How to Choose a Tennis Racquet
Picking the right tennis racquet can help immensely in improving your tennis game. You might not think so at first, but all the different factors that goes into a racquet can drastically determine how you play. When it comes down to it, your play style will most likely be influenced by your taste in racquets. Don’t believe me? When you consider things such as string pattern, head size, weight, balance point, swing weight, grip size, string material, string tension, string gauge, and frame stiffness, you’ll start to understand how important it is to choose a racquet that suits your specific needs. Maybe what you want in a racquet is power. Others may choose control. And of course, you can always find a racquet with a healthy balance of both. So, with that being said, we’ll be showing you how to choose a tennis racquet today.
How to Choose a Tennis Racquet
There are two types of string patterns: the open string pattern and the closed string pattern. What’s the difference between the two you ask? Let’s see here. For a racquet with an open string pattern, there are less intersecting cross strings. For example, the 16×18 would be a racquet with an open string pattern. On the other hand, a closed string pattern is a racquet with more intersecting cross strings, such as an 18×20 pattern.
Now, what effect does it have whether a racquet has an open string pattern or a closed string pattern?
Well, to answer that question, a racquet with an open string pattern gives a player more power and spin when hitting the ball, since an open string pattern is more elastic by nature. You can picture this as the wider spacing between strings and the fewer intersections causes a ball to rebound with greater force. Many people also prefer an open string pattern because it provides a better feel for the ball, on top of additional power and spin.
However, there is a downside to this type of string pattern. An open string racquet is less durable and the strings are more prone to snapping since there are fewer cross strings. But when it comes to players who need all the power they can get, a racquet with an open string pattern is definitely a must, especially for youth.
Then we have the closed string pattern. With more cross strings available, this creates a durable racquet face that is less likely to snap. However, with this added durability comes the cost of extra power and spin. An 18×20 racquet won’t deflect the ball as much as an open string racquet, but the added durability can be a lifesaver for players who already hit hard, and is a popular choice for players who prefer control.
When you decide on how to choose a tennis racquet, you should always pick the head size carefully. The head size refers to the size of the racquet face (frame and strings) and directly influences how much power you can produce. That’s because a larger head size offers a larger hitting area and sweet spot, making it easier to hit balls around the center of the racquet.
A typical racquet’s head size ranges anywhere from 85 to 135 square inches. This range is split into three categories: oversize, mid-plus, and mid size. Larger head sizes are often preferred by beginners since it offers more power, although those who are more experienced opt for smaller head sizes for additional control.
Oversize racquets are considered to be anywhere above 105 square inches. Mid-plus are racquets ranging from 95-105 square inches, while mid size racquets are under 95 inches.
You’ll most likely see how weight affects a racquet when it’s in your hands. As you may already know, a racquet provides both power and control, and how heavy your racquet is will affect both of these elements proportional to the weight. Heavy racquets are more powerful, provide more stability, and delivers less shock. Lighter racquets can be swung faster and provides added maneuverability.
There are three main categories used for determining weight: heavy (head-light), medium (balanced), and lightweight (head-heavy). The idea here is that most racquets have a heavy head to produce powerful shots, but it’s the weight of the handle that will determine a racquet’s weight category. A racquet with a heavy head but a light handle is considered head-heavy since the head is heavier than the handle.
You can determine whether a racquet is head-heavy, head-light, or balanced by measuring its balance point. The balance point is determined by where on a racquet’s length is it perfectly balanced. This can be done by adjusting a racquet on a straight rod until it doesn’t lean toward either side. A balance point that is more than half way up the racquet is considered head-heavy, less than half way is head-light, and somewhere around the middle is balanced. Balance point is calculated with points, with each point equal to 1/8 of an inch. So, a racquet that is 8 points head-heavy has a balance point of 1 inch above the middle of the racquet, while 8 points head-light has a balance point of 1 inch below the middle.
So, what is considered a light, medium, or heavy racquet? Well, this chart can get you acquainted with the various categories:
|Light (Head-heavy)||Less than 10 oz. / 283.5 grams|
|Medium (Balanced)||10 to 11.5 oz. / 283.5 to 326 grams|
|Heavy (Head-light)||>11.5 oz / 326 grams|
***Keep in mind, however, that racquet weight is different from swing weight. Although the importance of racquet weight can be debated–if you weigh less, heavier racquets will take more energy to hold–it is actually the swing weight which will determine how well you can swing your racquet on the court.***
Swing weight is a measurement anywhere from 0-1000, and gives you an indication of how heavy it feels to swing a racquet. That’s why swing weight can be seen as a more decisive factor compared to strung weight when you want to know how to choose a tennis racquet. A higher rating means that the racquet will be harder to swing, while lower means that it’s easier. The majority of racquets today have a swing weight of around 280-350. A racquet’s swing weight is determined by racquet weight, length, balance point, and head size.
The advantages of a lower swing weight would be a faster racquet head speed and more spin. Lower swing weights are anywhere below 310. The advantages of a higher swing weight is more stability and power, and is considered a rating of above 330. A medium swing weight gives you a little of both worlds, and falls with the range of 311 to 329.
Grip sizes are basically all about hand sizes. Obviously, different people have different sized hands, and finding the right grip size is about finding a size that you can hold and play with comfortably. Using the wrong grip size can lead to a multitude of problems, such as poorer performance (power and control), irritation, and injuries to your hand, elbow, and shoulder. Kind of like how people don’t wear wrong sized shoes, using the wrong grip size just doesn’t make much sense.
The easiest way to find the right grip size for you is to hold a racquet and determine whether it feels comfortable or not. However, if you want to be more exact, you can perform a series of tests (index finger test and ruler test) to determine what your exact grip size is.
Most grip sizes are anywhere from 4 inches / 101.6 mm to 4.75 inches / 123mm in the US. In Europe, grip sizes are rated a number from 0 to 5. You can usually find what a racquet’s grip size is by looking at either the butt or the frame’s throat.
You can find out what your grip size here, where we explain it in detail.
A tennis racquet’s strings are basically made up of one of two materials: gut or synthetic materials. Of course, different types of tennis strings feel different when hitting a ball. The type of string that’s best for you will depend on your personal preferences. But, if we’re going to make a complete how to choose a tennis racquet guide, we’ve got to talk about the different types of strings. So, let’s walk through each of them.
Gut strings–or catgut–are also known as the “original” since they are made up of natural animal gut, which has been used as far back as the birth of tennis racquets. Most gut strings today are made from cow’s gut, although sheep’s guts were used in the past. It is produced by drying fibers extracted from a cow’s intestine, which contains collagen which is able to withstand stretching and contracting. Animal intestine is the most resilient material used to make tennis strings, which allows for the most energy return, making is the most efficient string.
Synthetic gut strings are made of nylon, which often contains a single filament. Synthetic gut strings come in a variety of different options, such as textured coatings, colorants, or the addition of Kevlar. These types of strings allow for different characteristics such as spin, power, durability, and feel.
Multi-filament is similar to synthetic gut, although they contain more than one filament. This offers better elasticity and a string that is close to natural gut, which makes it one of the most popular after natural gut. This type of string is also soft as well, which makes it gentle on the arm. All-around performance is what you’re getting when you use multi-filament strings.
Nylon is a basic all-around string that is the most popular string choice in tennis. Can come with wear-resistant coatings. Although it feels somewhat crisper than multi-filament, it is not the softest material which can cause strain on the arm. This type of string is recommended for amateur players.
Polyester is a very stiff and durable string, which is great for players who hit hard shots but want to avoid breaking strings frequently. Can allow for more topspin and control. Used extensively in the pro tour because of its ability for increased topspin.
Kevlar is the stiffest string although the most durable available as well. This makes it extremely hard to break, and is recommended for players who frequently snap their strings. However, because of its stiffness, this causes added strain on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. It’s actually the most dangerous string when it comes to developing tennis elbow, so it’s recommended to use it only as part of a hybrid (usually with nylon) or if you have literal iron arms.
When learning how to choose a tennis racquet and getting your racquet strung at a shop, it’s important to ask yourself what string tension do you want? String tension will greatly affect the feel and control of the racquet, and there are three types of tension you can choose from: low tension, high tension, and a tension in between the two. What tension is best for you will depend on your swing speed and the type of strings you want. Low tension allows for more power, spin, and feel, while high tension gives you more control and stability. You’ll have to experiment with your racquet’s string tension to find what’s best for you.
|Tension Type||Tension in lbs.||More:||Less:|
The string gauge refers to a string’s thickness, and can affect both the feel and spin of your racquet. String gauge is rated a number from 15-20, with the most common gauges being around 15-18. Half-gauges are indicated with the letter L, so a 16L is half-way between a 16 and 17. A higher number denotes a thinner string, and for the most part, thinner strings are best. They provide better feel, more control, elasticity, power, and spin. Of course, thinner strings are more likely to break than thicker strings, so choose a gauge that complements your style of play.
You can find the best string gauge for you by starting with a thin string and working your way down whenever the strings break in a short period of time.
Frame Stiffness / Flex Rating:
A frame’s stiffness is how stiff a racquet’s frame is. Who could have guessed, right? Well, probably most people actually. But why is a frame’s stiffness important? A stiffer racquet bends less, which means the maximum amount of power can be transferred to the ball. For a more flexible racquet, this results in more energy loss, although it provides added spin and less strain. Stiffer frames naturally cause more strain on the wrist, arm, and shoulder, so it’s not recommended to pick a frame that is too stiff.
But frame stiffness is largely a matter of preference, with different players having different comfort and control needs. Frames are given a flex rating anywhere from 0-100, and most racquets will be rated around 50 to 80. Low ratings are below 60, medium anywhere from 61-68, and high anywhere above 69.