Racquet Customization: Match Play
Make sure you add racquet customization to your menu of services for players, then promote your ‘racquet matching’ business.
Most players participating in league or tournament play carry at least two racquets in their bag. Having those racquets “matched” makes transitioning from one to another during a match much easier.
While most dealers and racquet technicians realize identical models of racquets will have variances in weight, swing weight and balance due to manufacturing tolerances, most consumers do not. This is a perfect opportunity for technicians to add this service to their offerings. You may need to educate your clients about this service, but chances are they have a “favorite” racquet in their bag, which means they prefer the specs of one over the other.
Some stringers may be a little intimidated to add customization to their offering. But it’s really not that difficult, and matching frames is a great way to start offering this service. All you need is a basic knowledge and the right equipment. With a scale, balance board, and swing-weight scale, you are ready to tackle the job.
If you can’t invest in a swing-weight scale, you can still match the balance and weight, although two racquets with the same weight and balance can have different swing weights. Swing weight is usually considered the most crucial spec because it is how the racquet feels during play.
Using the tools on racquettech.com, USRSA members can really simplify the process. The Racquet Customizer Tool will tell you how much and where to add weight to the racquet to achieve the match.
Racquet Customizer Tool
To use the USRSA’s Racquet Customizer Tool, the first step is to measure each racquet and decide what your target specs will be. Remember that you will have to go with the heaviest weight and swing weight, which may be two different racquets.
Unless the racquet has had weight added, it is difficult to remove weight to decrease either the weight or swing weight. Make sure you are comparing “apples to apples” and remove any dampeners, overgrips and other add-ons prior to getting your initial measurements. Simply enter the specs of the racquet into the Customizer Tool and then the target specs and hit the “click to customize” button.
The results you receive can be overwhelming, as there may be hundreds of options. Usually the best results will come from adding weight in the hitting zone for the player. A quick look at the player’s string bed will show where they are hitting the majority of balls. Placing the added weight in this area will provide more torsional stability (twist weight) while achieving your goal of matching. The list will have options marked with a “bullet” to denote applications near the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, which is generally in the strike zone of most players. From the list, choose the formula or “recipe” to use, keeping in mind that weight applications at 3 and 9 o’clock and near the bottom of the handle will be the easiest to achieve.
You will want to adjust the swing weight first by applying lead tape to the head as indicated by the “recipe” you chose from the list. Lead tape comes in several widths. I prefer to use the widest that will easily fit on the frame between the grommets and the edge of the frame.
Once you have the swing weight matched, you can now add weight in the handle to bring the weight up to the target specs. Note that you can add quite a bit of weight to the handle area without affecting the swing weight. Once you bring the weight to target, recheck all three specs to make sure you are still on target. Make any minor adjustments if needed.
Applying Lead Tape
Lead tape comes in a variety of widths. I keep 1/4-, 3/8- and 1/2-inch-wide tape on hand. You will need to weigh a length of each size to know what the weight of each is per inch or centimeter. Once you have that information, you can apply the tape according to the Racquet Customizer Tool.
It is important to keep the tape away from the grommets and the edge to make sure that it stays in place over time. If the tape touches the grommets you won’t get good adhesion and the tape will come loose in time. The same is true if it wraps over the edge of the frame. The tape will be easily dislodged on mis-hits and scrapes on the court. You’ll also want to clean the racquet surface before applying the lead tape, to make certain it adheres.
Make sure that you apply the tape symmetrically on each side of the racquet and on both sides of the string face. A blunt-tip setting awl makes a great burnishing tool to make sure that the lead tape lies flat and is well-adhered to the frame.
If your application requires stacking layers of tape, you’ll want to burnish each layer before applying the next one. It is also a good practice to stagger the lengths, placing shorter pieces on top of the longer pieces. This lessens the thickness on the ends and decreases the chances of the tape being dislodged during play. Try to minimize the layers and never exceed four. Wipe each layer lightly with a rag dampened with alcohol before applying the next layer, to remove any contamination (such as oil from your fingers).
For the ultimate in protecting and hiding the lead tape, put it under the bumper guard. This often means replacing the bumper guard because you won’t be able to replace the old one after removal. There’s only so much room beneath the bumper guard, though, so check that it still fits flush to the frame even with a layer or two of lead tape.
Adding Weight to the Handle
While you can use lead tape to add weight to the handle, silicone is the most commonly used material for this application. Placing lead tape under the grip will get the job done, but will usually have to be reapplied each time the grip is replaced. It can also alter the shape and feel of the grip. For these reasons, applying the weight inside the hollow handle is usually preferred. Silicone is dense and remains fairly pliable so that it stays in place over time.
The simplest way to bring the weight up to spec is by removing the trap door from the butt cap. Place cotton balls in each tube to limit the space for the silicone. Place the racquet on your scale along with the trap door and slowly insert the silicone until your target weight is achieved.
Once achieved, replace the trap door. If the racquet doesn’t have a trap door, you will have to remove the grip and the butt cap to access the inside of the handle. Make sure the handle, tape and butt cap are all included on the scale for your weigh-in.
If you choose to use lead tape to add weight to the handle, wrap it the opposite direction than the grip, so that it won’t peel off as easily when replacing the grip.
Final Adjustments and Check
Now is the time to re-check your work and make sure that your specs are spot-on. Make any minor adjustments if necessary. Also check to make sure that all lead tape applications are uniform and symmetrical.
Adding this racquet-matching service to your offerings not only provides an additional revenue stream, but also increases your client’s confidence in your abilities — and sets you up as the go-to source for frequent players when it comes to their equipment.
See all articles by Bob Patterson
About the Author
Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005. He is Executive Director for the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association.
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