* Long post alert
* I had to double check if this forum was called "Tennis Discussions" or "ATP/WTA Discussions". I think I am fairly within my boundaries to talk about tennis related things here and not just Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray related things.
A little background and context:
My brother, age 12, has been playing for about 4 years. I want my brother to consider upgrading his racquet, he's been playing with the current one for nearly 4 years and in my opinion, a change to a better racquet wouldn't hurt and it would help him. The racquet he plays with currently was my old Wilson nCode nVision. Specs off the top of my head are something like:
Weight (strung): 9.2 oz
String pattern: 16/20
Balance: 1pt HH
I played with it for a few short months back in the day but my brother really likes it. My problem with it are it's WAY too light. I keep focusing on his form and his swing to get some depth on the ball and he's doing fine with it, but I think a heavier, more stable racquet will definitely help him return harder hit shots and get more power on his shots so that he can work on hitting with more spin to control the depth. So far we have tried:
Babolat Aeropro Drive GT - a friend of ours let us borrow it.
Babolat Pure Drive Roddick - my cousin has this
Head Liquidmetal Radical - someone let us borrow it.
And we plan on demoing 4 racquets from tennis-warehouse.com. So does anyone have any suggestions? I don't want to impress my preferences on my brother but what I think would suit him would be a 98-100 sq.inch racquet, probably around 11oz strung and about 2-4 pts headlight, strung. His playing style, obviously still very much a work in progress: he has a sweet two handed backhand that makes me jealous, and that's saying a lot because I love my single handed backhand, his forehand is definitely the more versatile shot but it's been erratic off late, working on his top spin on and off, power and depth and such but definitely his finishing shot. He loves to volley, just yesterday he told me "When I go to high school I want to be known as the kid who serves and volleys". His forehand volley is solid, backhand volley.. needs more wrist strength. His serve.. I don't work on his serve with him and it's rather mediocre for the time being but I try and focus on getting his form down and make sure he feels like he's hitting a comfortable shot with good contact. I really emphasize the feel-good factor. In my opinion, the best shots and strokes are the ones that feel the best and if I can mentally nail down that "perfect" form and know how good that can feel, I can go out on court and practice that and eventually get better.
I want him to have a solid baseline game that's consistent, rather than powerful. In highschool I was the type of player who had an awesome serve, an awesome forehand, not much of a backhand but very consistent with my defensive slices, and not much of a volley. But I lost a lot of matches to "inferior" opponents because they simply got back the ball across the net and I'd either go for too much, or simply not be able to put the ball back in play because I was not fit enough to move forward/back and footwork was never a priority for me in the past. I don't want my brother to fall into that trap. There's no worse feeling than knowing that you are the better player and losing to someone not as good. I'd rather he get back the ball, nice and easy, and play the point than kill the ball into the net with a forehand that looks amazing when it goes in.
I do teach him to dictate the ball when he's inside the baseline with directional control and we spend a lot of time working on constructing and finishing points with controlled strong shots. I do teach him to approach and volley whenever he can. I know at a high school level, just coming to the net puts pressure on the opponent and elicits an error so it's a strong strategy. But at the same time, a winner shouldn't be an all-out shot, rather it should be a strong well placed shot that you make with good margin that will force the opponent out of position and a weak return. If it becomes a winner, fantastic. But going all out on a "winner" in my opinion leads to too many missed shots. Obviously all this is in this state of development for my brother.
There, a little bit on my coaching philosophy. I am happy with my brother's progress but what I'm hoping in the next two years is
a) he gets a solid service motion down that'll translate well as he grows taller and stronger
b) he gets taller, he's just under 5ft right now, given my family and cousins and I'm at 5'9, I think he can be close to 6 eventually.
c) his fitness needs to improve and that hopefully helps him with better footwork.
I think the groundstrokes and volleys will continue to improve and I'm happy with that. And I feel like a new racquet will help him at this point, if nothing else, just mentally it's a boost and I think he deserves it and has earned it, and if it motivates him to play better then so be it. Also, I don't think it's worth going in for a "tweener" racquet. I would rather he get a fairly advanaced racquet that will last him for many years as he continues to grow with it, than get a tweener racquet only to outgrow it again.
As to the second part of my title. So when I switched from the racquet my brother currently plays with, I don't remember demoing and testing too many racquets. I don't remember how but I ended up buying a pair of nCode 6.1 95s, aka ProStaff 95. I think it's the same that Scott uses. I have stuck with them for 7+ years now and I love them. But thinking of racquets for my brother, I was excited to try new ones with him as well to see if any new racquets feel amazing. As it turns out, the more I try other racquets, the more I am in love with my racquet. Every other racquet by comparison feels huge (because most headsizes are bigger), unwieldy and head heavy. Both the Babolats we tried, I felt them to be head heavier and to swing heavier and super stiff. I absolutely love my racquet, and given that I don't play seriously enough to warrant getting myself new sticks, I think I might just stick with my racquets into the long term forseeable future. My racquet specs, as it turns out, is way heavier than any of the new sticks I tried and way more headlight which explains why I feel so in touch with it and feel the weight comfortable in my hands, and it feels so much lighter and maneuverable anywhere. Not to mention it's pretty flexible and I've never had any arm issues even though I've played with some harsh strings before.
Weight (strung): 12.6 oz
String pattern: 16/18
Balance: 12pt HL
I love this racquet. I was excited to try other racquets and maybe find a new favourite, but honestly, I love my racquet.