"I let my racquet do the talking" is a famous quote from the great Rod Laver. Almost half the amateur players and a third of serious players let the wrong racquet do their talking. They play with racquets that are not appropriate for their game, often sold by a tennis shop that’s interested in moving stock or a review on a tennis publication. The art of finding the most suitable tennis racquet for an individual is more complicated to tennis players than finding the right doubles partner. It’s been a mixed and clouded message, simply because of lack of information, data and a forcing of agenda. With that in mind, I would like to address a few of the more common tennis racquet myths.
Light or Heavy
The late 90's saw the racquet industry pushing lighter racquets. Today the average racquet is 2 to 3 ounces lighter than it was 30 years ago. For what benefit? The lighter racquet is supposed to be easy to swing, unfortunately the lighter the racquet is, and the more the shock from the ball's impact reaches your arm. The strength that it takes to swing a heavier racquet rarely causes an injury, and the heavier racquet will improve your control as well.
People often think that they are hitting the ball harder with the lighter racquet. They may feel that false sensation, but my research through conversations with doctors, physical therapists, and years of racquet testing has shown in fact that the heavier racquet will actually produce a stronger shot with greater ease and less potential shoulder, arm and elbow damage.
Feedback from my personal racquet fitting sessions has given tremendous data to support my theory that most players, from world-class professionals, juniors, tournament and club players get better power, playability and results from a racquet that's a little heavier than what the player intended to play with.
Simple to check if you follow the rule of 1 index finger gap between your fingers and heel pad when your hand is around the racquet grip. This is a very important area that is often overlooked. Racquet manufacturers make their racquet models in only 4 or 5 grip sizes. The alignment of your shoulder, arm and wrist will depend upon how you are holding the handle. If you are playing with the wrong size grip, you will be placing one or more of your joints in a weakened position to compensate.
It takes more pressure to hold a smaller handle stable than it does to hold a larger handle. This is of course relative to your hand size. A handle that is too small will cause you to squeeze too tight, setting you up for greater shock to your wrist and elbow. If you suffer from arm problems, play with the largest handle that you can comfortably hold.
Best ways to choose the proper racquet
There are so many manufacturers, and they are all bringing new equipment every year. They are marketing their new technology using language that’s often confusing but just sounds like it’s a must have. However, you have to ask your tennis pro, who is hopefully well versed in the technology of the racquet and understands your swing, to fit you with a racquet that will enhance your tennis. Most research minded tennis players go on the Internet and read a lot of mumbo jumbo that tends to make you more informed but is only pertinent if the player actually understands their swing length and speed. Use the advice your local tennis professional gives you and then demo the racquet a few times and then make your purchase.
Overall, what did we discover? Evaluation and customization, not gimmicks are the solution. Because each player has an individual style of play – each racquet needs to be individualized for that player.