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.
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.
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.
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