Racquet physics 101

HuusHould

Professional
Maybe this should be in the equipment section, but I'm a bit illiterate on how to customise a racquet and strings to suit my game, I was wondering how the following variables;

1-Balance of the racquet,
2-String tension,
3- String density
4- Overall weight of the racquet
5- Headsize

affect;

Ability to;
1- generate spin
2- hit with power,
3- flatten out shots,
4- control volleys,
5- stick volleys,
6- manuevre the racquet (defending/ volleying)
7- Do anything else you feel is relevant.
 
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HuusHould

Professional
I've only done one customisation of my racquet, where I put weight in the butt of the racquet to make it more headlight. I found that it achieved its goal of giving me more penetrating and reliable volleys, but it fairly significantly impaired my ability to generate sufficient racquet head speed to hit an angled lasso fh or roll angled bh (single hander) passing shot. (esp in reply to a high kick serve) It helped me blocking fast first serves deep, but it made it difficult for me to generate pace in reply to slow balls with my groundies (esp loopys). So I would generally hit with more depth in reply to fast balls, but often drop short in reply to slow balls. I'd also often run around slow balls to hit an off fh and pull it too central. This is from 6g of blu tac in the butt of the racquet!! Ive had to take 3g out and it still feels like a completely different racquet! I find in reply to the slow serves, with the more headlight racquet, that because I cant generate enough racquet head speed to load the ball with spin, I have to push the ball back deep and swinging slower I seem more likely to hit an absolute brick that lands before the net, be it in reply to a slow serve or an innocuous groundy from my opponent. Its given more weight to my first serve, but possibly decreased the swing on my slider (consistent with the less spin impact). When I had 6g, I had trouble getting sufficient racquet head speed and consequently spin on my 2nd serve. I recently dropped from 59/58lbs to 56lbs string tension and thats given me more (easy) pace on my 1st serve, but less ability to grip the ball on my volleys, possibly less crisp as well. I also find sluce defense is compromised with the more headlight (could just be a result of a heavier overall weight?) racquet.
 
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Dragy

Legend
There are general ideas for what has effect on what, you may be good starting with TWU articles. In practice, it’s always a journey for the Holy Grail. You start off playing with a basic 300g 100sq in stick. Then you put some lead to hoop for stability. Then you counterbalance it for mobility. Then you string stiff poly to tame increased power. Then you face tennis elbow. Ok, now you go panic mode, look for solutions, maybe settle with a soft frame which appears less stable and lacks putaway power, and you go again...
 
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fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
There's plenty of upside to having a racquet that offers a better natural fit for a certain player. I've done some of my own tuning on a couple of different occasions where I turned what was a not-so-great performer into an absolute keeper. But I've also done some tuning where I couldn't turn the racquet into something it was not. Tuning can sometimes be quite helpful, but it's not a sure thing.

Balance seems to work closely with a racquet's weight. While a relatively light frame can play pretty well with nearly even balance, I find that as racquets get heavier, they also need extra head-light (HL) balance for easier maneuvering. Some of my regular players weigh around 12.7 oz., but they also balance at around 11 pts. HL, so handling them isn't a major chore.

While I don't know what sort of balance typically ensures a certain sort of performance, I do think that any frame's balance is a key to getting a comfortable fit with that frame for that player. Everybody has their own preference here. A racquet without enough HL balance for you will probably feel sluggish for you (for its given weight), but if it has too much HL balance, it can feel twitchy and unpredictable.

Higher string tension usually makes for a little more control, while lower tension can help with power or improved feel and comfort. The tricky part there is that everybody has their own impression of good feel. That makes stringing for local players interesting when somebody wants a certain sort of feel, but doesn't exactly know what sort of string setup helps with that.

I've tried enough racquets having different string patterns through the years to say that I make no assumptions about them. Some frames with ultra dense patters made circus-act spin for me and a couple others having rather open patterns forced me to work extra hard to generate rpm's on the ball. If you're shopping and the weight, head size, etc. look interesting, I say try the racquet. Don't pass on it just because of it's string density.

My racquet's weight is a big factor for me to get potential power with it. But I've always played with heavier frames including beefy wood racquets as a kid. I can't compensate with a lighter frame by using higher swing speeds. My swing timing doesn't work when I take really fast swipes at the ball and it also stresses my shoulder - I've learned this lesson more than once in recent years. I also find a little more inherent power with a racquet having a larger head (along with about the same weight and string as another with a smaller head). More stiffness may also bring some extra power, but this can be tough to predict among different frames.

I also need some heft and inherent stability in my racquets for decent volleys - I grew up playing S&V style before anything else. While a super heavy frame (13.5 oz.) might overwhelm the ball too much for decent touch volleys, I really crave that feeling of having "enough" stability for the racquet to not get pushed around by the ball. I also prefer a snug bed of syn. gut in my racquets over multifibers or poly hybrids. That just gives me the combo of arm comfort, crisp feel, and performance that I like.

I keep two different racquet models in my bag which are tuned into about the same layout of weight and balance. They also have the same head size, string pattern, differ by only one point in flex rating, and have almost identical beam width. But they're different. One makes more top end power for me when I want it and it's also not so eager to spin the ball. The other one churns out ferocious spin when I want it, but doesn't quite annihilate the ball like the first one. This probably just boils down to their different construction.
 

HuusHould

Professional
There are general ideas for what has effect on what, you may be good starting with TWU articles. In practice, it’s always a journey for the Holy Grail. You start off playing with a basic 300g 100sq in stick. Then you put some lead to hoop for stability. Then you counterbalance it for mobility. Then you string stiff poly to tame increased power. Then you face tennis elbow. Ok, now you go panic mode, look for solutions, maybe settle with a soft frame which appears less stable and lacks putaway power, and you go again...
Haha, yeah I know a couple of tennis colleagues who have been forever searching for the holy grail you refer to. (Ones tried every racquet on the market and deals in used racquets, the other is a modification addict) It seems to me that once you start experimenting, you have to keep going till you find the ultimate racquet!

What are these TWU articles you refer to? Cheers.
 

HuusHould

Professional
There's plenty of upside to having a racquet that offers a better natural fit for a certain player. I've done some of my own tuning on a couple of different occasions where I turned what was a not-so-great performer into an absolute keeper. But I've also done some tuning where I couldn't turn the racquet into something it was not. Tuning can sometimes be quite helpful, but it's not a sure thing.
I think this is an important preface. I have three head extreme pro grapheme xts, So I think they're from about 5 years or so ago. (I'd guess around 2014), which has the following specs on the racquet; head size 100square inches, weight 315g (11.1oz), balance 310mm/1 1/3 In HL, beam 24/26/23mm, length 685mm/27in, string pattern 16/19 rec string tension 48-57lbs.


With the mods I have racquets weighing 348, 351 and 352 grams. They all have the same swing weight of 326 grams and are 10HL 311 (the guy who did the mods put this on it, not sure how to interpret it). One day I had broken a string on all of these racquets and I went back to my Head extreme MP, which is from about 2012 I'm guessing, it's just an earlier model of the same racquet. It has the following specs; head size 100square inches, weight 300g, balance 320mm/1in HL , beam 24/26/23 length 685mm, string pattern 16/19 rec string tension 50-60lbs. With the over grips etc on this racquet, the stringer listed the specs as; weight 338g, SW 316 and 9HL315.

Anyway, with this older racquet I had a hit one night and every shot felt crisp. My volleys and Federer flicks from the baseline that had lied dormant for years came back, so my goal was to make my 3 newer racquets as close as possible to the older model. It was an operation that had its limitations from the outset given the newer racquets were heavier. But the pro that did the mods I think mainly focused on making the swing weights as close as possible for the old racquet and newer racquets. I was wondering if you could explain what the figures regarding the balance mean?

Thanks very much for all the useful info! I will comment on other sections of your post when I have time tomorrow.
 

weelie

Semi-Pro
I'd love to see a general guide on this... Go for it, please!

Due to me elbow issues, I went for as HL as possible by adding some 60g (a tad over 2 oz) to the grip end of the racket. Also lower RA for more comfort and bigger head size to make for the lost power. It works well enough, but having found a more comfortable string (Crossfire ZX) to replace the poly, now I feel string was the culprit. So I could go back a bit with the extreme racket setup (meaning back to to like 98" and not as head light), which would like make my swings shorter and more reliable. Also, I would think I would volley better with a less HL balance... as my current racket has like no weight in the head, feel more difficult to hit a solid volley (while of course with the HL balance, it is easy to get the racket to the ball in time). I will test drive the Clash tour one of these days, that racket might work for me. I like to tinker, but I do play with a racket at least like 1-2 years before changing to a new one, and I never buy the new model, I'll wait for the price to drop or buy used.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
I was wondering if you could explain what the figures regarding the balance mean?
I don't have a quick conversion method on hand, but the measurement of racquet balance that refers to a number of "points" either head-light or head-heavy indicates the racquet's balance point (center of gravity) relative to its mid point. Every 1/8" of difference between the frame's mid point and its balance point is one "point" of balance.

So a typical 27" racquet's mid point is 13 1/2". If I balance that racquet on the edge of a counter top, table, etc. with the head hanging over the edge, I can measure the distance from the balance point down to the bottom edge of the racquet's butt cap. If that actual balance point measures at let's say 12 1/2" from the end of the butt cap, then the racquet has a balance of 8 points head-light. If the balance point measures at 14" from the end of the butt cap, then it's 4 points head-heavy.

Hopefully this is what you wanted me to explain.
 

HuusHould

Professional
I don't have a quick conversion method on hand, but the measurement of racquet balance that refers to a number of "points" either head-light or head-heavy indicates the racquet's balance point (center of gravity) relative to its mid point. Every 1/8" of difference between the frame's mid point and its balance point is one "point" of balance.

So a typical 27" racquet's mid point is 13 1/2". If I balance that racquet on the edge of a counter top, table, etc. with the head hanging over the edge, I can measure the distance from the balance point down to the bottom edge of the racquet's butt cap. If that actual balance point measures at let's say 12 1/2" from the end of the butt cap, then the racquet has a balance of 8 points head-light. If the balance point measures at 14" from the end of the butt cap, then it's 4 points head-heavy.

Hopefully this is what you wanted me to explain.
Yes, that's exactly what I was after, thanks.
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
Maybe this should be in the equipment section, but I'm a bit illiterate on how to customise a racquet and strings to suit my game, I was wondering how the following variables;

1-Balance of the racquet,
2-String tension,
3- String density
4- Overall weight of the racquet
5- Headsize

affect;

Ability to;
1- generate spin
2- hit with power,
3- flatten out shots,
4- control volleys,
5- stick volleys,
6- manuevre the racquet (defending/ volleying)
7- Do anything else you feel is relevant.
https://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Technical_Tennis/descpage-TECHTENNIS.html
 

tennisbike

Professional
Conceptually, I see these three things interacting: equipment -- technique -- fitness. These three all can change.

Often we just think equipment or the racket/string is the only variable. That is true at any given time. But keep in mind that the body adapts, or you can work out to strengthen your body to handle the higher static/swing weight. And then you might develop different playing style. (Expand one's repertoire.) That is off topic.

I tend to add lead tape and putty to a lighter stick to about 340~360 grams and I followed the path of some poster here in TT. 1) add mass (i.e. lead tape or putty) to hoop to get plow throw, 2) to add mass to above the grip area. I am a proponent to add nickels under OG for quick mod. When I did Prince TT Bandit OS from 280 g, I started with add putty inside the butt cap. but to make the stick swing faster, the nickels did the trick. One nickel is about 5 grams. Multiple sticks of mine has 4 nickels under OG. That helps with the OS stick to bring up the swing speed.

To save you some search time, what I read on the forum is that adding mass above the grip area is more stable than at the end of stick. I recommend adding nickels above the grip to speed up the swing.

String bed softness/stiffness is related to forgiveness, during volley or off center hit. I prefer low tension poly, mid to low 40 lbs, and SG at around 50~55 lbs. And I love gut/poly even at 30/30lb SM reading (not reference tension) I vary tension across string bed like in JET stringing.
 
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