As avid racket sports players, we’ve all experienced this before: you just bought a completely fresh frame and can’t hide your enthusiasm to take it out to court for a first official test drive. But… of course you don’t want your shiny new weapon to come back with you after training, all banged and scratched up. That’s where you enter a crossroads: do you take the time to protect your new frame or do you consider it a waste of time? While there are things to be said of being in one of those classic racket care groups, in this article I’ll walk you through the best options to protect and maintain your new racket from the start.
In short, for the best way to protect and maintain a good condition of your racket, I would advise you to play with bumper guard tape (as the name suggests, placed on top of your racket bumper guard on top of your frame) and buy a couple of sets of replacement grommets right from the start if your tennis frame is worth more than 100 euro’s or if your squash or badminton frame is worth more 60 euro’s. This is a rule of thumb that ‘guesstimates’ whether it is worth your time maintaining your frame in good condition.
Now I’ve seen quite a few rackets pass through my shop and the conception of two groups actually seems to fit pretty good: there are rackets that are being taking care for really good and there are rackets that are being mistreated but there are little to no rackets that have done just the basics. It seems to be an all or nothing approach. And that’s a shame because with just a bit amount of time, you can actually make the life span of your racket really last.
So first things first and let’s take a closer look at racket tape or bumper guard tape. It’ll cost you just a couple of dollars but it can be a real life saver. The reason you’ll want to stick it to the top of your frame is to protect the bumper guard itself from heavy scratching, but also prevent clay from getting in to your top strings. I’ve actually seen frame with so much clay on the upper strings and grommets that it will surely cause string breakage. It will not only damage your string itself (probably more on natural or synthetic guts than poly) but also dry out your bumper guard and grommet system very fast, which will then deteriorate rather fast, break off and cause more string breakage from the get-go, because you’ll stringer has to apply tension to the strings, while being directly forced onto the scratched and dented frame. Not good…
My second tip includes buying a set of replacement grommets of your preferred frame right from the start. The reason why you might want to follow this approach is because of the availability of these grommets. A couple of years down the road and when you might actually need to replace them, chances are you won’t be able to find them on the market anymore or with a lot more trouble of finding them. So why not just buy with your new frame in the first place there and then? Now not every shop or retailer might be able to sell those parts with the frame, but if you do a quick Google Search for [racket brand and type + “grommets bumper guard”] you’ll quickly come across some online retailers with a lot of inventory.
Let’s move on. The next advise has to do with replacement grips, which you can apply yourself or maybe is done in your favourite, local shop. As your frame ages and you have replaced more and more grips, the adhesive tape residue will tend to grow and cause trouble when you apply a new grip. If it is a lot of messy gunk, you’ll find you cannot get a good flat replacement grip on there. So, there’s no way around it: just take your time to remove everything up until the (yellow) polyurethane handle so you can start building up your grip again. Remember that stringers in your shop usually don’t take the time or the effort to clean this up for you, so they just stick on another grip as best as they can. A shame if you consider the little time required just to keep it clean. It’ll also prevent your frame from looking nasty because of adhesive tape residue. I’ve actually have had customers who expect me to clean their messy, sticky black replacement grips that already are falling apart and then want a nice, shiny white(!) replacement grip on top of there. Not the smartest combination but if you still insist: just take the time to clean it properly. You can use some sticker remover for this but only little as it can damage the polyurethane.
Once your grommets start to go back in quality, due to the frequency of stringing you have a couple of options. First, you can just let the process unfold and then replace your grommets entirely after, let’s say, a year or two. Second, you have the option of replacing grommets individually if you notice one has completely broken off, so that restringing would cause the string to touch the frame directly. You can find replacement grommets that have a good chance of fitting your frame on sites like Alibaba Express or the more experienced shops, but a cost effective way of maintaining your grommets is to buy this set at Racket Depot UK, which is you can cut to your own liking. It may seem a bit complicated, but just measure quickly how much you would need for protecting the string on the inside of the frame, cut it, place it in the drill hole and you’re there.
If you want think it’s time to replace your complete grommet set and bumper guard, start with taking everything out and giving it a good clean. It’ll make the process of placing your new grommet set a lot easier. When cleaning your frame, you might want to try to blow out any left-over clay with some an air compressor, if you can. I do this regularly for my customers in the shop, but especially when I replace grommet sets. The grommets can stick out if you leave anything there or they just won’t fit at all. Now, if this is your first time of applying the grommets, take your time and be prepared for a bit of a hassle. You’ll find that it can be quite tricky to get the grommets stick through the holes, with the pressure of the plastic guard squeezing it out every time, on both sides. There a couple of tips here to make life easier. First, try to use an awl, helping you guide them trough the drill holes. The second tip would be to have a couple of tie wraps nearby, as they can function as an extra pair of hands, while you get going on the next section of the bumper guard.