Our top pick for the best tennis racquet is the Wilson Blade 98 18×20. We settled on the Blade 98 18×20 due to the awesome maneuverability, precision and control it offers.
Our step up pick is the Babolat Pure Strike 16×19. Our decision was based on its excellent performance, good control and its impressiveness on volleys.
For our budget pick, we settled on the Wilson Tour Slam. We chose the Tour Slam because it delivers decent performance with adequate control, precision and stability despite costing just a fraction of the price of high end rackets.
A Little Background
Tennis is a popular sport that originated in France in the 12th century. Tennis can be played by an individual against another (singles) or by a team of two against another team of two (doubles). To play tennis, each player uses a racquet to hit a rubber ball over a net into the opponent’s court, with the aim being to play the ball in a manner that denies the opponent a chance to play a valid return. Tennis can be played by players of all ages and by all levels of society. It is also an Olympic sport.
Types Of Tennis Racquets
Tennis racquets can be classified into three major categories, which are:
Power And Game Improvement Racquets
This term is used to refer to tennis racquets that are purposely designed for power. Most power and game improvement rackets tend to be longer, lightweight and come with oversize to super oversize heads. These rackets are also usually stiffer and are either evenly balanced or head-heavy. This gives them adequate weight in the hitting zone. Power and game improvement rackets are best suited for players with short, slow swings, and who therefore need some extra power from the racket.
A wide variety of tennis racquets fall in this category. Tweener racquets are a sort of middle ground. They offer a mix of features that are found both on game improvement racquets and control racquets. Tweener racquets are generally lighter and can either be slightly head-light, evenly balanced or slightly head-heavy. They also tend to have extended lengths and medium size heads. Tweener rackets provide low medium to high medium power. They are best suited for intermediate players who have just learnt how to generate their own power and are now looking for advanced maneuverability.
Control Or Player’s Racquets
These are advanced tennis racquets that are mostly used by professional players in top tournaments. Control racquets are generally heavier than game improvement and tweener racquets. They come with thinner, flexible beams and small heads. Control racquets are balanced to be head-light. This allows them to provide advanced maneuverability and control. Control rackets are best suited for players who have already mastered how to generate their own power and are now looking for advanced control. Control rackets can have either standard or extended lengths.
How We Picked
The best tennis racquet is determined by a number of factors. Some of the factors we considered when coming up with this list include:
The weight of a tennis racquet has a very huge impact on both power and control. Heavy tennis racquets provide more power and stability to your shots. They also transmit less shock to your arm when the racket hits the ball. Lighter rackets , on the other hand, are easier to swing and allow for greater maneuverability. However, they transmit too much shock to your arm. Generally, most beginners will find a weight of 10 to 11.5 ounces to be best for them. Anything above that will feel quite heavy for a beginner.
The weight of tennis rackets is usually classified into three major categories – lightweight (head-heavy), medium and heavy (head-light). From the above, it is clear that the weight category of the racket is determined by the weight of the handle.
You can easily figure out if a tennis racquet is head-light, balanced or head-heavy by determining its balance point. The balance point refers to the point on the length of the racket where it balances perfectly. To determine the balancing point, place the racket on a straight rod. Adjust the position of the rod until the racket stops leaning towards the head or the handle. If the balance point is closer to the head, then the racket is head-heavy. A balance point that is closer to the bottom means that it is head-light, while a balance point around the middle shows that the racket is balanced. The balance point is measured using points that are equivalent to 1/8 of an inch. A 4 point head heavy racquet means that the balance point of the racquet is half an inch above the middle.
The power delivered by a tennis racquet is determined by several factors, with the most important ones being head size, head weight and frame flexibility. A larger and heavier head provides more power but at the same time sacrifices control. The heads of most tennis racquets are either midsize (85-95 inches squared), mid-plus (95-105 inches squared) or oversize (over 105 inches squared). For players with above average athletic ability, mid-plus is the best size. If your athletic ability is average or below average, the best option is an oversize rackets . However, do not go for anything above 115 inches squared, since this will provide too much power. Most professional players prefer midsize and mid-plus, while oversize rackets are best suited for beginners.
If you are a beginner, flexibility does not have as huge an impact as head size. Flexible tennis rackets provide slightly less control and power. However, most beginners won’t notice this, until they get better at the game and get a feel for different swings. Most aluminum rackets are generally flexible. With graphite rackets, you can get anything, from very flexible to very stiff. In most cases, the stiffness of the frame is directly proportional to its thickness, though the material also has an effect on stiffness.
Apart from head size and flexibility, another factor that has an impact on power is string tension. When using a tennis racket with low string tension, it might feel like there is some extra power. This is because low tension rackets make the ball fly farther. However, this does not actually mean that they provide more power. What happens is that the because of the looser strings, the ball is released slightly later into the swing. If you opt for a pre-strung racket, the best option is to go for one that has a mid-range tension range.
Adult tennis racquets have a standard length of 27 inches. Anything below that is meant for junior players. A couple years ago, extended length rackets were introduced into the market, with the aim of providing players with more reach and leverage. While the advantages of extended length rackets are subject to debate, they have been said to provide greater serving power. On the downside, they are said to decrease maneuverability.
If you are not exceptionally tall, going for a tennis racket with an extra inch is a great choice. It will enhance your serve without feeling unwieldy. However, length is just an enhancement. You should never base your decision on length alone. On the same note, avoid going for rackets that are longer than 28 inches, especially if you are a beginner.
This refers to the amount of deflection that the frame experiences after contact with the ball. Like we noted above, the stiffness of the frame has a huge impact on power. Stiffer frames bend less after contact with the ball, which in turn means that less energy gets lost. More flexible frames, on the other hand, bend more, which translates to greater energy loss. There is a common misconception among some players that flexible frames result in more power due to the catapult effect. However, this is not true. The ball is usually in contact with the strings for about 3-5 milliseconds, which is not enough time for the catapult effect to kick in. This means that none of the energy is returned to the ball. All of it gets absorbed by the frame. The less stiff the frame, the more the energy that gets absorbed.
The impact of frame stiffness goes beyond power. It also affects your control and comfort. When it comes to tennis racquet, there is a general understanding that to get more power, one has to sacrifice control, and vice versa. However, this is not a hard rule. It depends largely on the type of player as well as their ability. For instance, some advanced players might opt for flexible rackets because the player has developed a long, fast and powerful swing. For such a player, a stiff racket would provide excessive power, which would result in too many long balls. On the other hand, a beginner or intermediate player might find better control in a stiffer frame that doesn’t experience lots of deflection on impact. Similarly, experienced players who have short, compact strokes might also find more control from a stiffer frame.
Again, stiffer frames are usually deemed to be less comfortable than flexible ones, since they tend to transmit more impact shock to the arms. It’s good to keep in mind that comfort is a relative factor that cannot be measured accurately – whatever feels comfortable depends on the player. However, if you have arm or shoulder problems, its best to avoid extremely stiff frames. Finally, you should note that the frame stiffness also has an impact on the amount of spin. Generally, stiffer frames lead to less spin, since the ball spends less time on the string bed.
This is an important factor that most recreational players tend to overlook. The string pattern and density plays a role in the overall feel and performance of a tennis racket. String pattern and density is classified into two categories – open and closed.
Open string patterns experience more deflection upon impact with the ball, which in turn results into greater rebound. If you take two similar tennis racquets that are strung at the same tension, the open string pattern will feel “loose” compared to the closed string pattern. Since the open string pattern has wider spaces between the strings, the ball tends to embed itself further into the strings, which gives open string patterns rackets higher spin potential. On the downside, open string patterns are less durable. Since the strings can move more freely, they experience more abrasion, which increases the likelihood of breakage.
Closed string patterns feel “tighter” and experience less deflection on impact, which leads to less rebound energy. Owing to this “tightness”, closed string patterns also have less spin potential. However, they are significantly more durable than open string patterns. If you prefer enhanced control and you are not particularly concerned about spin, your best option is a closed string pattern racket. These rackets are also a good choice for hard-hitting players who want more durability.
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Our pick for the best tennis racquet is the Wilson blade 98 18×20. This is a high end tennis racquet that is preferred by many professional players. The Wilson blade 98 18×20 is lighter than most high end rackets and has minimal vibrations. The Blade 98 delivers stable and robust strikes. It’s good to note that the racket is head-heavy. This helps provide more power on strike and direct driven shots deep into the opponent’s’ side of the court. Some testers noted the racket’s blade made it harder for them to feel the ball at contact. However, the Wilson Blade 98’s stability, pinpoint precision, and friendly feel makes it the best choice for advanced and intermediate tennis players.
At 320 grams the Wilson blade 98 18×20 has a solid feel and delivers controlled strikes from back court. From our tests the blade 98 18×20 delivers shots of 47 pounds. The racquet offers good maneuverability and stability. It also offers a solid backhand and a nice slice, something that most tennis players will enjoy.
The Wilson Blade 98 18×20 performs optimally in all parts of the court. The precision and control offered by the racket make it possible to handle hard and soft volleys even when close to the net. The strong tight string pattern of the racket offers the best response to volleys and gives nice volleyed shots from behind the net.
When it comes to serves the Wilson blade 98 18×20 performs excellently, offering plenty of pace and spin on the ball. The weight of the racket translates to a high swing weight, but the control that comes with the weight is totally worth it. The weight coupled with the tight strings sends the ball nicely through the court at a good pace. The maneuverability, precision and control of the Wilson Blade 98 is also quite evident on service returns. You will also enjoy the solid but smooth feel on chip shots and slices.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
The strong tight string configuration creates a muted feel; some players feel disconnected to the ball at impact. Some players advocate for more weigh in the handle to improve maneuverability. However, you will easily get used to the feel of the Wilson Blade 98 after a few hours of play. Other than these flaws the rocket is an absolute best for tennis professionals and enthusiasts.
Step Up Pick
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Our choice for the step up pick is the Babolat Pure Strike 16×19. This tennis racquet delivers appealing levels of precision, spin, and pop. However, it comes with a box like beam, and is less stiff. It offers the feel and explosiveness of Wilson Blade 98 18×20, albeit with a softer drive. The racquet has a less tight string bed in comparison to Wilson Blade 98 and a slightly thicker beam. Babolat pure drive 16×19 is universally appealing with a good feel and fantastic control over the ball. These features give the racket a light but surprisingly stable response.
Just like most popular rackets, the Babolat Pure Strike 16×19 looks impressive on paper. Surprisingly, its performance is at par with the advertised specs and technologies. The light, smooth feel makes the racquet feel like an extension of the arm. The string pattern and tightness level make the player feel the impact on contact with the ball. Owing to its string pattern, the Babolat Pure 16×19 offers more power and spin. The relative lightness of the racquet gives it more spin on shots.
On volleys, the Babolat Pure Strike is quite impressive. The racket has a good handle and control which translates to easy offense. These features are commonly associated with heavy modern player rackets. The Pure Strike delivers powerful shots from the baseline deep into the opponent’s court, and it does so with a pop.
On serves, the Babolat Pure Strike 16×19 gives a good spin and easy control. The shots come with decent acceleration and power. The lightness of the racket gives it an excellent long, full swing on serves and returns. However, some players will be put off by the lightness of the Pure Strike. It can also be hard to customize.
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For those on a budget, the best pick is the Wilson Tour Slam, which is a smart buy for any tennis enthusiast or player. The Wilson Tour Slam is best suited for intermediate and beginner skill levels. However, as one improves their skill to expert levels, it becomes necessary to upgrade to a higher end tennis racquet.
For a low price tennis racquet, the Wilson tour slam delivers decent performance with adequate control, precision and stability. The Tour Slam is produced by a well-known brand, and it is just surprising that they decided to sell it at such a low price. This racquet is a must pick for beginners. It is incredibly light with a large head to unleash powerful shots. The string pattern is tight and robust to provide the much-needed maximum power upon hit. The design of the racket requires less effort while providing more power behind the swing. However, it might be a struggle to keep the ball inbounds, which will negatively impact the choice of style of play.
The Wilson Tour Slam has a built-in feature to absorb shock and reduce vibration, thereby improving control and stability. The racket packs moderate weight allowing for powerful and lower effort hits. Apart from being very affordable, the Wilson Tour Slam is also sturdy and durable. On the downside, individuals with small hands might find it to be too large.
The Wilson Tour Slam is the best choice for those who are new to tennis and are looking to improve their games. For individuals taking tennis for recreation, this racquet is the best pick.
Best Power Shot Tennis Racquet
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Technology has been extensively used to improve the feel and response of modern tennis rackets. The Babolat Pure Drive has seen a steady stream of technological tweaks which have later been imitated by other brands. The Babolat Pure Drive 2018 version comes with an updated cortex dampening system, a widened string pattern spacing and redesigned grommet holes. These features have improved the power and spin with muted feel in comparison to earlier versions. The shot trajectory is high translating to balls with a high arch and hard shots with more comfortable depth. However, beginners will have trouble managing and controlling the robust trajectory.
The Babolat Pure Drive delivers heavy volleys, big serves and piercing spin loaded strokes. It is a good pick for fearless, skillful advanced players looking to dominate the opposition. The racquet packs plenty of power and spins from the baseline. It delivers raw, explosive speed albeit with minor issues on feel and control. The Babolat Pure Drive comes with a full bed installed RPM blast, which allows the ball to move at incredible speeds with the least effort. The ease of power makes it possible to quickly collect shots that are closer to the feet with good spin and control.
The Babolat Pure Drive is best suited for an aggressive style of play with good power, good response and good speed. The volleys are easy to control even when close to the net. When delivering volleys, it is easier to manage and precisely direct the volley to any part of the court.
On serves, the racket delivers near perfect power and spin. When effectively used, the explosiveness and precision of the serves make it lethal against the opponent. The ease of effort and good swing make the Babolat Pure Drive a deadly racket on serves. On returns, the minor issues on control are compensated by its power, making it an offensive prowess. The muted feel on contact with the ball makes it hard to have a good feel on slice and challenging to control.
Best High Tech Tennis Racquet
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The Babolat Pure Aero Play is the first tennis racquet to integrate the best technology without altering the classic racquet design. Babolat Pure Aero Play offers comfortable play with its aerodynamic beam and high swing weight. It has sensors to analyze gameplay. At the bottom of the racquet, there are two buttons: one for Bluetooth and the other to switch the racquet on and off. The sensors measuring different aspects of the game are located in the grip. The battery is inside the handle and lasts for about 6 hours. There is a blinking LED light that notifies on racket status. Blue light indicates that the racquet is on, purple light indicates that Bluetooth is on, while a blinking red light is an indication of low battery. The Babolat Pure Aero Play also utilizes FSI spin technology.
Underneath the handle, a door opens to the micro -USB connector for data transfer and charging. The Babolat Pure Aero Play has gyroscopes, accelerometers and piezoelectric sensors inside the grip. The gyroscopes track the rotation of the racket to analyses how the shots are hit. The accelerometers make out the direction of the racket. The piezoelectric sensors analyze vibration upon contact with the ball to inform the player on the ideal spot on the stringed. The information from the sensor is accessed via free mobile app for both Android and iOS devices.
Microprocessors inside the grip translate, record and send information to the mobile apps via Bluetooth. From the mobile app, players can access information breakdown on shots by types and number of shots. You can also see how long the racquet has been used, frequency of shots per minute, power, power on spin and best rally. If you are looking to improve your game by getting stats and detailed analyses of your gameplay, then the Babolat Pure Aero Play is your best choice.
Best Tennis Racquet For Big Swingers
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For tennis players looking for big swings, the Head Graphene Speed Pro is the best option. The Head Graphene Speed Pro features revolutionary Graphene technology, which helps distribute weight to the ends of the frame creating a racquet with a considerable swing weight. It has the right blend of power, control and maneuverability. These features show best on serves and returning serves. The racket also packs good spin.
On the baseline the Head Graphene Speed Pro performs well with plenty of control and power. It is also very stable making it easy to plow through. On volleys, the big swing makes the racquet a dangerous arsenal even when close to the net. On different areas of the court, there is little or no need to adjust the swing to keep the ball in play. The racket performs best on large serves and slice serves. The design of the Speed Pro makes it easy to consistently use the middle to direct shots centrally. However, the broad swing makes it difficult to deal with all groundstrokes comfortably. The head size is enough to provide the sweet spot for aggressive returns without minimizing control.
Best Tennis Racquet For Shot Control
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For those looking for control, the best pick is the Prince Textreme Tour 95. The Prince Textreme Tour 95 head light balance makes it ideal for speed and maximum spin. The specs of the Prince Textreme Tour 95 are control oriented, making it easy for the player to direct shots to specific spots on the opponent’s’ court. It offers excellent contact and precision. The player also feels more connected to the ball. The lightness of the racquet is good for maneuverability and stability. However, it might be a disappointment on big serves due to its lightness.
The control and maneuverability of this particular tennis racquet come into play on ball returns. Due to its lightness, a player is fast enough to respond to almost all serves. Upon impact with the ball the racket feels solid and stable which gives the player more control over the ball. The only downside of this racket is its lightness, which negatively impacts on the serves as it delivers less power.
Best Tennis Racquet For Juniors
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The Babolat Nadal Junior 26 is our pick for the best junior tennis racquet. It is a 26-inch racquet with a head size of 105 square inches, which is ideal for children between the ages of 10 and 12. It offers same features as Nadal Pure Aero, which is the adult version. The racquet is made of a light aluminum frame, making it lightweight but durable. It is also designed for small hands. It has an adequate head size which is best suited for newbies, with room for errors to learn from.
The light frame allows juniors to play without getting fatigued. Its handling is good for exposing junior players to the art of power, control, and ball spin. The racquet comes at an affordable price but lacks crisp power and drive. The tight string pattern gives a good impact on the ball and allows enough feel for the player. However, it is not the best choice for juniors who have advanced skills. It is the most affordable racket within the category of junior racquets.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should I go for power or control?
A: Before buying a tennis racquet, it is important to decide whether you want more power, control or a mix of the two. However, there is no hard rule as which one is the best for you. If you are a beginner, you should opt for one that is light enough for an easy swing, but without compromising on power. Below are some guidelines to follow.
As a beginner, it’s best to go for a racket weighing between 9 and 10 ounces. You should choose one with an oversize head of 100 inches squared or more. This will provide more power and lessen your chances of missing the ball or making poor contact. You should also look for a frame that has a thickness of 25mm or more. Thick frames are usually stiffer, which translates into more power.
If you are an advanced player who has mastered how to generate enough power by yourself, then your best option is to go for a racquet that provides greater control. This generally means that you need a heavier racket (10.5 ounces or more) with a midsize head and a thinner frame.
If you are an intermediate player, your best bet is one that provides a mix of power and control. Ideally, you should go for one that falls between the heavy, thin framed rackets and lighter, thicker ones.
Q: Should I buy a pre-strung or a premium racquet?
A: Deciding on whether to buy a pre-strung or a premium model is another difficult choice. Pre-strung models are generally cheaper. Premium frames are quite expensive and come with some of the latest technologies you will find on tennis rackets. However, with premium models, the string is usually bought separately from the racket.
Q: At what tension should I have my racquet strung?
A: The most common tension range is 55 to 65 pounds. Having the racket strung on the higher end will give you more control, while having it strung to the lower end will give more power to your shots. You should keep in mind that power and control are inversely proportional. Increasing one leads to a reduction in the other. The best thing is to find a tension range that feels ideal to you. To do this, look at the suggested range for your frame and string your racquet to the middle of this range. Play a couple times to get a feel of the tension. Doing this will lead to one of the following three scenarios:
The racket will provide the right amount of power and control, in which case you will have found the best tension for you.
You will feel a need for more control. In this case, increase the tension on your strings by 2 pounds. This will rob you of some power, though you will regain control.
You will feel a need for more power. In this case, slightly decrease the string tension to regain some power. Keep in mind that this will decrease the amount of control.
Q: Which are the best strings?
A: There are several types of strings on the market, therefore picking the best one for your needs can a bit overwhelming. The best thing to do is to understand the different types of strings and how they affect the performance, feel and durability of your racquet. Racquet strings are commonly classified into the following five categories:
Nylon solid core: This is the most common string types and the least expensive. Nylon solid core strings come with a solid core and either one or two outer wraps. Despite being inexpensive, the hold tension well and are quite durable. On the flip side, nylon solid core strings are not very comfortable. This is because they are a bit stiff, which prevents them from cushioning the impact from the ball. You will find this type of strings being referred as “synthetic gut” by some companies.
Polyurethane/nylon multifilament: These are high quality synthetic strings. As their name suggests, they are made up of hundreds or thousands of individual fibers which are interwoven together. Multifilament strings are quite comfortable and will excellently absorb the shock from the impact with the ball. While they are pricier than nylon solid core strings, they are still affordable. They are a good option for players who want to feel the ball.
Natural gut: This are the gold standard when it comes to tennis racket strings. Natural gut strings are made from cow intestines. The advantage of natural gut strings is that they provide a high level of control without adversely affecting power delivery. They are also one of the most comfortable strings, which makes them the best choice for people who have arm and shoulder problems. On the flip side, natural gut strings are the most expensive. They are also not durable. Hard-hitters can break natural gut strings in a few hours of play. However, some companies have started using some protective coatings to make them more durable.
Polyester: These strings offer a fair level of control and power. This makes them a popular choice for advanced players who want the ability to swing hard without taking the ball out of play. They are also quite durable, making them a great choice for hard-hitters who do not want the stiffness and discomfort that comes with Kevlar hybrids. The downside to polyester strings is that they have the tendency to quickly lose their tension, though some advances in manufacturing technology are making them even more durable.
Hybrids: Like the name suggests, these are a combination of some of the above string types. Most hybrids use one string type for the mains and a different type for the crosses. The main advantage of hybrids is enhanced durability. This makes them the best choice for players who frequently break their strings. On the downside, hybrids sometimes have a “boardy” feel. However, this depends on the combination of strings used.
Q: What string gauge should I choose?
A: String gauge refers to how thick the string is. Most strings you will find fall between 15 gauge and 18 gauge, with 15 being the thickest and 18 being the thinnest. Thinner strings allow you to have a greater feel for the ball and give you greater control since they bite into the ball. On the flip side, they are more likely to break. Your best option is to buy a 17 gauge string and play with it for a couple games. If the strings break in less than 10 hours, switch to a 16 gauge. If they last for over 25 hours of play, you can advance to 18 gauge strings.
Wrapping It Up
Choosing the best tennis racquet boils down to your budget, durability, your skill level and your preferred style of play. However, if you want a racket that will give you a nice blend of maneuverability, precision and control, you should consider buying the Wilson Blade 98 18×20.
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.