Perhaps the biggest frustration I see on the tennis court are women playing with these massive, oversize, and super-light rackets. You know the ones! Rackets like the Head Titanium Ti.S6 and Wilson K Factor KZero. Now there is a demographic (aged players that legitimately cannot wield anything more substantial) where these rackets are a very good option, but in the main I maintain that they are doing more damage than good, and especially for women.
These rackets are 115 square inch plus head size, a sub 260 gram static weight (strung), and are four (or more) points head-heavy (meaning that due to the balance they feel heavier than they actually are).
Why is this a problem?
Well, when playing with other women (or mixed matches) where the play is relatively heavy these rackets offer nothing in the way of mass to resist the forces imparted by the incoming ball. A great example is a player at the net faced with the prospect of an incoming volley from the return of serve. With no mass in the racket all of the energy to resist the impact must come from the player, in the form of tightening grip and tensing arm muscles. Additionally, if the contact is even slightly outside the sweetspot then there is going to be a lot of vibration, also transferred to the arm. In reality it is easier for a man to play with these lighter rackets as they are (generally) stronger and more able to muscle the racket to resist the impact forces.
As an aside it is sadly ironic that often these sorts of rackets are prescribed for Tennis Elbow sufferers.
What did you play with as a kid?
If you played tennis back in the 1980’s then you almost certainly have used a wooden racket, or a very early graphite racket. If you wanted to play tennis there were few alternatives. Well it might surprise you that these rackets often weighed in excess of 360 grams strung.
So, if you could manage such a significant racket as a child what is compelling this trend toward super light rackets? Answer, marketing and perception.
What should I be playing with?
We would recommend a racket with a specification similar to below (a good place to check specifications of rackets is Tennis Warehouse):
- Head size of between 98-105 square inches.
- A strung static weight of 305 grams or higher.
- A strung balance of around 330 mm (4 points head-light).
- A strung swingweight of around 315-320.
- Stiffness of around 62-65.
The swingweight is an interesting measure. As the name suggests it is intended to represent how heavy the racket will feel when being swung. Many of these oversize, lightweight, frames actually have high swingweights (relative to their actual static weight). This should aid in transitioning to a racket of a spec similar to above.
What will this translate to on court?
There are a few things that will come from changing to this sort of racket specification:
- The single biggest thing that you’ll notice is a more solid feeling on contact. Especially shots like the volley.
- You won’t feel so much of the impact being transferred to your arm, and you should not need to muscle the ball as much as you’re used to.
- The racket will actually feel lighter, despite being physically heavier. This is due to the very dramatic change in the balance point of the racket.
- Your serve is probably going in increase in speed.
Some example rackets:
- Head Graphene XT Prestige S
- Head Graphene XT Radical MP
- Volkl V-Sense 8 300
- Wilson Blade 104
- Yonex EZONE DR100
We’ll cover this in another post but most players should avoid poly strings. A nice multifilament like Technifibre NRG2 or Babolat Xcel will be much softer on the arm as well.
Take our challenge and demo some rackets that might feel outside your comfort zone. But, we’re confidant that you’ll be surprised by how your game can improve. Give it a few hours as it will be a dramatic difference for you.
Read more about choosing a racket.