Feeling a little confused about buying your first tennis racquet? That's completely understandable--after all, there are tons of different racquets on the market to choose from, each with its own specific design for a certain skill level or style of play. So how can you sort through all the different tennis racquet specs to determine what's important and what's not? Below are some key points to keep in mind when choosing a tennis racquet that will be right for you.
1. Head Size - This is basically the size of the area where the strings are located, usually denoted in square inches. A racquet with a small head size will be easier to maneuver and control, while a racquet with a larger head will offer more power behind your shot. Be mindful, however, that large head racquets tend to provide a slightly less accurate shot. As a general rule, beginners should stick with a racquet that has a head size of 110-115 square inches.
2. Grip Size - This refers to the actual size and thickness of the racquet's handle. Grip size is extremely important, because if the handle's too small, it will be hard to keep the racquet from accidentally twisting in your hand when you're performing shots. If it's too large, you'll expend more muscle strength trying to hold and control the racquet's movements.
Either way it goes, prolonged use of an incorrectly-sized grip can lead to tennis elbow problems over time. Generally speaking, adult grip sizes range from 4 1/8" to 4 5/8", with 4 3/8" being the most popular. You should choose a grip size that feels comfortable in your hand, and allows for about a finger's width of space between your ring finger and your palm when holding the racquet with an Eastern grip (i.e., the palm on the same bevel as the string face). If your racquet's grip size seems too small or if you're between grip sizes, you can always apply an overgrip to help even everything out.
3. Racquet Length - A tennis racquet's length is measured from the top of the head to the bottom cap of the handle. The prevailing theory is that a longer racquet gives you more reach and leverage on serves and volleys, while shorter racquets allow for more control and maneuverability. The standard length--and the one most common for beginners--is 27 inches, which is a great place to start. After you've developed your game a little more, you'll be better able to tell what you'll need in terms of racquet length, and you can adjust as needed.
What's Not Important
1. Materials - Most racquet frames are either comprised of an aluminum composite or graphite composite. Aluminum frames are more affordable than graphite, and they're the most common choice for beginners. Graphite frames are typically more lightweight and durable, but they're not an absolute must-have for someone who's just starting out.
2. String Type - There are several different tennis string types available on the market--e.g., natural gut, synthetic gut, polyester, nylon, and so forth. While the nuances of each string type are often significant to players at the higher levels of the game, it's generally not something that a beginning player needs to be concerned about. String tension, on the other hand, is an important factor in how well your racquet performs. As a beginner, make sure that your racquet is strung with a tension between 40-70 pounds.
3. Getting a High-End Racquet - When you're first starting out, it's entirely unnecessary to spend lots of money on a high-end racquet from a pro shop or specialty store. Yes, eventually it will be worth it, but for a beginner, it's just not a necessity. You'll do just fine with a standard Wilson, Penn or HEAD racquet that you can purchase from the sporting goods section of a large discount retailer such as Wal-Mart or Target.
When you're buying your first tennis racquet, try to avoid getting bogged down with too many technical details. You'll have plenty of time to explore different racquet specs and characteristics as your game develops. In the meantime, just get the best racquet you can afford based on the items listed above, and go hit the court!