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Tennis4you Technicals - Alan Vihn
Written by Alan Vihn
Lead Tape and It's Application

As a reference, let's draw a clock on our racquet's head. Let 12 o'clock be at the center of our racquet head's tip and 6 o'clock be at the center of our racquet head's throat. Below you will find a list of facts and ways that lead tape can help you with your racquet(s).

1.  Lead tape *normally* weighs 0.5 gram per inch.

2.  8
inches of standard 1/2-inch [wide] lead tape adds around 3.5 grams of weight (28 grams = 1 ounce).

3.  "
H" shaped tape that fits around grommets weighs 3 grams each.

4. To add power, add weight at 12 o'clock (to equalize balance, if desired, place weight near the butt of the racquet - under the grip/wrap).

5.  For less dramatic perception of weight change, add weight at 10:30 and 1:30 (shoulder area). Note that the sweetspot will follow the direction of the added weight - so if your sweetspot is low and you tend to hit closer to the tip of your racquet, then adding weight near the tip (12 o'clock) will bring the sweetspot towards 12 o'clock.

6.  To gain torsional resistance (to help steady off-center shots), add weight at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock.

If you want a heavier racquet without changing the feel or playing characteristics, add weight at the throat (6 o'clock) or closest to the frame's even-balance point.

The best place for lead tape is under the bumper guard or inside the head's rim (or throat area if applicable) so that the lead tape won't be scratched.

The power element is produced with added weight because the extra mass tends to propel the ball deeper. Control is achieved with added weight because the ball beds or grips deeper into the string face at contact adding 1 to 2 milliseconds of extra contact time which results in more reliable placement of the shot.

Off center hits on too-light a frame tends to twist or torque the racquet face hence twisting the racquet in the player's hand. The more weight available to resist the torsion of off-centered contact, the more energy returned to the ball rather than energy lost by the ball's control of the racquet. You not only produce a better shot, but less stress is being placed on the arm since the racquet isn't twisting as much on contact.

3 to 4 grams is enough weight to *noticeably* increase power or improve torsional stability and of course you'll have to adjust to the newly placed weight and its feel on your serves/strokes which might take a little while.

If you add 10% more mass, you'll get 10% more torsional stability according to Steve Davis (Director of Research and Development for Prince).

If you want a racquet to *feel* heavy without increasing its weight very much, add weight to the top and the butt of the racquet to achieve the *polarized* effect without offsetting the frame's balance.

Adding the same amount of weight distributed at the tip and butt of a racquet will cause the swing weight of that racquet to increase and feel/ play heavier while adding the same amount of weight at the center balanced point of the same racquet will give the player more power without making the racquet play a lot heavier and the swing weight isn't affected as much.

Frames with a greater swingweight tend to feel heavier and tend to be less maneuverable. However, the greater the swingweight, the more power available to be generated.

Steve Davis feels the optimum compromise is to add weight between 10-11 and 1-2 o'clock on the frame to increase a frame's swingweight/power and torsional stability. Steve Davis suggests a "crude" method to calculate swingweight as follows: "Multiply the weight of the frame by the distance of the balance point from the butt end of the frame. Working in metric units, you'd multiply the weight in grams by the distance in centimeters. This would give you a rough estimation and would provide a basis for comparison from frame to frame."

17.  If I remember correctly, 28 grams = 1 ounce and ~2.54 cm = 1 inch. For my racquet, (say 1/2 a racquet for a long body) 14 inches = ~35.56 cm, 12 ounces = 336 grams, so 336 * 35.56 = 11,948.16 (not sure in what units here). I have had my racquet's swingweight measured on a Babolat's Racquet Diagnostic Center (RDC) machine and its swingweight was somewhere in the mid 300 range (not sure what units Babolat is using either). Using the crude method described by Davis above on all racquets for comparison purposes is probably sufficient though for people like myself who don't want to spend $4-5K on a Babolat RDC machine.

How much weight change is discernible by the average player? 4 grams is often noticeable among the pros but 10 grams is more realistic for club players.

The materials I've read suggest that players should play with the heaviest racquet that is *comfortable* and *maneuverable*. Add weight until your racquet becomes too heavy to play with then back off small amounts at a time. You won't have to work as hard playing with a heavier racquet and heavier racquets are more stable.

I am in no way advocating the use of lead tape with your racquets! This note is for your informational purposes only. Experimentation is really the only way to arrive at the best weight, balance and swingweight for an individual player, and all players are different in their perception of what feels right.

Alan Vihn