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Thursday, September 06, 2012 Your Guide to Choosing the Perfect Racquet

wooden racquets

Most tennis players change racquets several times during their “careers”. Many times, they fail to make the right choice, and who can fault them? If you look at any tennis website, the sheer number of frames available boggles the mind. Our goal is to simplify the racquet-buying process for you.

And, of course, once you narrow down your options, you can try them out using our Tennis Express Demo Program!

Ask the Right Question - When switching racquets, a player must ask themselves the only important question: What do I want in my new racquet that my current one is not providing? Sometimes we want combinations – i.e., a more powerful frame with greater spin – but usually one choice overrides all others. We’ll assume that for the purposes of this guide.

1. Power: Let’s say you want more power in your swing. You can get it two ways: place more mass behind the ball, or swing faster. Most club players can’t handle a heavy (11+ ounce) racquet, and would be better off finding one they can swing with more speed. Luckily, racquet manufacturers are way ahead of you here, and have many offerings in this range (called “game improvement” racquets). These frames tend to be very light weight (8-10 ounces) for increased swing speed, longer in length (27.5-29 inches) for more leverage, stiffer (flex readings in the range of 65 and higher) for more efficient energy return to the ball, have wider beams (25-35mm) once again for more efficient energy return, and have larger head sizes (100-135 square inches) for a greater “trampoline effect”, which increases ball speed. String patterns tend to be “open” (more space between the strings) for more energy return, and may even “fan” (i.e. widen at the top of the head), once again adding speed to your shots. Examples of game improvement frames are the Wilson One BLX, Babolat Overdrive 110, Head YouTek Seven Star, and Prince EXO3 Silver 115.

Those wanting a little more strength, or juniors just making the switch to an adult frame, will find the “tweener” racquets just to their liking.  Check out “lite” versions like the Babolat Pure Drive Lite and Aero Pro Lite, Dunlop Biomimetic 600 Lite, Head YouTek IG Speed Lite, and Wilson Pro Lite BLX.

Babolat Pure Drive Lite

Gamma RZR 100

2. Spin: If you want more spin, let’s be clear about one thing: there is no racquet that can create spin on its own. If you have a proper low-to-high (topspin) or high-to-low (underspin) stroke, a racquet with an open string pattern (16x19 or less) or a larger and/or wider head (for more room to brush the ball) can make spin easier to create. An extra-long frame can also add speed to your swing for more spin.

This segment of the market is where the “tweener” series of frames fits best. Lighter weights help you whip them up the back of the ball for extra spin. Almost all of them come in 100 square inch head sizes or larger for more ball-brushing area, and most are available in “plus” lengths (normally 27.5”) for extra speed on the tip of the frame (which adds even more rotation). Some of the best spin-producing frames include the Babolat Pure Drive and Aero Pro Drive series, Gamma RZR100 and 100T, the Head YouTek IG Extreme line, Prince EXO3 Warrior DB Team, and the Wilson Juice BLX series.

3. Comfort: If comfort is your goal, you’ll want to take many of the specs that provide power and toss them out. Stiffer racquets tend to transmit more shock to the arm, and lighter frames don’t have the mass to absorb vibration and shock before they get to you. What you’ll want is a heavier frame (10 ounces +), with a head light balance, softer flex (the more below 65 you can get, the better), and narrower beams (22mm or less).

The factors still in play are larger head sizes (100 sq. in. and above) for resistance to twisting on mishits, open string patterns (for a softer feel to the string face), and maybe even a “fan” pattern for a more forgiving feel. Classic comfort frames available from Tennis Express include the Avery M5 110, Gamma RZR 98T, and Pro Kennex Kinetic Ki5 315.

Pro Kennex K15
Head YouTek IG Prestige Mid Plus

4. Control: Control sticks are for players who can provide their own power. They tend to be heavier so they can’t be swung as fast. They also offer softer flexing for less power transmission, dense string patterns (the more strings that touch the ball on any one shot, the less likely it is to fly), smaller head sizes for less trampoline effect, and narrower beams so less energy is transferred back to the ball.

These racquets are the staple of good players everywhere, and are readily available from  Tennis Express. If you're looking for a "player's racquet," try the Head You Tek Prestige series, Dunlop Biomimetic 200, Prince EXO3 Rebel 95 and 98, and Wilson Pro Staff Six.One 90 BLX.

5. Maneuverability: More maneuverable frames tend to be lighter, as well as head light, with smaller head sizes for the least wind resistance. The Wilson Six.One Team BLX, Volkl Organix V1 MP, and Yonex EZONE Xi Lite are a few good options.

How Do I Get What I Want? Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for, the next step is finding a racquet (or racquets) that provide it. Once you do this, it’s time to start demoing. Take your time during the demo process and find the racquet that gives you what you want. In the end, you’ll have a racquet that will make you happy (and your opponents less so) for years to come.

Babolat Aeropro Team and Storm


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