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Tennis Racquets

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Cheap, healthy and fun, tennis is one of the oldest games in the world, and a great way to stay fit. Todayís tennis racquet is a high tech marvel that makes mastering the game a little easier. We stretch our legs on the court and talk to the pros about what makes a good racquet.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • Players of different skill levels need different types of racquets. Some top players and pros bring four to six racquets to the court with them. For beginners, one racquet will suit your needs.

  • There are many racquets on the market today, all different weights and sizes with unique strings and grips. Beginners should choose a fairly light racquet with a large head. More advanced players should remember that a heavier racquet can give more power to your strokes.

  • The most important things to look for when shopping for a tennis racquet include:

    • The sweet spot, the most responsive part of the racquet's face, gives the most power and control. If the ball makes contact with the sweet spot, it’s a solid hit with no vibration or shock. Racquets with a larger face usually have a bigger sweet spot.

    • The head size is trending toward bigger lately. Smaller racquets (84-104 square inches) are harder to use, but provide more depth control. Oversize heads are greater than 105 square inches and give you a better chance to make contact with the ball and have a bigger sweet spot. Larger racquets are also more stable on off-centre hits, and so are less likely to twist in your hand.

    • Head shape determines the shape and location of the ‘sweet spot’. Round heads typically have a sweet spot located toward the bottom half of the face. Teardrop-shaped heads have an oblong sweet spot higher up on the face, which is ideal for beginners and casual players.

    • Racquet length is traditionally 27 inches, however there is a new trend toward longer or ‘stretch’ racquets, which move the contact point away from your body resulting in greater momentum in your swing.

    • Stiffness relates to power. Stiffer racquets return a more powerful shot and have a larger sweet spot. More advanced players with fast swing speeds may use a more flexible model.

    • The stringing of your racquet can make all the difference. You need to find a professional stringer who can help you choose the right string (natural or synthetic), gauge (thickness of string) and tension.

    • The grip is the most important factor to consider. Improper grip size can cause arm or wrist problems. When gripping the racquet there should be a space between your finger tips and your palm.

    • Frames were once made of wood and then light metals like steel and aluminum, and more recently, composites like graphite and fibreglass. Today titanium and hyper carbon are the most popular frame materials.

  • If you're serious about getting into the game, look for a specialty store (not a big box sporting goods store) where you can rent a demo racquet to try it out:

    • Make sure it’s well-strung and good quality.

    • Play with it at least two or three times before you buy it.

    • Also consider asking if they sell these models – this could save you a lot of money.

    • If they won’t sell the demo models, ensure that they take the rental cost of the demo off the purchase price.

Other Considerations

  • Once you’ve made your choice it is vital to take care of your racquet. Depending on your use it can last 1-5 years or more. Avoid scraping the racquet over hard surfaces by scooping the ball off the courts. Replace the bumper guard if any areas of the frame are exposed. Remember to replace grip and strings at least once a year or as they become worn out. Avoid dampness and extreme temperatures.

Be Aware

  • Don’t ever buy a racquet just because a particular pro uses it. Professional racquets are highly- customized and nothing like the one you will find in the retail store.

  • It’s important to find the right racquet, especially for beginners, or you may end up with one that is too heavy and uncomfortable, and be turned off the game entirely.

   TEST CRITERIA

We got a quick tournament together and tested these five racquets:

  • Wilson Advantage (beginner): $20
  • Prince Bandit (oversized, special weight system): $170
  • Wilson Triad 5.0 (mid-sized, special vibration dampening feature): $289
  • Babolat Pure Control (smaller, heavier, for advanced players): $289
  • Head (lightweight, super-sized, vibration dampening feature): $500

Playability Test

  • All players felt the high tech Head was too light and too difficult to control

  • The Babolat racquet for advanced players was just too heavy for most of our casual players.

  • The oversized Prince with the special weighting system felt more balanced than the Babolat.

  • The favourite was the racquet from Wilson Triad 5.0 with the vibration dampening design. Even though it’s pitched at experienced intermediates, it felt good in the hands of most of our beginner to intermediate testers. Other testers found it wasn’t quite powerful enough.

   OUR TOP PICK

With such a variety of racquets on the market, we could only test a fraction of what is available. Though most of our testers preferred the Wilson Triad 5.0, know that even the pros can’t tell you definitively which one is best. It’s really a matter of individual preference. Find one that feels most comfortable for your needs.

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