the player who can't really create much of their own power. When communicating about balance point manipulation, we find it easiest to describe it in terms of more head-light or less head-light (not "more head-heavy" as this is often not the case).
Swingweight is the measure of dynamic inertia as the racquet swings through the racquet path. As a measure of heft, the higher the swingweight, the more force has to be exerted to heave the racquet. It's a little like heaving a bucket of water, but all things being equal, the higher the swingweight, the less maneuverable the racquet is. One benefit of a racquet with a higher swingweight is that it enables the racquet to do more work for the player to drive the ball deeper into the opponent's court. It also provides more stability upon ball impact (resistance to twisting), which is helpful in combating high velocity shots, especially big serves. With a lower swingweight the racquet is more maneuverable, making it easier for the player to generate the stroke speed; but if too low, the player may find excessive vibration and racquet head twisting upon ball impact. When working with swingweight in customization, the static weight, balance point and the location the weight is added have cause and effect relationships.
It's important to note that swingweight cannot be effectively reduced from a frame. The distinction between a Frame and a Racquet is simply that a racquet has strings installed and a frame doesn't. The only way swingweight can be reduced from a frame is to trim the bumper guard or shorten the length of the frame; neither of which is practical. However, by varying the string gauge and string type a racquet's swingweight can be affected. The racquet head coming around too fast, mis-hitting the ball frequently can be another indicator that the swingweight may be too low for the player.
The customization methods we use are reversible. If you add TW customization tape to your racquet, and you don't like it, you can simply remove it. You can also move it around to different locations of the hoop to experiment with different weight distribution dynamics, using the trial and error method, to ultimately find the optimal set up for your game.
We use a model that registers to the tenth of a gram and one one-thousandth of an ounce.
Alpha Viper Balance Board (available at Tennis Warehouse) or a dowel and a yardstick can be fashioned to measure balance point.
Double-sided tape Helpful to reapply adhesive backing worn from moving it to different areas of the hoop with trial and error applications (available at Tennis Warehouse).
Other Tools Shown Scissors, Ruler, Pen, Snips, Awl, Cotton Balls, Dots, Glue
Quarter-inch (1/4-inch wide) TW customization tape is lead free. It's packaged in lengths of eight-inch strips. Each strip is equivalent to one-tenth of an ounce (0.1 oz / 2.8 grams).
An eight-inch strip cut in half, centered at 12 o'clock, makes the racquet one point less head-light and increases swingweight by 10 points.
The effects of weight centered at the 12 o'clock location are: An 8" strip = 0.1 oz = 1 balance point (less head-light) = 10 swingweight points. Conversely 0.1 oz tail-weighted to the buttcap is equal to 1 balance point more head-light, but remember, swingweight can't be reduced (unless of course you reduce the length of the racquet!). These cause and effect relationships are very handy when thinking in terms of counter-balancing racquets and formulating the necessary equations to customize.
We recommend adding customization tape to the inner hoop rather than under the bumper guard at least initially. When the tape is situated under the bumper guard, strings need to be cut out if the estimate is off and needs to be manipulated. Tape is much more easily adjusted if placed in the inner hoop. Tape at the 12 o'clock location of the inner hoop can be moved underneath the bumper guard, in most cases, on the next restring. When applying tape to the inner hoop of the racquet, it should be placed as closely to the strings (grommets) as possible.
In some cases players with two or more of the same model racquet can match the weight and balance of each racquet to each other by utilizing TW customization tape.
Effective application of weight can also increase spin potential, improve torsional stability and maximize ball velocity.
This is one of the most common reasons for adding weight to a racquet. Equally adding weight to the inner hoop at the 10 and 2 o'clock locations not only makes the racquet heavier, but also helps reduce frame-twisting on off-center hits. Power potential will be increased by this application too. We don't recommend adding weight in the upper hoop of head-heavy racquets unless counter-balancing it with weight to the handle.
Weight added to the hoop of the racquet should be done in gradual amounts. Using four 2-inch strips at 10 and 2 is generally a good place to start. That will increase the racquet's total mass by 0.1 oz, not quite one full balance point (about 3/4 balance point) less head-light with an increase of about 7 to 8 swingweight points.
Two eight-inch strips of TW customization tape applied to the inner hoop, centered at the 12 o'clock location, will increase the racquet's total mass by 0.2 oz, translating into 2 balance points less head-light and a 20-point jump in swingweight.
This dramatic increase to the swingweight provides greater plow through potential. Counter-balancing the racquet with tail-weight is recommended with this sort of application to preserve the balance point and maintain racquet head maneuverability. Placing 0.2 oz of tungsten putty in through the butt cap's trap door will move the balance point back to its original position (based on the example above).
*Note; this is nearly a half-ounce of weight (0.4 oz) in total mass added to the racquet. Care should be taken when adapting to an increase in weight. Players should practice every single stroke in their repertoire before unleashing strokes with maximum explosiveness. Weight added at the 12 o'clock location will also raise the sweetspot. Raising the sweetspot is advantageous to players who regularly strike the ball in the upper hoop. To evaluate a player's strike zone, find the area of the stringbed where the frictional notching is most prevalent.
Weight added at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock location will expand the sweetspot outward toward the weight placement. One 8-inch strip added on each side of the hoop (two strips total) will increase the total mass by 0.2 oz, equaling 1 balance point less head-light and a 10- to 12-point increase in swingweight. The TW tape can also be layered and is thin enough to be applied under the bumper guard if necessary. If you are working with the Tennis Warehouse Customization Department and are requesting weight placement under the bumper guard, please provide unstrung spec targets, especially swingweight.
To make a racquet swing heavier, without substantially increasing overall weight, you can add two 2- to 3-inch strips of TW Tape to the inner hoop of the racquet's tip. This will result in a 5- to 7-point swingweight increase.
If you want to increase the racquet's total mass without changing the balance point, apply the TW customization tape to the inner area of the throat of the racquet. It can be cut into strips and layered or placed side-by-side. This will preserve the balance point of most racquets while increasing the racquet's total mass with only a slight increase to the swingweight.
Making a racquet more head-light allows the player to enjoy the benefits of added weight without compromising the maneuverability. One way to achieve this is through tail-weighting. This is fairly easy to do on racquets with trap door access through the butt cap. The staples protruding inside the handle (that hold the butt cap in place) can be used to anchor cotton balls in place. This provides a platform to pack in tungsten putty, seal it together with glue and press the trap door back into place.
Some racquets' design prevents weight from being added inside the handle. In these cases, we've found going down a full grip size and adding a heat shrink sleeve is an effective and inexpensive way to tail-weight these racquets. Shrink sleeves increase the grip size one full size and add 0.6 oz, translating into 3 points more head-light balance (and a couple points higher on swingweight points too). Half-grip size heat shrink sleeves are also available and will add 0.3 oz for about 1.5 points more head-light balance.
In some cases customization may require removing the butt cap. For this type of customization we recommend consulting a tennis pro shop or an experienced racquet customization professional with access to the necessary tools (primarily the right kind of staple gun) to accomplish this. Tennis Warehouse University The automated racquet customization tool is great for exploring possibilities. Once you plug in the "what I have" specs and the "what I want" specs, click customize my racquet and a diagram of weight placement options will pop up. If the specs you want aren't possible, the customization tool will let you know. Link below: http://twu.tennis-warehouse.com/learning_center/customization.php
When evaluating strung spec targets keep in mind stringbed weights vary by string material type, string pattern, string gauge, racquet head size and use of dampener. If unstrung, remember to factor in overgrip use and/or use of leather grip.
For years pros have been tail-weighting their racquets, shifting the balance slightly more head-light, by simply replacing the stock grip with a leather grip (which is heavier than synthetic grips). Leather grips vary in weight but can weigh anywhere from about 0.2 oz to 0.4 oz more than the stock synthetic grip. As far as the effect on balance point, the leather grip versus synthetic grip variance is roughly equivalent to:0.2 oz = 1 point more head-light0.3 oz = 2 points more head-light0.4 oz = 2.5 points more head-light
If you play competitive tennis or simply want the best performance from your racquets, using matching racquets is essential. Competing with two or more racquets that match in weight and balance can help you take your performance to the next level. Establishing a reference point of your racquet's weight distribution specs can provide a model for future purchases. Those seeking optimal performance from their racquet or further racquet customization can benefit from knowing their racquet's specs and how they relate to their stroke production.
For a $10 fee a Tennis Warehouse USRSA Certified Master Racquet Technician will sort through racquets, measuring them on the Babolat RDC, to find you a matching pair. A matching pair is defined as two (or more) racquets chosen from a random set that "match to each other" in static weight, balance point and swingweight. Once sorted, the racquet's unstrung specs are labeled and affixed to the racquet's handle packaging for customers to retain.
The service fee covers the cost of handling, measuring and sorting racquets. The fee is not contingent upon finding a match and is a non-refundable service fee.
The service fee for in house TW racquet customization is $20 per racquet plus the cost of the necessary materials. An updated order is submitted for customer confirmation with the materials fees in place before the work is begun. We no longer use Lead in racquet customization.
For more information regarding Tennis Warehouse racquet customization fees or racquet matching service details, please contact our Customer Service Department at 1-800-883-6647 or email firstname.lastname@example.org