To play your best tennis, you will need to work hard on your technique, fitness, mental skills, and tactics. Even if all of these areas are strong, however, there is one thing that could still hold you back and possibly cause injuries – your racket.
There are many different head and grip sizes, balances, stringing patterns, lengths, and thicknesses. The right combination can boost your ability to strike the shots you want to hit. In contrast, an unsuitable specification will hinder you tactically and put you at risk of arm and shoulder problems. How should you decide on the best size of racket for you?
Many racket lengths are available for growing juniors, while adult rackets generally tend to be a consistent length these days. Wide variations in head size are available, with younger, stronger players generally preferring smaller sizes. Grip size is another important factor, with larger sizes being more appropriate for players with bigger hands.
Racket Length – The Overall Size Of The Racket
A standard adult racket is generally around 27 inches long. There was a trend in the 1990s towards rackets that were closer to the legal maximum length of 29 inches. This was a particular benefit for the serve.
French Open champion Michael Chang, who was not the tallest player, famously used a 28-inch racket for a time. He felt that this added several miles per hour to his serving speed, although it required some getting used to for hitting groundstrokes.
For junior players, the racket needs to be smaller in proportion to their overall size. The youngest players will perhaps start with a 19-inch frame, increasing gradually until, at around the age of 10 or 11, they are ready to wield a 27-inch frame, albeit perhaps a lightweight one.
Rackets will commonly be found in 19, 21, 23, 25, and 26-inch guises for growing juniors.
Head Size – Small, Medium, and Large
Modern rackets are available in head sizes ranging from around 93 to a mighty 135 square inches. Larger head sizes, over 100 square inches, offer more power due to the strings’ added length and the additional ‘trampoline’ effect provided. They also offer a larger ‘sweet spot’, making them more forgiving of off-center strikes.
On the downside, this type of frame is less maneuverable and offers less control than those with smaller heads. Medium head sizes are those between around 97 and 100 square inches in area. These offer a good compromise in providing a reasonable level of power with more control and maneuverability than those with larger heads.
Any head size below 97 square inches would be described as ‘small.’ This type of frame is highly maneuverable and will offer good control, although it will provide less power and a smaller sweet spot than larger headed rackets.
Grip Sizes – L0, L1, L2, L3, L4, L5
The circumference of a racket’s grip is measured in inches. The minimum size normally offered is 4 inches, which corresponds to size L0. This size is considered more appropriate for juniors with small hands.
The number next to the ‘L’ in the grip sizes represents the number of eighths of an inch by which the circumference of the grip exceeds 4 inches. Thus, L1 is equivalent to 4 1/8 inches, while L5 represents 4 5/8 inches. The most common grip sizes are L2, L3, and L4.
Choosing The Right Racket Size For You
You will want to select a racket that complements the way you play. The first decision to make will be whether you want a racket that extends to the standard length of 27 inches or whether you require something longer.
The reasons for seeking out a longer racket would probably be similar to those which drove Michael Chang to use one, namely that you are not as tall as most of the people you play with, and you want to reduce the advantage in serving power that their height gives them.
Nonetheless, given that longer rackets are more difficult to hit consistent groundstrokes with due to their reduced maneuverability, it is generally best to stick with a 27-inch racket and focus on developing your serving technique instead.
Head size is the next key decision. If you are elderly or lack physical strength, you will want a racket that compensates for this, which means that you will need the extra power offered by a racket with a large head.
If you are a typical club player in reasonable physical condition, you will be better off with a medium-sized head. This will still give you a reasonable degree of power, but the added maneuverability and control will improve your consistency.
If, on the other hand, you are an advanced player with a high swing speed, who has no difficulty generating power, you will probably prefer a racket with a small head, as this will give you the control you need and will be easier to reposition quickly during high-speed exchanges.
The appropriate grip size can be measured, although some players prefer a larger or smaller grip than recommended. To determine the recommended size, lay your hand flat with your fingers together and use a ruler to measure the distance between the lower lateral line across your palm and the tip of the ring finger.
Choosing a grip size significantly smaller than this can lead to an increased risk of tennis elbow.
Having chosen the size, you can consider additional factors like the balance and weight of the racket, and the stringing pattern, all of which will influence the power and control it offers. You will need to try a few rackets before making a final decision, as every player is different, and so is their ideal racket.
There are many different options to consider when choosing a racket. Ensure that you choose a size that suits your game style and physique, and try before you buy.