Customization simply means making your racket fit your particular needs and playing style. As a USRSA Master Racquet Technician, I understand the principles and processes of racket customization.
Here are my top five suggestions for customizing your racket:
1. MATCHING, A.K.A. “TUNING”
Do you like one of your rackets more than the others? This could be because your rackets differ in some important ways, as I have discussed on the Big Time Tennis blog here and here. It is rare that two rackets, even if they come out of the same mold, will actually be identical beyond the “specs.”
Tuning rackets is the process of making multiple rackets match each other in terms of (a) overall weight, (b) balance, and (c) swingweight.
Overall (static) weight and balance are easy to measure, but measuring the swingweight of a racket requires a sophisticated machine like the Alpha Accuswing 2 we use.
Although it is physically impossible to make your racket lighter, we can add weight to your racket in many ways to good effect.
For example, excessive shock impact is bad for the arm and is usually caused by a racket that is too light. Adding weight to the handle of your racket increases its overall weight without increasing its swingweight too much. Adding weight at the 2 and 10 o’clock positions on the hoop of the racket can reduce the shock on your arm and add torsional stability to the racket. And so on.
If you can find a replacement grip that suits your hand, you can save yourself many times the cost of the replacement by not having to contantly buy overgrips.
If you’re left handed like us, try replacing your grip with a new grip that is “lefty wrapped” — wrapped opposite of the standard wrap so that the overlaps on the grip line up with the fingers of your left hand.
Whether you use an overgrip or not, a leather grip provides a firm feel that gives you the feedback you need to know how you are striking the ball. It also facilitates faster grip changes, a must now that we no longer use a continental grip for all our strokes.
We can build up or reduce the size of your grip, or even change its shape.
A grip that is too small is a possible source of tennis elbow. Although Rafael Nadal famously uses a 4 1/8 inch grip (plus overgrips), most recreational players should use a grip that will allow them to comfortably grip the racket, not choke it to death.
Butt caps aren’t as big as they used to be. We can build up just the butt end of your grip to prevent the racket from slipping out of your hand. This also works well for people who like to choke up on their rackets.
You like your racket but you don’t like your grip? Some people prefer rounder grips and some prefer flatter grips. We can modify the shape of your racket to suit your preference.
A string job that is appropriate to your tennis game is is the most basic form of customization we can perform on your racket. May we suggest you consider:
Natural gut: Is widely recognized to be the best string available. Why?
- Superior elongation: natural gut stretches more than other strings, allowing it to aborb more energy from the ball.
- Superior elasticity: after elongation, natural gut returns more efficiently to its natural state, returning energy to the ball more efficiently
- Superior tension maintenance: natural gut retains its strung tension better than any other string available
Hybrids: Any string job that uses different strings for the main (up and down) and cross (side to side) strings is considered a “hybrid.” Hybrids provide the best of both worlds. You can take advantage of the durability of a monofilament main string and the playability of a multifilament cross string, or the power of a multifilament main string and the control of a monofilament cross string.
A hybrid that includes natural gut, either in the mains or the crosses, is truly the “champions choice.” Federer, Roddick, Murray, Djokavic, and many others all use “hybrids” in their rackets.
Read more about the different types of strings available today and our suggested strings within each category.