The Official Lead Tape Placement+Racket Customization Thread
I said I'd do this for a while now, and since I'm up and bored I'll do it now.
There have been many (and I mean MANY) questions about adding lead tape and so on. Their effects, their benefits, suggestions on locations, and so forth.
In this thread, I have posted most of my knowledge on the subject, some of which I will reiterate here.
I will try to outline most of the information to simplify the reading and understanding process. I'm not the best writer (English is my worst subject and "basic math" is my best), so it still might be a bit foggy. So feel free to ask questions for clarification. Hopefully I won't be the only one to answer because that would put a heavy burden upon myself to constantly check here and answer everything. With this, I can also easily edit information should I learn anything new or a previous conception be wrong (I am human after all). Hopefully all edits will be for the former reason, not the latter. :) I might also edit this from time to time just to reorganize the information and make it more readable, because I'm too lazy to do it on the first go. So let's begin shall we?
I) General Lead Placement Locations:
A) 12 o'clock (top of the hoop) - Lead at this location improves power and plow through more than any other location.
B) 11&1 or 10&2 - Improves power and plow through significantly but also increases stability slightly.
C) 3&9 o'clock - Improves power and plow through and increases stability by the maximum value.
D) 6 o'clock - Improves power and plow through slightly.
E) Throat or handle - Improves power and plow through very slightly. Generally used as counterbalance locations. (Lead on the handle is placed UNDER the replacement grip.)
F) Buttcap - Used as a counterbalance location.
II) General trends based on placement:
A) The farther away from the balance point you add weight, the more dramatically the balance will chance in that direction. Also, increasing the amount of weight added at that location will also increase the change in balance. Basically lead at 12 changes balance towards head heaviness most dramatically. However, 1 gram at 12 won't do as much as 10 grams at 3&9. By the same token, lead in the buttcap changes balance towards head lightness most drastically. And 10 grams at the top of the handle has more effect than 1 gram in the buttcap.
B) The higher you add lead, the greater the increase in swingweight. Anywhere from where your dominant hand is located and lower has either negligible or no effect on swingweight.
C) Where you add weight affects the "sweetspot". For example, lead at 12 drags the sweetspot up, while lead on the handle drags the sweetspot down. This is also a change that changes more dramatically based on how much weight and how far it is from the sweetspot. This is why players rackets have tiny sweetspots, as they have a general trend of having very headlight balances. Also, weight on the sides of the sweetspot stretches it. So lead at 3&9 basically makes the sweetspot a little wider, adding forgiveness.
III) The Two Different Setups
This is the real juicy part of the post. Generally on the tour, there are 2 types of setups. Most advanced setups will be geared into the "Swingweight 2" range. Now what does SW2 mean? Basically, when you add weight, the racket will produce more power, resulting in more depth. As you add weight, the ball goes closer and closer to the baseline when you hit it. Finally, you get to the point where the ball barely lands in every time. This is swingweight 1 status. As you keep adding lead to that, the ball starts going long. Eventually, you reach the amount of weight that the ball won't go any farther. If you keep adding weight, your swing will be slowed down and the ball will land shorter and shorter as a result. Eventually, it comes back to landing inside the court. This is swingweight 2 status. Pros who use heavy rackets are usually using rackets in the SW2 range like Djokovic, Sampras, and Murray's old racket (I'm not sure what he's using now, but he supposedly uses less weight now). The SW2 range varies based on the player's physical strength.
A) Depolarized Setup - Basically, this setup has the most stability and power. Weight will generally be added lower on the racket, resulting in a lower increase in swingweight per gram. This means you can add a LOT of weight, and still not exceed your SW2 range. More mass means more stability and power. Usually the added power means a higher tension is required to control it.
---1) Examples of users of this setup: Sampras, Djokovic, Agassi, Courier, Edberg, Becker, Connors, and Blake.
---2) Types of players supported:
------a) Aggressive Baseliner - Blake, Roddick, Lendl
------b) Big Server - Roddick, Becker
------c) Counterpuncher - Agassi, Hewitt
------d) Serve and Volleyer - Sampras, Edberg
------e) Big-Hitting All Court Player - Sampras, Becker
------a) Increased stability
------b) Increased power and plow through
------c) Increased forgiveness
------d) Heavier shots off the racket
------e) Increased control
------f) Better volleys
------g) Better returns
------a) Tends to flatten out your stroke a little
------b) The excessive power requires higher tensions to control
---5) http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showp...64&postcount=1 shows how to create this setup. Basically, you add lead to 3&9 to improve stability and power, then counterbalance it with weight somewhere on the handle. The above link supplies an equation to find your ideal counterbalance location given a specific amount of weight you want to add and a specific balance you want. Of course, you can do that yourself without that equation, it's not all that hard. Most people on this board like to apply counterbalance weight for this setup at 7 inches above the buttcap. Why? Don't ask me, but a lot of people like it. There have been multiple theories such as the location is equidistant from the balance point compared to lead at 3&9, that it's the perfect distance away from the hand such that it doesn't hinder mobility much and offers the best amount of power as a result of the combination of mass and mobility.
B) Polarized Setup - This setup provides the most spin and power at a given weight. Nowadays, as the game moves towards a more spin orientated game, this setup has become increasingly popular. Because a majority of the added weight is placed towards the poles of the racket (at 12 o'clock with counterbalancing in the buttcap), the SW2 range is reached more quickly, resulting in a low static weight racket. However, as a result of the lower static weight (less power from mass) and increased spin production, lower tensions are usually required to make up for the overall lack of depth and power (which further assists in spin generation).
---1) Examples of users of this setup: Nadal, Federer, Wawrinka, Safin, and Rafter.
---2) Types of players supported:
------a) Any player that relies on using heavy spin - Nadal, Federer, Wawrinka
------a) Most added power and plow through with minimal weight added.
------b) Increased spin potential (heavier spin shots off the racket)
------c) Increased consistency for baseliners
------a) Requires the use of heavy spin to control trajectory of your shots
------b) More difficult to volley with
---5) To create a polarized racket, basically add weight at 12 (you can use long strips that go from 10 to 2 o'clock or longer, or short strips layered at 12) then counterbalance with weight in the buttcap. Sometimes you might feel that you're lacking in stability, so add some lead at 3&9 to fix that. Nadal uses 9.5 grams under the bumper and 2.5 grams in the buttcap. Federer adds a little lead under the bumper to a hand-picked, stock [K]Six.One Tour (now, perhaps to a hand-picked, stock BLX Six.One Tour).
C) Final notes: Do you have to use one setup or another? No. Not even all pros fall into one of these categories or another (at least, not purely). Not even all pros use racket customized to SW2 status (Verdasco comes to mind). Like in the polarized setup, I suggested that if you required more forgiveness and stability that you add a little lead at 3&9. You can combine setups. Safin had quite a bit of lead at 12, and in addition had strips at 3&9 (though less than at 12; I have no idea about what he does for counterbalancing, if anything). Do you need counterbalancing? No. But should you? Probably use at least a little. Use whatever you feel works best for you and don't be afraid to tinker with it a little. However, you want to write down the setup you like so should you experiment from there, you know how to go back to it. You want to write down the placement locations, amount of lead added, and the overall specs.
IV) Common Solutions to Specific Problems (A.K.A. the F.A.Q.)
A) I want to improve maneuverability on my racket (and nothing else).
---1) You can add lead to the handle to create a more headlight balance or
---2) You can add lead in the buttcap to create a more headlight balance or
---3) You can replace your synthetic grip with a stretched leather grip (stretched only enough to make it a little thinner, don't decrease the width too much), and place a Wilson Pro Overgrip (or the Yonex equivalent) over it to prevent blisters. This adds about 16 grams if I'm not mistaken... Adds at least 10 for sure. From there, you can add more weight as necessary.
B) I have/had problems with injury. What can I do to help make my racket better for my arm?
---1) Add lead at 3&9 to improve stability (to decrease twisting in your hand, which causes injury) then counterbalance it to make it very headlight. You can follow the suggestions posted above to make the racket more headlight. I suggest weight at 7 inches above the buttcap for counterbalancing, but you can combine that with the leather grip replacement suggestion as well.
---2) You want to make the racket a solid weight so that the weight will absorb most of the vibrations.
---3) You want to make sure your grip size is perfectly suited to you. If it's too small, then the racket will twist in your hand, requiring a tighter grip to control the racket face. So perhaps try adding an overgrip or two on top of whatever you are using. Also, there is such a thing as too big a grip as well. The good thing about some of the thinner overgrips is that they only change the grip size by half a size, giving you the opportunity to more accurately control your grip size.
---4) You want to make sure the racket isn't too stiff for you.
---5) Most importantly, go to a good coach and check if there isn't some massively major flaw in your technique that could lead to injury.
C) I'm an all court player. Which setup should I use?
---1) What's your strength? You should probably decide based on that. For me, it's my forehand and serve. The polarized setup benefits my forehand the most because I use a lot of spin off my forehand. And if I add some lead at 3&9 to that, I can still volley well. It adds some power to my serve (not as much as a depolarized setup), but it adds a lot of spin to my kick serve, my best serve. So overall, playing the way I currently do, I play slightly better with a polarized racket because I don't serve and volley all the time anymore.
D) I want to improve my consistency. Which setup should I use?
---1) Depends on how you play. If you use heavy spin, go with the polarized setup because if you get it right, your balls won't go long except if you shank it or your form was way off. You can also use added margin over the net because you hit with more spin. If you don't use heavy spin, go with the depolarized setup. The added power will allow you to use less on your strokes and still keep your opponent back. Because of that, you can focus more on stroke production and controlling the ball, which the depolarized racket will assist in.
E) Should I start off right away with a SW2 racket?
---1) No! Haha. You should start off with a racket in the SW1 range. SW2 rackets are great and all (especially for polarized racket), but you require a full stroke to use it and they will tire you out more than other rackets because more force is required to accelerate the racket. If you feel that you are fit enough (or advanced enough) to use it, then by all means go for it. But your average club player shouldn't mess with it prematurely.
F) I want more power. What do I do?
---1) The obvious solution is lead at 12. However, if you don't like the feeling of the sweetspot being dragged up, then try lead at 3&9 instead. Counterbalancing is optional. But counterbalancing the lead at 12 should bring the sweetspot back down.
G) I want the benefits of both. Can't I just combine the two setups?
1) God no! Haha. I've thought the same thing myself once and tried it. It doesn't work out too great. It's better to optimize performance towards one direction, then add a little extra lead as needed to tailor the racket perfectly to you. Like I said, polarized racket with a little lead at 3&9 for stability. You can do the reverse as well (depolarized racket with a little lead at 12 for added power). Pick one setup you feel is most comfortable to you then add lead to where ever you feel is necessary. That's the closest you can really get to combining both.
Final note: Once you create your perfect racket, write down the specs, not the placement locations! The reason for this is to match rackets. The general placement locations will be similar, but you want to match the specs (swingweight, static weight, balance). The specific amount required at each position will vary (hopefully only slightly) and the counterbalance location will also vary in addition to how much is needed. The problem is that unless you have a Babolat RDC machine, you can't do this perfectly. In that scenario, just get a balance board and a digital scale and match the balance and mass to your ideal racket (the location(s) on the head should be the same). You can't match what you can't measure, so just make do with what you can. :(
Any questions? Did I miss anything?
Post links to other customization threads here (such as pallet creation, extended length customization, and so on) and I will place them in this post.
Great topic. Some suggestions though:
I) I'd use swingweight instead of plow through, as plow through is a function of swingweight, weight, and balance. Adding lead at the throat has more noticeable effect on plow through than it has on swingweight.
II)B) Adding lead below your hand, ie at the buttcap, does increase swingweight, though very little as the distance to the 10cm axis is very small. Same goes for adding lead at the throat. What you're saying isn't wrong, but it can sound like adding lead below your hand doesn't effect swingweight because it's below the hand.
Final note) The specific amount required at each position will very (hopefully only slightly), I suppose you mean vary?
Does twu have an article with definitions of power, plowthrough, swingweight, etc? Could be useful to copy them here so everybody knows what those terms mean.
2) I said it has negligible or no effect. Weight on almost the entire handle has a very negligible chance to swingweight. Most people won't notice it. Especially on that inch or two below your hand... Few will notice it, hence my choice of using "negligible or no effect".
3) Yes, I meant vary. Thanks for catching that.
4) I don't think they do. I don't frequent TWU much except to use their worksheet.
Do you have any advise on how to match the swingweight, balance, and weight of two or more racquets? I know that having matching and balance and weight does not always mean identical swingweight, so can you offer tips on how to get all three as close as possible? Is swingweight the most important factor if you want to have two or more racquets that feel the same etc etc?
Thanks xFullCourtTenniSx for posting the info above, will be a handy guide for me in the future.
I just experimented with a new approach for lead in the handle of my brand new Prestige Pros: I cut up 40" of .5" tape into 1/2" squares, stacked 'em on top of one another and then glued the stack to the underside of the buttcap. Haven't hit with the new frames yet, so it may not stick for that long once I start hitting with them. But if it does work it's not a bad alternative to fishing weights or silicone. I'll let you know how it works out.
Awesome post. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.
xfullcourttennis6 GREAT POST !!!!!!! BIG TIME KUDOS!!!!!!!
you very precisely put in an organized format info that people are always asking about. TERRIFFIC!!!!!!:)
Great write up. It might be interesting to list the stock racquets that have a more polarized or depolarized set up.
I think I fancy the latter over the former. Polarized frames seem difficult to swing in certain situations, such as volleys and high 1HBH. I actually think that Fed's weak point (the shoulder high, loaded with topspin, balls that get to his BH) may partially be linked to his polarized setup. I have notice that in the past he had a better response on those balls from the BH wing, when he was still playing with the Pro Staff 6.0.
On another note: which set up did Gustavo Kuerten use?
There should be a sticky for this thread.
How long strips of lead tape are recommended for adding lead at 3 and 9? 2 inches? 3 inches?
Whats a good amount of lead to start experimenting with weight there?
I'd start off by trying to match them before I add weight, then I can add the same amount of weight to all of them. Or, if I know which racket I like, I'll treat any racket heavier as if it had a little weight already added somewhere. Then I just calculate how much less weight I have to put in a general location to have it come out about the same. And any racket that's lighter, I add weight so that the specs are matched. Sadly, it's tough to match the swingweight without a Babolat RDC machine unless you're Pete Sampras.
As for making a list of stock polarized and depolarized frames... The only ones I know are K90 being relatively polarized, and the n90 and PS90 being depolarized. I heard the Sampras racket is likely depolarized too, which makes sense since what he uses on court is a heavy, depolarized beatstick.
As for whether he played better with the ProStaff 6.0 Midsize than with his current racket(s), I have no idea. Never seen much of him at the time other than 2001 Wimbledon. He did hit some amazing backhands, but they weren't off high balls. Back then he sliced a lot of high balls if I remember correctly.
As for what Guga used, I'm not sure. I'd guess he used a polarized setup. But during his time, they were a rarity.
I can't find any pictures with any lead on his racket. :( Perhaps he went stock? :shock:
How long depends on how much you're adding. Some people like it longer to spread out the effects of stretching the sweetspot. I personally like it longer. Looks nicer, and it requires less layers.
Don't cut toward yourself with the knife!
http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/LC/customize.html customizing racquets
Fed, Nadal, davystinko: polarized
Fed at 47/45 lbs. 357g nadal at 54/52 lbs. 334g Davystinko: 50/48 lbs. Pattern of lower tension on polarized frames.
Joker: 61.6/59.4 lbs 361 g Delpo: 62/62 360 g. Cilic: 60/58 at ?g Murray: 63-60lbs at 364g. Depolarized higher tensions
So I have a racket with 8 grams at 3 and 9 o' clock and 8 grams at 7 inches from the handle. Would this setup be depolarized? And if so is it heavily depolarized or mildly depolarized?
^^^Wouldn't that keep the balance the same?
full court what do u mean about this? Not even all pros use racket customized to SW2 status (Verdasco comes to mind)
Why is it that you get less spin with a depolarized setup? I thought you would get more upwards momentum because there's more weight on the sides of the racquet, therefore a faster swing. I thought weight on the poles of the racquet (aka polarized setup) only gave you more plowthrough, not spin.
Is there something wrong with my reasoning?
Also, if I'm wrong (which I'll most likely be), would adding a tad bit of lead tape at 12 increase the amount of spin by a little in a depolarized setup?
Great thread! Thank you!
I am still trying to metabolize all these new info.
I do have one question.
What is the polarization of the stock racquets?
Are in some kind of "neutral" polarization?
if not, how to tell if a stock racquet is more polarized or depolarized?
My apologies if my question doesn't make sense.
I wonder BTW what happens if you use really long strips of lead on a racquet. It is not recommended, but I was just thinking how I never got any racquet that wasn't solid stock to play really solid with lead tape. And I am talking about adding over 20 gr. in certain cases. Maybe spreading it all over the head makes the racquet more solid than what I did, which was mainly adding 3 inch layers in specific points. I had the feeling that those points were more solid, but overall the rest of the beam of the racquet kept on feeling hollow.
What does the OP think of long strips of lead tape?
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