Junior rackets explained
Dan Bloxham, head coach at the All England Club, has years of experience nurturing raw talent on the court. We spoke to him about the rackets young players should be using...
Why is it important for a junior to use a racket of the right specification?
If the racket is too big or too small it will affect how they control the ball and how they hit the ball, so it’s pretty fundamental to the kid’s progression to get the right racket.
How do you choose the right racket?
There’s nothing majorly scientific about it. If the child is very advanced they may be pushing to have a better racket, a slightly heavier racket due to their technical ability. For someone who is just starting you can buy a normal racket for around £20 – you don’t need any more than that. If you’ve got a player who is starting to generate some pace and hit the ball harder you need to change the racket.
At what point would you start using an adult racket?
Kids don’t start using a full-sized tennis ball now until they are 10 to 11 years of age, so you are not playing full ball, full court tennis until later than in years gone by. With our players they generally finish on green ball [aimed at nine to ten year olds] and the moment they finish with green, they go onto full size rackets. That’s what we do here at the Wimbledon Junior Tennis Initiative. If you’re looking to use a heavier ball, then an aluminium racket will almost bend in your hand, so once they start using the green ball, you need to try and trade your racket up. You definitely need to be aware of when to move up.
How do the various sizes differ?
Pretty much all the smaller 19 or 21-inch rackets are tubular aluminium, but to start with – to see if you enjoy the sport – that’s fine. When you go to 25-inch rackets they start to have a graphite-titanium composite mix and so it’s not until really you go to that higher end that the rackets become more technical.
Is it possible for someone starting the game to buy a cheap racket?
If you’ve never played you don’t need anything to perform too well, there are some fantastic rackets. Tennis is actually quite a good value sport – the rackets are cheaper, the balls are cheaper, if you can find somewhere where the courts are cheaper, it’s not actually an expensive sport compared to, say, cycling. You can set yourself up with £50 I should think, it’s not so difficult to start with.
Where should you go to buy a racket?
It helps to go to a specialist racket shop, because if you go somewhere general, they won’t be able to help you. If you say to the average person in a shop, ‘My kid is nine, what racket do they need?’ then they
will think they must just be starting. As we know, there are nine-year-olds that may be playing 10 hours a week, 40 competitions
a year and who are looking to be an international, so those guys will be looking for composite rackets.