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Choosing the right equipment will help you learn tennis faster and get the most out of your valuable time on court.  The most important pieces of equipment are your tennis shoes, tennis balls and tennis rackets.  The following info can help you make the best informed choices on what to buy and avoid, and can help you save money and improve your game.  

Tennis Shoes: Choosing the Right Shoes

Be sure to choose the right type of tennis shoe for safety and best performance on the court surface you play on.  Each court surface has a specific shoe pattern and you should invest in shoes that match your court surface.  The video below provides a quick description of tennis shoes and how they are made different for each surface.

Tennis Balls

There are many different tennis balls available today.  Most adults will play with pressurized tennis balls in pressurized cans from popular brands like Wilson, Penn, Dunlop, Babolat and Slazenger.  Always choose from these brands, and never buy cheap tennis balls from a budget brand.

Tennis ball cans are labelled either "Extra Duty"(for outdoor hard courts) or "Regular Duty" (for clay, grass and indoor courts).  All tennis balls from these brands perform similarly and will give you good results.  I almost always use the Championship series as they are cheaper and perform great.  The other series (Us Open, Rolland Garros, ATP, etc.) are more of a marketing hype than they are better performance.  Most clubs only allow 3 balls per court, but if you can bend the rules, I recommend using 6 balls to help save time.  As for shelf life, even though the pros change tennis balls every 6 games (about 30 minutes), if you cant squeeze the rubber and there is plenty of pressure still in the can, you can keep using them.  Once the pressure is gone (usually about 2 weeks of non-hitting after opening) you will need to replace them.  Tennis balls also deflate in the cold, so try to keep them stored at room temperature.

Pressureless tennis balls also exist and come in bags and are better suited to inexperienced or younger players.  These tennis ball types are explained in the video below.  Kids benefit most from the tennis balls designed for their specific age (foam, red, orange and green dot tennis balls for under 10 year olds).

I recommend pressurized tennis balls for experienced and skilled players, and pressure-less tennis balls (Orange and Green Dot) for beginners., regardless of their age.  There is a lot of benefit from using different tennis balls when playing at different skill levels.  

Lastly, tennis balls are not green, they are fluorescent yellow πŸŽΎπŸ˜‰

How to Pick Your Tennis Rackets

(*Note: When buying kid's tennis rackets, the technical aspects of the racket don't really matter beyond the brand and proper length.  Kids have shorter rackets that should touch between their ankle and heel when held by their side with their arms down while standing upright.)

There are lots of areas to consider when buying an adult tennis racket.

Brand: Reliable tennis racket brands include: Wilson, Head, Dunlop, Prince, Babolat, Slazenger, Yonex, and Donnay.

Racket Length:  First, find a tennis racket that you like, then get the right length.   Adults have standard length 27 inch rackets and long body rackets that are slightly longer than 27 inches (usually 27.25, 27.5, and 28 inches long).

Grip: Buy a racket that has the right grip size for your hand or one that is comfortable is you prefer a smaller or larger grip. You can always increase grip size by adding a thicker grip or an overgrip (which will add about 1/16 to 1/8 inches to your grip size), but you can not shrink a grip size.  There are two ways to find your grip size:
  • The general rule is that the grip size is the length in inches between your palm's bottom lateral crease and the end of your ring finger.  
  • You can also grab tennis racket like a hammer, and place your non-hitting hand's index finger between your gripping fingers and your palm when held (See the video below).  Your index finger should fit perfectly when you grip the racket in a relaxed but firm way (as you would when you hit).

Video: Choosing the Right Grip Size

Head Size:  The head size is the size of the surface area of the string bed.  The most common head sizes are oversize and midplus.
  • Oversize - 105+ inches squared.  Bigger head sizes are more forgiving, having larger sweet spots, and provide more power.  
  • Midplus - 93-104 inches squared.  Most popular head size.  Great for intermediates and advanced players.
Weight:  You want to use the heaviest racket you can that will not tire your arm.  You can make a tennis racket heavier (see below for customizing ideas) but you cannot make a tennis racket lighter.  I recommend mid-weight rackets for most adult players.
  • Heavy (12.5+ oz)  = More power, but harder to swing.  Best for advanced players.
  • Midweight (10.5-12.5 oz) = Medium power and swing 
  • Lightweight (<10.5 oz) = Less power but faster swing speed
Balance: The balance affects the feeling and power of the swing.  You can measure the balance by balancing the racket and noticing which end of the racket has more weight.  The heavier side will be longer when balanced and the lighter side will be shorter.  There are three types of balance:
  • Head Heavy:  The head of the racket is heavier than the grip.  This gives more power, but less control.  It can also make the swing slow and feel heavier.  Head-Heavy rackets are recommended for most absolute beginners and seniors who benefit from more power with lighter rackets.
  • Even Balanced: These rackets are perfectly or near perfectly balanced.  They provide an even feel and swing speed.  They are great for intermediate players.
  • Head-Light:  These rackets have more weight in the grips and are lighter in the head.  Head-Light rackets allow for faster swing speeds in heavier rackets.  They are most commonly used by advanced players and professionals.
String Pattern:  The racket's string pattern refers to the number of vertical and horizontal strings on the string bed (V x H).  The two most common string patterns are 18 x 20 (tighter) and 16 x 19 (looser).  Tighter string patterns give you more control but less spin and power, while looser string patterns give you more power and spin but less control.  You can adjust your string pattern performance with your choice of strings and tension if you want more spin, control or power with the string pattern that you have.

Stiffness and Beam Width:  The stiffness (flexibility of the frame) and beam width (width of the frame) of the racket affect the control and power of the racket.  Stiffer and narrower beam rackets provide more control, while more flexible and wider beam widths give more power.  Again, string choice and tension can make modifications to the performance but stiffness and beam width do affect the feel and performance of the racket.

Video: How to Choose a Tennis Racket

My Final Tip of Advice on Buying New Rackets:   

Good tennis rackets can last decades, and if you make a good choice at the start, you can save money later.  Always buy a racket from a reputable brand like Wilson, Head, Prince, Dunlop, Yonex or Babolat.  Buying from a tennis store also allows you to ask questions and advice from the sales associate to get the right racket if it is your first time or if you are unsure of what will be your best choice. 

I recommend buying a one-piece frame if you are going to buy a cheap model since one-piece frames are more durable than two-piece frames.  You can tell if a racket is one piece by checking the throat of the racket (the triangle hole).  The throat should be metal all around, and should be separate from the grip.  Cheap two-piece rackets have the metal frame glued directly into a plastic grip.

This yellow racket is a one-piece, and the throat has metal all around.  The single piece of metal is then attached to the grip. These rackets start at about 50 dollars for lighter and cheaper models.

This orange racket is a two piece, since the throat does not have metal all around as noticed by the gap in metal where it meets the grip.  This racket is cheap, flimsy and although it will be okay to start, it will not have much value for anyone beyond an absolute beginner.  These adult rackets are usually below 50 dollars in price.  Some companies have added rubber to fill the gap, but don't be fooled because a racket must have metal all around the throat to be a one piece.

You can also find great deals on used tennis rackets, and a few minor paint chips have little-no effect on performance (just make sure there are no cracks, dents or warping).  Then just replace the used racket with a new grip or add an overgrip and you will save a lot of money (see the video below on adding overgrips).  Don't dismiss older frames as well, because some of the best graphite frames ever made and have past the test of time were made in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and some pros even use those older rackets today with updated paint jobs to look like the new ones in stores.  

In most cases, beginners will not get the same performance benefits from expensive rackets are experienced and advanced players, so just finding the right grip size and comfortable weight will be sufficient in nearly all new racket purchases for a beginner.

String Types

Tennis strings are made of different materials and provide differences in feel, control, power, durability and spin.  This short video covers the different types of string materials you can use to tweak your racket for the type of style of play you want.

Tennis strings also come in different thicknesses as well, called gauge.  The smaller the gauge number, the more durable and thicker the string (but less control).  Gauges range from 15-20.  The most common are 16-18.

String Tension

String tension affects the performance of your racket.  Looser string tension provides more power but less control, while tighter string tension provides more control but less power.  The following video explains how string tension affects your racket and how you can choose the right tension for your game.

Upgrade Your Tennis Racket

Its not always necessary to upgrade your tennis racket for a new model.  Watch this video to see if upgrading from the racket you have will help your tennis or not.

Customizing Your Tennis Racket:

There are many ways to add weight to customize your racket and gain more life out of it as your skills evolve.  This short video provides many options that you can consider if you want to customize your current racket.

Adding an Overgrip

Overgrips are great when you need extra feel and grip during matches and play.  The amount of time you want to use an overgrip for is personal preference.  I usually like to change my overgrip after about 4 hours of play.  I prefer to use a tacky overgrip, but there are different types of overgrip that give players a different feel.  Moisture absorbing and tacky grips are the most common.

How to Cut Strings

If your tennis strings break on court, you should cut them later that day in a specific, even way that will prevent your frame from warping due to uneven tension over time.  This video shows you how.

Tennis Apparel

Aside from tennis shoes, any comfortable and loose athletic clothes will do fine for tennis.  Clothes don't make you a more skilled player. However, there are some tennis clothes that you may want to have:
  • Shorts/Skorts With Pockets: Pockets help to hold a second ball when serving (so you don't have to delay the match picking a ball if you missed your first serve).  If you are a lady, you can buy tennis shorts or skorts that have pockets.  Other women wear skirts with spandex shorts underneath, and store the ball pressed against their thighs under their spandex.  
  • Baseball Caps: Help keep you cool and block the sun from your eyes.
  • Headbands:  Prevent sweat from dripping down your forehead into your eyes.
  • Wristbands: Prevent sweat from dripping down your arm onto your hands.
  • Towels: To wipe down sweat between points or on changeovers.
  • T-Shirts: Athletic polyester shirts are best at wicking sweat away from your body, or cotton shirts are fine if you change them often and don't mind the feel.
  • Polyester Socks: Help wick away moisture in your feet.  Bring a few pairs if you plan to play for a long time so that you can change them often and prevent blisters from overuse.
The point is, there are lots of clothing options available but always invest most in your tennis shoes, balls and rackets over your clothes.  Some clothing options can help you play more comfortably and feel better on court which helps on a minor level sometimes.  Some clubs have dress codes you need to follow if you plan on playing at a club so be sure to check their rules.