Tennis Racket Buying Guide
Modern tennis rackets vary in length, weight, and head size.
21' to 26' is normally a junior's length, while 27' or 27.5' are for stronger and taller adult players. Weights of a racket also vary between 8 ounces unstrung and 12.5 ounces unstrung.
Head size also plays a role in a racket's qualities. A larger head size generally means more power, and a larger 'sweet spot' that is more forgiving of off-centre hits. A smaller head size offers more precise control. Current racket head sizes vary between 88 sq. inches and 137 sq. inches.
Longer rackets were introduced by Dunlop in order to give additional reach for shots such as the serve and volley where shorter players may be at a disadvantage. Midsize or mid-plus rackets are the general standard for professional players.
In the past tennis rackets were made of wood but are now constructed either of graphite or aluminium.
Stringing (material, pattern, and tension) is an important factor in the performance of a tennis racket. A few elite players use natural gut, but the vast majority of strings are a nylon or polyester synthetic. Some players (Pete Sampras is a prominent example), consider the natural string to be more responsive, providing a better 'feel', but synthetic is favoured for its superior durability, consistency, as well as much lower cost.
Some strings are made of synthetic threads of material that are spun together to produce a string that is very strong yet flexible. These strings deform when they make contact with the tennis ball but quickly resume their normal length. This transfers a great deal of energy to the tennis ball very quickly, causing the ball to rocket off the racket face.
The tendency of the strings to deform is beneficial to the recreational player, since even an off-centre shot will still tend to rebound back in the intended direction. Elite players will stretch the strings tauter and under greater pressure, to produce a harder return. This reduces the deformation of the strings, increasing the need for a player to precisely and accurately strike the ball.
Some strings are not of uniform diameter along their length. Instead, strings that run parallel to the racket handle can increase in diameter from the bottom of the racket to the racket central region and then taper in diameter towards the top (or toe) of the racket face.
This acts to direct the most efficient hitting zone (the 'sweet spot') more to the toe, which is the region where most recreational players tend to make contact with the tennis ball. By altering the string design, tennis racket manufacturers can produce a racket that is easier and more pleasurable for a recreational player to use.
String pattern (the vertical/horizontal grid) is a function of the racket head size and design. A tighter pattern is considered to deliver more precise control; a more 'open' pattern to offer greater potential for power and spin. Modern rackets are marked with a recommended string tension range.
The basic rule is that a lower tension creates more power (from a 'trampoline' effect) and a higher string tension creates more control (the less 'trampoline effect' the more predictable the power and angle of the departure from the string bed.)
The grip was originally made of wound leather. However, this material would become slippery when covered with sweat and would become brittle with age. Modern-day grips are synthetic, which provide moisture absorption and cushioning.
One of the most important features when comparing tennis rackets is flexibility. The flexibility of a racket relates to how powerful a racket is. In general, a firm or stiff racket is a powerful racket in that it will generate more power in your stroke. A flexible racket helps to control your shots and is better suited for a stronger player.
Rackets are weighted differently. When the weight is at the head end, the racket is said to be head heavy and more appealing to a baseline style of play. Rackets with the weight evenly distributed are more suited to an all-court player. A racket with the weight in the handle is head light and tends to be more manoeuvrable.
Adult Tennis Racket Size Guide
4 1/8 inches=1
4 1/4 inches=2
4 3/8 inches=3
4 1/2 inches=4
4 5/8 inches=5
Juniors - most suitable grip size - 1 or 2
Women - most suitable grip size - 2 or 3
Men - most suitable grip size - 3 or 4
How to Measure Your Grip Size
On your dominant hand note that your palm has three main creases. Hold your hand flat, with the fingers alongside one another. Measure from the middle crease of your palm, up the line between your middle and ring fingers, to a point equal to the height of the tip of your ring finger. If your between eighths round up to the nearest eighth of an inch.
Size Guide for Junior Tennis Rackets
17-10' Ages 2-4
21' Ages 4-5
23' Ages 6-7
25' Ages 8-10
26/27' Ages 11+
This Buying Guide gives general advice on Tennis Rackets. It is intended as a guide only and we always recommend visiting one of our stores and talking to the experts in our sales team if in any doubt about what to buy.