Buying a Tennis Racquet for a Beginner

Skill Level, Price, and Material

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This article is intended for any beginner who would use an adult tennis racquet. Most players who weigh at least 85 pounds should use an adult racquet, but see Buying the Right Length Racquet for a Junior Player if you are not sure.

Beginner, "Tweener," or Advanced?

Tennis racquet reviews often classify racquets in one of these categories, which are useful indicators, but some beginners might be happiest with a "tweener" (intermediate) racquet.

A racquet rated for beginners tends to be very powerful, and a strong, athletic beginner might find it hard to control.

The two types of racquet that at least 90% of beginners should not consider are the extremes of the racquet power spectrum:

  • a heavy, head-light, low-powered racquet intended for an advanced player.
  • an extremely light (under 9.5 ounces, strung) and powerful racquet, which is only suitable for a small minority of players who don't play often and lack the strength to generate a powerful swing.

This leaves a huge selection still available. Here are your key considerations:

Price and Material

If price is a concern, you're in luck. You can buy an entirely adequate beginner racquet for less than $30, less than $20 if you shop around. It will be made of aluminum and come pre-strung, usually with just a cover for the head.

Aluminum is too flexible for a player who hits hard and needs a predictable response, but that usually describes a fairly accomplished player.

If you anticipate that you will advance quickly, you might want to consider a graphite racquet, for which prices start at around $70 and go up to almost $300.

See Tennis on the Cheap for more on how to buy an inexpensive racquet.

Power

The main factors that govern the power of a racquet are head size and frame flexibility.

Lower string tension also seems to increase power, but in fact, it makes the ball fly farther not because of more power but because looser strings release the ball later in the swing when the racquet has tilted upward slightly more. An inexpensive racquet will come pre-strung at the middle of its tension range, and you should probably choose mid-range for your first custom stringing, too. That leaves head size and flexibility to consider as the real determinants of power.

A larger head gives you more power and a larger sweet spot, but less control. Most racquets come in one of three basic sizes; a midsize has a hitting area of 85-95 square inches, mid-plus 95-105 square inches, and oversize greater than 105 square inches. If your athletic ability is above average, choose mid-plus; otherwise, choose an oversize up to 115 square inches. Anything larger will be so powerful, it will discourage you from taking a real swing at the ball because when you do, you'll too often hit long. A few pros use oversize racquets, but they're most commonly designed for beginners. Midsize and mid-plus are usually preferred by intermediate and advanced players.

For a beginner, flexibility won't make as big a difference as head size.

A more flexible racquet gives you somewhat less power and slightly less control, but until you start hitting hard and trying to place the ball within a few feet of a target, you probably won't notice. All aluminum racquets are somewhat flexible, but graphite racquets range from flexible to extremely stiff. Generally, the thicker the profile, the stiffer the frame, but the frame materials and construction matter, too. If you're going to spend the money for graphite, a moderately-stiff-to-stiff frame is probably your ​best bet.

Length

The standard length for an adult racquet is 27 inches. Anything shorter is meant for a junior. Racquets longer than 27 inches emerged several years ago, intended to give players more reach and leverage. The merits of extra-long racquets are hotly debated, with greater serving power argued as the main advantage and reduced maneuverability the main criticism.

If you're not very tall, an extra inch of racquet can enhance your serve, and it shouldn't feel unwieldy, but don't make length your main consideration. Between 27 and 28 inches, the difference won't be crucial. Any length above 28 inches is probably unwise for a first racquet.

Weight

If a racquet is too light, too much of the shock of its collision with the ball gets transmitted to your arm. If we were all strong enough, we'd be best off with racquets weighing 14 ounces or more, but even 12 ounces can feel pretty heavy to a beginner. A weight between 10 and 11.5 ounces should be a good choice for a beginner, and many players will stay in that range throughout their development.

Balance

Balance describes whether the weight of the racquet is distributed more toward the head (head-heavy) or the butt (head-light). Which is better is a matter of some debate. Many advanced players prefer heavy racquets that are balanced head-light to avoid excess power and improve maneuverability, but these racquets have less stability than racquets with more head weight. Your beginner racquet should probably have a balance within five points (5/8") of even either way.

Play-testing

It's hard for a beginner to give a racquet a reliable play test, but you can compare a handful of racquets, looking for the following:

  • Does the racquet feel solid on impact with the ball?
  • Are there any annoying sounds or vibrations?
  • Does it feel too heavy on serve and overhead motions?
  • Does one racquet feel more maneuverable than another?
  • Which racquet seems to hit the ball deep for you, but not out?

If you're buying a sub-$30 aluminum racquet, play-testing probably won't be an option unless you can borrow one from a friend, but if you're buying a graphite racquet from a pro shop, you should be able to try it out first.

See also: Finding Your Grip Size.

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Cooper, Jeff. "Buying a Tennis Racquet for a Beginner." ThoughtCo, Jul. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/buying-a-tennis-racquet-for-a-beginner-3208180. Cooper, Jeff. (2017, July 21). Buying a Tennis Racquet for a Beginner. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/buying-a-tennis-racquet-for-a-beginner-3208180 Cooper, Jeff. "Buying a Tennis Racquet for a Beginner." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/buying-a-tennis-racquet-for-a-beginner-3208180 (accessed November 20, 2017).