One key information when customizing and choosing a tennis racquet is the balance of the racquet. Will the racquet be head light or head heavy, how will it feel to swing, how will it feel when the ball hits the racquet?
This is what Tennis Warehouse writes on the subject of balance points:
Static measure of weight distribution in a racquet and measured from the butt end in inches and/or centimeters. Commonly referenced in “points” head light or head heavy – each “point” represents 1/8 inch. Generally speaking, heavier racquets are head light to maintain maneuverability, while most of today’s super-light racquets are head heavy to supply enough mass (which translates into power) to the area of the frame where the ball is being contacted.
I think the above statement is important because this is the case with most racquets. A heavy racquet is usually head light, take the Wilson Six One 95 for example which weighs 332 grams and is 12 pts head light unstrung. If that racquet was at an even balance it would be a beast to swing (high swing weight)! Most modern racquets today need to be relatively easy to swing since tennis is becoming increasingly fast-paced and to compensate for the lighter racquet, more weight is placed in the head of the racquet so the racquet won’t twist too easily at impact with the ball.
To clarify how swing weight impacts the racquet: a lower swing weight results in greater racquet acceleration and final swing speed, but more shock (due both to more racquet deceleration by the ball and higher impact force due to greater speed). Higher swing weight results in slower racquet acceleration and final swing speed but less shock due to less deceleration due to the ball pushing the racquet in an opposite circular rotation.
So if you want the ball to really “pancake” on the racquet, make sure your racquet has a decent amount of weight in the head. If you like to swing fast and are good at getting massive racquet head speed, then you might not need the same amount of weight in the head and can play with lighter racquets or more head light racquets.
I’m personally more in favour of heavier racquets, because I like to “feel” the ball impact the string bed more and reducing my swing speed a bit helps me with my control. I have almost always played with racquets above 340 grams due to this, but I have played against advanced and competitive players who play amazingly well with racquets weighing 295 grams unstrung and no lead added! Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
But let’s go back to balance points. The concept is not too hard to understand. Even balance means that the racquet is evenly balanced from head to handle, if the racquet has more weight towards the handle it is head light, and more weight towards the head it’s head-heavy. That’s how simple it is. Finding your ideal weight and balance is where it gets tricky!
To properly measure your racquet’s balance you need a balance beam. You can either build one yourself (here’s a thread on TW forums) or buy one (I did this because I’m lazy). Here’s a table on tennis racquet balance points:
What balance do you prefer? Please comment below!
I’m currently using a HEAD Liquidmetal Radical Tour that weighs 355 grams strung and has a balance of 32 cm and it plays like a tank. I’m enjoying it, but essentially I’m using this racquet while I’m making my mind up between getting more Angell TC 97 Customs or a couple of the Wilson Ultra Tour. That’s the life of a racquetholic…
Since I’m in Europe, I bought my Gamma Viper Balance Beam at Racquetdepot.co.uk but you’ll also find it on Amazon. It’s really an essential tool for customizing your tennis racquets. While you’re at it, you might as well get some Tourna lead tape.
Good luck with your racquet customizations!