HOW TO BUY A TENNIS RACKET - PURCHASE RECOMMENDATIONS 2003©
In today’s year-2003 market a “decent” – meaning
better than just OK – racket will cost you $50 to $250, or
more. Here are some real life general recommendations for beginners
or intermediates. I will be as concise as I can but it is complex
and racket choice varies considerably from person to person depending
on their swing style. At the end of this condensation you will
find a “cheat sheet” that you can use on your racket
When you go to a sport or pro shop, notice how the tennis racket
manufacturers create names that imply aggression, power, stealth,
and the like. (Wilson: Hammer, Hyper Hammer, Surge, Nitro, etc.;
Prince: “Thunder, Attitude, Hornet, Bandit, Scream, Vendetta,
Warrior, Rebel, etc.) This is pure sales pitch. In the real world
where the rest of us non-pros live, virtually all beginner or intermediate
players need more CONTROL rather than power. In other words, don’t
believe the power-aggression hype. Hitting the ball softer and
IN is infinitely better than hitting hard and OUT (Tennis Course
WHICH BRAND? Brandwise, it’s different strokes for different
folks. Your choice of brand is not critical. Wilson and Prince
currently make up 90-some percent of the entire world market! Most
racket sellers have a “loaner” or “demo” plan
which means that they will charge you a nominal rental fee for
a few days so that you can actually play with several rackets for
comparison. You’ll have to leave a security deposit or credit
card number. If you are brand new to tennis, you can forget the
demo because you have not developed a sense of “feel” yet.
Otherwise, take at least three demo rackets out to the courts and
see which racket feels the best. Usually one will feel better than
the others when you hit with them. When demo-ing a racket, play-test
it at least 15 minutes or more. It’s musical rackets., which
can be fun.
You will find in general that people who work in a private club
pro shop will know their equipment well. They usually can offer
reasonable advice. When you go to an average sporting goods shop
you may not get a knowledgeable sales person. As you walk into
the store or into the tennis equipment area, ask to speak to someone
who strings rackets as they are more likely to play tennis and
to know what they’re talking about.
Hopefully they will have some demo rackets that fit into the following
list of recommendations. Manufacturers attach big oval pieces of
printed cardboard to each racket and if you try to swing it that
way it’s like swinging an open umbrella. If you find a racket
that you might potentially buy, take the cardboard off or get the
sales person to do it. If you like the way a racket feels, take
it out for a weekend demo.
RACKET MATERIALS. Choose a racket frame that is a “graphite
composite.” Thermoplastic or fiberglass resins in combination
with graphite are fine. A small amount of titanium is OK. Stay
away from aluminum, Kevlar, ceramic or boron. If a frame is too
stiff it will tend to make your arm sore or eventually cause tendonitis
unless your arm muscles are pro-level tough.
FRAME (SHAFT) STIFFNESS OR FLEXIBILITY. Most beginners or intermediate
beginners have a slow-to-moderate swing speed, and their racket
head speed increases as they achieve better control. The best compromise
is to choose medium flexibility.
HEAD SIZE. Choose an “oversize” head – between
110 to 125 square inches. With the larger head you have more area
to hit the ball in, the racket is more forgiving on off-center
shots, and you have a larger sweet spot area (the “center
of percussion”) where the ball rebounds off the strings best).
The abbreviation for oversize is “OS.”
RACKET HEAD FRAME WIDTH. Most rackets these days have “widebody” head
beam widths (24 to 26 mm). When faced with a choice between widebodies,
choose a narrower beam width which generally produces more control
and somewhat less power.
RACKET FRAME WEIGHT. This is still an area of controversy among
theorists. The current trend is to go to the lighter frame which
is 9 to 11 ounces. Many pros usually use rackets which are heavier,
around 13 to 14 ounces. A heavier frame tends to vibrate less and
therefore is less likely to eventually cause you arm problems.
I recommend getting a medium (10 oz.) or slightly heavier frame
weight, but the jury is still out on this one. [Exception: IF you
and your opponents almost never really hit the ball hard, you can
probably get away with a light frame. A lighter weight racket is
more maneuverable, meaning you can move it quicker.]
RACKET LENGTH. The standard length has been 27 inches for years.
Choose a racket that is 28 or 28 ½ inches long. These are
sometimes called “stretch” or “extended” rackets.
The extra length won’t hurt, and it might help a little.
Most players seem to have little problem transitioning from a shorter
to a longer racket, but it’s better to start off with the
RACKET BALANCE. The balance point of a racket frame is halfway
between one end and the other (14” on a 28” frame for
instance). When faced with a choice, choose either a neutral
or if buying a lighter racket, slightly head heavy balance.
VIBRATION DAMPENING. If the manufacturer claims increased vibration
dampening due to frame design, go for the frame with the vibration
control engineering. Less shock to your arm is better. Duh.
GRIP SIZE. Pick up a racket and put your hand around the handle.
Place the index finger of your opposite hand in the space on the
handle between your finger tips and your palm. If your index finger
fits comfortably, that size grip is right for you. Look on the
handle butt or on the frame near the handle and you will find a
number, usually in inches. Most women use 4 1/8” to 4 3/8”.
Most men use 4 ½“ to 4 5/8”. (Some European
equivalents are: 2 = 4 1/4”, 3 = 4 3/8”, 4 = 4 1/2”,
5 = 4 5/8”.) If your grip is too small then your racket may
twist in your hand on off-center hits, which, if it happens too
often, will put strain on your elbow tendons. If you are a player
subject to hitting off-center hits very often, a slightly larger
diameter grip is better than a smaller grip.
STRINGS. If your racket comes pre-strung from the factory, it
will be strung in the middle of the manufacturer’s string
tension span (which is given in pounds and typically is in the
60 pound range for oversize rackets). The recommended string tension
span is usually printed on the frame shaft near the handle. If
you need to get the frame strung, choose a 16 gauge synthetic
string and have it strung “in the middle.” If you suffer from
tennis elbow, have it strung two pounds on the looser side. (Trivia:
Two of the world’s better players - John McEnroe strung his
rackets at 45 pounds, and Bjorn Borg strung his at 85 pounds! Go
RESTRINGING. Have your racket restrung at least once a year. It’s
generally recommended that if you play twice a week, get your racket
restrung twice a year, three times a week, three times a year,
Remember that many of the recommendations in this instructional
are indicated for beginner or intermediate beginner tennis players.
Some recommendations change for more advanced players, particularly
racket head size, shaft flexibility, and racket weight.
Racket storage. Keep your racket in a dry, moderately cool place.
NEVER store your racket in your car in the summer time, as the
temp inside a car on a 90-degree day may reach 140 degrees. Woooah.
|THE RACKET BUYERS CHEAT SHEET. 1) Brand:
any; 2) Materials:
graphite-composite; 3) Stiffness: medium flex; 4) Head
oversize; 5) Weight: medium or heavier; 6) Head Beam
narrower is better; 7) Length: 28” or 28 1/2” 8)
Balance: neutral; 9) Grip Size: see text; 10) Strings: 16 gauge
synthetic, strung in the middle of the manufacturer’s
You may want to cut out or copy the above cheat sheet and take
it with you when you go racket shopping. The sport of tennis
is a comparatively inexpensive sport to play, so choose a decent
quality racket rather than a cheap one.
If all of this sounds too complicated, see if an experienced,
knowledgeable tennis person will go with you to look at rackets.
If you have some playing experience then choose the racket which
falls within the above recommendation and feels the best to you.
The only way to do this is to go out and hit balls with two or
three demo rackets.
If you’ve never played tennis at all then you probably will
not understand or appreciate “feel,” and you can just
go with the recommendations.
You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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