Buying a tennis racket for the first time can be confusing. There are countless models on the market, each with different weights, head sizes, lengths, and balances. Each manufacturer produces a wide range of rackets catering to all types of player, from novice to pro.
It is vital that the tennis racket you use matches your skill level. Getting the right racket not only will make your learning process more enjoyable and help you get better in the game of tennis, but it’s also important for minimizing the risk of permanent injury to yourself.
Here are some things to consider when buying your first tennis racket.
Grip size – A tennis racket grip that fits properly in your hand will allow you to have better control over the tennis racket and to play a better game of tennis. A tennis racket with grip that is too small will twist in your hand on off-center hits and will lead to injuries to the wrist and elbow. A tennis racket with grip that is too big will make you hold the racquet tighter than normal, decrease wrist snap on serves and can also cause wrist and elbow.
Tennis rackets made for adults have grip sizes from 4 to 4.75 inches. A simple way to find the right size grip for you is to hold the racquet, and put the index finger of the opposite hand in the space on the handle between your finger tips and your palm. If there is too much space between the index finger and the fingers holding the racquet, the grip is too big. If there is no space, the grip is too small. If you are between sizes, go with the smaller size and add an over grip or heat-shrink sleeve for the perfect fit
Length – The length of the tennis racket is measured from the bottom of the handle to the top of the head. The length you chose depends on your physique and what type of tennis game you play. Tennis rackets made for adults are usually between 27 to 28 inches long. A longer racquet will add power to your serve, but will limit your ability to maneuver quickly. For a novice player, the traditional or standard length is recommended. The traditional racket combines both power and control, while making it easier to handle for if you are a smaller player.
Weight – Beginners should choose a racquet weighing 10 to 11.5 ounces, which falls in the catalog of a mid-weight racket. Mid-weight rackets are usually between 9.8-10.9 ounces and combines control and power. Rackets in this weight range will be appropriate for most types of players. Lighter rackets will let your arm absorb most of the force of impact generated each time the racket hits the ball. Over time, the constant pounding could lead injuries to your wrist, elbow, and arm.
Balance – The center of gravity or balance point of a tennis racket frame is the midpoint between the bottom end of the handle to the top of the racket head. For a beginner a neutral balanced or slightly head heavy racket is a better bet. Lighter, head-heavy tennis rackets are good for power. Experienced players prefer heavier rackets that are neutral balanced or head light for more speed and maneuverability.
Head size – As a tennis beginner, go with an oversize tennis racket. Oversize rackets have heads between 110 to 125 square inches. The larger head will give you more area to make contact with the tennis ball. The bigger racket head will be more forgiving on off-center shots, and you have a larger sweet spot area. Also a bigger racket head will give you more powerful shots. A smaller tennis racket head size gives you more control.
Head shape – Modern tennis rackets are usually oval. As a beginner, it’s best to use a teardrop head shape, which allows for more control and allows more of the racket face to act as the sweet spot
Frame flexibility – For more power and control, stiff frames are best. Flexible frames will give you less of both, but will absorb more impact. Graphite racquets come in flexible to stiff frames, while those made from aluminum tend to be more flexible. If you’re a beginner, though, head size will be more important than flexibility.
Stiffness and flexibility – Until your muscles become accustomed to the impact forces of the racket hitting the ball, pick a racket with a shaft that has medium flexibility. With a medium stiff racket, the impact force generated from the racket coming into contact with the ball will be adsorbed by the racket and not transmitted to your arms.
String tension – Cheaper rackets geared toward the beginner and recreational tennis players come pre-strung. If you have a racket that is custom build, tension the strings mid-range or lower within the limits set by the racket manufacturer. For more power, the racquet should be strung at the low end of the range, since lower tension equals more power. Higher string tensions offer less power but provide better control
Price – Amazingly enough, you can pick up a beginners racket for as little as $12. It will be made of light aluminum, come factory strung, usually with a medium-wide profile and a mid-plus to oversize head. The big discount chains usually have several models selling for under $20. If you just hit around casually now and then, you probably don’t need anything more. A custom build tennis racket will cost you at least $70 to over $100.