HEAD SIZE - The head size of a racket is probably one of the easier to spot differences in a racket. Head sizes tend to be between 90sq" and 105sq". You can follow the rules that the smaller the head size the more control you will have, but the harder it is to make a clean contact. The larger your head size the more the strings will act like a trampoline, so you get increased power but less control.
Tom's Opinion - 95-100sq" rackets tend to suit most people. If you want a bit more spin, go for the 100sq".
WEIGHT - Rackets tend to weigh between 270g and 340g. If you go light (270g-300g) the more manoeuvrable the racket is, but you sacrifice stability on the tougher, harder shots. If you go heavier (300g-340g) you allow the racket to have more mass to swing through the ball, as long as you can start the movement and achieve the correct timing.
Tom's Opinion - Play with the heaviest racket you can manage for the longest time you ever play. So for example - if you play with a 320g racket but your arm gets tired after the first set of a 3 set match, it is too heavy for you. You want to play the first shot just like the last, so use a racket that you can manage.
BALANCE - Simply, it is where majority of the weight is situated in the racket. More professional players tend to like a head light balance as it allows you to keep manoeuvrability on a heavier racket. Perfect to hit big from the baseline but to move the racket quickly up at the net to volley.
Head heavy rackets allow the hoop to have more mass hitting the ball, but they tend to be lighter in weight. Some experts believe that this is a cause for a lot of case of tennis elbow as there is increase vibration in the handle.
Tom's Opinion - If you are starting out i recommend a more evenly balanced racket and then to quickly move on to a head light racket once your technique is good enough to generate your own power.
STRING PATTERN - Most rackets come in 16x19 or 18x20 string patterns (though there are a few variations on the market as seen on the photo below). The more strings the racket has then the more contact the string has on the ball, this gives you increased control.
If you take away a few strings to make the string bed 'open', then the string bites the ball resulting in more spin!
The lesser common two considerations, stiffness and swingweight.
STIFFNESS - Rackets flex on contact point even though we cant see it. A stiffer racket will flex less which results in less energy being lost, this means it gives the racket more power. A 'softer' racket will flex more, meaning the ball has less power given to it from the racket.
Tom's Opinion - Do you want the touch of Federer, or the power of Delpo? If you're looking for a more control orientated racket then go for a stiffness thats lower, around 63ra. If you want the racket to give you that little bit extra, then around 70ra will suit you best. Extra bit of advice! Once strung, a racket loses a few point of stiffness!
SWINGWEIGHT - Swingweight takes the weight of a racket to a more detailed spectrum. The higher the swingweight the more power the racket will give you, though you lose the manoeuvrability.
If you decide to go lower on the swingweight scale, then you lose the power potential and also can fall in to trouble of not being able to return hard, fast balls - the racket will twist in your hand.
Tom's Opinion - I give the same advice on swing weight as i do weight - the heaviest you cn handle for the longest you play for!
Then theres the cost!
COST - When starting out the cost of the racket tends to always be a factor that very much influences your decision, but as you improve and tennis becomes more of a passion then you understand that, if you want to play at your best, you're going to need to invest in one or more of the same quality rackets.
Tom's Opinion - If you play once every blue moon then you can get a recreational racket. If you are starting out but want tennis to become 'your sport' then its best to learn with a quality racket that will aid you in your progress regardless of the higher cost.
If you want to talk more about rackets and what racket would best suit you and your game, then please get in touch. I love talking rackets - maybe a bit too much!
Tom Honeywood - Tennis coach, Brighton & Hove