Category Archives: Customization!
Customization. What it can do for you!
Racquet Quest is in the racquet technology business! What does that even mean?
It means we devote a great deal of our time to understanding racquets and what makes them ”tick”. Of course, it is fun and meaningful but sometimes not well understood.
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have a request for “Pro Stock” racquets of some sort. But what does that mean?
To help sort out this question I reached out to one of the people in this industry that knows the answer! Jerry, I will call him, works for a major racquet manufacturer and is responsible for racquets for professional players. I asked him to comment on the following narrative. The responses are in red.
Pro Stock Racquets. What does that even mean?
“Rackets which have been customized to players need.”
“Many people believe that pro players are using different construction, which is actually not true; a reason to think so is that these people have no idea about racket production.”
For years, it has been the position of manufacturers that the “retail” version of racquets did not work for the top world ranked player(s). So what to do?
“Players need different weight/balance/swing weight than regular players due to their fitness and technique.”
Many “pro” players prefer the model they started their career with but those racquets have long been replaced by newer, and mostly, better technology regarding materials. Of course, it is “possible” to use the older mold, (the mold is not the graphite tube), to re-create the preferred geometry and feel. I doubt that the materials I used in our racquets many years ago are still available.
“If players are used to their old/first racket as their extension of the arm/hand in many cases they don´t want to switch unless they feel they have to!”
Probably the most important consideration is the third paragraph. “Players need different weight/balance/swing weight than regular players due to their fitness and technique.” Why would I even think I can play with the “same” racquet as Roger, Novak, Andy, Rafa, and the rest of the top players! It is simply not possible.
Yesterday I finished an “evaluation” racquet for a pro player with a swing weight of 400 kg/cm2 with an “even” balance. Is this a “pro stock” racquet, or just a racquet that has been radically customized?
I can, however, make my racquet the best it can be for ME! So, let’s go back to the top of the page,“Rackets which have been customized to players need.”
It doesn’t matter to me at what level you play but as racquet “technoligsts” we can help you be a better player.
When we think of “tolerance” we think of traffic, noise, and generally putting up with things, but normally we don’t think of tennis racquets!
However, we should! Tolerance means “what are the allowable variations between racquets of the same model”. Not all racquet manufacturers are the same but it would be a good guess the tolerance will be plus or minus 7 grams for example in total weight and maybe plus or minus 2 points for balance. A “point” is ⅛ of an inch so that is potentially a ½ inch difference! You can see in the picture why there can be variations. A lot of parts!
While “swing weight” is a very important characteristic it is difficult for manufacturers to match that so they will generally add a little weight in the rear end of the racquet to make the static balance the same.
In case you don’t recognize it plus or minus 7 grams adds up to about half an ounce!
For example one racquet can weigh 300 grams and another 314 grams with the specification of 307 grams showing up on header cards and advertising! Please know that racquet manufactures try their best to make all “performance” racquets the same. They do not purposefully make out of spec racquets!
But if they miss the mark…
This is where “customization” comes in handy. So don’t worry too much if your “tolerance” is “intolerable”. It can be fixed!
This used to be a decision you made when putting gasoline in your car, but, not so much anymore. It is, however, a decision you make when it comes to racquet performance.
For this discussion “lead” means “weight”. There are, of course, other types of weight.
Racquet performance can be enhanced with the proper placement and amount of lead used. Conversely, racquet performance can be frustrated when lead is used improperly.
I imagine every tennis player has experimented with lead. This is sometimes encouraged by the racquet manufacturers by marking racquets with “place lead here” areas. This may be OK for gross adjustments but you want the racquet to perform for you, and you alone!
You can continue to experiment with lead, and placement, or you can seek out a racquet technician that has been trained in the best location and amount of lead for your game and has the diagnostic equipment to achieve the goal.
When I “customize” and “match” racquets it requires a few iterations based on the consistency of the racquets. For example, out of six (6) racquets there may be six (6) different specifications. This is due to manufacturing tolerances and that is OK, but, at the point of manufacture the easiest method of “matching” is adding weight to the rear end of the racquet. That is why “balance” is still used instead of the more definitive “swing weight”.
Typically all racquets will be matched to the “heaviest” racquet primarily because removing weight from a racquet is not cost effective (meaning it is really difficult).
When six (6) racquets are matched you may see slightly different locations and amounts of lead. This is common and should be expected. With the proper equipment and expertise every racquet should be within one (1) unit of each other. This is the typical tolerance of diagnostic equipment. In real life it is quite satisfactory to have the racquets within 2% of each other. I prefer, however, to have each racquet return the exact number.
So, if you have experimented with lead without success please don’t give up. The proper application of lead can really make a positive impact on how your racquet will perform.
If you have any questions about customization please let me know, and, let me know if you prefer leaded or un-leaded!
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have multiple request for “pro” racquets, or “pro stock” as the cognoscenti refer to them!
It is well known that some top professionals do not use the same racquet you and I can purchase at our local retail store. So what is the difference?
You can see by the image that there are different levels of work required to get the “pro” racquets ready. The orange racquets require a lot of work including reducing the length, install pallets, and complete the dynamic customization to suit the player.
The all black racquets require some weight and swing weight modification and stringing but that is about all. The white racquets require some weight and swing weight work and stringing then they are ready to go.
The primary difference between your racquet and these is that these “pro stock” racquets are typically a little lighter than the retail versions so weight can be added to adjust swing weight and overall weight.
If you get your hands on a “pro stock” racquet it has, probably, already been modified and will normally feel heavier than a retail version. So a “pro stock” racquet can be a confusing quest.
My advice is to not worry about getting a “pro stock” racquet but instead make your racquet suit your needs! Make you own “pro stock” racquet.
Do you have something bothering you and your tennis game? Well, join the crowd! A lot of people have tennis issues!
Getting to the root of the issue is sometimes an issue in itself but we must do it if we want to continue playing tennis at our level, or above.
The most obvious issue is pain. Wrist pain, elbow pain, and shoulder pain are the ones I hear about most often and try to eliminate or reduce. This can be done by several approaches which over the years have proven affective. Most issues can be mitigated by slight customization of the racquet. Adding weight is the first modification because it can be accomplished without restringing. The next step is to reduce string bed stiffness, or effective stiffness, by reducing the tension setting on the stringing machine.
Of course using a racquet that is less stiff will help. But what if none of this solves the problem?
Go to the grip! Not only is grip size critical but the grip shape is also a consideration. It is known that most players are using a grip size that is too small! This is tough on your wrist.
This is anecdotal for sure but I have a client that simply must have a grip shape that is more rectangular as opposed to the more rounded style of Wilson, Babolat, Prince, Yonex, and others. A few years ago, and before I knew him, this client bought a very popular racquet but found that quickly the arm/shoulder began to hurt. He of course had several medical meetings but ultimately returned to his previous racquet. With the previous racquet he did not have any pain!
The current/previous racquet is the antithesis of what I would recommend. Why? Because is is very light, very stiff, very dense string pattern, and rectangular grip shape! But, it worked for him. To understand why he took a racquet to try that was heavier, softer, more open pattern and a rounder grip shape. Guess what! Arm pain!
The take away, then, is this player needs a rectangular grip shape! Who would have thought a grip shape would be a major factor when selecting a racquet.
Take a look at your grip and be sure you are using the correct size and shape for your playing style. Most racquets are fitted with a synthetic grip material that will mitigate shock a little. A good leather grip will contribute to definition and feel.
You probably haven’t had the opportunity, or desire, to hack off a portion of your racquet to see what is really in there. Well, I have. On many occasions, actually, when customizing a clients racquet to get the exact specifications they want.
You may be surprised. I thought I would give you a peek at some of the things you may find. First you need to understand why there is anything at all in your racquet! The reason is weight, or the more technical term, mass. But why?
When a racquet is “molded” the graphite composite “tube” has a certain weight and distribution of that weight. If no weight is added to the “rear end” of the racquet you end up with what Wilson termed a “hammer” (head heavy) system. Not everyone wants to play with a “hammer” system so the manufacturers need to add weight.
Where and how much depends on what style the racquet will be. We normally think in terms of “player”, “tweener”, and “game improvement” with “game improvement” having no weight in the rear end.
Let’s take a look at some “weight”.
This is a quick overview of the variations. Can you tell which “style” each piece represents?
Here you can see both steel plates on the inside of the tube. Also included is a “foam” that is normally used to prevent any rattling caused by the metal. This pallet is a molded polyurethane over a carbon fiber tube.
Here is a view of steel pins that are molded into the center membrane during manufacturing. In case you don’t know, a tennis racquet is a long tube made of a composite held together by a resin system that is forced into a mold that has the shape of the finished racquet. So, where the two tubes come together in the grip area is a perfect place to put steel pins or steel plates. When the racquet is molded under heat and internal pressure the weight is permanently installed.
This is a good example of steel and silicone. The steel adds a gross weight and the silicone is added to fine tune the weight if necessary. This is an example of a single tube grip pallet. That is the grip size and shape are formed by the carbon fiber tube during molding. Obviously this grip size can not be reduced.
This is an example of silicone only weight. This racquet was a “game improvement” racquet so very little weight was required. You can see how thin the material is at this position of the racquet.
This is the view of a racquet that has not been cut off. You can see the bulges that are caused by the “molded in” steel pins. This is a one piece molded grip pallet.
This is an example of using more fiber and resign to create the desired weight. This is a two (2) piece bonded on grip pallet. You can see how thin the molded pallet is at the corners. This is another example of a grip that can not (should not) be reduced.
Swing weight is the primary weight a player feels when the racquet is swinging toward a ball. Therefore, swing weight is the most important characteristic of a racquet.
So, how much swing weight can you use, and, how do I get it?
Swing weight can be added by applying heavy tape to areas on the racquet in front of the grip position. Anything behind that area will not enhance swing weight. Another way is to increase the length of the racquet. While I do this, it is not a recommended method for most players due to cost. There are long racquets available from manufacturers if you are interested.
My swing weight recommendations go something like this:
Club Level: 315
College Level: 330
These are the numbers you would see on a swing weight device such as the Babolat RDC, Alpha Accuswing, and Prince RTC. Calculated numbers will be different because they are calculated from the very end of the racquet instead of 10cm in front of the very end of the racquet.
Of course there are no limits on swing weight if you can handle it. More swing weight will deliver more energy to the ball, assuming you can swing it!
Just yesterday I did a complete customization of a new Prince racquet and increased the swing weight, unstrung, to 388! That would end up being about 417 after stringing! Huge! This player can handle the swing weight but it required a substantial amount of work.
Swing weight is your friend so when you find the “right one” treat it nicely!
We all know about slapping some flames on our old Mercedes , Bentley, or Rolls to make it “ours” but what does that have to do with tennis racquets?
Well, actually, as much or as little as you want. Customization, for our purposes, are changes made to your racquet(s) to make it “yours” and perform better for “you”.
These changes can be as minor as adding weight, changing grip size, or changing swing weight, either as a temporary or permanent modification.
Customization can be done at almost any time. So a new racquet can be customized before you even hit a shot. We can make a number of changes actually during a match! Of course these “quick” changes will not be optimal but will be effective. When the racquet is in our shop much more can be done, of course. More, and different, modifications can be done if the racquet is not strung, for example.
The best time to do some customization is when your racquet is new or is due for re-stringing, but anytime is better than not doing it at all and not playing your best!
RacquetQuest has the experience and equipment to make the positive changes you want.
Customization…make it yours!
Grip size and shape comes right after proper stringing when it comes to racquet comfort and performance. What you have in your hand can not be secondary to your other selection criteria but it almost always is, it seems.
Right after stringing the next most requested service at Racquet Quest LLC is grip sizing and shape modification. Most grips can be modified but some can not so it is important to know the difference before you, or anyone, starts ripping parts off of your racquet.
This brings me to the reason for this post!
Below is an image of the typical racquet grip pallet systems. It is obvious that the grey pallets are easily interchangeable and the amber grip pallet would require considerable effort to change it.
As of now there are a few racquet manufacturers that offer interchangeable grip pallets but there are more that don’t! Why not, you are asking.
One reason is that the racquet company simply does not trust most racquet stringers to remove and replace grip pallets. Some pallets are attached with mechanical fasteners (screws!) and others use chemical adhesives (glue!). The grey pallets are used by Head and Head does not make it easy to get these pallets.
Great care is necessary when removing pallets that are glued. It is easy to crack or totally destroy pallets. This becomes a big issue for the racquet company. Therefore, many racquet companies don’t want anyone messing with grip pallets.
So, I ask you, would you be more likely to purchase a tennis racquet that had “interchangeable” grip pallets? That means the grip shape and size could be changed quickly and easily but not necessarily cheaply.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most likely where would you be?
Are you into leather?
If not maybe you should be! Leather grips are becoming popular, again, for a few reasons. One reason is there are a few manufacturers that are doing a really good job producing leather grips that won’t break the bank. I purchase leather grips from Head, Becker, Kimony and others. The Kimony is a great example of a top quality leather grip. The Head leather grip is Calf Skin therefore very supple whereas the Becker leather grip is more robust and comes in black.
Another reason is, that under normal tennis playing conditions, they never wear out! This durability is enhanced when an overgrip is used. A good leather grip can be cleaned, if necessary, with any number of leather conditioners. If cleaning is desired do it on the racquet. Once a leather grip is removed it is really difficult to get it back on the racquet perfectly.
A leather grip will add about 10 grams of weight to the rear-end of the racquet which adds stability without *increasing the swing weight.
A leather grip looks really great on most racquets. Expect to pay about $22.00 for a good leather grip installed. Installing a leather grip requires a little more time and care to produce a good fit around the butt cap and long lasting adhesion to the grip pallet.
I know looks don’t mean much to you but the other reasons should be enough to persuade you to try leather…on your racquet.
*Calculated swing weight (from the butt cap) will be affected by the additional grip weight but electronic devices that calculate swing weight from a point 4 inches (10 cm) above the butt cap will not exhibit an increase.