Confused about buying a racquet?

Buying a racquet can be a difficult process to say the least so I'm offering the following information can help you through the process. The very best way to buy a racquet is to narrow down the choices by working with a knowledgeable person who can analyze your game, and then demo as many racquets as possible that fit your style of play. Here’s how to get started.

First, do some racquet research on your own, but don’t overdo it or get too immersed in the process. Too much can easily be confusing. I would recommend that you work with a teaching pro and have them analyze your game and define your playing style. Serve/volley, all court, or baseline are the three general types of play if you've been playing long enough to have developed your own style. Once you know your style it's time to find a qualified racquet technician who can take it from there and guide you through the process of actually buying a racquet. If you're a beginner and this is your first racquet I would recommend that you just go straight to a qualified racquet technician that can recommend some good options for beginners.

Second, find a good demo program that offers a wide selection of racquets for you to hit with. Actual hitting time with the racquet is the key. You can read until you’re blue in the face, and opinions from other players are just that, opinions. YOU are the one who truly knows what feels best and what you are most comfortable with and playing with several racquets will be the true test of what works for you. A word of caution is in order. Experience tells us that the majority of players looking for a racquet will typically like the lighter models. However, it is important to remember that in tennis, weight is your friend. Light racquets place more stress on your arm and shoulder and that means you have to work harder to generate pace and in the case of negating pace you will find this to be difficult with a light racquet. IART recommends the following as a base reference point when looking for a racquet:

For men: 315/315 and for women 300/300. Those figures are for overall strung weight and swing weight respectively. Many online retailers will have a complete listing of the racquet specs and these two will be included in that list.

Racquet Facts--here's what's been shared by various organizations for many years--this is what we know

  • A heavier frame has less vibration
  • A heavier frame has a larger sweetspot
  • A stiffer frame generates more power
  • A stiffer frame has a larger sweetspot
  • A stiffer frame transmits more of the shock load to the arm than a flexible frame
  • A stiffer frame provides a more uniform ball response across the entire string plane
  • A larger head generates more power
  • A larger head is more resistant to twisting on off center hits
  • A larger head has a larger sweetspot
  • A longer frame generates more velocity and therefore more power
  • The string bed in a longer frame generates more spin due to increased velocity

This is additional information added by IART:

  • Wider beam widths offer more power, while more narrow beam widths offer better control
  • For more precise control, use a smaller head size (95 sq. in or less) and a narrow beam width (20mm or below)
  • For maximum power, use a larger head size (110 sq. in or more), and a larger beam width (26mm or more)Remember that any racquet can be customized. Things such as balance, grip size, overall weight, and swing weight can be adjusted by a properly trained technician. The most difficult of these is reducing the grip size on newer racquets, so if you’re not sure, buy small, not large.

 

Proper grip measurement

  • Have your grip size properly measured. This measurement is taken from the second dominant lifeline in the palm and measured to the tip of the ring finger. You can clicl on the image to enlarge it (Reference the photo at right)
  • Stiffer racquets tend to transmit more vibration to the arm. If you have arm problems now, or have had them in the past, be aware that a stiffer frame may not be the best choice.
  • Stiffer racquets can be toned down some as far as vibration is concerned, by string selection, reducing the tension, and adding weight to specific areas of the frame.

For beginners it's a good idea to learn a little bit about the different parts of a racquet so here's a nice photo with a breakdown of each section. This can be helpful when talking to a technician who may have a tendency to offer information when referring to the specifics of a racquet. While he/she may have a thorough understanding of what they're talking about, that doesn't mean that you, the buyer, has the same level of understanding;

Remember that there’s a lot of racquets out there to choose from. Chances are, there’s more than one that will work just fine for your game, so don’t be discouraged if you buy a racquet and then 3 weeks later find another one that you like too. Stick with your choice and allow yourself to really get used to your new racquet.

 

Comments

  1. Good advice, Tim!

    Another piece of advice is to have the demo racquet setup the way you intend to play with it. This sounds like a lot of trouble, but if it is not set up for you it is someone else’s racquet!

    If you don’t have time to do this then at least get string bed stiffness and racquet flex numbers, so you know what you are hitting with.

    Be prepared to pay for this additional service.

  2. Hi John,
    What’s the benefits or pros and cons between Headlight vs Heavyhead racquets?

    Thanks
    Cris

  3. Cris, in most cases the CG is easy to see by laying the racquet on a round stick and seeing how far the butt of the racquet is from the stick! This is why racquets have been classified as a headlight or head heavy, however, inertia, or swing weight is the most meaningful number, and the hardest to see without proper equipment.

    The pros of a head light racquet, typically, is that it will be heavier than the head heavy racquet, therefore more forgiving (weight) and probably more maneuverable.

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