When purchasing or evaluating a new tennis racquet, there are a variety of factors that can be helpful to consider, including weight, length, head size, frame stiffness, and materials. Add to that the fact that there are close to 20 major racquet brands to select from, and the choices can become overwhelming quickly.
In this article, we’ll look at the three most common types of tennis racquets and help distinguish the differences between each kind and why you might want to consider one over another.
Generally, tennis racquets fall into one of four categories:
Control or Player’s Racquets
Modern Player’s Racquets
The categorization is based on a player’s swing type, which is either slow and compact, fast and full, or moderate, i.e., somewhere between.
However, before we dive into each type of racquet, it’s worth pointing out that the name for each category and the players that they typically work well for are general guidelines to help players narrow their options.
As you may have guessed, power tennis racquets, also referred to as game improvement racquets, help players hit with more power and depth with less effort.
As a result, these types of tennis racquets are typically great options for beginners who have not yet developed the proper technique, form, and skill to generate power. At this stage, players will tend to have shorter compact strokes, which evolves with time.
An alternative name to describe this category of racquets is “game improvement,” which is a nod to the characteristics these racquets offer to help new players develop their skillset.
However, this type of tennis racquet can also be an excellent choice for smaller players, men and women who don’t have a ton of strength or players as they reach their golden years who struggle to generate the power they once were able to achieve when younger.
Common racquet characteristics of power racquets include:
First, the bigger the head, the more power the racquet will provide – think trampolines. The bigger it is, the more “spring” it has, thus, the more power it can provide.
A larger head also offers more surface area for hitting, allowing for a higher margin of error, something many new players will find helpful.
An oversized head will also provide a larger sweet spot, which is the area at the center of the strings where striking the ball provides the greatest comfort and best performance.
Last but not least, a bigger head size tends to make it easier to generate topspin as the strings are separated further apart.
The length of a tennis racquet can also have a significant impact on a racquet’s power. The longer the racquet, the more leverage a player has when swinging, which allows the player to generate more power.
The standard size for a tennis racquet is 27 inches (68.58 cm), so extended length refers to any racquets that are longer up to 29 inches, which is the longest length allowed by the rules of tennis.
Not all power racquets feature extended lengths, but it is an attribute that many manufacturers will adjust to increase power.
Power racquets will also usually feature stiffer frames. Frame stiffness refers to the extent that a racquet bends or flexes when making contact with a tennis ball – the higher the rating, the stiffer the racquet.
A stiff frame doesn’t flex as much when it comes in contact with a tennis ball, which may seem counterintuitive, allows the ball to rebound more quickly, with greater speed and less effort.
Lighter construction is another common characteristic of power tennis racquets, which helps make the racquet easier to maneuver.
In some cases, reducing the weight of power racquets stems from the fact that they feature larger head sizes.
All things being equal, a larger head size will increase the weight at the top of the racquet and reduce maneuverability. However, dropping the weight of the frame can counteract the extra weight in the head.
Popular Power Racquets
Here’s a selection of frames that exemplify the characteristics of power racquets.
In many ways, control racquets, otherwise referred to as player’s racquets are the opposite of power racquets.
With this category of racquets, players opt for less power in exchange for control or the ability to place the ball more accurately. The key here is that the player must develop the necessary technique, skill, and fitness required to generate power.
As a result, control racquets are ideal for seasoned or professional tennis players who possess fast, full swings.
While this type of racquet caters to advanced tennis players, its characteristics can also be beneficial for hard-hitting intermediate players who are trying to rein in their game.
Common racquet characteristics include:
Small Head: 85-97 in² (548.4 – 625.8 cm²)
Standard Length: 27 in (68.58 cm)
Low to Mid-Range Flex: 50-70
Heavier Construction: 11.6 – 12.6 oz
Control racquets have smaller head sizes, which results in less of a trampoline effect, and as a result, less power.
Moreover, a smaller racquet head will mean there is less surface area to hit the ball, which lowers a player’s margin for error and shrinks the size of the sweet spot. In other words, a player must be exact with their strokes to get the most out of this type of racquet.
As for length, control racquets almost always feature the standard length of 27 inches (68.58 cm).
This length provides players with the necessary amount of leverage to hit with pace, while also ensuring they have plenty of reach, and maintain adequate maneuverability at higher weights.
With many control racquets, you’ll find that the frames tend to be less stiff or more flexible. As a frame flexes when hitting a ball, it absorbs energy, so the more flex, the greater the absorption and less power.
Often the opposite is expected, i.e., as a frame bends, it’s assumed that the rebound of the frame assists in generating power. However, studies have shown this is not the case. Instead, the ball leaves the strings before the racquet has a chance to rebound.
Lastly, control racquets tend to be heavier than the rest. Higher weight serves a few different functions in control racquets:
Controlled Power: As a racquet’s weight increases, so does the force when striking a ball. An advanced player can, therefore, adjust the speed of their swing to deliver more or less power.
Stability: A frame will be less susceptible to twisting with weight distributed at the correct points in a racquet’s head, which results in a more stable, controlled feel.
Shock Reduction: The heavier the weight, the more shock it will absorb, which is useful for advanced players that swing hard.
It’s worth noting that while their heavier construction provides players with the above benefits, a racquet that is too heavy for a player, can also cause injury with prolonged use.
If you’re serious about your game, we’d recommend you consider all the different types of racquets as well as the pros and cons of each before you jump straight to a control racquet.
It can be tempting to purchase the type of racquets that professional players are using, but if you’re new to the sport, you’ll likely find it hurts your game more than helps.
Popular Control Racquets
Here’s a selection of frame’s that exemplify the characteristics of control racquets.
Although we’re not a huge fan of the naming convention, which causes more confusion than helps, tweener are intermediate level racquets that sit somewhere between power and control racquets.
As a result, these racquets tend to be great all-around performers that provide a wide range of players with a blend of power and control.
For that reason, while these racquets are terrific options for intermediate players, they’re also perfectly suitable for beginners or recreational players who perhaps started learning with an inexpensive starter racquet and are looking to upgrade.
Common characteristics include:
Mid-sized Head: 98 – 104 in² (632.3 – 671.0 cm²)
Standard Length: 27 in (68.58 cm)
Mid-range Stiffness: 61-70
Mid-range Weight: 9.6 – 11.5 oz
Due to these characteristics, tweener racquets are an extremely versatile group with a wide spectrum of options to fit a variety of playing styles and skill levels.
Popular Tweener Racquets
Here’s a selection of frames that exemplify the characteristics of tweener racquets.
Figuring out which racquet to buy is one of the most common questions beginners ask when getting started and learning how to play tennis.
Hopefully, the above sections of this guide have helped start to point you in the right direction. However, to be sure, we’ll provide some more concrete recommendations in this section.
If you’re a beginner who has never played tennis before or you’ve hit a few times, but you’re still just getting started, we’d recommend you opt for a power or tweener racquet.
Athletes with great hand-eye coordination gained from playing other sports will be great candidates for considering tweener racquets. Here’s a list of favorite racquets for beginners to get you started.
However, it’s worth noting that you don’t need to spring all that money at first if you don’t have the budget, you don’t plan on taking the sport too seriously, or you’re unsure if you’re going to enjoy it.
If you’ve been playing tennis for a while and your skills and technique are beginning to mature, then it may be time to experiment with a tweener racquet if you didn’t start there as a beginner.
Although it may be tempting, we’d recommend you stay away from players or control racquets at this stage and allow your game to continue to mature before making the switch, if you ever do at all.
Most advanced players will have carefully selected their tennis racquet well before they reach this level. However, intermediate players that are finding success on the court and moving up to an advanced level will want to start to consider a custom tennis racquet.
At the higher levels of the game, small tweaks to a player’s racquet can have a fairly substantial impact on performance. Moreover, ensuring all of your racquets match perfectly can help ensure a seamless transition as you switch racquets during a match.
Finding the Right Fit
The more honest you are with your skill level, and the better you understand your style of play, the more likely you’ll be to purchase the type of racquet that helps you maximize your performance, reduces the likelihood of injury, and helps you have more fun on the court.
If possible, work with a tennis pro at your local tennis club. More often then not, they are equipped and experienced in helping players find the right tennis racquet. Furthermore, they can get out on the court with you to understand your style and level of play and thus help you match you with the right racquet.
When working with a tennis pro, remember that not all pros are created equal. Be sure to seek out someone who has the credentials, experience, and is willing to take time to help you find the right racquet.
Also, be cautious of “club racquets.” Often, tennis clubs carry a limited selection of brands and styles of tennis racquets that cater to the types of players they most frequently see at their club or because they have a special relationship with a dealer. As a result, they’ll often be looking to push those racquets to clear out existing stock and make room for new models.
A reputable pro might start with the racquets their club carries because they have them directly at their disposal but will not limit themselves to these types of racquets if necessary to find the right fit.
You may also find it helpful to review the different parts of a tennis racquet, so you have a general understanding of how each component impacts racquet performance.
With hundreds of tennis racquets on the market, understanding the different types can help guide your decision making and narrow your options to find a great fit.
To that end, we hope this resource has helped point you in the right direction. Of course, if you need help, feel free to drop a comment below – we’d love to hear from you.