I was interested to see a couple of Head Radicals come into the stringing room at the ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures of Winston-Salem that were customized using Babolat’s tungsten tape.
As a reminder that you should have a professional match your rackets, notice how much more weight has been added to the throat of the bottom racket compared to the top racket. The weight/swingweight of these two rackets out of the factory was obviously very different.
These customized rackets show that one of the easiest ways to add weight to a racket without changing the balance dramatically is to put it in the throat, since that is where the balance point of most rackets is.
In the past I have not used this approach when customizing, however, because lead tape actually has lead content. As the warning label on my lead tape packaging reads: “This product contains lead a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects (or other reproductive harm). Recommend you use gloves.”
Because players often put their hands on the throat of their racket, having lead tape there can be harmful. The rackets pictured above overcome this problem by using Babolat Balancer Tape, which is made out of tungsten.
I am interested in experimenting with this tape some. One potential downside of the Babolat tungsten tape is that it is thicker than lead tape and has texture created by the raised “Babolat” lettering. That could both some players who put their hand on the throat of their racket. But the innovation of moving away from lead tape is a definite positive.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you customize rackets with lead tape, please be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward and try not to touch you eyes, nose, or mouth during the customization process.
During today’s French Open semifinal, Stanislas Wawrinka was rolling through a set and a half against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga then made a comeback taking the second set to a tie breaker. Wawrinka changed to a new racket for the tie breaker, a fact noted by Tennis Channel commentator Jim Courier. When Wawrinka hit a few duds and went down 0-6 in the breaker, Courier repeatedly commented that Wawrinka was not comfortable with his racket.
As a professional racket stringer, I am particularly attuned to comments like this. Because the responsibility of a professional racket stringer is to install the player’s string accurately and consistently, any suggestion that the racket is not “right” is a suggestion that the racket technician has not done his or her job correctly.
But Wawrinka is a customer of Priority 1, which customizes and strings rackets for players such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Gael Monfils, Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, and others.
Photo of Federer’s and Wawrinka’s French Open rackets from Priority 1 Twitter Feed
I am confident that all 10 of the rackets that Wawrinka took to court with him today were as he asked for them. All the way down to the custom molded handles Priority 1 makes for him.
Photo from Priority 1 Twitter Feed
So maybe the racket was “right” but Wawrinka was not? After Wawrinka lost the second set tiebreaker, the commentators noted that he served just 31% first serves for the set and converted just 1 of 8 break point opportunities. So maybe his struggles were due more to the pressure of the situation than the racket not feeling right?
My previous post on why a professional should match your rackets was one of my more popular posts. So, here is Part 2.
Just so no one thinks that there was something unique about the Head rackets we looked at last time, here are four rackets from a racket package delivered from Wilson. Rather than showing the different swingweights as I did before, check out the static weight of these four Six-One 95s.
The lightest of the four is 328.3 and the heaviest is 336.6 grams — a difference of 8.3 grams. As noted before, this is surely within the manufacturing tolerance for a mass produced item like a tennis racket.
But to maximize your tennis game, you should consider having a professional match your rackets so that the only variable in your tennis game is you.
Ever wonder why you like one of your rackets more than the others? They’re the same rackets, with the same strings strung at the same tension, after all. What could be going on?
Remember that tennis rackets are mass produced commodities and there is an acceptable level of variation in the outcome of the manufacturing process.
For example, we received a package of with four Head Prestige Midpluses this fall. Before stringing them and turning them over to our player, we took the specs of each racket. Below you can see photos form the Alpha swingweight machine we use. The difference in the swingweight between the lightest and heaviest rackets was 13 points, and none of the four rackets were the same.
Lesson: don’t assume that because you have the same make/model of racket that they will be exactly the same. If you have one racket you like more than others, you should have a professional match your rackets to that one in terms of weight, balance, and swingweight.
Big Time Tennis’s Pacific guy, Tom Parry, blogged from London at Tennis Week (http://www.tennisweek.com) during the ATP World Tour Finals. The blog is appropriately titled “Behind the scenes, from behind the machines.”
Tom was also interviewed from the stringing room for the official website. http://www.barclaysatpworldtourfinals.com/Tennis/Media/Videos/2009/Barclays-B…
Interesting factoid from the blog and interview: Davydenko stringing the mains one tension (21k initially, the first five crosses another tension, 17k, then the rest of the crosses a third tension, 19k). This may have something to do with the O-ports on his Prince racket starting on the 6th cross down.
Also, check out the post from Day 9 that discusses and shows pictures of Robin Soderling’s handle, pictured below.