A quick primer for buying a racquetTim Strawn
Over my many years of being in this business the thing that irritates me the most is to see someone come to me for help just after they’ve bought a new racquet. I have no problem helping them mind you. That’s not the point. The point is often they’ve been sold the wrong racquet and that’s precisely why they’re now on my doorstep. It’s really heartbreaking to see an enthusiastic tennis player, all hyped up that they’ve got a new racquet while at the same time, confused as to why they don’t like it. So if you’re in the market for a new racquet here are a few basic steps you can follow to get it right the first time.
FIRST and foremost, measure your grip. You can do this yourself by following the diagram in the photo at right. Just use a standard ruler and find the second life line closest to your wrist. Measure from there to the tip of your ring finger and you’ll get something usually between 4 – 5 inches. This method is preferred because it’s far more accurate than the method on the left. Also, when a player grips the racquet a proper fit will usually show that the first crease of the thumb is lining up with the tip of the middle finger. Adult frames typically come in sizes 0 to 5 (European standard) and you can usually find this on the butt cap of the racquet. It will be marked, for instance, 3 on one side and 4 3/8 on the other if it’s a 4 3/8 grip.
What follows is an easy conversion of grip sizes:
0=4, 1=4 1/8, 2=4 1/4, 3=4 3/8, 4=4 1/2, 5=4 5/8
Click on the images below to enlarge them and you can see what I’m referring to. The one on the left is a Wilson frame that has one designation on the left side of the butt cap, the number 3 which indicates this racquet is a 4 3/8 grip. On the right you can see the very same sized grip but on a Head frame. Here, they show 4 3/8 on the left and the number 3 on the right. Sometimes the manufacturer will also place a small sticker just above the grip to indicate grip size. However, many times these stickers wear off or get pulled off by the player so using the butt cap is always best.
SECOND and equally important, DEMO DEMO DEMO!!!! This cannot be stressed enough and by Demo I don’t mean take it out and hit with it once or pick it up and hit for 15 minutes. Once you’ve narrowed your choices down get a few different models and use them all in match play. FYI, demo racquets are usually 4 3/8 in grip size so your local racquet technician can be helpful in adjusting for demo purposes. They can adjust up easily but they can’t adjust down with the exception of rare cases.
THIRD remember this. Weight is your friend in a tennis racquet. Light will always feel good when you pick it up but the absence of mass is going to cause problems on the court. You’ll need enough mass to power through the ball, negate the pace of faster serves when blocking returns or heavy ground strokes, increasing pace on your own serves and overheads and keeping the racquet from torquing (twisting) in your hand on off center hits. A good rule of thumb here is to use a racquet that is as heavy as possible without feeling encumbered in any way. Good baseline weights to start with are 300 grams (10.58 ounces) for women and 315 grams (11.11 ounces) for men. For both men and women I would recommend not going below 283.5 grams (10 ounces) in overall weight.
FOURTH is balance and balance is all together different than overall weight. For instance, a standard adult frame is 27 inches long so you may see a reference in the specifications at to “head light” or “head heavy”) That means a 27 inch racquet with a balance point of 12-1/2 inches is 1 inch, or 8 points head light (even balance would be 13-1/2 inches). A 28 inch racquet with a balance point of 15 inches is 1 inch (or 8 points) head heavy. Head heavy racquets are generally considered to be more suitable for those with short compact strokes while more evenly balanced frames will be more suitable for intermediate to advanced players.
FIFTH thing to consider is price. With such easy access at your fingertips don’t hesitate to go online and compare prices. If you’re buying a racquet from ANYONE who tells you it was their demo you should be paying no more than half the original retail cost if the racquet is in good to excellent condition. If it’s in less than good condition then you should expect to pay even less.
SIXTH is head size. There is absolutely no good reason to be restricting yourself to a smaller head size frame. The larger the head size, the bigger the sweet spot. The bigger the sweet spot the more comfortable the racquet will be and you’ll experience fewer mishits. If you’re on the tour then fine, you can handle smaller head sizes but how many of you reading this are on the tour? A good reference to start with is 95-100 square inches for advanced players and 100-110 for beginner to intermediate. Seniors often do better with 115 square inches or higher and most manufacturers have these in their line. If you want to go REALLY big then check out Weed racquets HERE. I have many senior clients that use Weed racquets and they absolutely love them!
For many us who are not fortunate enough to live in a year-around warmer climate our outdoor season is just around the corner. If you’re seriously considering a new racquet before that time arrives hopefully this information will be helpful. Another thing to consider is a visit to your nearest qualified racquet technician for a consultation. With just a few questions we can get you on the right path and make some good recommendations.