How To Choose A Racquet
Tennis is personal and preferential. Each player brings a combination of skill, experience, and preferences that makes finding the right racquet a unique journey. The following guidelines are meant to be helpful, but should not replace experience. We invite you take advantage of our demo program to make sure you like how a racquet feels and you get the desired performance to match your game.
Power racquets are designed for players with short, compact swings who need the racquet’s help to generate more power and have the ball land deeper on the court. They are also great for new players. Most power racquets have an oversized head (>107 square inches), are lightweight (8-9.5 oz), stiffer, and balanced head heavy. Power frames are the most expensive and where manufacturers tend to introduce new technology.
As the name indicates, the features of ‘Tweener racquets are a blend of the other two, measuring in the middle. These are great for intermediate and advanced players, as well as juniors transitioning to an adult racquet. These are the most popular.
Control racquets are designed with players in mind who create their own power and are looking for more control. They are typically heavier (>11.5 oz), have smaller head size (95-100 square inches), with thinner (more flexible) beams, and balanced head light (most of the weight is in the grip). If you’re not sure it’s a Control racquet, check the price tag as these are normally the least expensive because they are designed for players who don’t need all the added technology.
The first step in finding the perfect racquet for your swing and game, you must first understand how it feels when you play. The following four characteristics explain how frames are made differently to enhance those characteristics in specific ways. It is important to remember that the speed and length of the players’ stoke contributes greatly to this. However, here we are specifically speaking of the frame only and consider all other factors to be equal.
- Power – how deep the ball will return on the court, so we’re talking trajectory, not speed.2. 2. Maneuverability – how easy the racquet is to move or swing
- Shock – this is the comfort factor, and how much impact is transferred to the wrist and arm
- Spin – how the frame enhances spin on the ball (quick note: the swing – and the swing only – generates spin… not the racquet itself)
Manufacturers create racquets with different levels of these four characteristics by making racquets with different specifications. “Specs” are what truly make every racquet unique. To effectively help you narrow down the choices of frames, you have to understand the specs of the frames and how each spec affects Power, Maneuverability, Shock, and Spin.
1. Head Size
Refers to the part of the racquet where the string is. Measured in square inches, a larger head size creates more power and has a larger sweetspot. A smaller head size provides more control and is more maneuverable.There is no industry standard on head size, but here is typical breakdown:
Midsize: 95-100 square inches
Mid Plus: 100-105 square inches
Oversize: 106-118 square inches
Super Oversize: 119 square inches and above
The standard length is 27 inches, but they range up to 29 inches. Transitioning to a longer racquet is smooth for many players, as they look for a little bit more reach and power. The thing to keep in mind with a longer racquet is that, to keep it maneuverable, it weighs less than the standard length version.
Most racquets score in the 45-75 on the 0-100 scale. Stiffer racquets score higher, while flexible racquets score lower. Stiffer racquets maintain power, but often that translates into more vibration in the arm. Flexible racquets offer more control and a better feel, absorbing energy from the ball at impact. The Beam/Cross Section determines the racquet’s stiffness. Measured in millimeters, thicker beams are stiffer, but add power. Thinner beams offer more flexibility and control.
This refers to the overall weight of the frame and is simply measured by standing or laying the frame on a scale. Most tennis frames will weigh from about 8 ounces (227 grams) to about 13 ounces (369 grams). There is no rule governing how light or heavy a racquet can be.
Most racquets fall in one of two categories. They are either “head light” or “head heavy.” If most of weight is in the handle, it’s “head light.” If it’s distributed in the head of the racquet, then it’s considered “head heavy.” “Even” is the third, but much less common, category, and that’s when balancing point is in the middle of the racquet. The metic is often “points” head light or heavy. Typically, head light racquets are heavier (Control and ‘Tweener), while lighter racquets are head heavy (to give more energy at impact.) It is nearly impossible to make a racquet lighter, but you can add weight, like adding a piece of lead tape in a specific place, which also alters the balance.
The most important factor as to how the racquet feels and plays in the your hand. It is a dynamic measurement of how difficult the frame is to swing. It is a combination of the weight and the balance. There is specifically designed equipment (swingweight scales) to measure this. The higher the swingweight, the more difficult it is to swing around. If you’re unsure, we recommended selecting a racquet balanced Head Light and add weight (using lead tape) to the head to get a customized feel.
7. String Pattern
They are two patterns to consider when it comes to deciding how to string your racquet. “Open” patterns offer more comfort, power, and spin potential (the extra space between strings allows the ball to embed more). Most racquets requiring an open pattern have 16 Mains (vertical) strings and 19 Crosses (horizontal) strings. “Dense” patterns offer more control and durability, and are great for hard hitters. Most racquets requiring a dense pattern follow the 18×20 formula.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The following chart considers increasing a single specification and how that change impacts the four characteristics. Remember, it only considers the frame, so all else is to be considered equal (like swing speed), and not a change in any other specifications. It is the sum of all of the specs that make the frame unique, so this chart is to help you understand the correlation, you must first get a sense of how each spec contributes.
“+” = increase; “-“ decrease; “n” = no change
The following are “Racquet Facts,” which is another way the tennis industry talks about an increase on a single specification (Remember, you must consider all other things being equal):
- Heavier frame generates more power
- Heavier frame vibrates less
- Heavier frame has a larger sweet spot
- Stiffer frame generates more power
- Stiffer frame has a larger sweet spot
- Stiffer frame transmits more shock to the arm
- Stiffer frame provides more uniform ball response across the entire string plane
- Larger frame generates more power
- Larger frame is more resistant to twisting
- Larger frame has larger sweetspot
- Longer frame generates more power
- Longer frame generates more spin
A Word About Grip Size
To reduce strain on the arm or the chance of Tennis Elbow, it is important to find a racquet with your ideal grip size. Standard sizes range from 4 1/8 to 4 5/8 inches, with the most popular being 4 3/8 inches.
There are two ways to determine your ideal grip size. The first is to measure from the middle crease in your palm to the top of your ring finger. The second is grab a racquet with a forehand grip, and you’ll know your size when you can place the index finger from your other hand between palm and ringer finger with no space on either side. You can always add an overgrip, so if you’re in between sizes, or just not sure, go small.