A pro NBA player with knock-off Payless shoes can still dunk. A Grandmaster with a chessboard from D.I. can still checkmate you. A writer with a pen found in the lost property bin can still write an award winning novel. An ATP tennis player however, cannot win Wimbledon with just any racquet.
The 5 most important things to consider when looking for a tennis racquet are: 1. Weight 2. Head size 3. Beam width 4. String tension 5. Grip size
In this post, I mention a few tennis words some of you may not be familiar with. If there’s a “*” or a “#” by it, I’ve written a brief definition below.
8 – 14 oz. A pro’s racquet is usually 11-14 oz. The harder you hit, the more the racquet vibrates. For this reason, the better/stronger the player, the heavier the racquet, as this combats vibration.
85 – 115 sq.in. (with pro’s racquets usually being between 85 – 100 sq.in.*). A head smaller than 100 sq.in. is considered a “midplus” and a head over 100 sq.in. is considered “oversize”. The serve and volley player## will get the midplus and the baseline player### will get the oversize. Most pro’s generally get midplus, as it offers more control (at the expense of power and larger sweetspot**)
17-30mm (with a pro’s racquet usually being less than 22mm) The thinner the beam, the better “feel” a player has, bowing better control. A thinner frame also enables a player to put more spin on the ball without it hitting the edge of his frame. A thicker frame is for beginners, or people who need the racquet to generate their power, at the expense of feel/control.
50-75 lbs (with pro’s usually having more than 60lbs) Higher tension = more control; lower tension = more power.
More important than you might think. The wrong grip size can give you tennis elbow*** I use a 4 1⁄2 grip size.
Now for the obvious question. What’s the best racquet ?
Possibly the 2 greatest tennis players of the 90’s: Andre Agassi**** and Pete Sampras# used completely different racquets, yet both were world #1’s. How is this possible you ask.. well.. it depends on what kind of player you are. Despite Sampras and Agassi both being incredible, their approach to tennis was very different. Sampras was a serve and volley player##, while Agassi was a baseline player###. So, as should be apparent by now, there is no best racquet, but there is a best racquet for YOU. You pick a racquet based on your style of play, strength, gender, height etc..
So, now on to more important things, such as MY tennis racquets. I just bought 2 Head Liquidmetal Radical MP’s. Why did I buy 2 ? All good players like to have at least 2 (sometimes 3 or 4) identical racquets with the same grip and, more importantly, the same strings at the exact same tension. I typically break strings#### after about 10-12 hours of play. When my strings break I want a backup racquet that feels the same to be able to continue my match. (once I was unlucky enough to break the strings on both of my racquets during the same match. That’s just plain bad luck, but I think it would be ridiculous to buy 3 of the same racquet for the 1 in a thousand chance that I’ll need it.
The specs for my new racquets are 98 sq. in. 11.2 oz. and 27 in. long, with synthetic gut strings strung at 60lbs tension. My previous racquets were Head Ti. Radical’s (yes people, liquidmetal is stronger than titanium) In high school, I used to play 5 times a week. In the last 4 years I’ve played a total of about 6 times. Hopefully buying new racquets will be motivation to play a little more often. I do plan on playing in the BYU Intramurals this spring and summer. It should be fun, although to perform at the level I used to, I’m going to need to practise some more. If any of you reading this play tennis, and are in Provo, UT, let me know..
Definitions for those of you who aren’t tennis inclined:
*Bagel: In tennis, winning a set 6-0 is commonly referred to by tennis players as a “bagel” …similarly a “breadstick” is where the score is 6-1
**Sweetspot: The sweetspot on a tennis racquet is the area of the head where you can hit the ball and it still is a solid hit. On a racquet with a small sweetspot, only hitting the ball centre-on will yield a good hit)
***Tennis elbow: (lateral epicondylitis) The common extensor tendon origin at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus get inflamed and/or torn.
****Andre Agassi is one of the few exceptions to the “most pro’s play with a midplus rule”. He currently uses a Head Flexpoint Radical OS (107 sq. in. and 11.1 oz.). He’s your textbook Baseline player###
#Pete Sampras used a St. Vincent edition of a Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 Original (85 sq. in. and 12.6 oz.). He was your textbook serve and volley player##.
##Serve and volley player They have a big serve, and immediately rush the net afterwards, finishing off the point.(They use a midplus racquet). They are especially good on fast surfaces i.e. grass.
###Baseline player They stay at the back of the court almost all the time, and usually have a good return of serve. (They use an oversize racquet). They are especially good on slower surfaces i.e. clay.
####Breaking strings This is something most people don’t understand. Breaking strings has little to do with how hard you hit the ball…surprised? It’s actually to do with how much spin you put on the ball. Spin causes your strings to slide, and it’s the friction that causes them to fray and then snap.