FAQ for rec.sport.tennis (4/6) - Equipment

From: cs30@oit.gatech.edu (C G Smith)
Newsgroups: rec.sport.tennis,rec.answers,news.answers
Subject: FAQ for rec.sport.tennis (4/6) - Equipment
Supersedes: <sports/tennis-faq/equipment_883995341@rtfm.mit.edu>
Followup-To: poster
Date: 3 May 1998 11:47:04 GMT
Organization: none
Expires: 16 Jun 1998 11:45:47 GMT
Message-ID: <sports/tennis-faq/equipment_894195947@rtfm.mit.edu>
Reply-To: cs30@oit.gatech.edu (C G Smith)
Summary: Answers to frequently asked questions about tennis, including
         information about professional tournaments, rankings and records.
X-Last-Updated: 1998/05/02

Archive-name: sports/tennis-faq/equipment

                FAQ for rec.sport.tennis -- File 4 of 6

                      Table of Contents - File 4

   File    Item    Title
     4     4.1     Buying a Tennis Racquet -- Issues to Consider .   
           4.2     Explanation of Racquet Grips  . . . . . . . . .   
           4.3     Facts About Frames and Strings  . . . . . . . .  
           4.4     Lead Tape and Its Application . . . . . . . . .  
           4.5     Racquet Stringing Information . . . . . . . . .   


 4.1         Buying a Tennis Racquet -- Issues to Consider

(This section is a condensed version of an article originally posted by
Charles Lin, clin@eng.umd.edu - modified by csmith@cc.gatech.edu).

The following article discusses various criteria individuals may want
to examine when considering buying a new tennis racquet.  The following
topics are covered:

    + Price
    + Where to buy (mail order vs. local store)
    + Racquet size
    + Flexibility
    + Racquet material
    + Vibration dampening
    + Racquet strings and stringing
    + Grips
    + Head balance
    + Weight

   If you are looking for a racquet, the short advice is to hit with as
many racquets as you can, and pick the one you like best.  Like anything,
choosing racquets is a highly subjective decision, and you will get
pickier as you get better in tennis.   As a beginner, you may not have
as much information as you would like.   This article summarizes issues
you should think about when buying a racquet.


   Racquets range anywhere from 30 US dollars all the way up to 250 US
dollars and more.  They may roughly be divided into two classes - those
costing $90 US or less, and those costing more than $90 US.  Generally,
a reasonable racquet will cost at least $90 US (not on sale).  Most
racquets in this price range are made of graphite material or a graphite
composite.  A few inexpensive racquets may be composed of a metallic
material such as aluminum.  Usually the more expensive racquets (200 to
300 US dollars) will have fancier features, but a less expensive model
may well suit your needs.

    Mail order or not

    Should you mail order or not?   The main advantage of mail order is
cost savings and more selection variety.  Disadvantages: (1) you might get
ripped off; (2) no-return policies; (3) you can't play-test the racquet
before buying.  If you do choose to mail order, you may want to call the
Better Business Bureau (in the US) in the city where the company operates
from to see what kinds of complaints you get.

     Buying from sports stores allows you to take the racquet home right
away.  You may be able to come close to a mail-order price if you find the
racquet you want on sale.  You can sometimes get discontinued racquets at
great prices.  Also, you can usually return the racquet if not satisfied.

    Size of racquet

    The "racquet size" refers to the area bounded by the oval part of the
racquet frame (the racquet head).  Sizes may be roughly divided into four

    + Standard (approx 66 sq. inches -- the old wood racquets)
    + Midsize (80-90 sq. inches)
    + "Mid-overs" or "Mid-plus" (95-105 sq. inches)
    + Oversize (Approx 110 sq. inches)

    (1 square inch = 6.452 square cm)

    You can no longer find the standard size racquets which are the old
wooden racquets of the past.   Ever since Pam Shriver and others started
using larger-sized racquets, other pros and amateurs have made the switch.

     What does size mean to you?   An oversized racquet means you have
more area to hit the ball, and the racquet is more forgiving on off-center
shots.  Many baseliners use oversize racquets because they hit many strokes
and tend to utilize the extra area to help with topspin production.  These
racquets can lead to sloppy stroke production and can be too powerful for
some players.  This is usually not a big problem for most players.

    A midsize racquet is usually a little better for volleyers who play
against hard hitters because it provides a bit of control.  On the other
hand, the oversized racquet still provides more area to hit with, and
some serve and volleyers will use oversized racquets.

     The mid-over is a compromise -- more powerful than the midsize but
not as powerful as the oversized.  These racquets are becoming more popular
than midsize racquets.  Some companies have introduced super-oversized
models, which are a bit larger than oversize (typically about 115-120
sq. in.).  There are even a few models around 130 sq. inches, which are
probably much too big for reasonable play and should be avoided.  The
best way to determine the right size for you is to play-test with the
different sizes.  There are a great number and variety of mid-over and
oversize models to choose from.


    The "widebody revolution" started in the late 80's with models such
as the Wilson Profile.  Different companies have produced various racquets
that vary in their widebody construction (e.g., equally wide - Classic
Beam; wide on top - Prince; wide on bottom - Head).

     Generally,  Wider -> More powerful, stiffer, more expensive. Wide-
bodies are usually 18mm (very narrow) up to 30mm wide.  The general rule
of thumb is that the quicker and longer a stroke motion you have, the
narrower a racquet you should use (not a hard-and-fast rule, though).

     It should be noted that you are not going to find non-widebodies
around.  Almost every racquet is wide to some extent.  One problem with
widebodies occurs when people try to hit the ball edge on as in extreme
sliced shots or topspin shots.  You tend to hit the side of the racquet
a lot more.  You can compensate through a bit of practice.

    Extra Long Racquets

    Manufacturers of racquets have been looking for many different ways
to add power to racquets.   The aluminum racquet, the oversized racquet,
the graphite racquet, widebodies, and now extra long racquets.  A standard
racquet measures 27 inches, and the rules permit a racquet to be as long
as 32 inches.  (Note: The International Tennis Federation has proposed a
reduction in maximum allowable racquet length from 32 inches to 29 inches).
The new longer racquets are typically about 28 inches long.   

    Given that most tennis racquet manufacturers now produce a longer 
racquet, it's safe to say that this idea does work.  It seems to help add 
a little power to the serve.   The only tricky part is making sure that 
you can still hit the same kind of stroke with the longer racquets that 
you can with a normal racquet.  It seems manufacturers have been paying 
attention to this.

    Stiff or flexible

    Stiff racquets bend and torque a lot less than flexible racquets and
thus usually generate more power.  Stiff racquets will also produce a bit
more accuracy than a flexible racquet because they twist less on impact so
the response is more predictable.  Primarily though, flexibility translates
to comfort.  Stiff racquets tend to be more uncomfortable (i.e., produce
more shock to the arm) than flexible racquets.   The widebodies all tend
to be fairly stiff racquets though many of these racquets now have some
kind of dampening system (see Vibration Dampening below).


    Racquets are usually composed of graphite and metal.  There are no
racquets made of wood being made today.   Ceramic racquets, which used to
be made, are reported too brittle and are more likely to break than graphite
racquets.  Almost all metal racquets are junior sized racquets or lower
priced racquets.   Graphite racquets are sometimes combined with other
materials such as fiberglass to affect the flexibility.  Generally, if
you want to play "seriously", you choose graphite.  The graphite racquets
tend to have better vibration technology than metal.

   Vibration dampening

   Vibration dampening appears to be the current industry fad (e.g., Head -
Vibrasorb, Dunlop - ISIS, Prince - liquid crystal polymers).  The method
for dampening a racquet's vibration is provided either in the material of
the racquet, the material underneath the grip, or some method of "isolating"
the head of the racquet with the body.  Vibration dampening affects the
"feel" of a racquet by alleviating the "shock" of ball impact and can help
alleviate a common cause of tennis elbow (improper stroke production is
another cause).

   You can also buy vibration dampeners which can be sponge inserts,
plastic inserts, or you can even tie a rubber band to the racquet like
Agassi.   These dampeners probably work, but it's a matter a personal
judgment as to whether you need these devices.


    Basically there are three kinds of strings you can get: (1) Nylon,
(2) Gut, and (3) Synthetic Gut.   Nylon is cheap and durable, but it is
not overly resilient and tends to lose tension before it snaps.  Gut is
the choice of many pros, but it is rather expensive and generally not
recommended unless you can afford to buy in bulk and have your own
stringing machine.  Gut strings are resilient, hold tension better, and
players like the feel better.   However, humidity affects the strings
and cause them to degrade.  Gut doesn't last as long as nylon.

     The compromise is synthetic strings.   Basically, gut is made by long
thin strands of cow or sheep gut, and it is twisted together in much the
same way twine or string is made.  Synthetic gut does the same thing with
nylon strings to achieve the same effect.   They cost more than nylon but
less than real gut.  They play and hold tension better than nylon.

    Strings come in various thicknesses, called "gauges." You have 15, 15L,
16, 16L, and 17.  Larger numbers mean thinner strings.  "L" means light and
can be thought of as half as size (so 15L can be considered 15 1/2).
Thick strings have less resilience and feel than thin strings but last

    So-called "topspin" strings are mostly gimmicky and should probably be
avoided.  These are rough surfaced strings designed to grab the ball better.
The feel or durability of the strings are not necessarily improved.

    Cost of strings range from about $10-$15 (US) for nylon to $12-$30 for
synthetic gut to $30-$50 for gut strings.  Strings can be purchased in
large reels for stringing at home for less.

    String snapping

    The main cause of strings breaking is excessive spin.  If you play
with lots of spin, you cause the strings to slide.  Under the tensions
these strings are under, this causes notches which you can actually see.
The notches eventually break.  The harder you hit, and the more spin you
hit, the more likely the strings will break sooner.

    One way to avoid this problem (or at least prolong string life) is to
use inserts called "String-a-lings" that prevent the strings from sliding
too much.   You can place this device at points where the string crosses.
Another possibility is to use thicker strings or to string at a higher
tension (next section).  Higher tensions means less string sliding but
can mean a greater likelihood that a string will snap (because of higher
tensile pressure).

    String tension

    Note: 1 pound (lb) = 0.448 kg * 9.8 m/s^2 = 4.39 Newtons

    String tension is usually measured in pounds (in the US).  Recommended
string tensions have varied with the times but these days usually run in the
range of the mid 60's (pounds) for oversize and high 50's to low 60's for

    How do you choose a tension?   If you're unsure, choose a tension that
is halfway between the manufacturer's ranges.  You can then adjust up or
down until you find the tension most suitable for you.  Exceeding the
limits of manufacturer's recommended string tensions might void the
racquet warranty (check with the racquet company if you have questions),
but most racquets can withstand a great range of tensions before damage
sets in.  Higher tensions will probably cause a little more damage than
lower tensions.

    Basically, higher tensions decrease the size of the sweetspot and
reduce the power (thus increasing control a bit).  The higher the tension,
the more boardlike the feel.  Some people like this.  Desired tension is
pretty much a matter of personal taste, and as you improve the level of
your game, you are apt to notice small fluctuations in string tensions.
Also note that the same string tension will have a different "feel" for
different racquets.


    Most racquet grips used to be made of leather and would become hard to
grip when the pores became clogged with dirt from your sweat.  A solution
to this problem is the use of an overgrip.  Overgrips are *temporary* grips,
and it is not recommended that you attempt to actually replace a racquet's
existing grip.

    Overgrips fit over the existing grip (and thus increase the grip size
a bit - see next section) and absorb the sweat better.  Some overgrips are
"tacky" or sticky.  Some are even essentially gauze with tape and some
sticky powder.   They should be replaced about every five times of playing
or sooner.   Otherwise, they get a little icky.   Some overgrips feel
rubbery, others cloth like, others a bit powdery.  They are about 5 US
dollars for a set of three.

     Nowadays there are synthetic grips which are much easier to grip than
leather, thus possibly removing the need for overgrips.

    Replacement Grips

    Replacement grips are meant to replace the original (leather or
synthetic) grip that your racquet came with.   Typically, this requires
someone with experience to do this for you.   Replacing a grip requires
more skill than using overwraps.   Replacement grips should cost less
than 20 US dollars.

    Grip size

    There are, generally speaking, three basic grip sizes: 4 3/8, 4 1/2,
and 4 5/8 inches (1 inch = 2.54 cm).  Despite the 1/8 inch difference in
circumference, you can really notice the difference.  A general rule of
thumb is to choose the largest grip you feel comfortable with, but again
there are exceptions to every rule.  In some cases you might can obtain
grip sizes as diverse as 4 1/8 or 4 7/8 inches through a mail order company
or a local pro shop.

    Head balance

    Take a racquet and find the length half way.  A racquet is typically
27 inches long so this is 13 1/2 inches.  If the racquet balances halfway,
then it is even balance.  If it tilts to the racquet head, it is head heavy.
If it tilts toward the handle, it is head light.    The balance of a racquet
can make two racquets of equal weight feel different.  The head heavy
racquet will feel heavier than the lighter one when you swing (think of
the difference in holding a hammer at either end).

    A head light racquet is better for serve and volleyers who need to
move the racquet quickly.   A head heavy racquet is a little better for
baseliners who want to place more mass behind the racquet.  Most racquets
are only marginally head heavy or head light.

    Some terminology.  Find the half way point (13 1/2 inches).  If the
balance point of your racquet is 3/8 inch closer to the racquet head than
the halfway point, then it is 3 points head heavy (1 point = 1/8 inch).
If the racquet balances 3/8 inch closer to the handle, then is is 3 point
head light.


    As a rule, the trend in weight is toward lighter and lighter racquets,
particularly with the introduction of graphite.  Racquets right now weigh
about 11 and 1/2 ounces and decreasing with time.  Some racquets are even
less than 10 ounces.  The lighter a racquet, the easier it is to swing.
However, light racquets place less weight behind the shot, and hence you
have to swing faster to get a more powerful shot.   This has been the main
way (along with balance) to tame the power of widebodies.


    This discussion is not meant to provide you with the method for selecting
your racquet, rather to present the various issues you will confront as you
make your choice.  Good luck with the racquet hunt.


 4.2                Explanation of Racquet Grips

(This material provided by Charles Lin, clin@eng.umd.edu, and modified by 

   It is a bit difficult to explain the various racquet grips without a
little "show and tell," so to speak, but the following discussion may be
of help to beginners or players who are experimenting with racquet grips.
Some diagrams to help with the discussion:

   Here's two views of a racquet, with numbered labels shown which are
referred to in discussions below.

                    /   1     \                           _______
     View from     / 8       2 \                 grip    /       \
      bottom      /             \            1__________/ racquet \
      ------      |             |            |__________    face   |
     racquet      | 7        3  |            5          \         /
       butt       |             |                        \_______/
                  \             /
                   \ 6       4 /        "Face-On" view... racquet face is
                    \   5     /         in the same plane as imaginary
                     --------           line connecting sides 1 and 5.

    The grips are explained below by relating the knuckle of the index
finger to the relative racquet butt position the knuckle lines up over.
In other words, to obtain a certain grip, place the index knuckle on
the indicated butt edge and then slide your hand upward on the racquet
grip.  In case there's any confusion, here's a diagram of the (right)
index finger:

   thumb (located about here)
              \ ----------------------------------
                            |           |     --- \
               X           |||          |    |   | |   (first finger)
                            |           |     --- /

     "X" marks the bottom of the knuckle.   Imagine that you are making a
fist, and staring at the knuckles.   X is the location where this bend
would occur on the first finger.

     Summary of locations (refer to racquet butt diagram for positions)
     1     Eastern backhand
    1-2    Continental
     2     Eastern forehand
    2-3    Semi-Western
     4     Western
     5     Exaggerated Western  (note this is also the Eastern

     The plain numbers like 1, 2, 3 refer to the flat portions of the grip
while the 2-3 refer to the corner.  Place the bottom knuckle of the first
finger of your right hand to get the desired results.  Left handers need
to number 1 through 8 counter-clockwise rather than clockwise, and the
locations should still hold.

   Description of grips

      Eastern forehand grip

      This is the grip that is considered the classical forehand grip and
is taught mostly in English speaking countries such as the US.  It is also
called the shake-hands grip because you should be able to shake hands with
the racquet (assume the racquet is lying on the floor on its edge).  The
grip should also let you hit a ball that is about waist high and a little
in front of you with a "relaxed" grip, and this grip should leave the face
of the racquet perpendicular to the plane of the ground.

      You can hit flat, moderate topspin, to moderately heavy topspin with
this grip.  While it is rare to use this grip for serving, it can be used.
It's pretty good for flat serves, but you need to work at it more to
produce spin shots.

      For the remainder of this article, this grip will be referred to as
the "conventional position."

      Eastern backhand grip

      This grip allows you to place more of your palm behind the racquet
which gives the racquet more stability than using the Eastern forehand
grip.  This grip is also commonly taught.   If you hit the ball a little
more in front of you than when you hit the forehand shot (hitting the
backhand "properly" usually requires hitting the ball a little more in
front than the forehand), and the ball is at waist height, then you will
be able to hit the ball with a relaxed grip with the plane of the racquet
perpendicular to the ground.

      The Eastern backhand grip is often used for serving.  It feels
awkward at first, but allows for serving with slice (since it feels like
hitting the ball edge on initially).

      Continental grip

      The continental grip is halfway between the Eastern forehand grip
and the Eastern backhand grip and used to be much more popular (in the
1960's) than it is now.   The advantages are that you can use one grip
for the forehand and backhand.  This is especially useful when volleying
when you require fast reflexes and don't have time to switch grips.  The
disadvantage is that the grip is more "open" on the forehand side than
the Eastern backhand grip.  In other words, grip to the "conventional
position".   Then, switch to a Continental grip.   The racquet should
tilt upwards slightly.

      If you're still not sure what an "open" position is, try the
following exercise:  sit at a desk, turn left so that the desk is on your
right-hand side, and place your right hand on and perpendicular to the
desk (as if you were going to do a karate chop).  Tilt your hand a bit
upward so that the palm faces upward.  Imagining that your palm is the
racquet face, this is an "open" racquet position.  If you tilt your hand
the other way so that the palm aims downward, you'll have a closed or
more closed position.  The more "open" the racquet face is, the more "up"
it points, and vice versa.

      The Continental grip is useful for hitting late forehand shots
because it allows you to hit late shots with a more perpendicular face.
Note that the "idealness" of a grip (i.e., hitting it with a perpendicular
face) depends on the location of where you hit the ball.   The Eastern
forehand and backhand grip are best for waist-high shots hit just a little
in front of the body.

      This grip is also used for serving for similar reason to the Eastern

      Western (forehand) grip

      This is known as the frying-pan grip.   Imagine you lay the racquet
down flat as if it were a frying pan.   Lift it up.   This grip should
be pretty close to the Western forehand grip.   Repopularized by Borg,
this is the grip of most players who like to hit with a lot of topspin
(though Connors uses this grip and he hits it flat).   In the conventional
position, the Western forehand grip would almost be faced down (parallel to
the ground).

      You can hit with a perpendicular face if the ball is near shoulder
height and a bit in front, or if the wrist and arm is contorted.   The
act of changing from a closed position to the perpendicular position in
a smooth upward stroke helps to produce topspin.   The grip plays one
role in hitting topspin, but it is not the most crucial part.   You can
hit topspin with a Continental grip too, but most people hit it with a
Western grip.

      Semi-Western (forehand grip)

      This grip is about halfway between a Eastern forehand and a Western
forehand.   If you used the conventional position, the racquet would be at
about a 45 degree angle faced down.  It's halfway being perpendicular and
being parallel to the ground.   A lot of self taught players use this grip.
Often players with big forehands use this grip (though Eastern and Western
grips will both work).

     Exaggerated Western (forehand grip)

     This is a pretty awkward grip.  It is more clockwise than the Western
grip, and you can use the same face to hit a backhand too.   Note that most
people hit forehands and backhands with both sides of the racquet.  The
exaggerated Western forehand grip meant for those who want excessive
topspin and the grip that goes with it.

     Two handed backhand grip

     Typically, you use an Eastern backhand grip for the right hand (for
a right hander) and a left-handed (using the adjustment in the diagram
mentioned above) Eastern forehand grip for the left hand.   This allows
you to remove the left hand if needed to hit the backhand, and hit it one-
handed.    Some players use a forehand grip with the right hand, and the
left hand is a left-handed forehand grip.   This makes it easier to hit
returns of serves, since the left hand can be removed and a conventional
forehand hit, but is a little more difficult for hitting a one-handed

      A final note

      Although these grips are associated with certain styles of play
(Eastern and Continental for flat forehands.  Western for topspin forehands),
there are players who use these grips for other styles (Lendl and Sampras
hit Eastern forehands but with topspin.  Connors hits flat Western forehands.
Martina and Rod Laver hit topspin forehands with Continental grips).  The
basic rule of thumb is this, though.   Given a "relaxed" grip, the idea
position for a Eastern forehand is waist high, a little in front.  The ideal
Continental position is a little late or a little behind you.   The ideal
Western is a bit more in front and about shoulder height.   However, with
the Western and Continental grips, there is usually a compensation by the
person so that one does not use a "relaxed" position, but still hits with
a perpendicular face.


 4.3                 Facts About Frames and Strings

(The following material is provided by Alan Vinh, avinh@user1.mnsinc.com.)

Here are some good facts for us tennis players to know:

   Racquet Facts:

     + Heavier frames generate more power.
     + Heavier frames vibrate less.
     + Heavier frames have larger sweetspots.
     + Stiffer frames generate more power.
     + Stiffer frames have larger sweetspots.

     + Stiffer frames transmit more of the shock load to the arm than
       flexible frames.
     + Stiffer frames provide more uniform ball response across the
       entire string bed.
     + Larger frames generate more power.
     + Larger frames are more resistant to twisting.
     + Larger frames have larger sweetspots.

     + Larger frames break strings sooner due to the string lengths.
     + Longer frames have higher swing weight than the same frames that
       are shorter hence the longer frames are less maneuverable.
     + Longer frames generate more power than the same frame that is
     + It is recommended by the USRSA that widebody frames use
       multifilament strings (ie. "soft" strings) or gut to compensate
       for some of the stiff attributes hence better playability.
     + It is recommended by the USRSA to string widebody frames at lower
       tension for better playability and to help keep strings from
       breaking too soon.

   String Facts:

     + Lower tensions generate more power.
     + Higher tensions generate more ball control.
     + Longer string lengths (string bed) produce more power.
     + Decresed string density (fewer strings) generates more power.
     + Thinner strings generate more power.

     + Elastic strings generate more power and absorb more shock at
     + Softer strings or strings with softer coating tend to vibrate
     + Thinner strings tend to produce more spin by biting the ball more.
     + Decreased string density (fewer strings) generates more spin.
     + Multifilament strings are more elastic than solid core strings.

     + Longer strings on a string bed move more hence break easier (see
       larger frames from above).
     + Solid core strings are more durable than multifilament strings
       with kevlar string technology being the most durable.
     + Kevlar strings are the stiffest and least flexible.
     + Multifilament strings play better than solid core strings.
     + Multifilament strings lose tension more quickly than strings with
       a center core.

     + Textured strings tend to produce more spin.
     + Gut strings hold tension the best.
     + Gut strings are the most fragile strings comparing to other
       similar gauged strings.


 4.4                  Lead Tape and Its Application

(The following material is provided by Alan Vinh, avinh@user1.mnsinc.com.)

As a reference, lets draw a clock on our racquet's head. Let 12 o'clock be 
at be the center of our racquet head's tip and 6 o'clock be at the center 
of our racquet head's throat.

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

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

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

   + To add power, add weight at 12 o'clock (to equalize balance, if
     desired, place weight near the butt of the racquet - under the

   + 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.

   + 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

   + 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."

     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

   + 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.

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.

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.


 4.5                  Racquet Stringing Information

[The following writeup was provided by Dan Simoes (dans@ans.net).  Followups,
suggestions, requests, etc., about this article should be addressed to him.]

A brief summary of what you need to know:

  + stringing can be done by mere mortals

  + it's not as easy as it looks

  + you can break your frame(s) if
    a) you make a big mistake (not clamped right)
    b) you have a cheap machine and it breaks (TR Stringer)

  + there are no learn to string books that I know of.  You might
    get chummy with a local stringer in a pro shop, and ask him
    to teach you for free, for money or for beer :)

  + you should join the US Racquet Stringers Association, they
    provide a big manual with all the patterns you could ever
    dream of, good technique tips, and regular updates, as well as
    discounts and sometimes freebies.  Call them at 619 481 3545.
    Oh, join before you buy a machine - you will find the Stringer's
    Updates are an excellent source for used machines.

  + The Klippermate is an excellent choice for a personal stringer.
    It is sturdy, well built, relatively easy to use (for a tabletop)
    and well worth the price.  As far as tabletops go, I would
    hesitate to spend more - I own one myself.  The 2 point mounting
    system used on the Klippermate is perfectly acceptable, and
    according to them, is better than a 4 or 6 point.  The next step
    up would be a used upright like an Ektelon or a Winn Pro, for
    around $500 or so, if you have the space and need the speed
    advantage - you can string quicker with an upright.
    You will find an ad for the Klippermate and many other similar
    machines in the back of Tennis magazine.

Q: How do I become a 'certified stringer?'

A: By the USRSA (US Racquet Stringers Association).
   There are actually 2 types:

   - USRSA Certified: anyone can get this if you pass the test
   - USRSA CRT (Certified Racquet Technician)
     You must belong to an established shop where stringing is
     performed, and you must pass a (harder) test.
     The CRT designation was created to add credibility to the
     stringers who work at shops and therefore charge extra, as
     opposed to home-based stringers (like me) who string on
     the kitchen table and have no overhead.
     You can contact the USRSA at (619) 481-3545.

Q: In a tabletop stringer, such as the Klippermate, is there any
   advantage to a 6 clamp mounting system as opposed to a 2 point?

A: According to Klippermate, no.  Even with upright models you will
   find differences in the way frames are mounted.  The Winn Pro,
   for example, uses a 2 point mounting system with lateral support.
   The 2 point system used on the Klippermate works fine, and
   according to Klipspringer is a better method.  It's sort of
   like the debate over front vs. rear wheel drive...
   No matter what system you use, make sure your clamps are tight
   or it won't matter how many mount points there are :).

Comments on machines:
The USRSA is preparing a review of portable stringing machines.  I've
seen a draft of this material and the review seems to rank the Gamma Pro
100 ($179) at or near the top.  Other machines reviewed that did well
were the Alpha Pro Partner ($200) and the AG Gutterman Easy I ($145).
They also reviewed the Klippermate and did not feel that it was a good
choice for first time stringers.  I cannot endorse one machine over
another since I have only used the Klippermate (in the portable
category) but I continue to use my Klip for my personal stringing with
no problems.  Do your research, make sure the company stands behind its
product, and take your time to do a good job, and I'm sure you'll be a
skilled stringer in no time.


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Last Update September 07 1998 @ 04:21 AM