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Alex Bullock, courtsidesports

Choosing a new tennis racquet among the hundreds that are available on the market can be a daunting task for any tennis player, regardless of their degree of racquet knowledge. Racquets from dozens of manufacturers range in price from $50 to over $400. Some popular racquets remain inline for a few years, but for the most part, racquet manufacturers will release new products every year. How do you select a new racquet? This article will help you sort out some of the issues relevant to finding that perfect racquet by breaking down racquet shopping into three segments; beginners and recreational players (NTRP 1.0 to 3.0), intermediate and club level players (NTRP 3.5 to 4.5), and advanced and competitive players (NTRP 5.0 to 7.0).

The beginner or recreational player should primarily be looking for a racquet that makes the game easier for them and hence more fun. Moderation in all attributes of the racquet will most likely apply here. A racquet that is too heavy will be difficult to manoeuvre; a racquet that is too light will be unstable and vibrate when the novice player hits the ball off-centre (this happens frequently when learning). Racquets range in weight from about 8 to 13 ounces. The average recreational player will benefit most from a racquet in the middle (approx. 10 ounces) of this weight range. This will allow them the mobility they need in a lightweight frame, but still provide them with enough weight for stability. Racquets range in head size from midsize (85 to 95 square inches), to midplus (96 to 105 square inches), to oversize (106 to 115 square inches), to superoversize(115 to 135 square inches). Again, the novice player will benefit most from a moderate midplus or oversize racquet. Racquets of this size will offer the player a good balance of power and control with a sweetspot large enough to centre the ball easily. If the novice player sticks to shopping for a recognized brand (Wilson, Head & Prince are the top 3 brands, Dunlop, Yonex, Babolat, Volkl and Slazenger also make good quality tennis racquets), they can expect to pay $80 to $150 CDN for a graphite composite racquet that meets these requirements. Spending more will likely provide them with a racquet made of higher grade materials, which often results in a lighter racquet (less than 10 ounces), or a stiffer racquet (equals more power). Spending less will provide a heavier racquet, or perhaps one made of aluminum instead of graphite. Racquets typically come in five different grip sizes.
Beginners & Recreational Players
The following are my recommendations for beginners and recreational players (NTRP 1.0 to 3.0):
• Moderate weight (10 to 11 ounces)
• Midplus or Oversize head
• Stick to quality brand names in the $80 to $150 price range
Intermediate & Club Level Players
Intermediate and club level players (NTRP 3.5 to 4.5) should have an idea of what characteristics they are looking for in their equipment. Are they looking for a racquet that will add more power to their game? Do they generate enough (or more than enough) power already and will therefore be looking for a more control-oriented racquet. At this level of play we can break players into three major categories and look at equipment specific to those categories. The first player type is someone who has well-developed technique (they are 3.5 to 4.5 after all), but doesn't hit the ball that hard. They probably have a short, compact swing and or a counterpunching style. Perhaps they serve and volley a lot, or play a lot of doubles, but the bottom line is they don't generate a lot of their own power, so will rely on the racquet to provide that for them. These types of players will look for bigger (oversize and superoversize) head sizes, lighter racquets (for faster swinging) and a frame that is quite stiff (this also results in more power). Power oriented racquets (sometimes referred to as game improvement racquets) are usually more expensive due to the high tech materials used to make them lightweight and powerful. Expect to pay $200 to $400 CDN for this type of racquet.