Optimizing Length: How low can you go?

#1
I've been having great success for the past several years with leaded-up midplus frames trimmed down to 26.75".

Yesterday I realized that I was playing really well with my 26.75" Angell, but I started wondering if maybe going even shorter will be even better?

My serve is not great right now, but it seems that my serve issues are less racquet related and have more to do with life getting in the way of tennis, and only finding time to get on court and hit serves and play about once per week. I'm coming to terms with the fact that playing 2-3 times week is not realistic given my other priorities, and I need to focus my tennis energy on improving my ways to win on a tennis court without an offensive serve.

The only thing in the past keeping me from going shorter was my fear that I would lose too much on the serve. But if I don't have a serve to begin with, and my other shots are more important, then why not? I'm confident that going another 1/4" shorter is going to bump up the confidence of my forehand and net game!

Not sure which of my frames will be first to receive another trimming from 26.75" down to 26.5". Maybe my BLX 6.1 95 Team 18x20?
 
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IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
#8
Rod Laver used to have a good serve.
Are you also 80 like Laver?

McEnroe still has a killer serve at age 59, you look younger than that in your videos...

Serving for me is like riding a bike. I hit thousands and thousands of serves when playing HS tennis, so I don't even really think about the toss or swing.

Do you play with the same racket setup that you did back when you had a good serve? You seem quick to dismiss the possibility that your serve challenges are racket related, hence I was challenging a little bit :)
 
#9
Are you also 80 like Laver?

McEnroe still has a killer serve at age 59, you look younger than that in your videos...

Serving for me is like riding a bike. I hit thousands and thousands of serves when playing HS tennis, so I don't even really think about the toss or swing.

Do you play with the same racket setup that you did back when you had a good serve? You seem quick to dismiss the possibility that your serve challenges are racket related, hence I was challenging a little bit :)
There are multiple reasons why my serve is worse.

I used to have jump serve and land 6 feet in the court. Now my knee swells up the next day if I hit too many jump serves, even though I’m only jumping half as far.

I practiced my serve every day when I was young. Now I only play once a week. And the jump serve needs timing.

I often find myself serving great in practice sessions, or even in warmups. But when match starts, I can’t find the box unless I roll it in slow. So obviously my motion is pressure sensitive.

My serve confidence starts to come back whenever I serve several times in the same week, which is rare these days.
 

drak

Professional
#10
TJ, I tried 26.5 for a while and it cost the serve too much and frankly I had no better control then at 26 3/4. I am now playing with a TC100 which comes in at 26 7/8 stock length with 62/47 gut hybrid stringing and I seem to be playing well and serve is very good with that frame.
 
#12
I use pure drive lites cut to 26 7/8 or 3/4, can't remember now. I tried a yonex sv 100 (the 26.5 one), it was very solid (added lots of weight to get approx swingweight I wanted), and hit great kick serves, and honestly didn't notice much drop off in flat serve. made it hard to hit 2 handed backhands though. I find that shot is better with more length and higher swingweight (which hurts the rest of my game). I also felt like I was robbed of some power on my forehand, which along with my serve is usually a weapon. you never want to compromise on one of your weapons in my opinion. I tried cutting pure aero lite down, and i just seemed to suck, so I used those at the stock length (26 7/8). pure drive lite I get more control and don't notice the drop in power with 1/8 removed.
 
#14
With your elbows extremely bent and your racquets cut down, there is clearly a reason you like hitting close to your body.

Have you looked into that?

J
I used to be a free-swinger when I relied on overpowering my opponent with my attacking game. But now, having morphed into a control-oriented counterpuncher, I have developed insecurity issues. I feel insecure if I am not 100% sure where the ball is going, so I prefer to play it close to the vest.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
#15
I used to be a free-swinger when I relied on overpowering my opponent with my attacking game. But now, having morphed into a control-oriented counterpuncher, I have developed insecurity issues. I feel insecure if I am not 100% sure where the ball is going, so I prefer to play it close to the vest.
There is surely something to it, I mean ice skaters spin faster when they pull their arms in.

J
 
#16
There is surely something to it, I mean ice skaters spin faster when they pull their arms in.

J
That’s something I haven’t really thought of, but you might be right.

I re-invented my forehand from scratch when I was in my 30s, and ended up with unconventional ugly technique. My high backswing is critical to generating enough power and reproducible depth, as I convert potential energy into kinetic energy in the form of rotation of the entire unit. I increase my level of control by purposely avoiding addition of any other power sources that would complicate the stroke. From the high point of swing to the low point just before contact, almost all of my power comes from this conversion of potential energy into rotation. And, as you point out, the more compact I am at contact, the faster the rotation due to conservation of angular momentum.
 
#17
That’s something I haven’t really thought of, but you might be right.

I re-invented my forehand from scratch when I was in my 30s, and ended up with unconventional ugly technique. My high backswing is critical to generating enough power and reproducible depth, as I convert potential energy into kinetic energy in the form of rotation of the entire unit. I increase my level of control by purposely avoiding addition of any other power sources that would complicate the stroke. From the high point of swing to the low point just before contact, almost all of my power comes from this conversion of potential energy into rotation. And, as you point out, the more compact I am at contact, the faster the rotation due to conservation of angular momentum.
Are you sure you increase your level of control hitting that way? To be honest, while watching the vids the first thing that came to my mind is that you’re struggling to control the ball and the way you’re jammed seems to prevent you from getting a clean shot, sometimes even sending the ball anywhere but forward (not just on FH side)
 
#18
I find it funny that your idea of optimising length is to get rid of it!

How heavy are your racquets? A lot of older racquets were made .25 shorter or so, probably because they weighed a ton. Maybe your playing too heavy and not too long?
 
#19
Had a first hit against the wall with my 26.4" 6.1 95.

After a few tweaks, I found a set up that felt really nice on groundies. The swingweight is about 344, but the effective mass is equivalent to that of a standard length frame with 370 sw due to both the shortened length and having the handle mass shifted toward the head. The weight is 12.73 oz. This is much lighter than I've used in many years. But similar effective mass (hitting weight) to my regular setups.

Due to the lighter weight, I am using a more conventional forehand technique to control the racquetface in the video below (using my hand to actively control it, rather than my usual passive-wrist technique). It feels sort of like playing with a pickleball paddle - easy.

Also, I my concerns about the shorter length adversely affecting my serve turned out to be unfounded. In fact, the opposite happened, and my serve was actually easier, bigger, and better! The lighter swingweight coupled with high effective mass gave my serve some extra electricity. I was hitting the 6-ft cross bar on the back fence on the bounce with dead balls tonight:

The best part was my second serve - my phone ran out of juice so didn't record any. But the racquet is set with really high twistweight, with lots of added mass centered at 9:30 and 2:30, which makes it naturally spin friendly. My second serves were really diving sharply downward into the box like in my glory days.

I have a singles league match Thursday night, and I think I might use this.
 
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#20
So is issue a control one? Seems like no other reason to go shorter on racquet length.
After a few tweaks, I found a set up that felt really nice on groundies. The swingweight is about 344, but the effective mass is equivalent to that of a standard length frame with 370 sw due to both the shortened length and having the handle mass shifted toward the head... much lighter than I've used in many years. But similar effective mass (hitting weight) to my regular setups.

Also, I my concerns about the shorter length adversely affecting my serve turned out to be unfounded... The lighter swingweight coupled with high effective mass gave my serve some extra electricity
The bolded text shows the other reason to go short; IMO, it is even more important than the added control. I like extended racquets and this is the biggest problem with them - if you want the head to be heavy enough to have a good hitting weight you end up with a very high swingweight. Shorter racquets take care of this very well by allowing you to have your cake and eat it too- high hitting weight yet manageable swingweight.
 
#22
Experiment with a 26" racquet and stick a huge roll of lead tape to make up for the light racquet.
I’ve cut down to 26.25 and it works on all strokes, including the serve. I went back to a 27 frame for a while (not sure why) but I’m back to the short sticks. The only downside for me seems to be a marginal reduction in spin on ground strokes.
(And fwiw, I have long arms...maybe why I’m fine with a shorter racket. 27 can’t be optimal for everyone)
 
#23
I’ve cut down to 26.25 and it works on all strokes, including the serve. I went back to a 27 frame for a while (not sure why) but I’m back to the short sticks. The only downside for me seems to be a marginal reduction in spin on ground strokes.
(And fwiw, I have long arms...maybe why I’m fine with a shorter racket. 27 can’t be optimal for everyone)
Not sure why long arms would make a big difference since the people that traditionally use short racquets have short arms (kids).

But seriously rec players can play rec tennis with any stick. Most of the perceived improvements with adjustments are likely psychological more than actual. I’ve yet to see a 3.5 become a 4.0 through equipment changes. So much more is screwed up with rec tennis players that racquets are the least of their worries.
 
#24
But seriously rec players can play rec tennis with any stick. Most of the perceived improvements with adjustments are likely psychological more than actual. I’ve yet to see a 3.5 become a 4.0 through equipment changes. So much more is screwed up with rec tennis players that racquets are the least of their worries.
Amen.
 
#25
I had tournament match today. I started warming up with the 26.4" Wilson, but when I backed up to baseline I sprayed the first several forehands due to unfamiliar balance. So went back to my Angell 26.7" and played well in the match - my forehand passing shot was clicking, which I needed. Need to do some more practicing/tweaking on the 26.4" frame before it's match ready.
 
#26
But seriously rec players can play rec tennis with any stick. Most of the perceived improvements with adjustments are likely psychological more than actual. I’ve yet to see a 3.5 become a 4.0 through equipment changes. So much more is screwed up with rec tennis players that racquets are the least of their worries.
I agree in principle but racquets do make a big difference. It's just that all racquets are a compromise so one usually gains in one area (i.e. serve) just to lose in another (i.e. maneuverability). So, in a sense you're absolutely right that it rarely leads to any major improvement in overall results :)

Having said that; I do believe that people are always better off playing with a racquet that maximizes their strengths rather than looking for one to hide their weaknesses.
 
#27
I agree in principle but racquets do make a big difference. It's just that all racquets are a compromise so one usually gains in one area (i.e. serve) just to lose in another (i.e. maneuverability). So, in a sense you're absolutely right that it rarely leads to any major improvement in overall results :)

Having said that; I do believe that people are always better off playing with a racquet that maximizes their strengths rather than looking for one to hide their weaknesses.
My intention in going shorter is to hide my weakness!
 
#28
My intention in going shorter is to hide my weakness!
He-he, it's also an approach.

But, I have found out the hard way that if a racquet doesn't let me hit a good hard serve with precision and a strong driving backhand then I am toast regarding of what other improvements it gives me :)
 
#29
There is surely something to it, I mean ice skaters spin faster when they pull their arms in.

J
Yes, but ice skaters try to maximize rotation around the central axis. We don't hit a tennis ball at a radius of zero from the center of rotation.
To maximize the power of the racquet striking the ball, I'd imagine you'd want to do something more like a side arm throw. The current pros sort of do this. Takeback with bent arm and high elbow and then rotate into the ball. Having your upper arm close to perpendicular to your torso probably maximizes leverage and power.

That’s something I haven’t really thought of, but you might be right.

I re-invented my forehand from scratch when I was in my 30s, and ended up with unconventional ugly technique. My high backswing is critical to generating enough power and reproducible depth, as I convert potential energy into kinetic energy in the form of rotation of the entire unit. I increase my level of control by purposely avoiding addition of any other power sources that would complicate the stroke. From the high point of swing to the low point just before contact, almost all of my power comes from this conversion of potential energy into rotation. And, as you point out, the more compact I am at contact, the faster the rotation due to conservation of angular momentum.
Your compact swing is okay, but I think one thing that might help your FH is to try keep your in front of your wrist/forearm during the first half of the forward swing before impact.
 
#31
Randomly chiming in here.....

I find 26.7 to be the perfect length if I am going to play the lift / spin game all day. Playing a hair short makes it easier to cut up fast on the ball without overdriving it.

If I am going to serve big, drive slices and returns aggressively, and try to drive lots of low balls into corners to attack, I actually like 27.4. The extra length really helps to plow / redirect the ball.

I am actually considering stocking two totally different setups in my bag and picking the right one for each match.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
#32
With the success of my BLX 6.1 Team yesterday,

(https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/next-level-stuff.625109/)

I'm moving forward with a further cutdown of my beloved Angell TC95 18x20 63 down to 26.5". Have a big semifinal tournament match on Tues, so it's risky to operate on a favorite match-ready frame with only 2 days to get it tuned, but I couldn't resist. The 26.4" 6.1 95 leap-frogged into the lead in my personal rotation, but my Angell is strung with my preferred kevlar/zx combo and feels so nice - can it reclaim the top spot after undergoing the enhancement procedure?
 
#33
TJ, I tried 26.5 for a while and it cost the serve too much and frankly I had no better control then at 26 3/4. I am now playing with a TC100 which comes in at 26 7/8 stock length with 62/47 gut hybrid stringing and I seem to be playing well and serve is very good with that frame.
I’m finding that the question of optimal length for serve is not as simple as it seems at first glance. Shorter length reduces leverage, but the loss of leverage is offset by the gain in racquethead speed due to reduced swingweight, assuming mass of hoop is unchanged. Also, the optimum swingweight for the serve is dependent on the length. The shorter the length, the lower the optimum swingweight. I’m finding that my service motion has better consistency at lower swingweights (low 340s). I had my best serving day in a competitive match in years yesterday with my 26.4” frame. For me, it may have something to do with the racquet I used in high school thru my 20s when my serve developed into a weapon: the original Profile 2.7 OS, which had similar weighting specs and effective length to my 26.4” 6.1 95 because the Profile had such a long head shape at standard length.

The bottom line for me is that the 26.4" frame surprisingly doesn't serve any worse than a standard length frame for me, provided the swingweight is optimized (and reduced) to compensate for the shorter length. Given that all of my other stokes are significantly enhanced by the shorter length frame, I'm sticking with it.
 
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#34
My 26.5” TC95 passed the wall test - After tuning I ended up with slightly heavier specs than on my 6.1 95. The slightly higher twistweight definitely hit a heavier ball with more natural free spin.

Control was terrific with both shorties.

On the serve test, it felt like I was capable of hitting really heavy serves with the TC95 when my kinetic chain was in sync (maybe wit higher ceiling than the 6.1?), but it seemed like my serves were perhaps more consistent with the lighter 6.1 95 because I could whip it down and up easier with less dependence on having solid form.

Will take measurements on my TC95 tonight to see what actual specs were.
 
#35
I’m finding that the question of optimal length for serve is not as simple as it seems at first glance. Shorter length reduces leverage, but the loss of leverage is offset by the gain in racquethead speed due to reduced swingweight, assuming mass of hoop is unchanged. Also, the optimum swingweight for the serve is dependent on the length. The shorter the length, the lower the optimum swingweight. I’m finding that my service motion has better consistency at lower swingweights (low 340s). I had my best serving day in a competitive match in years yesterday with my 26.4” frame. For me, it may have something to do with the racquet I used in high school thru my 20s when my serve developed into a weapon: the original Profile 2.7 OS, which had similar weighting specs and effective length to my 26.4” 6.1 95 because the Profile had such a long head shape at standard length.

The bottom line for me is that the 26.4" frame surprisingly doesn't serve any worse than a standard length frame for me, provided the swingweight is optimized (and reduced) to compensate for the shorter length. Given that all of my other stokes are significantly enhanced by the shorter length frame, I'm sticking with it.
Here are a few serves with the 26.4" frame from the other night:
 
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#36
25.5 is what I’m using now on all my frames . Sublime . Since I play with a 90 sq inch frame no one is the wiser as the smaller head with a shortened handle is easy on the eyes / you really have to look long and hard to even notice much difference most folks think it’s a regular length 27
 
#37
25.5 is what I’m using now on all my frames . Sublime . Since I play with a 90 sq inch frame no one is the wiser as the smaller head with a shortened handle is easy on the eyes / you really have to look long and hard to even notice much difference most folks think it’s a regular length 27
You are tempting me to go even shorter. I will draw straws to pick which frame gets the execution.
 
#45
Your username suggests you’re a teaching pro from Texas, right? And you’re saying the only way for you to keep the ball in court is by using a short frame?
A teaching pro using a shorter frame to help him keep the ball in is no different from an ATP pro using polyester to help him keep the ball in. A pro of any kind is expected to use the equipment that best fits his or her game.
 
#46
A teaching pro using a shorter frame to help him keep the ball in is no different from an ATP pro using polyester to help him keep the ball in. A pro of any kind is expected to use the equipment that best fits his or her game.
Thank you Kalin :) very kind man I appreciate the kindness and the support :)
 
#47
Traveljam why do you think lower swingweight is better for shorter rackets? I had to add quite a bit of lead to the 26.5 Yonex sv I tried to give it enough power. Don't know if the swingweight was higher than a standard racket, but for it and frames I cut, they definitely needed weight added
 
#48
Traveljam why do you think lower swingweight is better for shorter rackets? I had to add quite a bit of lead to the 26.5 Yonex sv I tried to give it enough power. Don't know if the swingweight was higher than a standard racket, but for it and frames I cut, they definitely needed weight added
On the serve, a lower swingweight helps to be able to swing faster to help offset loss of racquethead speed due to reduced length. And a shorter racquet can have the same hitting weight as a longer racquet (for similar impact feel) at a lower swingweight.
 
#49
I guess what I meant was since you're cutting a racket, obviously swingweight decreases drastically. but do you then add a lot of weight to the tip to get back closer to a more standard swingweight? there is a point where you cant swing the racket any faster. I found the short racket with no tip weight just didn't have any power on serve until weight was added. whether that was enough to get it to a standard swinweight I'm not sure, but I know I added at least 10 swing weight points
 
#50
Update:
I have played several tournament matches with my ultra shorty. My return games, defense, and net attacks are sharp. I’ve been winning matches against tough opponents. But my serve game seems to be compromised and I’m having trouble holding serve - it’s hard to tell how much the shorter racquet is contributing to my serving woes, as there are definitely other factors.
 
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