To find a tennis racquet that fits your game you need to understand the racquet technology as related to performance and to determine your racquet type based on your ability level, your strategy, technique and style of play. In most cases, the two primary considerations in selecting a tennis racquet are power and control.
1. Understand racquet technology
The key factors that control a racquet's performance are the racquet head size, racquet length, weight and balance, stiffness and flexibility, head shape, and grip size. In addition, there are various technologies and high-tech materials that influence the behavior of the tennis racquet.
Head size: Racquet heads that are above 107 sq. in. (690 sq. cm.) are called oversized and above 125 sq. in. (806 sq. cm.) are called super-oversized. Oversized racquets, all other factors equal, provide more power and larger sweet spot. However, the larger the head size, the less control you have. Midsize tennis rackets range from 100 sq. in. (645 sq. cm) to 106 sq. in. (684 sq. cm) and provide better control without giving up too much power. The traditional head sizes, used by most professional tennis players, are equal to or smaller than 100 sq. in. (645 sq. cm), provide increased control, but could affect power; therefore, requiring higher racquet speed, stronger player and greater technique to provide most of the power in a shot.
Length: The length of the racquet is measured from the bottom of the handle (the buttcap) to the top of the head. They are usually three length types: long racquets that are 28.5” (72.4 cm) and above, traditional length racquets that are 27” (69 cm) to 28” (71.1 cm) long and junior length racquets that are 26” (66 cm) or less. Longer racquets provide greater leverage on a swing, and therefore more power. In addition, they allow for better court area coverage. A longer racquet is often recommended to shorter players, who will benefit on the serve and at on the net. Players whose groundstrokes pivot more at the wrist will also get the most added power from extra racquet length. However, as length increases, there is cost in maneuverability and shot precision.
Weight: The weight of a racquet affects both power and control. Weights of most racquets vary between 8 ounces (227 g) unstrung and 12.5 ounces (354 g) unstrung. The heavy racquets that weigh more than 11.8 ounces (335g) supply more power, while mid-weight racquets offer a combination of control and power and are very versatile to fit most types of players. The lighter racquets that weigh less than 9.4 ounces (267g) provide superior shot control and are easier for junior or smaller players to handle. Lighter racquets also offer greater maneuverability, making them easier to swing and more suitable for aggressive play, especially around the net. The swing weight of the racket is how heavy the racket feels when you swing it. The more weight you have distributed to the head of the racket, the higher the swing weight will be. At a given impact speed between ball and frame, a racquet with a higher swingweight is also more powerful.
Balance: The balance of the racquet is a measure of weight distribution in a racquet from the butt end to the top. The midpoint, as measured from butt to head, is used as the starting point to measure balance. Head light (HL) and head heavy (HH) are standard descriptions of a racquet’s balance. If the racket is evenly balanced, its weight will be evenly distributed on either side of the midpoint. Head light racquets provide better control, while head heavy racquets better power. With today's racquet materials getting lighter, manufacturers have placed most of the weight, or mass, in the head to increase the power.
Stiffness and flexibility: The beam width (the thickness) and construction of the racket affect its stiffness and flexibility. Stiffness is racquet's resistance to bending or deforming upon impact with the ball. Racquet deformation absorbs energy that is not returned to the ball. With a stiffer frame, less of the energy in the ball-racquet collision gets absorbed in deforming the frame materials, so more of that energy goes into deforming the string bed and the ball itself. The stiffer the racquet, the more energy is returned to the ball in the form of outgoing ball speed. Usually a thick beam width means stiffness and more power and a thinner beam width means flexibility and less power. Higher flexibility is preferred by some players with higher and faster swing speeds. Greater flexibility offers also greater control and makes it easier to finesse shots.
Head shape: The 3 extreme shapes of today’s tennis racquets are oval, triangle (tear drop) and rectangle. The shape mostly affects the so-called sweet spot of the racquet (the area on the racquet that allows for a solid hit and return). For the standard-shaped oval head racquet, the sweet spot resides in the bottom half and provides excellent feel of the racquet. The tear drop and rectangle shape allow more of the racquet to act as a sweet spot, which adds more consistency by delivering improved stability even with off-centre shots.
Racquet Material: Contemporary racquets are made with a number of composite materials as most frames are made from light-weight graphite as the base ingredient or graphite composites that incorporate materials such as titanium, Boron, Kevlar or fiberglass, giving added levels of frame flexibility, while remaining cost effective. High-end racquets are now typically constructed of titanium and carbon. Carbon composite racquets disperse shock and have improved response. Graphite tungsten racquets have improved performance. They have superb control and feel. Basalt fiber racquets are also popular among some professional tennis players. They are more flexible than fiberglass, cheaper than carbon fiber, and are light-weight. Aluminum is cheap and durable and often used for lower-priced racquets. Although it lacks the playability of other materials, aluminum offers decent power and an unexpected amount of feel.
Grip size: Most racquet grips range in diameter between 4 and 4-5/8 inches around. Grip size for you is purely a matter of comfort. No objective criteria exist for choosing a grip size. The old rule of thumb is: when you grip the racquet comfortably (but not tightly), you should be able to touch the tip of your thumb to the top (or outermost) knuckle of your middle finger. Another way to find the right size grip is to 1) open your hand with your fingers extended and close together, 2) place the end of a ruler in the middle of your palm, inline with the bottom lateral crease of your palm and 3) measure from the middle of your palm to the tip of your ring finger. So, this is your ideal grip size. A grip that is too small will cause the racquet to twist in your hand while a grip that is too large will decrease wrist snap and decrease the grasp power. If you are between sizes, go with the smaller size and add an overgrip. Most overgrips will increase the size by 1/16 inch. A properly fitted grip will improve your control over the tennis racquet, enhancing your performance.
2. What is your ability level?
It is important that the tennis equipment you use fits your physical and skill levels. You should buy a racquet that suits your size, mobility, swing, technique, and ability level. Please note that Tennis-Depot is specializing in carrying the top quality high-performance tennis racquets that are most suitable for the intermediate and advanced level tennis players.
Beginners: If you are just starting to play tennis you should look for an oversized versatile racquet that offers larger sweet spot. These are usually racquets with head size 107 sq. in. (690 sq. cm.) and above with string tension in the middle of the range.
Intermediate: If you are a club member or recreational player not participating in tournaments, probably the best fit will be a lighter, midsize tennis racquet that range from 100 sq. in. (645 sq. cm) to 106 sq. in. (684 sq. cm) and provides better control and sufficient power.
Advanced: If you are a competitive league, high-school or college player or you play more than 2-3 times a week, you should look for high-tech composite racquets with traditional head sizes and hybrids stringing that provide superior power with adequate control.
Juniors: If you are choosing a racquet for a junior tennis player, please note that Tennis-Depot only carries 25” or 26” models that are more suitable for intermediate to advanced 7 to 10 year’s old juniors who have been playing tennis for a few years with good strokes. Junior tennis racquets usually come in one grip size only.
3. What is your tennis game strategy?
Based on the style of play or their strategy, tennis players are often classified as all-court, serve-and-volley, counterpuncher, or aggressive baseline player. It is critical to match your style with the tennis racquet you use as your strategy execution and tactical approaches require different weapons.
All-court player: If you don’t have any dominant strategy and your game is versatile, from the baseline or at the net, depending on the game situation, you are an all-court player. In most cases, you are looking for strong baseline shots that will push opponents back, open the court and allow attack on the first short ball, capitalizing on finishing at the net. For you, the suggested racquet will be maneuverable mid-sized racquets, evenly balanced, thin-framed with average stiffness and flexibility.
Serve-and-volley: If you have fine touch for volleys and your strategy is to get to the net as quickly, and as often, as possible, to keep opponents continuously under pressure from the net; then, you are a serve-and-volley player. You need a racquet that will allow you to hit heavy spin serves or chip back the return that will allow you more time to get into the net and then to gain control on the game there. In this case, you will need thin-framed, maneuverable, mid-sized racquets that are evenly balanced or slightly head-light, that move easily through the air and are with below average stiffness.
Counterpunchers (Defensive baseliners): If you win matches with endurance, fast feet, shot selection, and defense and you return every ball relying on the opponent to make mistakes, you are a counterpuncher. For this strategy you need consistent shots, few errors of your own, ability to play aggressive shots when feasible while making it difficult for your opponents to hit winners. The racquets to consider should be stiffer, with mid-sized or over-sized heads that are evenly balanced or slightly head-heavy (unless you are Nadal – hi, Rafa!). You don’t want to get a frame that’s too defense oriented, because in some matches, you really need to pull the trigger; therefore, you need some frame mass and power.
Aggressive (offensive) baseliners: If you hit punishing ground strokes from the baseline rather than finishing points at the net and your strategy is to make many winners from the back of the court, attacking with fast penetrating balls that the opponent cannot reach or return effectively to get them back in the point; then, you are an aggressive (offensive) baseliner. To be successful in implementing your game strategy you need to have a huge serve to go with a great groundstroke and can hit huge groundstrokes off both wings. To overpower and overwhelm most opposition, you should consider stiffer racquets with mid-sized head frames and weight either evenly distributed or slightly head-heavy.
4. What is your playing style and technique?
Determining if you need more power type racquet or more control type of racquet will depend on your style and technique. However, keep in mind that the perfect balance of power and control for one player will be totally wrong for another.
Power player: If you are a heavy hitter, with a long, loopy swing and you can supply most of the power yourself you are a power player who could benefit from more of a control racquet. Look for a balanced racquet with smaller length and head size, 100 sq. in. (645 sq. cm) or less, in order to improve the control of your shots.
Finesse player: If you have a slow-to-moderate swing speed and a short, compact stroke you are a finesse player who could use a power racquet to help you hit the ball harder. You should consider a racquet that is longer, stiffer and with a larger head size to increase the sweet spot
Combination player: If you have a long, slow stroke, or fast, compact swing, then you need a balanced versatile mid-size racquet with standard length and mid-range weight and stiffness combining power and control.