Shopping for a new tennis racquet can be overwhelming. There are nearly a dozen brands to choose from, each with different models, and to make it even more complicated, each model typically has three or more versions.
Below, I’ll help make the process of purchasing a tennis racquet easier. This is going to help you to quickly eliminate racquets that are not a good fit for you so you can narrow it down to the right choice.
For most tennis players, you only need to honestly answer three questions before shopping.
- What is your skill level?
- How physically fit and athletic are you?
- What are your tennis goals?
Let’s go through each question and why it’s important for choosing a racquet.
What is your skill level in tennis?
Your current ability will give us a good place to start your search. I like to place tennis players into three categories.
- Beginners: New to our sport, or maybe only played a few times but want to start taking it seriously.
- Intermediate: Been playing for a little while and starting to control the ball more easily. Or maybe you played tennis a long time ago and want to start again. This is typically a USTA 3.0 to 4.0 rated player (see ratings here).
- Advanced: You’re a serious tennis player who plays regularly and can move the ball around the court comfortably. Players with a USTA rating of 4.0 or higher.
Your skill level should determine several specifications to look for in a racquet.
Beginners need a larger head size, which can be more forgiving when they don’t hit the ball in the center. More advanced players can play with smaller frames because they are more likely to hit the sweet spot (middle of the strings) consistently.
Beginners also use lightweight racquets that are easier to maneuver while advanced players use heavy racquets that offer better stability against faster shots.
Here are some general guidelines you can follow when looking for a tennis racquet. There are exceptions to this, however, which I’ll cover below.
Head size in square inches
100 – 115
98 – 105
93 – 100
Under 11 Ounces
10.1 – 11.5 Ounces
Over 11 Ounces
How physically fit and athletic are you?
When answering this question, consider your age, physical strength, mobility, and hand-eye coordination.
If, for example, you’re a fit 25-year-old who plays basketball and runs regularly, then you’ll be able to choose a smaller, slightly heavier racquet even if you are a beginner.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you are 65 years old and just had a knee replacement, you’ll probably want a larger, lightweight racquet regardless of your skill level.
Answer this question for yourself and adjust the specifications you’ll need accordingly.
What are your tennis goals?
Think about where you want your tennis game to be in one year.
Are you trying to get bumped up to the next USTA rating level?
Do you just want to be able to occasionally compete with your friends at the local club?
Is this your first time playing and you aren’t quite sure you’ll even like tennis?
Depending on your goals, you’ll need to adjust your budget and racquet selection.
If you know you’ll be taking your tennis seriously over the next few years, then you’ll want a quality racquet that allows you to improve. Look for racquet specifications that fit the type of player you want to be in a year.
A beginner who knows they’re going to take tennis seriously and wants to improve fast, should choose something closer to an intermediate frame.
- Budget $150 or more on each racquet.
- Choose a racquet frame around 100 square inches and 11 ounces.
Note: Most serious intermediate and advanced players need two or more racquets for when they break strings.
Players who are just starting out might want a lower budget racquet to see if they like the sport first. In this case, you can purchase one racquet from a trusted tennis brand at around $100.
Tennis racquet brands & other specs to consider
After you have a range for weight and frame size based on the questions above, you might want to think about a few other factors.
The most popular tennis racquet brands include Wilson, Head, Babolat, Yonex, Prince, and Dunlop. If you have a preference between these, then that makes your search easier. They all offer great racquets for any skill level.
Other specifications you might take into consideration are:
- String Pattern: This refers to the number of vertical (main) and horizontal (cross) strings. 16x19 is the most common and probably what most players should choose. The more “open” string patterns means more space in between strings and therefore more spin. 18x20 would be considered a “tight” string pattern and offers more feel and control.
- Length: Standard adult racquets are 27 inches which is what most players should use. Some junior and toddler racquets are smaller. Oversized racquets are up to 28 inches and can add power.
- Balance: This refers to the weight distribution within the frame. Two racquets might weigh the same but feel different because one can have more weight in the head vs the handle.
- Stiffness: Consider this if you have elbow issues and need a more flexible frame. A low stiffness rating (usually around 60) means the racquet will absorb vibrations better and be easier on your arm. Stiffer frames (65+) will provide better power but won’t feel as good on mishits.
I typically don’t recommend people worry too much about these, but they are good to know if you need them.
This video from Tennis Warehouse can help you further understand all the terminology and specs that go into making a racquet.
At this point, you should have a clearer idea of what type of tennis racquet might be best for you. If you have any questions or want specific recommendations, check out my racquet reviews at thetennistribe.com/reviews/.
Will Boucek is the Founder & CEO of Tennis Tribe. He is an expert on tennis racquets and other gear including tennis shoes, bags, sunglasses, & more. Through his website, he’s helped over 100,000 people choose tennis gear and routinely tests the latest equipment from all the major tennis brands.
He is also widely recognized as an expert in doubles strategy. Will has worked as a doubles strategy analyst for ATP & WTA players at all four majors. Through his website and podcast, Will shares his doubles knowledge to help players of all skill-levels improve and grow the game of doubles.