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Tennis Racket Lead Tape – What is it for? How do you use it?

Jannik Sinner and his lead tape modified Head TGT

Even if you’ve selected your perfect racket, there are still things you can do to personalise and customise it to suit your game.

One of the most common is to add lead tape to the frame or handle, increasing the racket’s weight and swingweight or adjusting its balance. 

In this article we’ll take a look at the different reasons players choose to add lead tape to their sticks, and where and how to apply it depending on your own objectives.

Why do people add lead tape to their rackets? 

Generally speaking, adding weight to a tennis racket will give it more power, stability and plow-through. 

Advanced players tend to prefer heavier rackets as they enable them to add power to their game without needing a large, bulky, oversize head. 

Beginner and intermediate rackets are usually much more lightweight but as your strength improves you might look to add more mass to the frame to increase that power and stability. 

Alternatively you might just want to customise a new frame, especially if you like all of that racket’s other characteristics but feel it’s missing some heft.

Where it becomes tricky is deciding where on the racket you place that extra weight. Because the placement will affect the racket’s balance and that has a huge impact on how it will play and feel in your hand. 

For example – the closer you place the extra weight to the top of the head, the more Head Heavy the racket will become. That makes it more powerful, yes, but also harder to control. Like swinging a mallet. 

Adding extra weight to the handle meanwhile makes it more Head Light making it easier to maneuver. That means you compromise on power but you’re able to whip the racket at greater speed which usually makes up for it.

So where should I apply my lead tape?

That depends entirely on what you’d like to achieve. Let’s look at the options.

12 o’clock

If you’re looking only to increase the power of a racket and are strong enough to cope with a heavy head, you could place it at the top of the hoop – or the 12 o’clock position. Check it out on our graphic above.

But please beware. If you’ve never used lead tape before we’d strongly advise against starting here. It makes the racket much harder to control.

10 and 2 o’clock

Probably the most popular place to apply tape is at 10 and 2. You’ll definitely add to the power of the frame but it should be slightly easier to control. Note that this can raise the position of the sweet spot – useful if you tend to hit towards the top edge of the frame. 

9 and 3 o’clock

Placing the tape at 9 and 3 has two benefits. You increase the power of the racket but also improve its stability. If you hit off-centre shots the racket is less likely to twist thanks to the added mass so it’s much more forgiving. 

If you’re experimenting with lead tape for the first time this is where we’d advise you to start. 

The Throat

It’s rare but some players like to apply tape at the racket’s throat. The benefit is you can add mass without affecting the racket’s balance. But if you’re looking to do that it’s more common to counterbalance the mass you’ve added in the head with some more lead tape in the handle. 

The Handle

Another reason to apply lead to the handle is to adjust to a more Head Light balance. As discussed, this should make your racket easier to manoevre, enabling you to generate more head speed. Most professionals play with head light rackets for that reason. 

How to apply lead tape to the frame

Once you’ve decided where to apply your tape the rest is pretty straightforward. But there are some aspects to consider.

First piece of advice would be – START SLOW. Don’t apply too much weight in one go. Try it out and see how you get on first. A little bit of weight can make a big difference. 

Second tip – if applying to the racket head, place it on the inside rim on BOTH SIDES of the string bed, front and back. 

Some brands of tape – such as Tourna’s Power Strips – come in an H shape (see below) which makes that easy and obvious. Others come in pre-measured strips in which case just apply one strip on either side.

If you’re using a roll of tape then it makes sense to cut off your desired length and then cut that down the middle and apply half on each side of the string bed. 

Roll of Tape

Pre-Cut Strips

H-Style Strips

Once you’ve cut your tape and identified where you’re going to place it, be sure to clean and dry the surface of the frame, making sure it’s free of dust and debris. Then just remove the adhesive strip from the back of the tape and lay it flat on the surface, smoothing it down to remove any air bubbles. 

If you’re applying to the handle you’ll need to remove the grip and/or overgrip and place the strips lengthways along the main bevels. As with the frame you’ll need to make sure you place a strip on both sides, both front and back. 

Is lead tape safe?

Generally speaking lead tape is perfectly safe to use. Although lead is indeed toxic if ingested there are some simple precautions you can take to avoid harm. 

  • Only place the tape where your hands won’t come into regular contact with it
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after applying the lead tape
  • If you want to be extra careful you could wear gloves when handling the tape

Are there any alternatives to lead tape? What about Tungsten?

Tungsten tape is a fairly popular alternative to lead. It works in exactly the same way as lead tape but without the risk of toxicity. You can check it out here.

If you’re looking to add mass to your racket’s handle there are additional alternatives you could use. 

Tungsten Putty is a product that can be applied by removing your racket’s butt cap and inserting it inside the handle. Useful if you don’t fancy having to remove your grip to add lead tape. 

Likewise, most manufacturers sell weighted butt caps which you can switch out for your old one to increase the handle’s weight. 

Put Some Lead in Your Pencil

Adding lead tape is a great – and cost effective – way to customise your racket. It’s easy to remove if you don’t like the results so there’s nothing to stop you experimenting right now.

You can always change your mind if it’s not working out and opt for a brand new racket instead.

FAQs

How do I remove lead tape from my tennis racket?

One of the great benefits of using lead tape is that you can easily remove it and reapply if you’re not happy with the racket’s performance. That makes it easy to adjust and experiment. 

If you do need to remove the tape just peel it off carefully, taking care not to damage the racket’s finish. If any adhesive remains use a mild solvent to clean it off. 

Is lead tape legal in tennis?

Adding lead tape is a completely legal way to customise your tennis racket. If you watch closely you’ll see that the majority of professional players do just that.

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