While you may want to play like the tennis pros you see on TV, you’ll run into trouble if you try to use their small, flexible rackets. Rackets made especially for new players, called “Game Improvement Rackets,” are more forgiving and provide more power, and are your best choice if you’re just taking up the game.
Don’t think you need to spend $100 or more for a good racket. Beginner rackets you find at a Big Box retailer are often good choices to start with, made by the same manufacturers that make the name-brand rackets. Once you decide you’re going to stick with “the sport of a lifetime,” then you can graduate to a more personalized racket.
Choose a Larger Head
Beginner rackets offer the largest head sizes, providing a larger “sweet spot,” which gives more control on off-center shots. Look for a racket with a head size anywhere from 107 to 135 square inches.
Buy a Lighter Racket
Beginners need a lighter racket than the pros. The less weight you have in your racket, the more acceleration you’ll be able to create and the more power you’ll generate. Beginner rackets usually weigh between 8 ounces and 9.5 ounces. They also have more weight in the head of the racket than toward the grip. A head-heavy racket creates a larger sweet spot, giving you more chance to keep your ball in the court after a mis-hit.
Find a Stiffer Racket
Beginner rackets are stiffer and do not bend as much when the ball hits the racket, sending more power into the ball. A stiff racket, however, generates more shock and vibration, which can lead to arm and elbow problems if you consistently hits the ball incorrectly. Stringing the racket at a looser tension can help reduce this problem.
Choose a Longer Racket
Rackets for those just starting the game are generally 1.5 inches longer than rackets the pros use. This provides more momentum, especially on the serve, as well as slightly more reach for groundstrokes. The normal racket length for a beginner is 27.5 inches.
Hold the Grip
A bigger (wider) grip provides more stability, while a smaller grip can feel more comfortable and gives you more hand flexibility. Before you settle on a model of racket, hold it using at least two different grip sizes. Women often use a 4-1/4 to a 4-1/2, while men usually use a 4-1/2 to 4-3/4 grip size.
Many pro shops and sporting goods stores let you play-test rackets, taking the racket from the store and using it in a match. You’ll have to leave a credit card imprint and might need to pay a small fee, usually around $3 to $5 per session. This fee is often taken off the sale price of any racket you buy. Try the same racket with different string tensions, if the store offers those. Try the same racket in different grip sizes, as well.