How to Choose a Tennis Racquet: Racquet terms explained

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Picking out a new racquet for yourself or a loved one can be daunting. With 20 different brands and hundreds of different models, choosing the right racquet can make one’s head spin. Kind of like what happens to me when I walk into a perfume store or cereal aisle. At Tennis Warehouse, I think sometimes, we forget not everyone is as into tennis as we are. Our everyday tennis vernacular isn’t very everyday and common to most recreational players. So I want to break down racquet terminology in layman’s terms in hopes of clarifying what makes racquets play and perform the way they do so you can make a more informed decision before buying your next racquet. (From Tennis Warehouse I hope.)

Head size

Mid - Less than 95 square inches (example: Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85)
Midplus - 95 to 104 square inches (example: Babolat Aero Pro Drive)
Oversize - 105+ square inches (example: Prince Premier 115L ESP)

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When we’re talking head size, we’re talking about the size of the racquet head (where the strings are). Obvious, I know. The larger the head size, the larger the sweetspot. Usually, a racquet’s headsize is in proportion to the level of player the racquet was designed for. Key word being “usually.” So racquets with an oversize head (105 sq in and bigger), tend to be meant for beginner players who need that bigger sweetspot and more power. They also tend to be more stable for those times the ball isn’t hit exactly in the sweetspot. And racquets that have mid size head’s are meant for the more advanced player.

String Pattern

16 x 19 (open)
18 x 20 (closed or tight)

String Pattern. Open vs Closed

Nowadays, there are a variety of string patterns (16×16, 16×15, etc) but for simplicity sake, we’re going to stick with the two most common string patterns found: 16×19 and 18×20. What do the numbers mean? Here’s an example. Let’s take 16×19 for instance. The first number, 16, is the number of mains in the strings. Those are the ones the run up and down from the top of the head toward the handle. The 2nd number, 19, are the number of cross strings. Those are the ones that run from side to side. The fewer amounts of strings in a racquet will equal more spin. And the more strings will equal more control. Racquet companies Wilson and Prince have come out with some extreme string patterns that are meant to dramatically increase spin.

 

Weight

Light – Under 10 ounces
Medium -  10.0 – 11.5 ounces
Heavy – 11.6 and up

Weight

Pretty self explanatory here. Like with head size, the weight of a racquet typically goes with the level of player the racquet is meant for. A beginner player, or a player that needs help generating power and racquet head speed, will go with a lightweight racquet. Intermediate players typically pick racquets up in the medium weight range while advanced, high level players will choose the heavy racquets.

 

Balance

Head light
Even
Head Heavy

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This is probably the most confusing spec we have listed for a racquet. We get lots of questions about this so I’ll do my best to clarify and simplify this. The balance of a racquet refers to where the weight of the racquet is located. If most of the racquet weight is found in the head of the racquet, it is considered head heavy. Conversely, if most of the racquet weight is located toward the handle, it would be considered head light. And if the racquet is perfectly balanced, it would be labeled as even. Picture yourself holding a hammer. if you hold it as you would to hammer a nail, you can really feel the weight of it, and if you try to take a swing, it takes some energy to do so (head heavy). But if you flipped it around and held the hammer with the heavy part in your hand and try swinging, you’ll notice it is much easier to swing with (head light). As far as the number that listed, that just refers to how head heavy or head light it is. The larger the number, the more dramatic it is. A racquet that is 12 points head heavy will feel much more sluggish than a racquet that is 1 point head heavy.

 

Swingweight

High – 330+
Medium – 311 – 329
Low – 310 and below

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Swingweight is measured from 0-1000. It’s a number/spec that is specific to the racquet industry, so don’t expect to see this anywhere else. Simply put, the higher the swingweight, the harder it is to swing. The lower it is, the easier the racquet is to swing. With these modern day racquets, you’ll find 99% of the racquets to measure between 280 – 350. The advantage of having a low swingweight is: easy to generate racquet head speed, so it’s easier to generate spin. The advantages of having a high swingweight: more power and more stability. And if you choose a racquet in between, you get a blend of both.

 

Stiffness

Low – 60 and below
Medium -  61 – 68
High – 69 and above

RT-07-Stiffness

Stiffness is measured from 0-100. The majority of racquets will fall in between the 50 to 80 range. This spec is a measure of how stiff a racquet is. Why does that matter to you, the player? The stiffer a racquet, the more powerful it is. But at the same time, it will also be more harsh on your arm. So if you suffer from any arm issues, I wouldn’t recommend picking a racquet with a high stiffness rating.

 

With so many specs to look at, you probably won’t be able to find a racquet that has every spec that is ideal for you. Which is why racquet customization has gotten very popular. But that’s a whole other blog. Which specs are most important? If I asked that question to 20 different employees here, I’d get back 10-15 different answers. Armed with your newfound knowledge, it’s up to you to decide what specs you want to put more weight on. For me, it’d be swingweight and weight. Whatever you decide on, I recommend using our demo program before you purchase. Good luck.

 

Complete Racquet Terminology Infographic. Click to enlarge.

Complete Racquet Terminology Infographic. Click to enlarge.

Jason, TW

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