Instructional Tennis > Tennis Equipment & Apparel

Racquet, strings info.


I saw this thread and thought it may be worthwhile. I got this off a forum I came across and it has a lot of good points.

Well, here it is, and maybe a bit overdue. This thread will detail my thoughts on racquet selection, the best racquet for you, midsize, oversize, weight, swingweight, stiffness, blah blah blah.

***Disclaimer*** this is my own personal opinion, and that is what I am sharing with you. I am not saying it is the final word, the word of god, I am not saying that I am right, and dissenters are wrong. Please read with an open mind, think this information through, and comment if you wish.

This post is geared more towards the intermediate player, as beginners will have bigger fish to fry than racquet selection, and won't really have the stroke mechanics to take full advantage of the differences in frames. While advanced players should have a darned good idea of what they should be using. But I would like to think that most players could glean some insight from this thread.


Ok, the first think I want to address is brand. Pretty much every brand out there makes good quality racquets. The only ones I would steer people away from would be the wierd ones like Blackburne, Power angle, etc.

Most all companies make competing racquets in all ranges so once you figure out about what you are looking for, you can demo a few frames from a few brands, and pick the one you like best.

The single most important thing about a racquet is that you like it. You absolutely must like the way the racquet feels to you, the way it plays, the way it looks. If a racquet feels too stiff, too rattly, too dead, too light, too heavy, the grip doesn't feel right, you hate the color, or it hurts in any way when you are hitting, then it isn't the right racquet for you. This is so immensely important. If you don't like the racquet, or if you have to think at all about it, then you will not be able to play to your fullest. You should just be able to pick up your racquet and play with it.

The single most important attribute of a tennis player is consistency. You absolutely must keep the ball in play at all costs. Every shot you miss you forfiet the point. Until you get to about #200 in the world tennis is about one more ball. The difference as you go up in level is the quality of that ball, which will be addressed in the next point. So many times you hear people say "When I hit it right the racquet is awesome" what they leave out is the part about hitting it wrong and losing the point. You need the racquet that lets you hit 8 or 9 good shots out of ten, not the racquet that lets you hit one or two phenominal shots and 6 mediocre ones. If you need to do something out of the ordinary (Swing faster, swing slower, more topspin, less topspin, hit earlier, hit later.) in order to produce good results with a frame, then your consistency is going to suffer. Now, it is OK to pick something if you intend to grow into it, but be realistic, if you have been playing for 20 years once a week, take lessons once a month, are you really gonna develop that wicked western forehand you want anytime soon? Or is a more realistic goal just to add a bit of topspin to your game? Make sure you have the time and inclination to play the frame, and develop the game that suits it before you go and shell out the coin. The old saying fits about excersising and loosing weight. "It is a lot easier to buy the shorts than to do the situps".

After Consistency, the next most important thing in tennis is DEPTH. Let me say that again. DEPTH once more incase you weren't paying attention Depth above all. You can hit the most wicked topspin, you can hit the ball 100mph, it won't do you a lick of good if you are dropping them into the service box. (Assuming we all know that I am not talking about angle winners, drop shots, and other shots hit short to facilitate winning a point.) Your racquet should allow you to hit the ball deep and when I say deep, I mean beyond the service line at the minimum, preferably in the back third of the court. You should be able to hit deep AT WILL AND WITHOUT EFFORT in all types of baseline rallying. If your balls are landing short, you need more power, you can get it from weight, string, stiffness, headsize, wherever you choose, but get it from somewhere.

With reguard to racquet weight, and racquet Swingweight. I advocate playing the heaviest racquet that you can play well with. This weight is different for different people. Some people may find anything over 10.2oz to be too heavy, some people will play with a 14oz racquet. What does this mean. The primary factor that you should be able to judge ideal racquet weight/swingweight by is being able to get around on the ball. Out of all the people you play with, or intend to play, or want to be able to play with in the near future, you must be able to get around on the vast majority of their balls. What I mean by get around, is hitting the ball with your full normal swing, and not feeling rushed, and hitting the ball ON TIME. Anyone can smoke feedballs with any racquet, anyone can convince themself that they are playing great when they try out their new racquet against Aunt Thelma, and her moonballs. When you are in competition, when you are on the run, when you are playing in the wind, when you are playing on a lousy surface, when your opponent is hitting behind you, can you get the racquet around on the ball, and hit it on time? Or are you constantly late? Anyone can hit a good shot when they have plenty of time to set up, and line the shot up. If in match play, when you are on the run if you are late on the ball too often, your racquet is probably too heavy/too high swingweight. If your ball is deep in a casual rally, but it shortens up when you are under pressure, on the run, your racquet is probably too heavy/too high swingweight.
The second factor, which should only be a factor if the racquet is WAY TOO HEAVY is fatigue. If you feel tired after swinging the racquet during a hitting session, or after serving three sets, then it is WAY too heavy. Once again it is ok to buy something with a little extra heft if you like it, and have the intention of building up some endurance, but be realistic. Are you really going to put in the effort? A 12oz racquet doesn't build up your forearm muscles while it is sitting in your bag, you need to go out and hit balls with it. . . lots of them. Don't buy the racquet with the intention of growing into it if you are not prepared to put forth the effort.

When discussing weight you will hear the argument that a racquet can't be too heavy for you because women and children played with wooden racquets that weighed way more back in the day, and Sampras learned to play with wood, and he turned out OK, so you just must be a sissy if you can't play with a racquet waying Xoz. This argument is complete and utter HOGWASH (Yea I would have said something else in an unmoderated forum.) They played with heavy wood back when that is what there was. Ballspeed was NOWHERE NEAR in the league that it is now. The ball traveled slower, so you had that much more time to get around on the ball, and didn't have to put nearly as much work on the ball to maintain depth when you were countering a slower less spinny ball. I personally hit a very very heavy ball, and have had many a club player come and tell me "When we hit, I just can't get the ball past the service line". If you can't get around on the majority of balls from the people you play with, you need less weight.

Davy Crockett did ok with a musket, but I'll be damned if I am gonna wade into battle with one in 2007. Sure you could shoot someone dead with one, but given the choice I'll be taking that AR15 into battle thank you very much. Heck I can play high 3.0 tennis with a corn bristled broom (Much to the dismay of the local high school JV Team.) But that doesn't make it a good idea.

On headsize. Play with what you feel comfortable with, what you can hit the sweetspot on regularly. If you are having trouble finding the sweetspot on a regular basis, then the sweetspot is too small. Nuff Said. Headsize is also one of the areas you can get more power from.

Last edited by J011yroger : 10-07-2007 at 07:26 AM. 


(Continued from above)

Power Vs. Control. This is a big one, a HUGE source of misunderstanding. I can not begin to tell you the number of men, and juniors who hit balls long at about 7MPH and say that they need a racquet with less power and more control since they are hitting the ball long. People don't seem to grasp the concept that if their ball lands where it runs out of steam and dies, and drops to the ground, that it is NOT the racquet's fault. If you are constantly hitting balls long, but are not hitting them any or much harder than your fellow players, then you need to look within yourself for the problem, not at the racquet. You don't need a racquet with less power, you need to learn how to hit the ball in the court. Part of depth is forcing your opponent back, and if your ball lands where it drops out of the air because it has no more forward momentum, then you are not forcing anyone back. If you find that you have to hit that way in order to keep the ball deep, then I suggest trying out a more powerful racquet. Every racquet on the planet requires a certain amount of effort from the player in order to hit the ball deep and with good spin, and every racquet puts in a certain amount of help. The more work the racquet does, the less you have to do, and therefor the less control you have over the outcome of the shot. The less work the racquet does, the more you have to do, and therefor the more control you have over the result of the shot. The danger lies in two places, you selecting a racquet that doesn't do enough work for you, and you not having enough to put in on your own where you end up comming up short. Or the other end of the spectrum, you picking a racquet that puts a lot into the shot, and you wanting to put a lot in yourself, and ending up with too much. Hence the generic guides on the back of the racquets detailing long fast strokes and short compact strokes.

One last thing, now that you have determined how much power you need, you can get it from a few places.

1) Weight. Heavier racquets produce more power IF YOU CAN SWING THEM FAST. The amount of power that weight adds is proportional to how fast you can swing them. If you take a racquet weighing 10oz, and a racquet weighing 11oz, all else being the same, if you swing them with the exact same speed, the 11oz racquet will have more power. However, if the added ounce of weight makes you swing the 11oz racquet slower then the weight didn't accomplish much, and you may well end up hitting the ball less powerfully with the heavier racquet. Remember, the key is being able to get around on the ball, above all else.

2) Stiffness. Stiffer racquets are more powerful, but carry the risk of arm injuries. If you have arm troubles seek out less stiff racquets, and get your power elsewhere. Beamwith contributes to stiffness, so it didn't get its own bullet.

3) Headsize. Larger headsize, more power, bigger sweetspot, less miss**ts.

Now, items 2&3 are fairly static in adding power, what I would like to call inherent power of the racquet, while item 1 is variable depending on how fast you can swing the racquet. This explains why higher level players have the feeling that they are "Maxing out" racquets of certain lighter weights, where no matter how much harder you swing the ball doesn't go much faster, or at least reaches a point of diminishing returns.

4) String Tension. To be covered in detail in the upcomming J011yroger guide to string selection, but worthy of mention here. Looser strings, more power, tighter strings, less power.

Now, the goal is to tinker with these 4 items until you are generating a nice deep ball with good speed and spin with your normal swing you should neither feel that you must swing harder, nor temper your normal swing to get the ball to go where you want it. You should not be thinking about the racquet, you should swing your normal swing and have the ball go where you want it.

As a closing thought. And possibly the most important thing of all. 99% of the time, it isn't the racquet, it is the guy holding it. If you are trying to improve as a tennis player find something you like, find something that is close in spec to what you need, buy a bunch of them, and hit the practice courts.

If you are constantly buying racquets to add topspin to your game, make your serve better, or fix your backhands. I got news for ya.  It doesn't work that way. There is no secret to this game, no shortcut. Just hard work, and good instruction.

That is about it, I will add more/clarify if some parts seemed unclear or if I prattled on/repeated myself.

Here was my last big post about this, figured I would tack it onto the end.

Originally Posted by J011yroger 

Here is what I tell people who ask my opinion on racquet selection. The most important thing I ask is the first question I ask someone who comes to me for lessons.

What are you trying to accomplish?

If you are a tournament playing junior, or a league grinder, or an aspiring pro/college player, or a social player, I am going to answer differently.

If you are a tournament playing junior, you are going to want to pick something that will let you win now, and something that you can grow with. I want you to pick something that you like, that is appropriate for you, and will give you the best chance of winning, and competing against better players, while allowing you to dominate lesser players. Secondarily I want something that you can grow with, so you can keep the same racquet for a long time and LEARN HOW TO PLAY. I want you to be able to get better without thinking about different racquets, pick something, and stick with it. As you get bigger and stronger, you can add lead, or change string/tension (I am talking about every year, not every week). When picking something, I encourage kids to use the biggest (Lengthwise) heaviest racquets that they feel comfortable swinging for as long as they will be playing, and I try to get them onto 27" racquets ASAP. They are only going to get bigger and stronger.

The same applies to league grinders, or players who took up the game later in life, but strive to get better, these are your 40 year old 3.0 3.5 4.0 players who want to get to the next NTRP level. Pick something that works for you and stick with it, learn how to play. And pick something that you can grow with, no granny sticks, and no prestige mids.

Next category is your league/social players who have stagnated, and play the same level with no ambitions of improving. If you have played 3.5 for the last 5 years, are not taking lessons, and have no plans laid out for improving, then this is probably you. You have been playing the same way, at the same level for a long time, and you are content with that, you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what your competition is like. You know what your current racquet is like. And I say, pick whatever you like, and whatever makes you happy. You are playing, and having fun, and competing, who am I to tell you not to use a K90 or an 03 Silver. If you are a senior who is a step slower and needs something with a little more juice, or whatever, tell me what you are using, and what you want to change, and we will go from there.

If you are a college player, or an aspiring pro. You have been playing a long time, you know what you do well, you don't need me to tell you not to buy a k90 or an 03 silver. Pick whatever gives you the best chance to win, go with something that covers up your weaknesses, or enhances your strengths. Buy a lot of them, have them matched, string em up and go give em hell.

Bottom line, it isn't the racquet so much as the guy behind it, pick something close to what you need, and stick with it. Learn how to play better, or have fun, or both.

Note, I left out all of you racquet geeks. I figure you wont ask for advice from me, and will keep trying all kinds of different stuff, and tinkering with strings and lead and so on and so forth. And if that is fun for you, then great. Each person has to decide for themself if they want to take what skill they have, and see how different equipment affects it, or focus on getting themselves more skill, and keeping equipment the same. In my experience, most "Tinkerers" are done getting better through practice, coaching, and lessons, and just play recreationally for fun, keeping at a constant skill level, and just like to play around and see what different setups are like.

ah man.. he left the racquet geeks out of it, now its useless for more than half the board here! :rofl_2:

very good article swish. he does emphasize that the you have to like the racquet and feel comfortable with and that's I personally believe the most important. Even on the tour you see players playing with basically every type of racquet made. So any and every racquet is good enough to take you almost as far as you want to go, you just need to feel it and feel your racquet and grow with it.


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