How to Choose a GREAT
from TENNIS Magazine
With so many tennis racquets on the market, choosing one can be as intimidating as returning Andy Roddick's serve. Should
you purchase an ultra-light tennis racquet? Or, is your game better suited to a heavier model? And what about all those high-tech
features manufacturers love to talk about?
It sounds simple: You want to arm yourself with a brand-new tennis racquet that will improve your winning percentage.
But, sometimes it's hard knowing just where to start. That's where this general Tennis Racquets Selection Guide can help you.
1. Power or Control?
When buying a tennis racquet,
the first thing you must decide is whether you want one that will provide you with power, control, or a blend of the two.
If you're a beginner, you should play with a tennis racquet that's light enough so it's easy to swing, and powerful enough
so it adds giddyup to your game. Our advice:
Go with a tennis racquet that weighs between 9 and 10 ounces, has an oversize head measuring at least 100 square inches
(which will give you more power and improve your chances of making good contact with the ball), and has a beam width (the
thickness of the frame) that's at least 15 millimeters thick. A "wide" beam makes the frame stiff and, therefore, more
If you're an advanced tennis player and can generate your own juice on the tennis court, it's a different story. You're
looking for more control, and you can get it with a tennis racquet that's heavier (over 10.5 ounces) and has a smaller head
and thinner beam.
If you're an intermediate, try a tennis racquet that offers a blend of power and control, falling between the heavy,
thin-beamed control tennis racquets and the lighter and bigger power sticks.
For most levels of play, you need a tennis racquet that isn't too powerful and yet isn't all about control because power
won't mean a thing if you can't keep the ball in the tennis court, and all the control in the world and the best tennis strings
do you no good if you can't get enough stick on your shots.
2. Pre-Strung or Premium?
When shopping for tennis racquets, you
also have to decide whether you want a pre-strung model or a premium "performance" frame. Pre-strung tennis racquets cost
from $25 to around $100. Most premium tennis racquets are priced between $100 and $250, and feature the latest technology.
With premium tennis racquets, you usually need to buy tennis string separately, and have the tennis string installed
in the frame.
And, if you're buying for a child who's just getting into the game, check out junior tennis racquets, which are pre-strung
and sold in graduated lengths (21, 23, 25, and 26 inches). Most junior tennis racquets cost under $50.
3. Traditional Length or Extra-Long?
It wasn't too many years ago
that all tennis racquets were 27 inches long. Now, adult tennis racquets come in lengths up to 28 inches (extra long). Everything
else being equal, extra-long tennis racquets are more powerful than 27-inch models because the contact point is farther away
from your body, resulting in greater momentum on your swing and more pop on your shots.
The downside is that extra-long tennis racquets may not be as maneuverable as a 27-inch frame.
4. Head Heavy or Head Light?
The balance of a tennis racquet is either head heavy, head light, or even. To check a frame's balance, measure
it lengthwise and balance it at its exact center. If the head dips down, the racquet is head heavy. If the handle dips down,
it's head light.
Head-heavy tennis racquets give you more power on ground strokes, but are less maneuverable which can be a problem
when you're at the net. Tennis players who like to rally from the baseline tend to prefer head-heavy frames.
Head-light tennis racquets are easier to maneuver at net, but they won't deliver the power of head-heavy frames when
you hit from the baseline. Serve-and-volleyers tennis players, all-court tennis players, and advanced tennis players who take
full swings generally like head-light racquets.
Evenly balanced frames offer a blend of power from the baseline and maneuverability at the net. They usually appeal to
all-court tennis players.
5. Open or Dense Tennis String Pattern?
Another area to consider
is the pattern of the tennis strings. An open tennis string pattern has bigger spaces between the tennis strings, and will
help when you want to add spin because the strings will "bite" into the ball more deeply.
For example, the more topspin you add to your shots, the harder you can hit the ball and still keep it in the court.
An open tennis string pattern, for instance, could have 16 main and 20 cross strings.
A dense tennis string pattern (i.e, 18 mains and 20 crosses) will give you added control in directing your shots. To
generate more topspin, though, you'll need to brush up on the ball more severely.
6. Do Your Homework
To narrow your selection of tennis racquets,
research each model (company Web sites are helpful) and talk with your tennis instructor as well as salespeople. Ultimately,
though, you're the final judge.
Demo several models to determine which tennis racquet is best for you. And don't just smack a couple of shots into a
backboard to make your decision. Test each frame thoroughly by playing with it exactly as you would in a match. Ask yourself
how the tennis racquet handles on all your strokes.
The demo process can take from a weekend to a few weeks, depending on how diligent you're willing to be and how many
tennis racquets you want to try. But one thing's for sure: A careful decision in the tennis shop is one of the best things
you can do for your game.
7. Time to Upgrade?
You've had the same old tennis racquet for
years and don't think you need a new one. You might want to reconsider.
Each time you strike a ball, the frame distorts backward to absorb the impact then bends forward as it returns energy
to the ball. Over time, this process damages the bonds between the thousands of graphite fibers (the primary composite of
racquets) and the resins that hold them together.
Eventually, the frame loses stiffness and becomes soft. When a tennis racquet goes soft, you lose power and control.
While there's no formula for determining how long your frame will last, most experts agree that, assuming you don't abuse
your tennis racquet, you should think about replacing your frame every 2 years.