Tennis Training

How to Choose a Tennis Racket, According to Science – 11 Factors to Consider

Are you using the right tennis racket? There’s more to buying a tennis racket than grip. After spending a lot of time tied up to research, I have found that deciding on a tennis racket involves many factors. That is its weight, core material, string strength, and power and control. (1)

These factors make a tennis racket special and determine how well they cope with players. For body conditioning and training, a strong tennis racket can make a huge difference. But you won’t know that unless you consider these factors before buying one.

To make sense of all the things you need to check, I’ve split this guide into 11 favorable factors you can use to your advantage. It’s nice to rely on a detailed guide, once in a while, to avoid getting tricked by unreliable brands.

With that out of the way, what you’re about to read next will change the way you look at tennis rackets forever! And this will have a significant impact on how you choose them.

1. Types Of Tennis Rackets

When you look closely, a tennis racket comes in several forms. Here, we will talk about each type of racket in detail to determine why you might consider one over another.

Power Rackets

Power tennis rackets, as the name suggests, are built for players who want more aggression and function. In the world of tennis, buying a power racket is more than a luxury to win competitions with. The function of a power racket is to help you strike the ball as often as possible with increased force.

Generally, power rackets are best used by beginners who are yet to develop and harness their skill in tennis playing. A power racket does most of the power control for you. This is why it makes a good choice for men, women, and children who don’t possess a lot of strength for hitting hard.

The common characteristics of a power racket are: a stiff frame, lightweight, big frame size, and larger head. The oversized head provides more power while the increased length of the tennis racket offers directional control. The stiff frame and light construction increased speed without compromising on physical comfort and flex.

All these features play in combination to provide players with enhanced speed, power, and control. (2,3)

Control Tennis Rackets

A control tennis racket is built for players who want control more than power. This is when you possess the physical strength to swing the racket and hit hard, but directional control is what you’re lacking. A control tennis racket is what most intermediate and professional tennis players use. It has the necessary build and function to place the ball more efficiently and accurately.

But, it must be said, never jump straight to the conclusion that you’re ready to use a control racket. I would advise you to consider all types and its pros and cons before trying out a control racket on the field.

The common characteristics of a control racket are: A flexible frame, heavyweight, short body, and smaller head.

The small size increases directional control and reduces “springiness” and power. The hitting spot is more enhanced, offering lower chances of error. The reduced length offers the player more flexibility and swinging control, unlike in a power racket.

This category of tennis rackets is more suitable to generate a fraction of power in coordination with your physical strength. Just by simply swinging the racket, you enhance your footwork and body language, and some of the credit does go to the making of the control tennis racket.

Tweener Tennis Racket

Tweener rackets fall somewhere between a power and control tennis racket. It possesses the aggression of a power racket and the directional control of a control racket. That said, this category of tennis rackets are great for all-round performance.

If you want a blend of power and control, especially for occasional and recreational players, a tweener tennis racket is the ideal choice. It also works for beginners and younger players who want to experience the complete package.

The common characteristics of a tweet tennis racket are: a mid-sized frame, mid-weight construction, mid-stiff core, and mid-length body.

As you may have noticed, a tweener tennis racket is the “in-between” of the first two. Which makes it perfect for all kinds of playing styles and skills.

2. Open Or Closed String Pattern – What’s The Difference?

Both types of string patterns have their own key advantages and disadvantages to consider. But side-stepping a tennis racket’s string pattern completely during purchase is a big mistake, even for a beginner. (4)

Here’s what you need to know about using different string patterned rackets for tennis.

Open String Pattern

An open string pattern offers less crisscross strings. It has a relatively open and more flexible string pattern to take notice of. Also, an open string pattern comes with more space between the strings, ideal for spinning control.

Players prefer an open string patterned tennis racket when they want to spin the ball. It also offers more power when the ball comes in contact with the core. By nature, this type of pattern is more flexible and moldable to play with. It delivers plenty of force and spin to move forward, which is its main focus.

However, the cons of using an open string patterned tennis racket are: the strings are prone to snapping after constant use, the racket is less during due to the wider string spacing, and not ideal for hitting aggressive shots.

Closed String Pattern

A closed string pattern offers increased intersecting or crisscross strings. The effect it has on performance is that it enhances directional control and stability. It does have a slight, positive impact on power, but it’s more suitable for control.

Players who might opt for a control tennis racket will chose a closed string pattern over the former. But the main purpose of buying a closed string patterned tennis racket is not so much about performance, but durability.

Because of the tight spacing between the strings, this type of tennis is more rugged, effectiveness, and long-lasting. This makes it one of the best tennis rackets to buy on the market. And it’s ideal for beginners, intermediates, and professionals.

3. Choosing The Right Tennis String Material

Tennis strings are either made up of natural gut or synthetic materials. Synthetic strings consist of several options such as nylon, polyester, or Kevlar. Selecting the right tennis string material can be a confusing process, but it gets easier with this. (5)

Natural Gut Strings

The easiest place to start when choosing different types of tennis strings is considering natural gut strings. Natural gut strings are rather unusual in their construction. They’re made of the gut of a cow, with the help of a complex transition process.

Tennis rackets made of natural gut are the most durable and effective rackets used by professional players. They offer an enhanced feel and control that other materials do not. Plus, they’re great for increasing spin, flexibility, and force. (6)

Pros:

They offer perfect spinning control
Good for elasticity
Adaptable and stable to use

Cons:

They’re expensive than synthetic strings
Prone to breakage or snapping after daily, heavy use
Not moisture-resistant


Synthetic Strings

Using synthetic strings, on the other hand, invites versatility and efficiency. You will that synthetic strings are way durable and heavy-duty than natural gut strings. They include materials such as nylon, Kevlar, and polyester. Plus, they more affordable to use for a long period of time.

You need synthetic strings if you’re not that comfortable using natural gut strings, which is completely understandable. The price and quality of synthetic strings are hard to beat down. And they’re definitely more appealing for competitive playing, all thanks to its enhanced durability features.

Each synthetic material comes with its own pros and cons. So reviewing each before making a purchase is very important. (7)

Nylon

Nylon strings are the most popular and durable strings to use on the market. They’re aren’t made of the standard nylon material used for clothes. For tennis rackets, nylon is processed into high-quality fibers that offer durability and grip.

Polyester

Polyester strings are next when you want enhanced feel and power for your performance. They offer a softer feel than nylon strings, but are superior in terms of endurance and resistance. Players often opt for polyester strings for competitions. But it’s not the ideal choice for a recovering tennis player.

Kevlar

Kevlar is the “next generation” choice for most players. It has the strongest and more aggressive strings on the market. For super-quick transitions and power, opt for only Kevlar strings. Similar to polyester, there’s not designed for the faint-hearted tennis player.

4. What’s The Ideal Grip Size For You?

A tennis racket’s grip size concerns the size of your hand. And it’s not surprising to know that different people have different hand sizes, so finding your ideal grip size isn’t that simple.

Modern tennis rackets come with a standard grip size chart for players. It’s like then you’re picking up new shoes, if it’s not your size, it’s not right. Using a grip size chart or scale while buying is a good way to save time and sometimes even money!

Ultimately, you need a tennis racket that’s comfortable to hold and play with for a long time. It doesn’t cause heat or moisture build-up and doesn’t injure your wrists or cause irritation. All these factors need to be taken seriously for you to find something comfortable.

There are a few ways to measure your hands for the ideal tennis racket grip size. They are called the index finger test or the ruler test. You can try out either one to find your size. (8)

If you ask me, the latter is more effective and easier to put into action than the former.

You need to make use of your dominant playing hand to measure. Extend your fingers, leaving no space between each finger. Place a ruler on your hand, parallel to your third finger, that is the ring finger. Make sure you the ruler is aligned with the bottom lateral crease in the palm. Your size should be between the lateral crease in the palm to the tip of your ring finger.

Based on the final measurement, you can tally it against the common European and US sizes for tennis rackets. You can find your ideal tennis racket grip size here, easily.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the right tennis racket grip size:

  • If the size of your playing hand falls in-between two measurements, opt for the smaller one. The best way to mediate between two sizes is to use an overgrip to help increase the grip one size up.
  • A tight tennis racket grip may cause severe injuries, including fatigue and sweating; targeting the hand, wrist, forearm, and elbow. (9)
  • Similarly, a lose racket grip can negatively impact your wrist movements; making it difficult to hit hard shots and spin.
  • You want a tennis racket that offers full-range of motion and spinning control. Anything too tight or large might hinder your performance.

5. Picking The Head Size

Some might prefer choosing the head size before the grip size, but the point is that you should. Picking the head size of a tennis racket carefully can have major advantages. The racket’s frame and strings constitute the head size. And it’s responsible for the amount of power the head can produce, with a larger or smaller hitting area.

That said, it’s obvious that a larger tennis racket head size means a larger hitting area. And the effect it has on performance is impressive because a large head size makes it easier to hit balls around the center of the frame.

According to research, the standard head size of a tennis racket falls between 85 to 135 square inches. And this range is divided into three explainable categories: oversize, mid-plus, and mid-size tennis rackets.

Oversize rackets, as you might have already guessed, falls above 105 square inches. Mid-plus tennis rackets fall between 95 to 105 square inches. And mid-size tennis rackets range somewhere below 95 square inches.

An oversize tennis racket is more suitable for beginners for more power and less control. A mid-size offers plenty of control, which is perfect for experienced tennis players. And mid-plus tennis rackets are the combination of oversize and mid-size rackets, offering a blend of power and control for unmatched performance.

When it comes to choosing the correct head size, you might want to look at the racket’s power and hitting surface area. These are the only two factors that play a role in a tennis racket’s head performance. (10)

6. How Light Or Heavy Is It?

Taking weight into consideration when choosing a tennis racket is very important. There are 3 weight categories of a tennis racket: heavy, medium, and lightweight. Each has its own characteristics, pros, and cons.

That said, the best way to measure a tennis racket is using its balance points. This is proven effective and accurate by many professional players in the tennis industry. And you will think the same way to once you incorporate it in your decision-making process.

How to measure a tennis racket’s balance point?

The balance point of a tennis racket is finding the right part or place on the racket from where it’s perfectly balanced. You can do this by placing the tennis racket on a straight rod. Adjust the placement of the racket until it doesn’t lean on either side. This measurement will tell you exactly how light or heavy your tennis racket is.

  • If the balance point is more than halfway up the racket, then it’s considered lightweight.
  • If the balance point is less than halfway up the racket, then it’s considered heavy.
  • And if it falls somewhere between both balance points, it’s medium-weight.

You can calculate balance points in points, where each point measured is equal to one-eighth of an inch. (11,12)

Here’s what you need to know about a lightweight, heavy, and medium-weight tennis racket, based on its respective balance points.

Lightweight (Head-heavy)

Lightweight tennis rackets offer more elasticity and mobility, which is ideal for beginners. Moreover, they help you swing the racket faster with less physical force, which is also good for spinners.

However, they’re not the ideal fit for power-driven shots. And they might be less durable and shock-absorbent for professional players.

Medium (Balanced)

Balanced tennis rackets suit the playing style and skill level of an intermediate player. They offer a blend of power and control, that is the combination of head-heavy and head-light rackets.

However, they’re not ideal for players who want either power or control from their racket.

Heavy (Head-light)

Head-light tennis rackets offer more of everything: power, control, and balance. Advanced players benefit the most from using head-light rackets as it requires less force on behalf of the player. You might also like its durability and shock and impact-resistant features.

However, they’re less maneuverable to use than lightweight or medium tennis rackets. This makes them a limited to only advanced tennis players.

7. Don’t Forget To Consider Swing Weights

Racket weight and swing weights are two different factors to take into consideration.  Swing weights ranges from anywhere from 0 to 1000, which tells you how light or heavy your racket feels, only during swinging. This has nothing to do with the racket’s weight, as mentioned above based on its balance point.

To know how to carefully measure the swing weight of a tennis racket, click here.

Moving forward, based on the measurements you take, you can calculate the ideal swing weight here.

With that out of the way, it’s important to know the basics of swing weights and the kind of effect it has on player performance. Many players prefer taking a tennis racket’s swing weight into consideration, rather than the tennis racket’s actual weight itself. This is because you get to know the swinging weight of the racket, which is the whole point of it anyway.

If your tennis racket’s swing weight is higher, it means the racket is heavier to swing. On the other hand, if your tennis racket’s swing weight is lower, somewhere from 280 to 350, it’s what most tennis rackets are weighed.

A lower swing weight means better maneuverability, increased speed, and spin. Anything below 310 is considered a low swing weight. Meanwhile, some advantages of a high swing weight, such as enhanced stability and power, can prove beneficial for more advanced players. Anything above 330 is considered a high swing weight.

A medium swing weight offers a blend of power, speed, spin, and control. Beginners, intermediates, and recreational players benefit the most from a medium swing weight. Anything in-between 311 and 329 is considered a medium swing weight.

8. What’s The String Tension and Gauge?

There are 3 variations to a tennis racket’s string tension: low, in-between, and high. This explains the level of pressure or compression a racket’s string structure has. If you’re manually getting your racket strung at a local shop, this is the first thing to look for based on your playing style and skill level.

You will only be able to determine the right string tension of a racket by the string material and the racket’s swing speed. The general function of a low string tension is that it offers more power and spin. It even features a softer, more comfortable feel. A high string tension, on the other hand, offers more maneuverability and balance.

Anything less than 50 lbs is considered as low tension, while anything above 60 lbs is high tension. The in-between factor is what ranges somewhere from 50 to 60 lbs. (13)

The next important factor to consider is string gauge which measured the thickness of the strings used. This has a direct effect on the feel and spin of your tennis racket. Based on my research, modern tennis rackets are standardized from 15 to 20 which is 1.43mm to above 1.10mm in diameter.

The most common string gauge is between 15 to 18. Anything higher than 18 offers a thinner spring build, which means the better elasticity, power, and spin. The thinner the string of a tennis racket, the better function. But the only drawback to this is durability. Thinner strings are prone to snapping than thicker strings, so this depends on your playing style. (14)

9. The Length Of Your Tennis Racket

The ideal length of your tennis racket should range somewhere from 27 to 28 inches. It can be said that 29-inch rackets are long tennis rackets. If you want added power and control, opting for a 27-inch tennis racket is best.

It’s the traditional measurement for tennis rackets for beginners, intermediates, and professionals. It’s the total measurement from the base of your racket to the top of the head.

According to recent research, these are the following marks of a traditional tennis racket on the market.

  • A traditional tennis racket measures somewhere between 27 to 28 inches.
  • It offers a blend of power and control, in coordination with maneuverability and elasticity.
  • It’s the best tennis racket for younger and smaller players.

These are the following marks of a long tennis racket on the market.

  • Long tennis rackets are generally longer than 28 inches up to 29 inches.
  • They are commonly used by advanced players for better swing and leverage.
  • Because of its tall frame, these tennis rackets offer better spinning and swinging control when in contact with the ball.
  • It’s easier to cover more ground with a long tennis racket than a traditional one.

10. Considering Racket Flexibility And Stiffness

Stiffness and flexibility has a significant impact on racket performance. It indicates how energized a tennis racket is during swinging. Plus, it impacts spinning control, elasticity, and power.

The first factor to start with is a racket’s flex rating. This demonstrates how much a racket bends or flexes when it comes in contact with the ball. According to research, the standard flex rating of a tennis racket is from 0 to 100. 100 being the stiffest you can possibly use, while lower numbers offer more flexibility.

As a first-time buyer, you want to look for a tennis racket that’s good for power and control. The mid-range flex rating of the ideal tennis racket for you would be 60 to 65. Tennis rackets that fall under this range are soft, flexible, and effective.

If you’re thinking about using a stiffer tennis racket, you should know that a stiff racket allows hardened elbows, which is a complete no-no for beginners and younger players.

To put into simple words, you want a flexible tennis racket which allows better power, control, and more shock absorption. It also promotes ball pocketing, which is essential for most tennis players.

Stiff tennis rackets offer plenty of power without the maneuverability and shock absorption. So only a few advanced players might benefit from it. (15)

11. Do You Want Your Tennis Racket Strung?

The last thing you’d want to consider is the possibility of buying a pre-strung or unstrung tennis racket. If a tennis racket’s frame, handle, and length suit your style, but you want customized string features, you can buy an unstrung tennis racket. But if you don’t want to put in the extra effort of getting it strung at a local shop, buying a pre-strung racket is essential.

Considering a tennis racket’s frame and considering its string settings are two very different things. It’s possible you might love the racket’s design based on your playing style and skill, but not the strings. As you already know, there are many variations to a racket’s string. It includes string tension, thickness, material, weight, and pattern.

Here’s what you need to know about pre-strung and unstrung tennis rackets.

Pre-strung tennis rackets

  • They are suitable for beginners and recreational players who do not have much knowledge about tennis rackets. And who want something more universal to match up to their playing style.
  • It’s a good companion for beginners to learn new techniques and get the feel of a professional tennis racket.
  • They are relatively inexpensive and easier to get.

Unstrung tennis rackets

  • They are better suited for intermediate and advanced player prefer customizing. You can pick out your style, core, size, and type without compromising on other important features.
  • They allow you choose your ideal racket type and make and customize the string tension and frame according to its design.
  • They are expensive and require more effort to build.

Conclusion

When researching this guide, I realized that buying a tennis racket, for the first time, is not as difficult as it seems. If you’re trying to learn something new, knowing how to buy a tennis racket by yourself is a good way to start. And it helps if you don’t have the kind of money to be able to afford an expensive, popular choice; especially what professional players use.

The goal is to buy something valuable, effective, and durable. Whether you’ll be using it on a daily basis or for recreational weekend trips. Carefully tailoring your choices based on your skill level is a good way to buy the right tennis racket, all at a good price. And as a result, your master new and exciting techniques faster.

Tennis is a challenging sport, but it feels almost impossible when you have the wrong tennis racket. If your racket is unable to deliver in terms of power, control, elasticity, and spin, it’s time to look for a racket that can.

Nothing beats down the performance of a good, durable tennis racket. More importantly, it offers better conditioning and you feel much stronger with training. It’s no surprise that beginners sustain injuries during their first few weeks of tennis practice, but it shouldn’t be an outcome of a bad and delicate tennis racket.

Hence, reading this guide before choosing the best tennis racket is important for you. I have compiled a detailed rundown of all the factors you should consider, such as racket weight, length, head size, string tension, and core.


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