As the sun gradually starts to show itself back in Northern Europe, and players start to think about dusting off their tennis racket after a long winter in the cupboard, or a moving to outdoor courts for the first time,, here are a couple of things you can do to make the old racket feel better in your hand.
Change Strings and Tension
Same strings, same tension—it’s what almost all players request when getting their racquets restrung. Which is crazy because strings have undergone significant advancements in the past ten years, even more so than racquets. Multi filaments have gotten tougher, polyesters have gotten more playable, and gut is (slightly) less expensive and (slightly) more durable. Experimenting with strings is probably the easiest way to bring about a dramatic change in feel while still keeping the same racket.
Even if you’re attached to a particular string, testing a different gauge—a thinner option can result in better bite on the ball—or trying a different tension can offer noticeable improvements. When shifting outdoors and dealing with the elements, shots generally don’t have as much pop and depth as indoors. It can help to go to a lower tension, which results in more dwell time on the strings and usually deeper shots.
Add Lead Tape
There’s nothing wrong with a stock racquet, but it was not made with you specifically in mind. That’s why pros manipulate the weight of their frames to the gram, balance to fractions of a point, and grip size to 1/16th of an inch. You don’t have to be that discerning, but tinkering with some of the characteristics can have worthwhile results.
A great place to start is by applying lead tape to the frame. Standard practice is to apply four inches of ¼-inch thick tape to the 3 and 9 o’clock positions of the racket face. Remember to apply to both sides of the strings. Even though it’s only a few grams, the added weight helps stabilize the frame on off-center hits and widens the sweet spot.
If you’re looking to raise the sweet spot toward the top of the frame, and give your shots a little more punch, many players favour putting the tape at the 2 and 10 o’clock positions. Keep in mind the more tape you put on the racquet face, the greater shift in balance towards the head (head heavy). If you like the current balance of your frame, you must offset the lead tape on the face with the same amount on the handle. Most players apply it underneath the top of the grip.
This is the biggest option. Players can get so comfortable with their frames they resist searching for an upgrade, but your relationship with your racket is not supposed to last forever. Trying out rackets with differing characteristics—weight, head size, string pattern, grip size, balance—can fill in some gaps in your game. Be thorough, be patient, and be inclusive.
Brand loyalty is admirable, but unless you’re getting an endorsement deal it’s misplaced. There are numerous quality offerings, from the usual suspects down to the lesser known niche brands. Consulting a knowledgeable racket retailer—big box stores can be hazardous to your game—is always a wise first step.