How To Pick A New Racquet
This article was written by Howard Sherman of The Game of Tennis.com
So it’s finally time to get a brand new tennis racquet! Picking out the right racquet for your child is no easy task and does require a little bit of time. But considering you’re most likely making a purchase above $100 on an item that you can use for years to come makes it worth the time! Picking the right racquet might not have a direct effect on your child’s play (mainly because they could probably adapt to anything) but, that doesn’t mean what racquet they end up using is not important. Having the wrong racquet can have a huge effect on a player’s mental game. If a racquet feels foreign and uncomfortable, those negative feelings can stay in the back of their mind for a while throwing your kid into a slump while they attempt to adjust. This is why picking the right racquet IS important. It can not only give minor improvements to someone’s game, but it can give a major confidence boost if done correctly. This is why if your child already has a tennis racquet, the last thing I would recommend is just buying the new model of their current racquet. They change each model a little bit, so a new model might not feel like home. But don’t worry, in this article, we will go through a step by step process of picking a new racquet.
There are 3 different categories of racquets. Control, tweener, and power. Normally I would go in depth on this kind of thing but it was mainly created just for identification purposes and there is a great infographic by tennis express that sums everything up better than I could explain it here. So look at the infographic here and then come back. In case you don’t feel like clicking on the link, here’s a very brief description.
- Power- This is a racquet best suited for weaker/beginner players and offers more power and forgiveness.
- Tweener- This is for intermediate to advanced players who want to combine both control & power
- Control- This is for advanced players who don’t need help adding power to their shots
While these categories are nice, the more important specs to keep in mind are grip size, balance, head size, and string pattern. Again these are all explained great in that infographic but if you don’t want to look at it here is the breakdown.
- Grip Size- A smaller grip size is best for a spin player. With a smaller grip size, it is easier to flick your wrist while gripping the racquet to create spin. For a flat ball player, a bigger grip size is better. The bigger grip size makes it harder to flick the wrist and create spin and will be a little easier to grip. When in doubt always go smaller. With an overgrip, it’s easy to artificially increase the grip size to what’s most comfortable.
- Balance – Balance has to do with where most of the weight of a racquet is positioned. Head heavy racquets have more weight in the head of the racquet and are good for adding power and control to shots. Meanwhile, head light racquets have more weight in the handle of the racquet. This makes it easier to add spin and flick the racquet with the wrist. So, if looking for power and control go head heavy. If looking for more spin, then go head light. And then if you want something in between there are balanced racquets as well.
- Head Size- Head sizes range from 85 square inches to 118 square inches. Mid racquets are in between 85-94, Midplus are in between 95-105, and Oversize is in between 106 and 118. The larger the head size the more power and forgiveness the racquet has. Meanwhile, the smaller head sizes generally have more control and feel. Beginner or power players will probably be better off with an oversized racquet. Meanwhile, intermediate, advanced, and spin players would be better off with a Mid or Midplus racquet.
- String pattern- There are two types of string patterns, open and dense. Open string patterns (16×19 or less) offer more power and spin. Meanwhile, a dense string pattern (18×20) offers more control and string durability. Open string patterns tend to be more popular and I would suggest them for most. However, if you have trouble controlling the ball, then you might want to look into a dense string pattern.
Once you have decided what kind of racquets you think your child would like, it’s time to go find them! I personally use tennis warehouse but tennis express and any of the big online tennis stores will be fine. You can also go to your local club to see what racquets they have. A pro on staff should be able to help you out with any questions you have. However, clubs normally have a very limited selection so you might not get to try out all the racquets that you could have tried online.
Here’s a list of online sites you can use to demo racquets.
- Tennis warehouse- http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/
- Tennis Express- http://www.tennisexpress.com/
- Midwest Sports- http://www.midwestsports.com/
Side Note- Racquets are expensive! Make sure you have a budget in mind when you look to buy a racquet. This could help you narrow down your search a bunch at the beginning since new models now run around $220 a racquet.
Once you have a list of racquets it’s time to narrow it down to 4 or so to demo first. This does not mean narrow it down to 4 in general, just 4 for the first round of racquets to try out. It’s going to take you 30 to 45 minutes to thoroughly try each racquet so make sure you schedule time in during the week to do so.
After you have the first set of demo racquets it’s time to take them to the courts! Have your kid pick up one of the racquets (it doesn’t matter which one your child chooses first) and start playing! Start off at the baseline and spend a good 5 to 10 minutes hitting forehands and then 5 to 10 minutes hitting backhands. Then go up to the net for another 5 to 10 minutes and see how volleys and overheads feel. Lastly, spend a solid 10 to 15 minutes serving with the racquet. If there is some extra time try to play a couple of points out as well.
Make sure the focus is on how comfortable your child feels while playing with the racquet. This is the most important thing when it comes to picking a racquet. If a racquet feels uncomfortable, then it doesn’t matter how beneficial it might be because your child won’t be able to perform with it under pressure. If it feels relatively comfortable then they can start to focus on how they are hitting with it. Take note of how much spin, power, and control they are getting and ask yourself these questions; Can they hit their spots? Does it help or hurt their playing style? Ect.
When they’ve finished with a demo racquet take a piece of paper and have your child grade the racquet. Have them use the criteria below to grade the racquet.
- Comfortability (1-10)- A one would be a racquet that feels awkward and clumsy in your hands. Meanwhile, a 10 would be your old racquet. We are looking for this to be 6 or higher
- Spin (1-5)- Think of your shots and ask what shape your shots had. If they went in an arch then you were getting a lot of spin. If they went in a straight line then you are hitting the ball flat. Be sure to ask the person you were hitting with their thoughts
- If you are a spin player then make then a 1 would be a ball that moves straight from point A to point B and a 5 would be a ball with a high arch and a lot of movement through the air.
- If you are a flat ball player then make 1 be a ball with a high arch and a lot of movement through the air and a 5 would be a ball that moves straight from point A to point B.
- Power (1-5)- A 1 would be a ball that just floats over the net and a 5 would be a ball that rushes your opponent. Ask yourself if you were able to put shots away or put pressure on the person you were playing with. Also, ask yourself if your balls were landing deep or short. Be sure to ask them what they thought of your shots.
- Control (1-5)- A 1 would be you have no idea where the ball was going when you hit it and a 5 would be you knew exactly where the ball was going when you hit it. Ask yourself if you were hitting the spots you were aiming for.
Once your child has graded the demo racquet based on this scorecard, tally up the points and write down the total. Then repeat the process for the other demo racquets.
After you and your child have done this for all of the racquets you demoed that round then it’s time to see which one has the highest score. Whichever has the highest score is the winner of that round! So now it’s time to start the next round of demos! Take the winner from the last round and add 3 more demo’s that your kid wants to try out and repeat the scoring process. Keep doing this until you have demoed all the racquets your kid wants to try. I suggest having at least 3 rounds of demos. This will make sure that your child gets a nice variety of racquets and they get a good idea of what kind of racquets seem to work best for them. Then just for good luck do one more round with the winners of each round, even if it ends up being only one racquet (You might have the same racquet win every round of demos). Then it’s time to buy your racquet! Congratulations you can now go and buy a racquet with confidence knowing that you have done your homework and have picked a great racquet for you! You can buy the racquet at any of the stores you demoed from or if you’re looking for a deal you can try eBay.
I hope that this article was helpful. Please let me know how it worked for you in the comments below!