What kit do I need?
Choosing your tennis kit from the huge range of things on offer can be a daunting experience - and can also take a toll on your wallet!
We strongly believe anyone can learn and play to a high standard without having to spend megabucks on the latest carbon fibre imported racket.
For our coaching, we provide all the equipment you need to play free of charge (on request). However, if you are eager to accelerate your progress and play against friends, it's important to choose gear that is appropriate for your playing level and will keep enhancing your technique.
We've given some tips below which you can use as you try to make up your mind - and watch this space!
We will soon be publishing James Auckland's own Tennis Tips page, where he shares his personal experiences and advice as a former Davis Cup Player and British Doubles No.1.
Whether you spell them rackets or racquets, you definitely need one of these to get going on court!
There are a few key features to bear in mind when choosing your racket:
If you're not sure of your grip size, here’s a simple way to measure:
You should be able to fit the index finger of your non-hitting hand in the space between your ring finger and palm. If there isn't enough room, the grip is too small. This will require more muscle strength to keep the racquet from twisting in your hand; prolonged use can contribute to tennis elbow. If there is space between your finger and palm, the grip is too big. This inhibits wrist snap on serves, makes changing grips more difficult and also requires more muscle strength. Prolonged use of a grip that's too big can also contribute to tennis elbow.
Power is directly related to head size. A larger head will provide more power than a smaller head, all other things being equal. It also offers a larger hitting area and 'sweet spot', which is more forgiving with off-center hits. Today’s rackets have head sizes ranging from 85 to 135 square inches, most commonly 95-110. Typically, racket sizes offer a compromise between power and control. For this reason, smaller heads tend to appeal to experienced players who want more control, while larger heads appeal to beginner and intermediate players seeking more power and a larger 'sweet spot'.
Adult rackets are available in lengths ranging from 27-29 inches, the legal limit for tournament play. Standard racquets are 27 inches long. A longer racket provides more reach on ground strokes, added leverage on serves and slightly more power overall, all other things being equal. For most players, switching from a standard length racket to one that is 1/2 -1 inch longer doesn't normally present much of a problem. Most (but not all) longer rackets are lighter than their standard-length counterparts to keep them maneuverable. As racket length increases, so does dynamic swing-weight. Simply lengthening a 27 inch racket without reducing weight would result in a very unwieldy 'club'.
Weight and balance are the two characteristics that most influence how a racket feels when you swing it on the tennis court. Some basic concepts: a heavy racket provides more control; a lighter racket is more powerful. Generally players should play with the heaviest racket that they feel that they can play with as conditions such as tennis elbow are often associated with the lightest, most head heavy rackets. As a general guide an average ladies racket weighs around 260-275g and an average mens racket is around 300g.
Most rackets these days are balanced in their weight distribution - you can test the weight distribution of your racket by balancing your racket horizontally on its side on your finger. Your finger should be in the Centre of the neck of the racket. If your racket balances, this is an even weight distribution. If it overbalances to one side, this racket is known as either head heavy or grip heavy.
There are many shops and websites where you can use these quick tips to choose your ideal racket.
We recommend racquetdepot.co.uk as knowledgeable suppliers with very competitive prices.
There are many different types of strings available on the market these days and these can be classed into 3 different categories:
Synthetic gut is most likely to come as the factory strings for your racket - it is the most popular type of string and is suitable for most players. There are 2 types- Monofilament and multi-filament. Monofilament strings are one of the most durable kinds of strings and if you require a racket to be re-strung but don't have any specific requirements on strings, this is the one for you. Multi-filament strings are usually more expensive than the monofilament - they are a softer string so you will get more feel. They are the closest thing to natural gut, without actually being natural gut.
The traditional method of stringing your racket, but also the most expensive. Many of the pros will play with a mixture of these strings with a poly string (see below). Again, people choose these strings due to the softness and feel. Natural gut is very susceptible to changes in temperatures and moisture so it is not recommended that you play in the rain with it.
Recommended for regular string-breakers and usually used as a hybrid with other strings, polys are the toughest of all the strings. There is not a lot of feel in them and they can be tough on your joints so it is not recommended that you have a full poly in your racket. Polys are often used on the main strings with a softer string on the crosses, but they have been known to be used the other way around. You can also buy textured polys these days which provide a bit more topspin on the ball.
The average tension on rackets is around 55-60lb. Lower tensions provide more power (as they act like a trampoline) and higher tensions provide more control. You should generally stick to the recommended tension on your racket for optimum use of your racket. Again, you can have different tensions on the mains and crosses if required. Strings do lose their tension over time so it is recommended that you get your racket restrung every so often, even if the strings have not broken.
Thickness of strings
Most strings will be of 16L thickness, although you may occasionally see strings between 15-17L. Again, players alter the thickness of the string due to a tendency to break the strings or they may go for thinner strings to increase the spin. If you break your strings in a slightly odd place (ie near the frame), it could be that the grommets on your racket need replacing as they are cutting into the strings.
Any good racket stringer will be able to advise you on the best course of action to have your racket back to the optimum playing standard for you!