Racquets

With tennis racquets, you generally get what you pay for.  More expensive racquets are generally much better than their less expensive counter-parts.  But that doesn’t mean that beginners who want to try out tennis need to go out and spend $200 on a racquet on day 1.

2022 Amendment:  This page has been here since I started the site many years ago and reflects a lot of my own views from growing up and starting to play when minimum wage was $4.25/hour and nice racquets were $200.  Most students are earning $15-20/hour how and high-end racquets are still mostly $200.  So, this is definitely overly frugal for the current market, but it's still mostly true.

 

Quick Plug:  The best (only?) dedicated tennis shops in Portland are Player's Racquet Shop (8622 SW Hall Blvd)  I personally recommend them for mid-level or high-end racquets, strings, grips and shoes, but their clothing selection is limited.

 

Racquet Sizes:

  • If a player is 4’6” or less, 23” is a good length.

  • If a player is under 4’11” and under the age of 12, 25” is a good length.

  • 27” (standard) for anyone 5’ or above (or over the age of 12).

 

Grip Sizes:

  • Junior racquets (under 27”) don’t really vary in their grip size.

  • Otherwise, you will sometimes see a number (1,2,3,4,5) or a size in inches (4 & 3/8)

  • Smaller numbers for smaller hands.  The number 3 is the 3/8 part of 4 & 3/8

  • Bigger numbers for bigger hands (4 = 4 and ½ inches)

  • The old rule is that after you grab it, you hand should be a little short of going all the way around – leaving enough room for you to put your pinky in the gap.

  • The recent trend is for people to use slightly smaller grip sizes to free up their swing a bit, but bigger grip sizes reduce the risk of tennis elbow.  Most guys play with 3 or 4s, while most girls use 1, 2 or 3.

 

Basic Racquet Price Points and Quality:

  • Before I start, these qualities and price ranges are for both junior and standard sizes.

  • About $35.  These racquets are far better than what Todd used for his first year and a half of playing, so they are viable for use.  But, they tend to be aluminum and put together from multiple pieces, which makes them unstable on off-center shots.  They are generally fine for someone learning the game but are hard to use for hitting or returning harder shots.  I can actually see shots that are hit off-center going almost nowhere with these racquets, while the same swing gives a decent result with a better racquet.  You can buy these at Amazon or at Dick’s.  Wilson, Prince, Head and Babolat are the main brands.

  • About $80.  These tend to be aluminum/graphite composites.  They definitely have improved stability to deal with more powerful shots, but tend to not balance weight, control and power like higher-end racquets do.  You can get these at Players, Dick’s and Amazon.  In general, players who aren’t serious about tennis will probably be okay with this level of racquet.  Wilson, Prince, Head and Babolat are the main brands.

  • $150 - $250 (mostly $200) for 27” frames, $100 - $120 for 23” and 25” frames.  These are high-end racquets generally made of graphite and other strong-but-light materials.  They can be restrung lots of times and will generally last for many years if you don’t beat them on the ground.  These will offer various blends of power and control, different weights and balance points.  It’s very much a case of personal preference (see the next section for how to pick one).

 

If you are cost-conscious, there are two ways to potentially keep costs down.  The first is to keep in touch with Players to find when their demo racquets get retired (once per year).  They’ll sell those for around $80, so you can pick up a used but still good racquet for less than half the price of buying it new.  This is best if you really want to be picky about your racquets without paying for it.  If you aren’t picky and just want a good deal on a good, used racquet, try Ebay, Craigslist or garage sales.  Used racquets are not in high demand, so you can frequently get a high-end racquet in good condition for $30 or so (just make sure you google it to find out if it was actually good – even if it is 20 years old).  High-end racquets from the 90s will still hit the ball well – they are just a little heavier.

 

Racquets for Beginners:

  • For someone starting tennis who may or may not choose to play for a long time, a $30 racquet is probably a good way to go.

  • If your son or daughter is planning to play for several years, but you don’t want to spend a lot up front, racquets that are about $70 are a decent compromise.  

 

Racquets for Intermediate Players:

  • As players start to improve and push into the low-to-mid varsity range, I’d say a $80 or high-end racquet is needed at that level.  The $30 aluminum frames will put players at a significant disadvantage.  Honestly though, unless they are a senior and don't plan to play tennis beyond their last season, I'd go for the high-end racquet now.  Especially if they are working to move up the ladder.

 

Racquets for Advanced Players:

  • As players start to hit bigger shots and serves, especially with spins, it really helps to have a high-end racquet.  Depending on the school, this applies to at least the top half of varsity, if not the whole varsity team.

  • At the top levels (top 2 to 5 depending on the school), it helps to have two matching high-end racquets (sorry).  Top-level players will tend to break strings due to powerful shots and spins, and you don’t want to have to borrow an unknown racquet to try to win an important match.  This is even more true for boys who tend to break strings more often.

 

Choosing high-end racquets.  The best way to do that is to go to Players and get in their demo program.  It costs $20/week and you borrow three racquets at a time until you find one that you like.  If you buy one, whatever you've already paid goes toward your purchase.  Tennis Warehouse (online) has a similar program I think, but Players will price match their prices, so you can save time waiting for racquets to ship each way.