Customising your own racket.

Customising your own rackets.

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The technical and not so technical world of racket customising.

Something as simple as putting on your favourite grip is customising your racket.

Without doubt there are certain areas of racket customising that require a professional and their technical equipment. I have covered this in another post on this blog.

There are, however, somethings you can do yourself that really make your racket, your own.

The first of these is the grip.  As important as this is, it is regularly overlooked.  The grip is your connection to the racket and if this isn't good then you can't expect your performance to be any better.  Change your grip regularly!!

There are various types and textures of grips and they all fall into 2 categories:

  • Replacement grips
  • Over grips

Replacement grips are the base grip on your racket and provide the cushioning.  They come in various thicknesses and compositions.  While this grip doesn't need to be changed as often as overgrips, they should still be changed regularly as they compress and get worn in high pressured areas.

Changing your replacement grip can alter the shape of the handle or the weight of the racket.  Leather grips are heavier than synthetic grips and can also provide sharper bevels, depending on your preference this can help.  A heavier grip can help a person who suffers from tennis elbow as it reduces the shock and vibration before entering your arm.  This extra weight will have little or no effect on how the racket plays as the effect on swing-weight is minimal.

The most commonly used replacement grips are synthetic and come in variety of options, smooth, perforated, ridged, dry feel, tacky feel and so on.  For consistency try to use the same grip on each racket, if you have more than one, and also rotate the rackets when you play so they wear at a similar rate.

Over grips tend to be the more popular grips.  Again these come in a variety of finishes and colours.  It is worth noting that an overgrip adds about 6 grams to your racket.  They come in different thicknesses, so you should try to use the same grip on each racket.
Something to be aware of is over grips can come in different lengths, so particularly if you play with a double handed backhand make sure the grip is going to be long enough.

One last thing on grips, all new rackets come gripped for right-handers, yes there's a difference!  So if you are a lefty it might be worth considering re-gripping straight away to have a more comfortbale feel in your hand.

Change your grip often for optimal feel and performance.

Next up are strings, also referred to as the engine of the racket.

I have written various pieces about strings in the past, which can also be found in this blog.  With this in mind I'm going to keep this section more general.

Before choosing your string you need to understand the playing characteristics of your racket.  Each racket is designed with a certain game in mind and the wrong string choice can affect the playability of the racket.

All strings will fall into one of two categories:

  • Power (soft strings) - natural gut, multifilament, nylon
  • Control (stiff strings) - Poly, co-poly, kevlar

Some players, coaches, stringers and racket brands will argue that some control strings are also powerful or arm friendly strings. You should understand that they may well be more powerful that other strings in the 'control' category but with all things being equal (gauge and tension) the strings in the 'power' section will always offer more power and better arm comfort while those in the 'control' section will offer greater control and spin potential.

Most major racket brands will say that any racket weighing less than 300 grams has enough stiffness in the frame and therefore does not recomend stiff strings.

Strings also come in various shapes.  These are referred to as spin strings.  While the selling feature of these shaped strings is greater spin this really depends on the type of strokes you have.  If you hit the ball flat for example, then you will not all of a sudden develop amazing topspin or slice.

The choices of strings are constantly growing with new brands arriving and new technologies.  Do some research before choosing because when you find that right choice your game can reach new heights.

Another popular way to customise your racket is adding weight to it, usually using lead strips.
This has being done for years but it isn't as simple as putting a few strips on the head of the racket and away you go.  It is important to understand why you are adding weight and that the placement of it can affect the end result differently.

Heavier rackets absorb more shock, are more stable on impact and if swung fast enough will add power to your shot.  Adding a bit of weight to your racket, specifically in the handle can also help with tennis elbow.  So it would seem there are plenty of benefits to add weight.  You must first ensure your game can handle the extra weight, that you have a fast enough swing speed to benefit from it.

Placing weight in different locations around the head of the racket can add power, stabilise the racket or increase/move the sweetspot.

Generally people place weight at what is referred to as 3 and 9 o clock on the racket face.  This will stabilise the head, if you go slightly higher up you will raise the sweetspot.

There is no harm in adding weight and testing this but only add small amounts of weight.  Four grams is plenty to make a difference.

If you are looking for more precise adjustments, like identically matching 2 rackets then I would suggest visiting your local Racket Technician.  They will have the experience, the expertise and the equipment to do this correctly.

For all customising ideas and advice, information is available from plenty of areas.  Youtube being probably the most common source.  There is a huge number of videos available, the problem is not all are correct.  I would suggest look for videos made by the Stringing Associations such as ERSA or USRSA. 

A Racket Technician/Stringer with a qualification is nearly always a good bet.
(I say this in most of my posts and it does occassionally get commented on that not all 'quaified' stringers are good and that's true.  However, the fact that someone takes the time, effort and expense to become qualified shows they have the interest to study this area and therefore gives you a better chance that they do know what they are talking about).

As always if I can be of any assistance, feel free to get in touch.