There are a lot of factors that play into creating the perfect tennis racket.
The weight, balance, swingweight, stiffness and simply individual feel of a tennis racket all play into how it may suit your needs.
Getting a good fit for you is of course a key element to playing good tennis.
Using a tennis racket that is too light, too heavy, too stiff or inappropriately sized can not only hinder your performance, but it can also cause you long term injuries.
Many players will go through the process of choosing a racket based on its quoted statistics, how it feels to play during a play test or even simply how it looks.
However, a little known fact is that mass produced tennis rackets often have small discrepancies due to the way they are produced.
This may not seem like a big deal when you play with a single racket, but if you play with two or more of the same racket model, you may notice slight differences in their playing characteristics.
Whilst these may be subtle to begin with, over time you may develop an affinity for a particular racket.
In this case, you may not feel as comfortable playing with your other rackets, which is not ideal if you break a string in the middle of a match!
However, to iron out these differences in your rackets, you can actually customize each racket individually using lead tape.
Customizing your tennis racket is also a great way to tailor it to your needs.
Many players take their racket’s specifications as a given, however you can dramatically alter its weight, balance and swingweight using lead tape.
This means you can really personalize your tennis racket and make it a true weapon on the court!
If you are looking to get the perfect fit when it comes to your playing equipment, check out our custom fitting service.
We recommend the ideally suited racket, string choices and tension for you!
What Exactly is Lead Tape?
Lead tape is a useful tool for customizing your racket that tends to be sold in pre-cut strips with an adhesive backing.
The idea is that you can add weight to specific areas of your racket to give a desired effect.
The tape itself is also used in sports such as golf to customize clubs. There are a few different types of lead tape.
Whilst they all do effectively the same job, they may come in different forms.
For example, some manufacturers will sell you a long reel of tape that you will have to weigh and cut to your desired length.
However, the major brands will actually offer a pre-cut version that will have a predetermined weight, for instance 9 grams per strip.
Most varieties of lead tape come with a protective plastic casing so you have no risk of lead exposure on your skin.
However, some brands will offer uncovered lead tape, so you should be careful when using this variety and wear gloves when applying it to your racket.
Weight, Swing Weight and Balance
Adding lead tape to your tennis racket does more than just increase the weight.
It actually impacts the racket’s playing characteristics, including its balance, swingweight, stability, sweetspot and feel.
It is therefore important to understand the impact that lead tape has on each of these factors if you are to get the best out of using it.
Using a heavier racket in general will give you more stability, plow through and power on your shots.
You should try to use as heavy of a racket as you can comfortably play with, without straining yourself and it becoming a burden.
If you are looking to add weight to the racket evenly, you can add a small amount to the racket head and the handle, whilst not altering the racket’s balance.
This means you can retain the racket’s original playing characteristics, but benefit from more weight throughout the stick.
However, there is more to customizing your tennis racket than just adding static weight. Swing weight and balance are also important factors to consider.
In terms of balance, the basic concept to understand it leverages.
If you add more weight to the head of the racket, you will have more leverage and therefore have a more weighty, head heavy racket.
Whereas, if you add more weight to the handle of the racket, you will have a more maneuverable, whippy feeling head light racket.
There are of course benefits and drawbacks to both approaches, but the balance point you will prefer generally will depend on your playing style.
Generally speaking, if you are a big hitting baseliner that likes your racket to generate a lot of power, then adding weight to the head of the racket will be beneficial.
You will get more stability, power and plow through in this case.
However, if you are a control oriented player that likes to come into the net and volley, a more maneuverable head light racket would be your best bet.
Where to Apply Lead Tape to Your Frame
Adding weight to different positions of your racket will alter its playing characteristics greatly.
So it is important to understand what changes when you add lead tape to the top, middle and bottom of your racket so you can tailor it to your liking.
Top of the Frame
Adding weight to the top of your frame is going to significantly increase the power you can generate.
The racket will have an increased ‘pendulum’ effect, so you can impart more leverage on to the ball without actually adding a significant amount of extra weight to the racket.
Adding weight at 12 o’clock also increased the swingweight of your racket proportionately more than anywhere else on the racket, whilst making the racket more head heavy also.
To add lead tape to the top of your racket head, you can either add it to the frame itself or actually under the grommet.
These will both have a similar effect on the racket’s playing characteristics, but where you position it will depend on the thickness of the lead tape you are using, the shape and size of your grommet and how you like your racket to look aesthetically.
Sides of the Frame
Placing lead tape on the side of your racket at 3 and 9 o’clock will add more stability and stiffness to your racket.
This is great if you are looking to reduce the flex and additional vibrations in your racket, as adding weight to these positions increases the racket’s torsional stiffness.
This position will increase the swingweight of the racket, but not as dramatically as adding a lot of weight to the absolute tip of the racket.
Adding weight to the sides of your racket’s head is perfect if you are looking for more stability and control, without creating an absolute sledgehammer of a racket!
You could also add weight to the 10 and 2 o’clock positions to get a hybrid feel between more head heavy balance and twist weight stiffness.
We recommend trying out each of these positions and seeing which works best for you.
In order to add weight to the sides of your racket, simply peel back the non-adhesive protective strip and apply the lead tape to the inside edge of your frame.
It is important to ensure the tape is in the same position on each side of your racket, to avoid imbalances.
You should also add these strips to both sides of the string bed (front and back) as well on both sides of the racket.
So you will be applying 4 strips in total to the sides of your racket, 2 at 9 o’clock and 2 at 3 o’clock.
Throat of the Racket
Adding weight to the throat of the racket has a minimal impact on the balance point, since you are effectively adding mass to the middle of the racket (on the balance point).
So if you are looking to add a small amount of weight and swingweight to the racket without altering the balance point, this is where you should place your lead tape strips.
How to add Weight to a Racket Handle
Now, if you want to add weight to the handle of your racket you will probably be looking to increase the agility and whippy feel of the racket in your hand.
This is ideal if you are up at the net and need to have quick reactions whilst retaining a solid, stable feel.
This can actually be done in a couple of different ways. You can add silicon or dense putty into the actual cavity of the handle itself.
You will do this by removing the butt cap or trap door of your racket and inserting the material of choice in the interior.
These can come pre-loaded with foam so you may need to remove this before adding any other substance.
However, it is important to bear in mind that if you add these materials to the inside of your grip, they are extremely difficult to remove.
So only do this if you are absolutely sure you want to add weight to the handle, as there is no going back!
Perhaps a more customizable way of adding weight to the handle of your racket is to add lead tape strips under the grip.
Doing this also allows you to customize the shape of your grip, so you can really tailor it to suit your needs.
In order to add lead tape under your grip, you first need to remove your replacement grip as well as any over grips you may have on the handle.
You can then start by adding a strip around the bottom of your handle, right where the plastic butt cap is installed.
This will add a bit of weight without altering the shape of your grip significantly.
You can then proceed to add strips on the bevels of your racket handle as you see fit, depending on how you want the shape and feel of the grip to be.
You may want to add some additional finishing tape over the top of your lead tape to soften the feel of it.
Once you have added your desired lead tape stirps, simply re-grip the racket and see how it plays!
Finally, you can add weight to your racket’s handle by installing a leather grip.
This will also improve the purity of your racket’s feel, so is perfect if you are a control oriented player.
Leather grips do of course vary in weight from brand to brand, however they should add around 10 grams to the handle’s weight.
You may also want to add an additional overgrip to add weight and thickness to your racket’s handle.
Overall, adding lead tape to your tennis racket is a great way to tailor a factory stick you suit your individual needs.
You can add weight, swing weight, adjust the balance, stiffness and stability of your racket by placing lead tape in different positions on your racket.
Adding lead tape to the head of your racket will make it more head heavy, whereas adding weight to the handle of the racket using lead tape, silicone, putty or a heavier grip will make the racket more headlight.
So, you shouldn’t just take your racket’s specifications as a given. Try out a different set up using lead tape to get the best out of your playing equipment!