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There’s a blush of enthusiasm with any new interest and sometimes the excitement makes it easy to make expensive mistakes.
Fortunately, taking up tennis doesn’t need to be. You can start up with affordable equipment and be playing this afternoon. Here’s how.
- So You Want to Play Tennis…
- Points to Consider with Affordable Tennis Racquets
- The Intermediate Player and the Changing Game
- Age-related Influences on Racquet Purchase
- Where to Buy
- Reliable Brands and Budget Models
- Cheap Tennis Racquet Buyer’s Guide
For your convenience, here are our picks for the top 10 affordable tennis racquets. Keep scrolling to learn more each individual racquet.
|#2||Wilson Tour Slam|
|#3||Prince Attack 23-inch|
|#4||Babolat Nadal 26 Junior|
|#5||Wilson Energy XL|
|#7||HEAD Tour Pro|
|#9||HEAD Radical 26 Junior|
|#10||HEAD Ti.Instinct Supreme|
So You Want to Play Tennis…
If there’s one great argument for tennis as an addition to your active lifestyle, it may be the start-up affordability offered by entry-level equipment. Unlike football, ice hockey, and even baseball, you need little more than shoes, balls and a racquet.
Of course, like any sport, top-of-the-line gear can make a big impact on your budget, but are these necessary for the beginner? Many parents have sunk significant funds into sports based on a child’s expressed desire, only to find it was a temporary whim. Used sporting goods stores dot the country as evidence of this.
However, sometimes entry-level equipment interferes with enjoyment and development. A child learning guitar, for example, may be deterred by the poor playability of a cheap instrument. Is it the same for a budding tennis player?
Fortunately, for the potential Federers and Nadals of the world, cheap tennis racquets are viable for those learning the game. Do these compete with the more expensive versions? Of course not. But affordable tennis racquets are more than adequate to promote the fundamental skills.
The racquets featured in our buying guide all come in under $40, less than a reasonable pair of sports shoes suitable for the game. If you or your child decide the sport isn’t right for you, or if your involvement is casual, there’s no great store of cash invested.
What’s more likely to happen once you connect with the game, though, is that your tennis vocabulary develops. You’ll begin to wish your racquet is more capable in ways that suit your game. Start out with a pro racquet costing hundreds and matching equipment to style is a pricey consideration. If you’re using a discount tennis racquet to fuel your interest, there’s little lost when it’s time to upgrade.
Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration in favor of inexpensive tennis racquets is the level of performance a good player can achieve with a cheap racquet. Tennis is a sport with an emphasis on skill rather than equipment. While better equipment can help you achieve more and refine your skill, affordable gear won’t compromise your ability to learn the fundamentals.
Points to Consider with Affordable Tennis Racquets
Perhaps the biggest concern many new players have inevitably surrounds the price/value equation. Essentially, they worry that a cheap racquet will break, create an injury risk or just plain underperform, making it difficult to learn the game.
It’s telling that each of the best tennis racquet manufacturers, those who provide racquets for professional-level players, all have budget tennis racquets on offer. Some, such as the Wilson Advantage racquet, available under $20, is painted to mimic the $200 Wilson Blade. While the similarities in technology and construction end at the paint job, beginning players can often visually emulate their favorites, a great way to build enthusiasm for the sport.
There are, however, physical attributes that match racquets to individual players, regardless of experience and regardless of cost. Your demands of your racquet will grow as your ability does, and these features are still the talking points as you develop your game.
- Weight: It’s easy to get wrapped up and overwhelmed by technical details, and the weight of your racquet is a point on which you may find plenty of contradictory advice. For the newcomer to tennis, I’d recommend ignoring all the advice and choose entirely on feel. When the racquet feels good, the details establish themselves. Many new players like the feel of a lighter racquet. It’s easy to swing and move, but they’re generally harder to control with less stability. Heavier racquets offer more consistency, but in the early stages of your development, your skills minimize the advantages of a heavier racquet.
- Balance: Similarly, there are variations in racquet balance; balanced, light heads and heavy heads. There are advantages to each, but as a beginner, feel should again be your determining factor. Weight and balance can be considered when your skills advance.
- Grip: Here, too, feel is the most important consideration for a beginner when selecting the right grip size. Obviously, your hand size plays a role. Small grips can stress your hand and forearm, but grips can be increased by adding grip tape. Oversized grips, on the other hand, can’t be reduced easily, and your hand and arm may be overworked trying to keep the racquet under control.
- String tension: Most, if not all, cheap tennis racquets come pre-strung, so string tension too is something that you may wish to leave to your next level racquet. Generally, low tension increases the size of the racquet’s sweet spot as well as the speed of the ball off the racquet. Higher tension can contribute to more control, but these aren’t key considerations for the beginner who is learning the game. You wouldn’t be the first player to hit the courts while never considering anything about your tennis racquet strings other than the fact they are there.
- Head size: Once again, selecting the right head size comes down to feel. Generally, bigger heads make it easier to hit the ball, but a larger size may also come with greater weight. You probably can’t go wrong with a standard sized racquet, but if a larger size feels good, go for it.
The Intermediate Player and the Changing Game
Expect to revisit each of these aspects of racquet design when you’re ready to upgrade your racquet. For many players, the enthusiasm that develops along with their skills spills over into reading and studying aspects of the sport, including how equipment factors can accent your game.
Before you can reap the benefits of a racquet that complements your playing, though, you need to develop some consistency. It may emerge that you’re a power player or a control player. You can then choose a racquet to boost your strong points or bolster your weak ones.
Age-related Influences on Racquet Purchase
Perhaps the most obvious factor in choosing a racquet based on age is matching racquet to hand size and arm strength. Smaller children require smaller racquets, and as they grow, the options of heavier racquets, larger heads and varied string tension all come into play.
However, as an older player, particularly adult or senior, choice of racquet may have other considerations. The impact of the sport on your musculoskeletal system may be important, particularly if your hand, arm, and elbow begin to suffer from your participation. The weight, size, and tension of your racquet can all affect the physical impact on your body.
Where to Buy
In this day and age of online markets, there’s a good chance you’ll research your purchase and shop for the best price online, even if you turn to a bricks-and-mortar store for the purchase.
Chances are that the purchase of a cheap tennis racquet is going to be a simple visit to store or website, perhaps part of a larger, general purchase. The days of intense concentration on each aspect of a racquet lay ahead of you. Consider these popular options for that first, inexpensive tennis racquet:
Tennis specialty retailers are also a great source for affordable equipment:
Finally, don’t forget your local tennis shop. You may not pay the lowest price, but the advice could well be worth the extra. There are often deals available through consignment sales, used and demonstration racquets. You may pay an entry-level price for an intermediate-level racquet.
Reliable Brands and Budget Models
As with many retail products, tennis racquets invite knock-offs, items made by companies with dubious origins or quality control procedures. It’s true that some of these may be made in the same overseas factories as name brand budget models, but it’s difficult to source this.
Stay on the beaten track to assure reasonable quality, no matter how budget you go with your racquet purchase. Perhaps the biggest names in tennis racquets are:
- Babolat: the oldest manufacturer of racquet sports equipment, dating back to 1875 in Lyon, France
- Wilson: starting life in 1913 as a way to use animal by-products from slaughterhouses (the earliest racquet strings were gut), Wilson remained controlled by meat packers until 1966
- HEAD: founded in Maryland in 1950, HEAD is also a maker of alpine skiing equipment
- Prince: taking its name from founding city Princeton, New Jersey in 1970, Prince boasted the early involvement of Howard Head, from the Head Ski Company
Cheap Tennis Racquet Buyer’s Guide
Please note that some of these racquets may be available in sizes or with options other than those reviewed for this guide. For instance, junior models often come in a range of colors to please a variety of tastes.
#1: Wilson Federer
There’s arguably no greater name in tennis than that of Roger Federer’s, and it’s a great idea for Wilson to attach his name to this entry-level racquet. Targeted to the adult beginner, this is a medium-weight racquet with a head-light balance. Grip size is right down the middle at 4 and 3/8ths with an oversized head and several features to enhance stability and control. Though all the choices in our Top Ten are great choices, Wilson’s Federer is at the top of the game.
#2: Wilson Tour Slam
Another oversized head offering from Wilson, the Tour Slam has some of the same stability and control features as the Federer, but it’s strung for power. Slightly longer, the Tour Slam is substantial more head-light, so its balance is completely different. Grip size is the same as the Federer, with a lighter weight, so it’s a great contrast between racquet “feel.”
#3: Prince Attack 23-inch
The first junior racquet on our Top 10, the Attack 23-inch is geared for the junior beginner, in the 6 to 8-year range, or for the smaller older child. Prince makes this in both “girl” and “boy” colors, replacing the Maria Sharapova-inspired Pink Junior model that previously featured. At just over 7 ounces, it’s a manageable weight for most beginners, and it comes with a zippered carrying case to build good equipment care habits.
#4: Babolat Nadal 26 Junior
For the child who worships Rafa, this may be the way to go. Heavier and longer than the Prince Attack, the Nadal 26 Junior provides a different balance and swing feel, an important contrast for a beginner to experience. Recommended by the child’s size (up to 4’ 7”) rather than age, it may be a better fit for those who are taller than others their age in the early years.
#5: Wilson Energy XL
The XL does stand for Extra Large in this offering from Wilson, but they’ve countered the huge head and extra 27.5-inch length with an ultra light weight that makes it easy to maneuver. The Energy XL is also strung tightly, which helps balance the Energy XL’s power and control.
#6: HEAD Ti.Conquest
With a 27-inch length and 9.8-ounce weight, the Ti.Conquest combines a fast swing speed with a rigid titanium alloy frame that’s suitable for a beginner and with some room to grow into the intermediate stage. The oversized head is forgiving of off-center shots and the Ti.Conquest’s dead zones are comparatively small, making for a good control experience.
#7: HEAD Tour Pro
The Tour Pro is another oversized, titanium-framed racquet from Head, a build they do well and with remarkably versatile results. With a bit larger head size than the TiConquest at 110 square inches, the Tour Pro has a larger sweet spot, perhaps suited to a new player looking for some extra margin for error and a little extra power without having to work for it. That extra weight moderates arm speed, cutting back on over-hitting.
#8: Wilson Triumph
An oversized head with a smaller grip size, the Triumph is another Wilson racquet aimed at the adult beginner. Just under 9.7 ounces, making for a fast swing, the 27.5-inch length and oversized head combine to give a power assist to your game.
#9: HEAD Radical 26 Junior
Perhaps the best choice for the tween-to-teen beginner, the Radical 26 Junior features a slightly shorter than adult length with a reasonable head size. The 8.6-ounce weight is manageable even for those with less-than-average arm strength. Not only a great beginner’s racquet, the Radical 26 Junior also makes an ideal transition weapon for the younger intermediate who isn’t quite ready for full-size.
#10: HEAD Ti.Instinct Supreme
Another titanium alloy oversized beginner racquet from Head, the Ti.Instinct Supreme adds another feel to the basket of racquets for newcomers to experience. There’s no shortage of options at the economy level for entry-level players. The TI.Instinct is available in a variety of grip sizes over aluminum construction for a good balance of weight and rigidity.
On The Backhand
Not only can you start playing tennis with a cheap racquet, but you also have a wide range of choices. If your local big box store only has one or two options, the online marketplace is loaded with options, no matter what your age or inclination. The best way to fall in love with tennis is to get on the courts and enjoy. There’s no need to save up for expensive gear but if you have a little extra to spend, you may want to check our top picks for beginner tennis racquets.
Thanks for stopping by, and check back later for more key information. If you’ve still got questions, you’re in the right place. Use the comments section below to ask about any aspect of the game. Have you recently bought a cheap tennis racquet that you love? Tell us about it!
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