With an overwhelming number of racquet models available in today’s market, the most difficult aspect of finding the right one is trying to narrow down the options. Each racquet design uses a different combination of variables—weight, head size, balance, swing weight, materials, flexibility, and string patterns—to give it a specific feel and performance. Racquet selection is a process of elimination, and it all starts with knowing a few of your basic preferences. If you determine that you prefer light racquets to heavier ones, for example, then you can scratch off half of the possibilities.
The biggest mistake you can make is choosing a racquet for the wrong reasons: because your favorite pro player uses it, your friend owns one, it is the most or least expensive model, or it has really cool colors. The only way to test your compatibility with a racquet is by taking it out on the court.
Swinging a racquet in the tennis shop will not tell you how it behaves under the forces of striking a tennis ball. There is no shock, no vibration, and no sense of power when you’re hitting only air. Often the most expensive racquets are the ones sporting the latest technology, and while they might be great racquets, they might not be great for your game.
So where do you begin? Start by taking a look at your game and deciding what kind of racquet will maximize your strengths and complement your playing style. There are three main categories of racquets: control, tweener, and power.
Players who have a big swing and can generate their own power typically prefer control racquets. These are racquets that have smaller heads, are thinner, have more flexible beams, have a head-light balance to retain maneuverability, and are heavier in weight.
Average weight: 11 oz. – 13 oz.
Average head size: 88 – 100 Sq. inches.
Average length: 27 – 27.25 inches
Average cross section (beam): 17 – 22 mm.
Tweener racquets offer a mix of both power and control.
Average weight: 9.5 oz. – 11 oz.
Average head size: 98 – 110 Sq. inches.
Average length: 27 – 27.50 inches
Average cross section (beam): 22 – 26 mm
Power racquets are designed for players with slower, shorter swings and who need the racquet to generate power. Usually their balance is even or head heavy.
Average weight: 8.5 oz. – 9.5 oz.
Average head size: 110 – 125 Sq. inches.
Average length: 27.25 – 28.00 inches
Average cross section (beam): 26 – 3
It’s helpful to know how the various racquet properties—head size, length, weight and balance, and stiffness—affect racquet behavior.
A larger head size offers more power than a smaller head, all else being equal. A larger head also provides a larger hitting area, therefore reducing the probability of off-center hits. This is good for beginners, who tend to need more power and a larger sweet spot. Advanced players seeking control look for smaller head sizes.
A longer racquet provides more reach and power on ground strokes and an extra boost in your serve than standard-length racquets, all else being equal. But a standard 27-inch racquet is more maneuverable and has more control than longer models.
WEIGHT AND BALANCE
Together, weight and balance influence how a racquet feels when you pick it up and when you swing it on the tennis court. More than any other characteristics.
The weight of most racquets ranges from about 240 gr. / 8.5 oz. to about 365 gr. / 13 oz., with the majority being somewhere in between. While many recreational players prefer lighter racquets because they are easier to swing, most professional players prefer heavier racquets because they have a more solid feel. Be cautious about choosing a racquet that is too light, as it may contribute to arm soreness. It might be a good idea to see if a heavier racquet makes a difference in your game. You can either test out a different racquet or try adding some lead tape to the tip and/or handle of your own racquet. Keep in mind that adding weight to the tip will have a very different effect than adding weight to the handle of the racquet.
A head-heavy racquet generates more power, has a higher sweet spot, and feels heavier to swing than a head-light racquet, even if the two racquets weigh exactly the same. You can feel the difference between the two balance points by holding the racquets in a horizontal position. Holding a racquet vertically, all you feel is the weight, not the balance point. Serve-and-volley players usually prefer the feel of head-light racquets.
Stiffness refers to the amount the racquet frame bends or deforms during ball contact. Stiffness increases as the thickness of the frame increases. The more flexible the racquet, the more energy is lost. Flexible frames may not offer as much power as their stiffer counterparts, but they are generally more comfortable because they don’t generate as much shock. Players who use a lot of topspin or backspin should avoid widebody frames because the ball is more likely to clip the frame when they angle the racquet during the stroke.