Are you labouring with an uncomfortable racket that you picked willy-nilly off the shelf? Or have you recently ditched your trusty tool and are now looking for a new one?
Well, fret not: Tennis Talent has waded through the mire of different options and put together a seven-step guide to find the perfect racket for you.
1. Grip size
Use a ruler to measure from the middle line of your palm to the tip of your ring finger in millimetres.
You can now compare your measurement to the table below to find out both your European and US grip size (in inches).
|Size in millimetres||European size||US size in inches|
We would always opt for a standard 27 to 28-inch racket. However, you can go slightly larger (the maximum length is 29 inches) if you have a longer swing, but this makes it less manoeuvrable.
3. Head size
The larger the head of the racket, the bigger the sweet spot. A large sweet spot means more power can be generated, while a smaller racket head grants the player more control and “feel” for the ball. The simple rule of thumb: as a beginner, start with a large racket and work your way down. The sizes are:
- Mid (80 – 94 sq in)
- Midplus (95 – 104 sq in)
- Oversize (105 – 119 sq in)
- Super oversize (120 sq in+)
4. Frame type
There are three main types of racket frame: control, tweener and power. Here are the benefits of each:
- Control. As the name suggests, control frames are a safe pair of hands, allowing for precise groundstrokes and overall control. They may not generate the most power, but make up for this with their accuracy. Control frames are perfect for experienced or strong players with a fast, exaggerated swing and tend to be the heaviest of the frames
- Tweener. The tweener frame is ideal for intermediate players: it’s a touch lighter and firmer than a control, while also being well-balanced. If you use a lot of spin in your game, a tweener frame is the best option.
- Power. If you want to hit groundstrokes with a hefty thunk, opt for a power frame. With their larger heads and comparatively light weight, power frames are mostly designed for absolute beginners who need a more forgiving racket.
5. Frame material
There is a daunting array of frame materials available to the modern amateur player. The most affordable option is aluminium, which is ideal for people who only play a couple of times a week at most. The drawback is that aluminium frames tend to vibrate, potentially exacerbating health issues such as tennis elbow.
Slightly pricier materials include graphite, carbon fibre and titanium. Racket frames made from graphite and carbon fibre are sturdy but also lightweight, making them a better choice for serious players. Titanium is, on the other hand, a very strong metal similar to aluminium and is, therefore, suitable for beginners.
The vast majority of beginners pay little heed to the racket’s strings and either assume that they are all the same or are intimidated by the wide range of options. However, strings are arguably the most important part of the racket, meaning you should pay close attention to what you pick. The three most common types are natural gut, synthetic gut and polyester:
- Natural gut. Made from the gut of usually a sheep, natural gut is an excellent blend of control, power and spin. However, it is also easily the most expensive and delicate string, breaking in adverse weather conditions.
- Synthetic gut. Most off-the-shelf rackets are strung with synthetic gut, which aims to replicate the benefits of natural gut, but without the extreme vulnerability to the weather. They, therefore, offer a good mixture of control and power – although they aren’t the best for spin.
- Polyester. Mainly now used as a hybrid with synthetic gut, polyester strings provide a decent amount of power, spin and manoeuvrability. Nonetheless, they place a lot of pressure on the arm muscles during contact so you should be wary of kitting out your children’s rackets with them.
Just as you’d test drive a car before buying it, take a few swings with your racket in the shop and see how it feels in your hand. If you’re starting completely from scratch and have never owned a racket before, it may take you a while to work out what’s best. That said, you can’t go wrong with a larger head with a power frame.
To begin your quest for a new racket, do some initial research online, while following the steps above. The following UK retailers are good starting point: Tennisnuts, Sports Direct, Pro:Direct Tennis and Tennisplanet.