Tennis is a game for life. You can start playing it at a very young age and continue, fitness permitting, until you are 90 or older. As your body grows and then ages, you will need a racket that suits your height, physique, and strength. Manufacturers have been aware of this for many years, and there is now a vast range of different lengths, head sizes, thicknesses, and balances available.
Which you choose will be partly a matter of personal preference, but if you select a racket which is designed for someone of your build and technique, you will give yourself the best chance of playing good tennis.
Tennis rackets come in different lengths, weights, and thicknesses. Beginners will probably require a racket that is easy to play with, with a large sweet spot. Juniors will need a racket that is of an appropriate length for their size. More advanced players will often prefer thinner rackets with a relatively small head.
The weight and balance of a racket will also have a strong influence on how it performs.
The Different Sizes Of Tennis Rackets
There are three key aspects of tennis racket size: length, thickness and head size.
A typical adult tennis racket is about 27 inches long. There was a fashion a couple of decades ago for rackets that were an inch or more longer, as this offered a little more racket head speed when serving, allowing shorter players to get some additional pace out of their serve. However, such extra long (or ‘long body) rackets are rare today. Rackets for juniors start at 19 inches or less, and range up to 26 inches.
The thickness of the racket frame is known as the ‘beam’. Thinner frames (say 18-24mm) offer more feel and control, whereas a thicker frame (perhaps 25-30mm) will provide more power.
Head size is normally categorised as one of the following:
Mid size Up to 96 inch²
Mid plus 96 – 105 inch²
Oversize 106 – 115 inch²
Super Oversize 115 inch² plus
Each of these sizes has advantages for certain styles of player, with the smaller ones offering superior maneuverability and the larger ones having a larger sweet spot and hence being more responsive to off-center hits.
The Best Racket Size For Beginners
For an adult beginner, it will be best to start with a standard 27-inch length. As for head size, something in the mid-plus range is likely to be most suitable. This will offer a reasonably large sweet spot, making the racket forgiving of off-centre hits, but will not be too large and cumbersome to hinder the development of technically correct shots. Essentially, a beginner should look for a racquet that is likely to be easy to play with, without any extreme characteristics.
Tennis Racket Sizes By Age
The youngest children, aged 4 to 5, will start playing using a racket that is 17-19 inches long. As they grow, they will move up to 21 inch and 23 inch implements, until around the age of 8 when they will typically be ready for a 25 inch frame. At this stage, rackets begin to be constructed in a way more similar to that in which adult rackets are made.
Soon, perhaps at age 9, a player will be ready to play on a full-court with a reduced compression ball, and they will move up to a 26 inch frame, which will typically closely resemble an adult racket. Finally, by the age of around 11, a player will be ready to adopt a lightweight version of a 27 inch adult racket. It is important to realize that the ages here are just a guide. It is all about the size and strength of the player: there is no benefit in using an adult racket before they are ready.
What Tennis Racket Size Should You Choose?
A lot depends on the style and standard of your play. The length of the racket will normally be 27 inches unless you are a shorter person who is keen to add a little pace to your serve. Head size and beam will vary. If you are an advanced player, generating plenty of racket head speed and power, you will prefer a racket head in the mid size range with a fairly narrow beam due to its manoeuvrability and feel.
On the other hand, if you lack racket head speed or strength, you will be looking for something in the mid-plus or oversize range with a thicker beam. This will offer a larger sweet spot and more power, at the expense of some feel and maneuverability. If you are closer to the average in terms of swing speed and strength, you will probably want a head somewhere towards the lower end of the mid-plus range, with a medium beam, to provide you with a good balance of power and feel.
Other Racket Specs To Consider
The weight of a racket is a significant consideration. Physically stronger players with long swings will want a heavier frame, perhaps over 300g, especially if they prefer to play from the back of the court. A lighter frame will be more manoeuvrable, and may suit players who are less physically strong, or who like to volley.
The balance of the racket is also important. Physically stronger players looking for feel and control will look for a more neutral or head-light balance, whereas players seeking more power and stability will prefer a head-heavy balance.
As discussed in other articles on this website, grip size and string are also important. In particular, the more dense the stringing pattern the more control will be offered, whereas the more spread out the strings are, the more power and spin are generated.
Tennis rackets may all look fairly similar, but there are many differences. The only way to find the best specification for you is to try some frames and see which feels best.