Tennis Rackets - A Selection Guide
By Samantha Kay
The single most important piece of equipment a tennis player will purchase is a tennis racket. With the wide variety of tennis racket brands, models, types, and specifications on the market, selecting a tennis racket can be a daunting task. Prospective tennis racket buyers should consider several important criteria. These criteria are brand, racket weight, racket length, grip size, balance, and head size.
Many tennis racket manufacturers produce multiple racket models with varying specifications. Popular brand name tennis rackets include Avery, Babolat, Dunlop, Fischer, Gamma, Head, Prince, ProKennex, Volkl, Wilson, and Yonex. Each racket manufacturer has its own unique characteristics and nuances that pervade their entire tennis racket line. You can consult your local tennis professional or tennis racket expert for advice on the brand of racket that is most likely to fit your needs. Ultimately, however, testing out different brands of tennis rackets is the best way to find the right match.
Weight is another important consideration when selecting a tennis racket. Most tennis rackets weigh between 8.5 and 12.5 ounces. In general, lighter rackets are easier to swing and players that lack strength (e.g., older players, children) will be able to swing lighter rackets faster, generating more power. The overall effect of tennis racket weight is somewhat ambiguous, however, as heavier rackets, while more difficult to swing, are more stable and transfer more force to the ball upon impact. Thus, when choosing a weight, comfort is the most important consideration. Typically, players that are more skilled prefer the stability and control offered by heavier rackets.
While the length of tennis rackets is fairly standard, many manufacturers have begun to offer longer rackets in recent years. The standard tennis racket length is 27 inches. While the rules of tennis allow rackets to measure up to 32 inches, most tennis rackets measure from 27 to 28 inches. The benefits of increased tennis racket length are increased reach and increased power. Longer tennis rackets can provide more power because the arc the racket travels during the swing is longer (especially on the serve). Players that are more skilled generally prefer the maneuverability of standard length rackets.
Because the grip is the tennis player’s link between the tennis racket and his or her body, grip comfort is of supreme importance. Tennis racket grips typically range from 4 inches to 4 7/8 inches in circumference. Most adult tennis players use grips between 4 1/4 inches and 4 5/8 inches. The easiest way to determine your grip size is to grip a tennis racket and place the index finger of your other hand in the space between your fingers and thumb/palm. If your index finger fits comfortably, the grip size is correct. If your index finger does not fit, the grip size is too small. If there is a large amount of space around your index finger, the grip size is too big. Selecting the proper grip size on your tennis racket is important not only for comfort and for performance, but also for injury prevention. Using a tennis racket with a grip that is too large or too small can lead to arm injuries.
Tennis rackets are also classified by the balance point or how the weight is distributed in relation to the head of the racket. The two balance classifications of tennis rackets are head heavy and head light. Head-heavy rackets provide more power because they place more of the tennis racket’s weight behind the ball on impact. Head-light rackets, on the other hand, provide more control because they are easier to swing and maneuver and absorb more of the ball’s energy on impact.
One final consideration when selecting a tennis racket is head size. Typically, tennis racket heads range in size from 85 to 135 square inches. In general, tennis rackets with larger heads provide more power while tennis rackets with smaller heads provide more control. Players that are more skilled generally prefer the control and maneuverability offered by midsize tennis rackets (85 to 95 square inches) and midplus tennis rackets (95 to 105 square inches). Older adults and those who lack strength and precise strokes may benefit from oversize tennis rackets (110+ square inches). Oversize tennis rackets can lead to sloppy strokes, and are therefore not recommended for junior players.
Tennis racket selection can be a daunting process. However, understanding the specifications discussed in this article, brand, racket weight, racket length, grip size, balance, and head size, will help simplify the tennis racket selection process.