Tape Top Tip: Place the tape on the inward-facing side of the frame - it's less likely to be dislodged Everything you wanted to know about adding lead tape to your racket (but were afraid to ask)
Most of us customise our rackets without even realising it. Adding an overgrip, changing the strings, playing with a vibration dampener – they’re all modifications to the racket that left the factory. But when most people talk about customising a frame, they’re thinking about altering its weight and balance to change its playing characteristics. There are all sorts of reasons for wanting to do this. Some players find the relaxed margin for error in some manufacturers’ factories can sometimes lead to two supposedly identical rackets feeling markedly different – make the odd tweak and they’re soon playing the same way. Others adjust the specifications of their frames to improve their performance, fine-tuning their favourite racket into a bespoke beast of their own making. There are professionals who will do all this for you, of course, but if you’re thinking of toying with the spec of your racket at home, you’ll need a bit of obscure tennis kit that you can find online for under a tenner – lead tape.
Adding lead tape affects your racket in four ways – and you can rarely change one variable without changing the others.
Weight: It’s nigh on impossible to remove weight from a tennis racket, so it’s important to appreciate the effect of adding weight – and particularly where that weight is added. Heavier frames are more physically demanding than lighter frames, but are able to transfer more power into a stroke when meeting a ball. Weight can also slow down your swing. If you hit the ball fairly flat and find yourself constantly hitting the ball long, adding weight in the throat of the racket will both increase stability and decrease racket speed, bringing the ball back towards the baseline.
Swingweight: As the name suggests, swingweight describes how heavy your racket feels during your swing. Standard tennis rackets tend to fall between 275 and 350 kg/cm2. Again, the higher the tape, the greater the increase in swingweight – or dynamic inertia – but because your hand is the pivot point, weight added to the handle has little to no effect on swingweight whatsoever. Swingweight is a measure of resistance to movement in a circular direction, which is the basis of most textbook tennis strokes. That might sound bad, but it’s a balancing act. It is more difficult to swing a racket with a higher swingweight at top speed, but when that racket hits the ball, the ball has a less disruptive effect on the swing pattern – so the racket resists the urge to deviate from its path.
Balance: The balance point of a racket is the point at which it would see-saw when set on a thin edge without tipping over. The balance of a racket is referred to in two ways – a measurement from the buttcap to the balance point (as used in our reviews) or using a points system to describe how far the balance point is from the centre-point of the racket’s length – generally 34.3cm for a standard racket. There are eight points in an inch. Rackets with balance points below the midpoint are described as being headlight; and above it, head-heavy. Rackets behave as if all of their weight is passing through the balance point. In two frames of the same weight, the head-heavy frame will be more powerful and more stable, while the head-light frame will be more manoeuvrable. If you’re serious about tinkering with your frames, you’ll need the following
Sweetspot: The sweetspot will gravitate towards any added weight. Add tape to the throat or handle and it will move lower on the stringbed; add it to the tip and it will move upwards. Placing tape at 3 and 9 o’clock will stretch the sweetspot closer to the edges of the frame by increasing the racket’s torsional stability – but don’t forget the effect on balance and swingweight…
This is an excerpt from "Heavy Metal" which originally appeared in tennishead Volume 5 Issue 2 (June 2014). Subscribe to the magazine today or download tennishead on iTunes.
Posted by: Michael Beattie
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Pete Sampras was well-known for using lead tape to enhance the playing characteristics of his Wilson rackets (Sampras pic - Juergen Hasenkopf)
I recently got a new tennis racquet and was kind of happy with it. Kind of. After looking into what I might do to make it an even better racquet, however, I decided that I might be able to customize it to make it just right for me. In this episode, I’ll tell you how, just like me, you can use lead tape to customize your own tennis racquet. It’s a lot easier than you think. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: TennisFixation.com/itunes.
Just a few months ago, I bought a new tennis racquet. I talked about how I decided which racquet to buy in two previous episodes. In Episode 43, called All About Tennis Racquets, I talked about all of the terminology associated with tennis racquets and how you can pick the racquet that’s right for you. And in Episode 56, How To Demo A Tennis Racquet, I told you the best way to get a few racquets to try out to help pick a tennis racquet. I’ll have links to those episodes in the show notes for this episode so you can go back and listen if you want to really know how to pick out a great tennis racquet.
So, after going through the whole process myself, I picked out a racquet that I was pretty happy with but not 100% happy with. There were certain things about this new racquet that I loved – it has a much bigger sweet spot than my old racquet and a more open string bed. Both of these things helped me with putting spin on the ball and with hitting better volleys. But it seemed like my ground strokes and my serves were even less powerful than they had been with my old racquet.How Can I “Tweak” My Tennis Racquet?
I decided the thing that was keeping this racquet from being my perfect racquet was that it was too light, almost a whole ounce lighter than my old racquet. I didn’t really notice this when I was demo-ing this racquet but, after using it several times in matches, the idea that I needed this racquet to be just a little heavier, a little head heavier actually, became sort of an obsession. I was convinced my racquet could, in fact, be perfect if I could just make it heavier.
And that’s when I decided to look into tweaking my racquet by applying lead tape to the frame. Does that sound scary and confusing to you? Because, at first, it did to me. I was worried that I would really screw up my racquet and would hurt my arm by adding lead tape. But it turns out it isn’t such a big deal after all. Adding lead tape to your racquet is simple to do and can really give you a customized racquet just right for you.All About Lead Tape
So what exactly is lead tape, what can it do for your racquet, and why and how should you use it?
Lead tape is just what it sounds like – strips of lead, which is a very soft metal, with a sticky backing. You can get it in strips that are 1/4″ to 1/2″ wide and you can get it in pre-cut strips or in rolls. If you buy the 1/4″ wide lead tape, you can easily apply it yourself to your frame on either side of the strings. The 1/2″ wide tape is typically applied by your stringer during the stringing process with the string grommets protruding through the tape.
Lead tape is pretty cheap and can be found in a tennis specialty store or on-line. I decided to buy a roll of 1/4″ tape so that I could apply it myself. This is the lead tape I bought:
Because lead is so soft, you can easily cut lead tape with regular scissors. Each 4″ strip of the lead tape I used weighed about 1 gram and it takes about 28 grams to make an ounce. So you can really adjust how much weight you’re adding. To apply the lead tape, I first cut it into several 4″ lengths:
I then folded each length in half to create a crease in the center of the 4″ length of tape. This way I would be sure to center the tape in the right spot when applying it. And while that may be an obvious trick, I was pretty proud that I thought of that all by myself!
Now comes the interesting part – how, why and where to apply the lead tape. In this discussion, I’m going to refer to the locations on your racquet frame as locations on a clock face. So think of holding your racquet in front of you with the string bed facing you and that’s your clock face.Adding Power
The first and most obvious reason to add lead tape to your tennis racquet is to add weight to your racquet which can increase the power of your shot. While a lighter racquet allows you to swing faster, a heavier racquet carries more momentum into your shot, making it more powerful. To increase the weight of your racquet without changing the balance, you can add lead tape at the 6 o’clock area of your frame. You can also wrap lead tape around the throat of your racquet, being sure to cover it with overwrap so your hand isn’t coming into contact with the lead.Adding Stability
Another popular reason for adding lead tape to a racquet is to increase the weight in the sweet spot of the racquet which can make the racquet more stable by reducing the twisting and vibration that comes from off-center hits. To do this, you add lead tape at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock areas of your racquet.Raising The Sweet Spot
Look at the string bed of your racquet. Are your strings wearing out in the center of the string bed, at the sweet spot? Or are they wearing out higher than that? A lot of players tend to hit the ball high in the string bed rather than in the sweet spot, meaning their shots are not nearly as powerful as they could be. If this is you, you can actually raise the sweet spot of your racquet by adding lead tape to the 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions on your frame. This will raise the sweet spot and may help you produce more power on your shots.Adding Power On Serves
If you want a more powerful serve, a head heavy racquet can help. Just like a heavier racquet can add power to all of your strokes, the added weight in a head heavy racquet adds to the momentum of your swing and can help put more pop on the ball. To make your racquet more head heavy, you add lead tape at the 12 o’clock area on your racquet.How I Tweaked My Tennis Racquet
So, what did I do to my racquet? Well, to add to the overall weight, to help me hit better volleys, and to help with my serve, I added 12 strips of lead tape to my racquet. You can layer the lead tape because it is pretty thin. So I first added strips to the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions on my racquet. I put two layers of tape on each side of the string bed in those positions, using the crease to make sure that the tape was centered in exactly the right spot:
I then added weight to the head of my racquet, to help with my serves. I put 4 strips at the 12 o’clock position, again using two layers of tape on each side of the string bed:
Adding these 12 pieces of lead tape only added less than 1/2 ounce to the overall weight of my racquet. And so far, I’ve been happy with that. But the great thing about using lead tape is how easily I can change what I’ve done. If I want to add more weight, I just add more strips since you can build up several layers of tape in one spot. If I decide I don’t like it or I’ve added too much, I can just remove the lead tape. As you can imagine, I can tweak this racquet for months and months to get it just where I want it.
So before you run out and buy a new racquet, before you decide there’s no way to hit a better shot, before you give up on ever adding power to your strokes, give lead tape a try. It’s cheap to use, easy to apply, and can make a huge impact on how well you play with your tennis racquet.
Have you tried customizing your racquet with lead tape? How about with different string combos? I’d love to hear what you’re doing to get the most out of your gear and equipment. Let me know by leaving a comment in the show notes to this episode which you can find at TennisFixation.com/quicktips62.RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
If you’re interested in learning more about tennis racquets, check out these episodes:
All About Tennis Racquets – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 43
How To Demo A Tennis Racquet – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 56SHARE THIS EPISODE:
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Thanks so much for listening and, as always, Happy Tennis!
© Kim Selzman 2014 All Rights Reserved
650 ? 650: true);" class="ois_box_14 container-fluid"> If you enjoyed this article . . . There's plenty more! Sign up for FREE Tennis Fixation Weekly Updates and you'll receive my FREE eBook "10 Quick Fixes To Improve Your Serve: No Lessons Required!"
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by Michele M. Howard
Adding lead tape to a racket alters its performance.
By strategically adding weighted lead tape to a tennis racket, players can customize their racket to improve its performance and complement their style of play. Lead tape can alter four properties of a tennis racket: overall weight, weight distribution, frame twisting or torque and swingweight. Swingweight refers to how the racket feels when it is in motion. Customizing your racket with lead tape is a process; several applications and on-court play testing sessions may be necessary.
Cut strips of lead tape, peel off the backing and adhere the tape to the inside of the racket's frame at the tip, or the 12 o'clock position, to make the racket more head heavy. If your racket is head-light and you are finding it hard to hit the ball deep in the court, tape in this position makes your racket swing heavier, you will have an increase in power and find it easier to hit with depth. One negative aspect to adding weight to the tip is that there is a significant loss in maneuverability.
Place strips of lead tape at the shoulders of the frame, or the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions, if you tend to hit the ball high on the strings, toward the tip of the racket. Lead tape in these positions makes the racket more head-heavy, but also raises the racket's "sweetspot." This is the place on the stringbed where there is minimal frame vibration when the ball contacts the strings; the shot feels solid. Adding tape at the shoulders also helps reduce any twisting of the frame; torsional stability is increased. There is also a slight loss in maneuverability.
Add tape to the inside of the racket's frame at the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions if you tend to hit the ball off-center. In addition to making the racket swing heavier with a little more power, tape in these positions helps to keep the racket more stable. The "sweetspot" also becomes wider, which allows you to have more success when hitting off-center shots.
Place strips of lead tape at the throat area of the racket, or the 6 o'clock position, if you want to increase the overall weight of the racket without changing its balance. With tape in this position, the "sweetspot" will be drawn toward the throat of the racket. If you tend to hit the ball low on the strings, placing tape at the throat will help you hit more solid shots. Although not as noticeable, this also makes the racket swing heavier with some loss of maneuverability.
Add lead tape to the handle of the racket to counter weight a lightweight, head-heavy racket. Some rackets weigh less than 10 ounces and more of the weight is distributed toward the head. Additional weight at the handle end makes the racket heavier overall and has little effect on its maneuverability. This requires removing the grip, applying lead tape to the handle and then reattaching the grip.Items you will need
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