Showing posts with label racquets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racquets. Show all posts

Taming stubborn grommets

If your racquet gets strung quite often, you'll likely see your grommets start wearing out after a while. At that point it's a good idea to invest a few dollars and replace them, so your frame will remain protected and your string won't break near the holes due to increased friction. Grommets are quite easy to get from places like Tennis Warehouse for $6 or so.

If you would like to replace the grommets yourself, you might run into a few little challenges. So here are a couple of tips for replacing your grommets to save you some time.

First of all, you can carefully use a dull knife as a lever to remove your existing grommets. If some of your grommets got torn apart on the inside of the frame and give you a hard time, use a string cutter or strong scissors to cut them off. Once your existing grommets are gone, make use of the opportunity and clean your naked racquet frame from any dirt that has accumulated over the past months (or years)!

For your new grommets, you might experience one of the following scenarios:

1 - You're lucky and they snap right right.

You're pretty much done :)

2 - They fit pretty well - you see the holes peaking through and they just need a little extra encouragement.

Try pulling 2 strings at the same time to snap them in all the way. Start by hand, then with lower tension. When the plastic starts making its way through, try carefully pulling individual strings, again first at lower tension, and when things look good, pull as normal.

3 - No matter how hard you try, you can't seem to fit your new grommets through all the frame holes.

This happened to me recently and it can be quite nerve wrecking! It was not a problem at all to replace the side grommets, however I was not able to fit the top band. I tried starting from either side, from the middle, pulled the middle of the band, worked the plastic, heated up the plastic with a hair dryer (probably not a good idea!), pulled the holes in by hand and then with a stringing machine, tried to push them through with an ale, cleaned out the frame holes etc etc. All in all, I spent 2-3 hours on this, and finally gave up. This was extra frustrating since I frequently replaced grommets in a sports store many years and never had a problem.

After emailing Tennis Warehouse, they informed me that they had issues with fitting some Prince grommets, especially on the Speedport Black (I play the Tour). I didn't want to give up nor wait for new grommets, so I asked a couple of my most gear-savvy tennis buddies. They recommended warming up the grommets in the oven for a few minutes, and then quickly working them into the frame. At first, I was a bit concerned about releasing toxic gases in a closed environment that is frequently used for making food :)

But I did give it a shot and started slowly - I went for less than 5 minutes at 200 degrees fahrenheit, placed the grommets on some alu foil in a way that they could "breathe", and frequently checked to make sure there was no funny smell or even melting going on.

From Gear

After a few minutes, I took out grommets out and pulled them trough the holes by hand with a couple of strings - and FINALLY, after some back and forth, they all came through!

From Gear

I then aired out the oven for an hour or so just to make sure, and then proceeded with scenario 2. I was quite excited that my trial and a lot of error eventually paid off!

High hopes for the new YouTek racquets

Looking at the specs of the new Head YouTek racquets, I was quite excited and hoping that I would finally come closer to finding the perfect frame. Head size, weight, balance, string pattern, frame width - everything looked great for the 2 new player sticks.

So when I finally got the YouTek Speed Pro (Novak's racquet) and the Head YouTek Speed MP, it was easy to be disappointed :) They both felt ok, however the Pro was good but missing something, and the Speed didn't feel like anything special to me.
For the Pro, I appreciate Head's effort of putting out a real tournament frame with head-light balance. As you can see, Head indicates its intentions with leather grip, which is experiencing a comeback on player racquets. But just as Novak said during press conferences even months after switching, the frame travels through the air nicely but is just a little bit off from swinging truly great. If Novak hasn't customized his Pro a lot, he's definitely putting in a lot of effort to get spin on the ball. And maybe too much compared to other sticks.

No big surprises for the Speed - a decent control racquet, but nothing that blew me away. Maybe the tennis shop didn't string the stick to its advantage, but it felt a bit dead to me, especially compared to some other Head racquets I've played in the past. I had the feeling that it was not worth for me to restring it and give it another go, unfortunately.

So worth trying out, but I gotta keep on searching!

Testing for flex

On my continued quest for a spin friendly, flexy, and head light racquet, I went to (unfortunately the site is down most of the time...), looked up the Federer racket, and lowered the stiffness rating.

I chose the following 4 racquets from the results, and ordered demos from Tennis Warehouse. They ship you 4 racquets and include a return label for the box. You can keep the racquets for a week - all for $20. So if you are in the US, need a new racquet, or like trying racquets from their big selection, this is a nice offer to consider.

From Racquets

Here are my observations:

Völkl DNX 10 Mid
  • Would have liked to try the Mid+ version, however TW didn't have it. So this one is not for topspin hitter, but might be a good alternative to Pete's racket for people who prefer a more head light balance and softer frame.
Völkl DNX 9 Mid+
  • Very light and easy to handle. Doesn't feel as stiff as Tennis Warehouse indicates. Personally, I like rackets which support and accelerate a natural swing a bit more.
Pro Kennex Heritage Type C Redondo
  • I was sponsored by Pro Kennex in my teens, so have fond memories about a few sticks. Also, the specs looked almost perfect for me. My verdict: swings nicely, but can't see how this frame is as soft as everyone is saying (there's a "Redondo Club" on the Tennis Warehouse forums). Doesn't convince me in terms of feel or power. I restrung it which made it a bit better, but it still didn't feel soft.
Avery M3 Control Mid+
  • Frame is so soft it can even be tricky to pick up a ball - the frame just seems to bend back. Swings very nicely. Good serves but a little shaky on ground strokes - can't see how you would hit a winner from the baseline with this racquet.
So what did I learn? A head-light racket does need a good amount of weight in the grip area, otherwise it doesn't do anything by itself. Stiffness rating doesn't always indicate how flexy a frame feels. And frames can actually feel too soft. Overall, I think I'm getting a bit closer...

New Prince Exo, plus Sampras and Federer racquets

I was very curious to try the new Prince racquets and Wilson's new Sampras racquet, and still wanted to give the Federer racquet another try, so I went to Paragon in New York and picked them up ($5/racquet/day). In general, I am currently looking for a head light, flexy racket that accelerates my swings and generates a lot of spin.

I'm currently playing the Prince Speedport Tour - the head size seems right for me, and I like the open string pattern. But it's on the stiffer end of the spectrum and could swing a bit more easily. So I was curious if Federer's nCode Tour 90 would be too stiff for me, whether I could generate enough spin with the dense-patterned Rebel, and how good the Graphite would feel. I picked up the Sampras as a "must try", given the history of its predecessor.

From Racquets

Here are my thoughts:

Prince EXO3 Rebel 95
  • I like the flex, you can really whack the ball. The bending of the racket actually seems to take away from spin generation, so a little bite in the string bed is advised. Grip looks nice but was so abrasive that I needed to stop testing the racket. I think I'd love this frame if it came with a 16x18 string pattern.
Prince EXO3 Graphite 93 Mid
  • Head accelerates nicely due to the balance, but overall there was nothing I loved about the racquet. Too generic-feeling.
Wilson K Factor KPro Staff 88 (the Sampras racquet)
  • A rifle. Great for flat, classic strokes, and serve and volley. Will be hard for topspin hitters to generate spin with this racket, and it would be quite exhausting.
Wison K Factor KSix-One Tour 90 (the Federer racquet)
  • Specs are perfect for me, except for the stiffness. Not as stiff as its predecessor, but would be really nice if the production frame came a bit softer. Heavy on paper but swings nicely if you relax your arm and let it do its thing.
All in all a fun experience, but I think I will to keep on looking for an upgrade. I'll be testing the new Head "YouTek" racquets shortly, and will share my thoughts here.