How to pick the right racket

Over the years, I’ve been asked to help tennis players pick out a racket.  There is no rule for what type of racket someone should use, but I’ve learned some secrets that players have used to help them pick out a racket to stick with.

So these are the things I usually tell someone when they go through the process.

Remember, these are only my opinions and tips. You might get different information from someone else, so like everything, try it out.

If you are shopping for a new racket, you can use my tips, but I DO NOT encourage you to just go in and pick a racket and buy it.

What to do when looking for a racket

Before you buy a racket you need to test it out.

Let me repeat that… You need to test rackets out.

A racket my look cool or tons of your teammates might use it.  That doesn’t mean that its the racket for you.

So demo some rackets.

If you are near our school, RacquetPro has a great demo service.  It cost some money, but if you buy a racket from them they usually will apply the price of the demo towards your racket.  Conversely, if you aren’t close, Tennis Express, Tennis Warehouse, and other online retailers offer demo sessions.  You pick rackets from their website, they will mail them to you to try for a week and then you mail them back.

So take that racket to the court and try it.  Try it all week.  Don’t take it out to the court for ten minutes and fall in love and buy it.

This is called the honeymoon period.  Some rackets demo very well.  You might hit the tennis ball of your life, but during that time you might be able to hit the tennis ball with a frying pan.  To really get the feeling for a new racket you need to use it for a week at the minimum.  Play competitively with it, play bad tennis, play great tennis.  It’s the only way to see how you actually like it.

You can also borrow a racket from a teammate to try out as well.

But what racket should you try?

Weight

One of the first things I look for when suggesting a racket is the weight.  During the early 2000s light was all the rage.  The lighter the racket, the faster you could swing.

Well, all those light rackets started to cause some tennis elbow and other injuries.

I generally encourage players to:

Pick the heaviest racket that you can swing quickly for at least 3 sets.

The heavier a racket is, the more weight you can put behind the ball.  Imagine an 18-wheeler and a Smart Car getting into a wreck.  The 18-wheeler is going to do much more damage to the Smart Car than the other way around.

Hitting a tennis ball is like that wreck.  The more weight behind the ball you can put, the heavier it will go to your opponent.  So if you can swing the heavy racket, do it.  Be the 18-wheeler, and not the smart car.

The problem is doing that for three sets.

I recommend most beginners start with a racket in the 10-ounce range.  The 10-ounce range is still fairly light, but still has some heft to it.  If they are strong enough, they can use an 11-ounce racket.  This lets them swing pretty freely.  It lets the racket do more work as well.  I wouldn’t recommend anything under 10-ounces unless the player is smaller or not strong enough yet.

Intermediate to Advanced I’d recommend nothing under 11 ounces.  They need to be putting some weight behind their shots, that lighter rackets might not help with.

This isn’t a hard rule.  There are exceptions to every rule after all.  Again, try out rackets and see how it feels.

Headsize 

The next thing I look at is headsize.

Headsize is the size of the hitting area of the racket.  Generally, the smaller the frame the more control it offers, but you have to have better timing.  Smaller frames also provide more maneuverability.  This helps when you are trying to swing the racket, or when you have to move fast like at the net.

The bigger the racket head, the more power you can generate.  Bigger racket heads can be like a trampoline.  It also can give you a very loose feel.  Bigger heads are harder to get around though.

Racket heads are getting bigger now as well.  95 square-inches used to be the standard size for most rackets, but that figure is creeping up to 100 square inches.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone go over 100 if they are serious about improving.  The smaller head makes the player focus on the ball more.

I would recommend the headsize anywhere from 95-100 square inches.  If they are experienced they might know that they want more a trampoline feel.  More advanced players might try a midsize frame that’s smaller than 95, but make sure that you try it first.

Flex

Weight and headsize are the two most important aspects of picking a racket.  They are also the easiest to pick out.

Flex is a tricky thing to pick out.  The flex is how much the racket flexes when it hits a ball.  This is all personal preference but can be important to know.  The stiffer a racket the more power can go into the ball on contact.  This can send more shock up the arm as well.

If the racket is flexible, the contact will feel softer.  Most of the time, players that use lots of touch might prefer flexible rackets.  It almost seems like it provides more control.

This is where trying out rackets will come into play.  Try a flexible racket and a stiff racket.  You can find the flexibility of a racket on its specs page.  Flexible rackets are in the 50s to low 60s.

One thing that is hard to gauge is where the racket flexes though.  The flex rating is usually based on the racket’s flex at the throat of the racket.  Some rackets might have a stiff throat, but a flexible head.  This will change the feel of the racket.  There’s no easy way to figure out where a racket flexes other than research.

So try it out.

Grip

So you’re ready to try out some rackets. You’ve added them to your cart, or you’ve gone to the store but then they ask you what size grip…

You can see the gap between middle finger and palm here.

If you are in a store, grab a racket and see how it feels. The standard grip size is 4 and 3/8 inch.  Holding a forehand grip, you should be able to put a finger between the tip of your middle finger and your palm.  If there’s too much space, try a smaller grip.  If there’s not enough space, go larger.

Again, it comes down to preference.  A smaller grip can let your wrist move more.  Some think this can let you hit more spin, or let your wrist snap more on a serve.

A larger gripe can give you more stability in your swing.

Wrap up

So go try some rackets out.  Look at the weight, the headsize, and the flex(if you can find it).  Take them out to the courts and play some sets.

The only way to know if you like a racket is to try it and use it.  It can take players a long time to adjust to a new racket as well.  Pros hardly ever actually change rackets, just paint jobs, but that’s a post for another website.

One last little bit.

You don’t have to get a new racket.  There is a huge market out there for used rackets if you are on a budget.  If you are on a budget, please don’t go shopping at Wal-Mart or Target.  Most of the rackets at non-tennis specialty stores are made out of materials that will bend and break fairly easily.

If you do need more help, ask a coach.  They will be happy to help you get your racket right.

 

 

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