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RACQUET FITTING: WHICH IS THE RIGHT ONE FOR ME?
Head Size: Refers to the actual strung area of the racquet’s head, and is usually expressed in square inches. Head size is a determining factor in frame power and stability, as longer strings in a larger racquet head will have a higher “trampoline effect” (which can increase power). A wider head will have a larger “twistweight,” and will resist torque on off-center hits. A smaller head size can increase control (all else being equal), but will reduce sweet spot size, power, and torque resistance. There is no industry standard for head size classification, but a common range would be as follows:
Balance: This is the point where a racquet will balance on a beam or other instrument, and is not normally in the center of the frame’s length. If it is, that racquet is said to be “evenly balanced.” Most frames will fall into the other two categories: “head light”, with the majority of the weight in the handle, or “head heavy”, with the majority of the mass in the head. Balance is most often expressed as “points” head heavy or head light. Normally, heavier racquets will be balanced head light to increase stability in the grip and maneuverability in the head, while lighter ones will tend to be head heavy to provide the necessary momentum on the follow through. Racquet balance can be altered with the placement of weight (usually lead tape) in the desired location, and can drastically affect racquet feel and performance.
Cross Section: Refers to the width of the racquets beams, and is an indicator of racquet stiffness and power. A racquet with wider beams will tend to flex less than one with more narrow beams (all else being equal), and as such will lose less energy to that flex and transfer more power to the ball. Cross section width is generally measured in millimeters, and is normally termed in the following groups: Control frames will generally have beam widths of 22mm or less, Tweener racquets will usually have beam widths of 23-27mm, and Power frames will tend to have the highest cross sections of 28mm and above.
Flex: This is a measure of a racquet’s stiffness on a scale of 0-100, though most racquets fall into the 45-75 range. The higher the number, the stiffer the racquet; the lower the number, the more flexible. A flexible racquet absorbs much of the ball’s momentum coming into the strings, providing more control and often a more comfortable feel for the player wielding it. As you might imagine, flexible frames are more common in the “Control Racquet” category. “Power” frames tend to be stiffer and may transmit more vibration to the wrist and forearm, but, as the name suggests, they produce more natural pop on their groundstrokes, volleys, and serves.
STRING PATTERN: WHICH IS THE RIGHT ONE FOR ME?
If you have two similarly sized frames with identical strings and tensions, the racquet with the more open string pattern – or fewer strings – will usually have a softer, arm-friendlier response.
The ball can also stay on a more elastic string bed longer – called dwell time – which promotes a higher launch point and easier depth on shots. A 16x18 or 16x19 pattern used to be considered open, but now there are frames made with as few as 15 cross strings. However, more strings in the string bed makes a racquet stiffer and provides a firmer response. Frames with 16x20 and 18x20 configurations fall into the dense string pattern category. To players who play with lots of touch and precision, the extra feedback provided by these racquets can actually be preferable and more pleasing than the elevated softness of an open pattern.
The more space between the strings, the greater the opportunity to bite the ball. Hence, a more open pattern can accentuate spin, and because hitting with topspin has become such a critical part of the game, companies construct frames with string patterns expressly designed for this purpose. A player using a dense pattern can still apply spin to the ball, just not as easily. On the upside, the extra surface area and stiffer string bed generally provide better directional control.
Every time you hit a ball, your strings move and rub against each other, causing them to weaken and eventually snap. The greater the room to move – the more open the string pattern – the higher the frequency of breakage. That’s why frequent string-breakers tend to shy away from those types of frames entirely. A dense string pattern has less room for string movement and better string life. It also affords players the opportunity to use softer and thinner strings, which would break much faster in a frame with an open string pattern.
STRING TYPES: WHICH IS THE RIGHT ONE FOR ME?
1. Synthetic Gut - this is your basic string that the majority of players use:
Pros: Nice and Easy on the elbow
Cons: Not the most Durable string
2. Polyester - this is your durable strings. Great for string breakers
Pros: Great for Spin and Durability
Cons: Hard on your elbow
Recommended: String 10% less than normal (ie. 50lbs-10%= 45lbs)
3. Natural Gut - this is the softest strings in the market. Great for tension retention, but bad during humid/damp weather
Types of String in this category are: Babolat VS Team/Touch, Tonic Ball Feel
Pros: Best String for Players with Elbow Issues, Most Comfortable String in the market
Cons: Breaks easy, Very expensive
4. Hybrid Strings - A Combination of different type of strings combining the attributes of the characteristics of both strings.
(ie. Combining a polyester and a multi-filament synthetic gut would provide a little of both durability and comfort in one string)
Pros: Would add some durability/spin and playability/comfort at the same time.
Cons: Sometimes the Textured Poly would compromise the durability of the softer string