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Basic Racket Guide

Whether you are a tennis player or tennis parent, buying a racket can be daunting. There’s a lot of confusing terminology, some of which is meaningless marketing nonsense, which confuses the whole process. Just knowing a little bit of the terminology can put you firmly on the right track.


In this guide I will cover the most important specifications that you should look at when buying a racket, what they actually mean, my recommendations and give an insight into how the different specifications would make the racket play.


Overview


When choosing a racket, there are three main elements which affect power and control: headsize, weight, and string patterns.


Headsize


  • Larger Headsize = More Power

  • Smaller Headsize = More Control


Weight


  • Lighter Racket = More Power

  • Heavier Racket = More Control


String Pattern


  • Open Stringbed = More Power

  • Denser Stringbed = More Control



Rackets are designed around swing speed, which has a strong correlation with playing standard. For example - young juniors and low level players who struggle to swing the racket quickly with control, due to a lack of physical strength/poor technique, are better suited to lighter rackets which usually have bigger head sizes and more open string beds to maximise the power/spin. A lighter racket is also more manoeuvrable, which is important for lower level players who are more likely to require adjustments late in their swing. More advanced players don’t need as much assistance in generating power and spin and are instead looking for control.


This means if you know what weight racket you should be playing with you can’t go too far wrong as the specifications will be balanced around a player of your ability in mind. With that being said, rackets still differ a fair amount and players will have a personal preference about the certain elements.


Weight


Measured in grams - this is the weight of the racket unstrung unless specified otherwise.


The absolute majority of players will be best playing with a racket between 285 - 300 grams. Juniors around 10-13 years, beginners or physically weak players should go slightly lighter than that. Very few club level players would benefit from using anything over 310 grams and anyone who would probably isn’t reading this guide. Players should generally aim to use a racket which is towards the heavier side of what they feel comfortable with - but not pushing it too far. The racket should feel manoeuvrable and the player should be able to swing it easily and be able to play with it for extended periods of time without the arm becoming tired. Playing with something too heavy for you can lead to injuries or even worse… bad tennis!


Extra weight makes the racket more stable through contact, providing more control. You can also access more power with a heavier racket as long as you can actually swing it fast enough! The extra weight creates momentum almost like a sledgehammer and does some of the work for you if you have the strength and technique for it.


Head Size


Measured in squared inches - this is the size of the head of the racket including the frame.


I would recommend almost every player to use something around 100sq inches. Lower level players might want to go slightly bigger up to about 105 and higher level players may go slightly lower to about 95. Anything below 95 is unnecessarily difficult to play with and anything above 105 has very little control. A lot of guides recommend beginners go for bigger head sizes than 105 but I’ve found that whilst it makes literally hitting the ball easier, it also provides an inconsistent feedback loop making it more difficult to learn cause and effect of your shots.


A larger head size makes the racket more forgiving as it enlarges the sweet spot, meaning if you don’t hit it completely cleanly the shot will still likely be similar to what you intended anyway. Smaller head sizes offer a more consistent output on the shots where you do hit them cleanly but slight mishits are less likely to resemble your intention.



String Pattern


A ‘string pattern’ refers to the number of main (vertical) strings and the number of cross (horizontal) strings. Ie 16x19 means 16 vertical strings and 19 horizontal.


You will hear the terms ‘dense pattern’ and ‘open pattern’ quite often. A dense pattern refers to very small spaces between the strings, while an open pattern has more separation between the strings. Dense patterns such as 18x20 offer a controlled, consistent output. Open patterns such as a 18x16 allow for more spin and power. The simple rule of thumb here is that the smaller number of strings in a tennis racket normally equates to more power and spin whereas a higher number of strings in a racket equates to more control and less spin.


The most popular string pattern right now is 16x19 as it offers a really nice balance between spin and power. It is also really well suited to rackets around the 100 sq inch head size. Unless you are really craving the heavy topspin that an open string pattern could give you or the flatter and more controlled feel that an 18x20 pattern offers I would go for a 16x19 but anything else isn’t a deal breaker.


Grip Size


You’ve finally chosen the racket you want, don’t fall at the last hurdle! Before I get into specifics and you start measuring your hands - it is always best to go for a smaller grip size than a bigger grip size. If the grip is too big you can’t do anything to reduce the size however it is easy to add to a smaller grip to make it bigger. Playing with a grip which is too small is also not that big a deal, in-fact recent trends have seen players using smaller grip sizes to generate more spin, where as of the grip is too big then you just can’t grip it properly.


Racket grip sizes are universal. Most adult rackets come in grip sizes 1-4 but grip size 0 does exist and is widely used on junior rackets and some manufacturers offer up until grip size 6.


A table showing the measurements of grip sizes.


One last thing worth noting is most players like to add an ‘over grip’ onto their racket. This is a grip which goes on top of the standard grip. They are easier to replace than normal grips and most players find it more comfortable playing with the extra grip on top. Adding an over grip does increase the grip size, so if you plan on adding an over grip and are on the borderline between grip sizes then get the one below.

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