Tennis rackets: A buyer's guide
Looking for a new tennis racket? tennishead cuts through the jargon to serve up all you need to know about acquiring the perfect on court weapon...
With three distinct racket categories, first decide which one suits your ability...
Improver rackets: Designed for improvers and recreational players who are quite new to the game or have returned to tennis after a lengthy break - think Justine Henin or Kim Clijsters for enthusiasm on return to the courts, except err, lacking anything remotely resembling their ability.
Intermediate rackets: Aimed at the club-standard player who is no longer a beginner, but by no means Roger Federer in disguise either. The larger head sizes provide a greater sweet spot and the moderate weight makes the racket more comfortable to use.
Advanced rackets: Tournament and performance frames play best when used by highly skilled and physically fit players who have the ability to generate a fast racket swing speed through the ball.
What are you looking for in a racket?
There are five key factors to consider before choosing your next racket:
1) Head size: Typically between 95-110 square inches. Larger heads, generate more power and have a larger sweet spot. Smaller head sizes offer more control.
2) Length: Adult rackets can be anything from 27-29 inches long, though most are nearer the lower end of the scale. Longer rackets are generally lighter than standard frames, and offer more reach and more power on serve.
3) Weight: Heavier rackets (320g and beyond) are more powerful than lighter rackets (310g and below), but are less manoeuverable and can wear a player out. Strings add around 30g to the weight of a racket.
4) Balance: Head-heavy rackets are often lighter, offering added power on groundstrokes, while head-light rackets are generally heavier but more manoeuverable.
5) Stiffness: The racket flex on impact affects power and comfort. The stiffer a frame, the less energy is lost when hitting the ball, but sends more impact shock to your hand and arm.
Are you ready for an advanced racket?
Before heading to your local specialist to price-check the racket your favourite pro plays with, think about your own game before handing over that hard-earned cash.
The 'advanced' part of advanced rackets refers to the players, not the frames. In fact, for all their technological wizadry, most tournament rackets are designed to offer players a classic feel - the head size is generally smaller, the frames are heavier and more flexible, and the balance point is closer to the handle.
For many players, these changes actually make tennis more difficult - the smaller head means a smaller sweet spot, the heavy frame can be tiring, and the head-light balance cuts down on power. So why do the pros choose these rackets over lighter, more forgiving models?
In short, because they have the physique and ability to make the most of those advanced features. Weight is not an issue to an athletic player, nor is power. In fact, many benefit from having their natural strength curbed to keep the ball in play. Instead, the premium is on control - the result of a more manoeuverable frame.
Every racket is offered in a range of grip sizes - the circumference of the handle, which is most typically between 4 1/8in and 4 5/8in. That may not seem like a huge range, but find two rackets a grip size apart and you'd be surprised how distinct that 1/8in can feel.
Getting the right grip size is important to prevent injury - too large a grip can strain your hand muscles, while a small grip can put pressure on your wrist and elbow.
To find your grip size, hold your playing hand out flat, take a ruler and measure the length between the tip of your ring finger and the second of the three main creases that run across your palm. That measurement indicates the grip size you need.
When buying a racket, bear in mind that while it is possible to fatten a grip up- marginally with overgrips or more substantially with grip enlargement kits - it is very difficult to go down a grip size
It can be easy to rush into buying the wrong racket, but it is crucial that the racket you buy suits the height and strength of the player.
tennishead's top tips on how to make the right choice...
1) The player should be able to comfortably hold the racket out to the side of them at a right angle, if they can't their technique will suffer.
2) Ideally the player needs to be able to stand up straight with the racket touching the floor by their side.
3) Similar to buying an adult racket, make sure there is room for a little finger to fit in between the player's thumb and forefinger when gripping the handle.
Grips: Junior rackets tend to have 4in grips which can be easily increased with the addition of a cushioned grip should it need adjusting.
Considering cost: The material of the racket is the main contributor to its cost. Aluminium is cheaper but because it is lighter, it suits younger, less experienced players. The bigger rackets (25-26in) are often graphite, which is more expensive but suitable for the more experienced player.
Junior size guide
Choosing the right sized racket can be a challenge, follow our guidelines...
|Height (cm)||105-120||121-135||136-150||136-150||151 & under|
|Racket size (inches)||17-21||23||25||26||26-26.5|
|Mini tennis category||RED||RED||ORANGE||GREEN||YELLOW|