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How to Pick the Best Racket for You

March 30, 2015 02:16 PM

Jonathon Braden
USTA South Carolina


Buying a new tennis racket can be an incredibly fun time. You’ll finally be getting that new stick that will cure all that ails your game, including your second serve, your slice forehand, your backhand, and your overheads.

It also can be a little overwhelming. There are so many good options these days, how does the average tennis player know what makes a great racket great?

Stress no more. We asked South Carolina’s professional racket testers the tough questions so you’re informed.

Kin Roseborough, the racket stringer at the Family Circle Tennis Center and tennis pro and coach with MW Tennis Academy, and Colt Gaston, assistant men’s tennis coach at Furman University and a former ATP and WTA traveling coach, recently tested about 15 rackets for Tennis magazine. Roseborough and Gaston also took time to answer questions from USTA South Carolina about what makes a racket great, what a rec player should look for when deciding on a racket, and which racket they liked the best.

Thanks again to Kin and Colt for making time to chat.


USTA SC: Walk us through the process. Do you get 15 rackets that are all painted black in the mail, or how do you unbiasedly test the rackets?

KR: I typically get shipments of two to four rackets at a time between July and January. I playtest them to my satisfaction, then return them or send them on to the next playtester. Though most of the time I'm testing rackets prior to their retail release, they generally have their finished cosmetic.

CG: They have stopped painting the rackets black and send them regular now because companies feel that appearance does matter and trust the testers enough to separate appearance from performance. I will use the rackets for a week or sometimes two weeks depending on how many rackets I'm being asked to test. I feel that using the rackets in different types of hitting sessions is important to give the viewers a detailed and unbiased review. For example, Monday might be all groundstrokes; Tuesday all volleys and overheads; Wednesday match play, etc. Also, I like to put the racket in the hands of others at different levels and observe some of the things that are happening with their shots.

USTA SC: In your opinion, what makes a great racket?

KR: Honestly, there are so many great rackets available now. I like a frame that does something (power, spin, control, etc) very well, but has no glaring weakness.

CG: For me I'm not looking for a particular thing that makes a great racket. Everyone's game is different, and what often times impresses me the most with frames is being able to combine power with feel. It isn't easy to make an extremely balanced racket that gives you feel but also produces power at a high level as well.

USTA SC: What should the rec player look for when deciding on a racket?

KR: Look for a frame that accentuates the strengths in your game. If you rely on your big serve to win matches, get a good serving racket.

CG: In my opinion a recreational player should look for a balanced racket with a mediate head size (95-98 square inches) at an average weight (10-10.5oz) that is going to help them make balls and find consistency. Taking this route could improve your tennis game but also save you from injuries.

USTA SC: What’s a mistake rec players often make when deciding on a racket?

KR: Not testing the racket out in match play. There's no substitute for serves, returns and playing out singles and doubles points.

CG: I have a lot of friends that play league tennis and often ask me about frames. The most common mistake I notice comes when trying to find a racket with more power. If you are looking for a more powerful racket at this level make sure that the power isn't overwhelming because sometimes players don't realize they are hitting one clean winner and feeling "that's the biggest forehand I've ever hit" and then missing the same shot four times before doing it again. There are plenty of rackets out there that will maintain the control but add a little pop to your game.

USTA SC: Which racket was your favorite?

KR: I'm still thinking about that…

CG: There are a lot of rackets that I really liked during the testing process and I feel that companies are doing a great job of improving the technology. The Babolat Pure Strike is one of my favorites that I have tested so far.  I have always known that Babolat could produce powerful rackets but for them to find a racket that can keep the power and also produce feel and spin at a high level impressed me.

USTA SC: The best part about being a racket tester?

KR: Trying out the new frames weeks (or months) before they hit the shops.

CG: For me the best part of being a racket tester is the ability to see and feel the newest products on the market today. Often times I will get a racket that produces a ton more power, spin, control, etc., and I love the idea of being able to help others improve their game and find the right fit for them through reviews.