Racquet Stiffness and Performance
There are three primary areas where players will experience shifts in the performance of racquets with different stiffness ratings. The three most noteworthy include:
Let’s dive into each separately.
One of the most common misconceptions with tennis racquet stiffness is that a more flexible racquet – that is one that bends or flexes under pressure – will produce more power than a stiff racquet that doesn’t bend as easily.
The assumption is that as a frame flexes and rebounds during a swing, additional energy passes to the ball. In theory, this seems logical. However, a tennis ball will stay on the stringbed for a fraction of a second, which is less time than it takes for the racquet to recover.
As a result, the more flexible a frame, the more energy it absorbs, which results in a loss in power when hitting. Consequently, a stiff tennis racquet will flex significantly less during a swing and deflect more energy or power.
For this same reason, control racquets, also known as player’s racquets, tend to have more flexible frames, resulting in less power potential for the racquet but greater overall control.
As you can imagine, this statement is relative. A beginner will not necessarily find an increase in control and accuracy by switching to a more flexible frame.
Instead, control is primarily a function of a player’s skill and technique, which, combined with a flexible lower-powered racquet, allows them to dictate the placement of the ball more accurately.
As an example, the control-centric Wilson Blade 98 (16×19) v8 has a stiffness index or rating of 61, compared with the high-powered Head Titanium Ti.S6, which sits at 75.
Closely related to control, feel, or sometimes referred to as touch, is another characteristic that many players associate with racquets of varying stiffness.
Players will often describe racquets with higher-end stiffness ratings as having a crisp or lively feel, which goes along with their higher power and lightweight construction.
On the other hand, flexible frames are often described as having a plush or stable feel. In many cases, this quality results from the heavier weight that racquets with low stiffness ratings tend to feature.
Regardless, a player will typically feel more connected with the ball when hitting and is particularly useful for types of shots that require more finesse, such as volleys or drop shots.
It’s worth noting that the type of strings you’re using, which is ultimately the surface that comes in contact with the ball, also have a dramatic impact on a racquet’s feel.