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!
It seems like I am talking about where things have gone a lot recently but it is important, I think, to recognize what differences disappearing things make!
The mention of Swing Weight (inertia) causes many reactions from “who cares” to it “is the most important thing about my racquet”! So to be clear swing weight is the most important dynamic characteristic of a racquet while leading up to contact with the ball.
OK, that is out of the way but what contributes to swing weight? The weight distribution of a racquet determines swing weight and it can be changed (increased) by adding weight strategically on the racquet. The best possible use of added weight occurs around the mid point of the racquet face. This is sort of 3 and 9 o’clock. Obviously adding weight to the very tip of the racquet will add more swing weight with less overall weight but this location does not have the benefit of added torsional stability.
Here is the genesis of this post: I received four (4) racquets from a manufacturer to put together for a client. This includes cutting to length installing pallets, butt cap, grip, and any other customization that is required. Before I do anything I take data from each racquet in the “raw” form.
In this particular case there was a slight variation in swing weight. That is not an issue but what happens next is. I will be very brief.
Three (3) of the four (4) racquets had a Poly/Gut (1.27mm and 1.30mm) hybrid format and the third had a all polyester format. The all polyester format was 1.11mm! Very thin string, hence, disappearing weight. So, you know what is coming now…the swing weight of this racquet was much lower than the others.
So, you can have several racquets in your bag but unless they are strung with very similar string the swing weight may be different. Most players can feel the difference in a few units so it helps to know “where did my swing weight go?”
I always match the racquets. If the player switches to a different string modify the swing weight suit it!