With so many choices, selecting a tennis racquet can seem confusing. The challenge is that there are so many factors to consider when selecting the perfect racquet. The good news is that with so many choices, you’ll be able to get a racquet that perfectly suits your game, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro looking to make it into a Majors tournament.
You will find that racquets will fall into three categories.
- Beginner- usually with larger heads, and lighter weights giving the player more power.
- Tweener- in between racquets that offer a balance between power and control.
- Advanced – usually with smaller heads, greater flexibility, and maximum control.
Generally speaking, each aspect of racquet specs provides either more power or more control. For beginners and younger players, who may use shorter strokes or who do not follow through, they need more power. For experienced players or athletic adults, they need options that allow them to have greater control on the court.
We’ll address each area in order to help you decide the perfect racquet for your game. Here are the areas of consideration when selecting your next racquet:
- Grip Size
- Head Size
- Racquet Length
- Racquet Weight and Balance
- String Type
- Frame Stiffness / Flexibility
We’ll begin by considering the size of the grip. Variability in grip sizes allows you to find a racquet that best fits the size of your hand. If you use a grip that is too small or too large for your hand, you increase your chances of injury or irritation to your hands, elbows, or shoulder. Not to mention that your power and control can be negatively impacted.
Most racquet grips range from 4” to 4 7/8”. This can be found on either the butt of the handle or in the throat of the racquet. Since juniors players have grips less than 4”, they are only offered in size 4.
So how can you tell which grip is right for your hand? In short, small grip size for small hands, large grip size for larger hands. There are two methods for measuring your grip size.
Grip Size Measuring Method 1
In the first method, take a ruler and measure your hand from the bottom lateral crease in your palm, to the tip of your ring finger in inches. Make sure to use the hand you would use to hold the racquet to play and to keep your fingers together for the best measurement. This is the grip size you need in inches (4.5 inches in the example below). If you don’t have a racquet yet and are getting ready to shop online, this is a great quick method to get a good idea of grip you need.
If you are in between sizes, remember to use the smaller grip, as you can always add tape to the grip to provide a slight increase in size.
Grip Size Measuring Method 2
The second method for measuring your grip size is to take your racquet (or one you’re looking at) and grip it securely in your playing hand. Your thumb and index finger on that hand should slightly overlap. If you take the index finger on your opposite hand and slide it in between your other three fingers while holding the racquet, it should just fit.
If there is a lot of space between those fingers and your opposite index finger, the grip is too large. If you don’t have room to insert the index finger, the grip is too small.
Head size refers to the size of the racquet face or frame. There are three general categories for tennis racquet head sizes. These are Oversize, Mid-Plus, and Mid-Size.
- Oversize = head size greater than 105 square inches. These racquets provide more power, but at the expense of control.
- Mid-Plus = head size between 95 and 105 square inches. This type of head provides a balance between power and control. It provides less power than oversize, with more control. It provides more power than mid-size, with less control.
- Mid-Size= head size less than 95 square inches. This type of head provides the greatest measure of control, but the least amount of power.
If you are a new or younger player, it’s usually better to go with an oversize head to give you more power to return the ball across the net more effectively.
Traditionally, tennis racquets have always been 27” long. For a long time, this was the only option. However, over the years additional lengths have been offered. Although most racquets are still 27”, you can play with racquets up to 29” long.
Longer racquets are a little more difficult to maneuver, especially for younger players. However, because of their length, they allow you to contact the ball farther away from your body, with greater momentum. This extra momentum gives you more zip and energy on your shot.
Racquets come in three weight types. These are heavy, medium, and lightweight. Racquet weight is not an indication of overall weight; racquet weight is determined by the weight of the handle. This may seem counterintuitive, but the weight type is also an indication of the balance of the racquet.
Racquets can be head heavy (lightweight), medium (balanced), and head light (heavy). Head heavy indicates a heavier racquet head and lighter handle, where head light indicates a lighter racquet head and a heavier handle. This means the balance point, the point on the length of the racquet at which the racquet is perfectly balanced, is different for each racquet weight type.
Heavier racquets are more stable, have less shock and allow for more power. But, lighter racquets are more maneuverable and can be swung with greater speed.
Here is a breakdown of weight type and balance.
- Heavy racquet = Head Light– a racquet weight greater than 11.5 oz. It provides more control, and less shock, but it takes more energy to use and is less maneuverable. It is usually used by advanced players.
- Medium racquet = Balanced– a racquet weight between 10 and 11.5 oz. It is evenly balanced and is usually used by intermediate players.
- Lightweight racquet = Head Heavy – a racquet weight less than 10 oz. It is more maneuverable, requires less energy to use and allows for faster swings. It is usually best for beginning players.
For tennis strings, there are several considerations. These are string pattern, string material, and string gauge. There are only two options for string pattern, open string pattern and dense or closed string pattern.
Open string pattern has more distance between the strings. This allows the player to put more spin on the ball, as the distance between the strings allows the strings to “bite” into the ball and put greater spin on it. It also gives you more power than a dense string pattern. However, fewer strings mean a less durable racquet.
Dense also known as closed string pattern has less distance between the strings. This does provide for a more durable racquet and greater control. This is usually preferred for beginners.
There are so many different types of materials for strings, that it can be confusing on its own. Strings come in the following types:
- Nylon- Core and Multifilament – These are generally the most economical type of strings. Nylon core is often labeled as Synthetic Gut. It is usually a single filament string, is durable, inexpensive, and holds tension well. However, it is stiffer and harder on the arm. Multifilament strings are similar to synthetic gut strings, but they contain more than a single filament. There can be hundreds or thousands of strands woven into a single string. This string type is “softer” than nylon core making it easier on the arm of the person using it. It is more expensive than, and not as durable as, nylon core.
- Polyester– This type of string is often used by players on pro tennis tours because it allows for more topspin and control. In addition, it is very durable. However, it loses its tension rather quickly and is very stiff. This increases the strain on the user’s arm. Some recent advances in string technology have helped polyester strings maintain tension for longer periods of time.
- Hybrids- When you mix one type of string for the mains and another type of string for the cross strings, this is known as a hybrid. This is usually done to increase durability for players who frequently break strings. In this setup, the cross strings, which are less likely to break, are softer. The mains, which are more likely to break, are made of more durable material, like Kevlar. It is not recommended to use this type of string for your entire racquet because the stiffness in this setup is very hard on the arm, wrist, shoulder, and joints. And it can lead to tennis elbow.
- Natural Gut- This is considered the best performance string available. It is made from animal gut (usually cow gut) and provides the best energy in your return. It also provides good control and is easier on your body. It is the most expensive type of string and can be susceptible to losing tension when exposed to moisture. It is also not very durable and not recommended for players who are known to break strings.
The last two considerations when it comes to strings are string tension and string gauge. When deciding what tension to have your racquet strung at, remember that less tension provides greater power, but less control. More tension provides greater control but less power.
Your racquet should have a recommended range. Try starting in the middle of this range and after you have played a few times consider increasing or decreasing tension based on whether you need more power or greater control. A best practice is to move up or down approximately 2 lbs. at a time until you find your sweet spot. For a good idea of ranges, consider less than 50 lbs. as low tension, and more than 60 lbs. high tension. The range between 50 and 60 lbs. is “in between”.
String gauge is the size of the string in diameters. These gauges are rated in numbers between 15 and 20 and have half sizes indicated by an L and the lower the number the thicker strings. An 18L, for example, would be half-way between 18 and 19.
Thinner strings provide greater control, power, spin, and elasticity. Thicker strings are more durable Generally, you want to use as thin a string as you can before you begin regularly breaking the string.
Frame stiffness is a reflection of the flexibility of the racquet. Tennis racquet flex rating is a scale from 0-100 with most racquets rated between 50 and 80. Less than 60 is considered low, between 61 and 68 is considered medium and 69 and over is considered high. Because a stiffer frame bends less, it helps transfer more power to the ball but produces more strain for the user. A more flexible frame gives you more control, greater spin, with less strain.
We hope this guide provides you the information you need to make an educated racquet decision. Of course, we would be happy to answer any questions about racquets for your tennis team. If you have questions, call us at 806-687-4112