Choosing a beginner tennis racquet

Buying your first tennis racquet? Don’t be confused by the number of types and brands on the shelves. Here’s a quick buying guide to help you understand the jargon and choose the best tennis racquet for you.

If you think tennis racquets are all the same, think again. They may all look the same at first glance, but the difference lies in small details that have a surprising effect on your speed, power and performance. Needless to say, choosing a first racquet can be quite a challenge for someone who’s new to the sport. How do you know which of the hundreds of models will work for you?

There are several things to consider when buying a racquet, but the main elements are grip size, head size, balance, and weight. This guide explains these elements, how they affect racquet quality, and how to choose the best one for your needs.

Grip size

Grip size refers to the width or thickness of the handle. There are five grip sizes available: Grip 1 (4 1/8 in), Grip 2 (4 ¼ in), Grip 3 (4 3/8 in), Grip 4 (4 ½ in), and Grip 5 (4 5/8 in). Grip 1 and 2 are most suitable for juniors, most women choose 2 or 3, and men usually go for Grip 3 or 4. Grip 5 is too big for most people and is made for those with unusually big hands. To see which size works for you, hold it in your hand and try to fit your index finger between your palm and the racquet. Go for the smaller size if you’re in between two sizes. You can always add grip tape if it’s too small, but there’s no remedy if the grip is too large.

Head size

The head is the round, central part of the racket used for hitting the ball. Head size is usually classified into midsize (70 to 89 square inches), midplus (90-105 sq in), oversize (110-115 sq in), and super oversize (116-135 sq in). As a general rule, the larger the head, the more powerful the racquet is. Large head size also increases the size of the sweet spot, the part of the head that gives the most power when hit. A beginner racquet should have a head large enough to give sufficient hitting power, but not enough to make it heavy or unbalanced.

Balance

Balance refers to the proportion between the head and the handle. This is largely determined by the location of the balance point, the spot where the racquet has even weight on both sides when suspended. A racquet whose balance point is close to the head is said to be head heavy, while one with a balance point close to the handle is considered head light. If the balance point is in the middle of the racquet’s length, it is considered evenly balanced.

Players who play at the baseline work best with head heavy racquets, as they provide a larger and more powerful swing. Head light racquets are more suited to net players, as they are lighter to handle and allow quick, accurate hits.

Weight

Lightweight racquets are the in thing these days; the average racquet now weighs around 11 ounces. Although most tournaments set specific racquet weight requirements, manufacturers are making lighter and lighter racquets and marketing them as more powerful, stylish and efficient. There is some truth to this claim: lighter racquets do allow easier swings and less stressful handling. However, they reduce the power transferred to every shot, so you have to swing pretty fast to get the same power as a heavier racquet.

Weight is generally related to racquet power. A “power racquet” is usually an ultra-light model designed to provide easy serves, easy volleys, and basically easier use for beginners. A Mid Power racquet sacrifices some of the power for better feel; this is usually preferred by advanced players. “Control” racquets are noticeably less powerful, but allow much better control and direction. These are often selected by skilled, hard-hitting players in team and tournament matches.

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