If you have been playing tennis for a while, you would have come across a lot of technical terms related to your tennis racket. We all know what a tennis racket weight means but what does a swingweight mean, for example? Or balance and stiffness among other such aspects about a tennis racket?
In this piece below, we get technical about a tennis racket and try and explore the meaning of the aforementioned terms. We also look at how does each of this term affect one’s tennis.
Let’s start with the tennis racket basics.
What does a Tennis Racket Weight, or a Pickup or Static Weight mean?
This is quite simply the weight of a tennis racket when it’s measured in a static position, i.e. when a tennis racket is just placed on a weighing scale.
Typically, rackets can weigh anywhere between less than 9.5 ounces (270 grams) to more than 11 ounces (312 gram).
Heavier the racket, more is the power which is imparted on to the ball without too much impact on the arm but it also needs a stronger arm to use them over a course of a match. Lighter rackets allow for easier swing, and the player has a better manoeuvrability but the lower weight forces the player to instill more power into the shots.
Should a player opt for a heavier or a lighter racket?
Well, simply speaking a tennis player should go for as heavy a racket as his or her arm can take. A heavier racket can typically improve a player’s game but if you are just starting out, it would make more sense to slowly increase the racket weight rather than straightaway trying out a heavy racket.
Beginners can usually start off with a 10 ounce (283.5 gram) racket while as they become more of an intermediate or advanced tennis players, this changes to more than 11 ounces (311 gram). For example, Serena Williams is one of the most powerful women’s player and uses an 11.4 ounce racket.
So what is a Tennis Racket’s Swingweight?
The tennis racket swingweight is one of the more important technical measure which describes how heavy a racket feels while the player is swinging it during play.
While a racket’s swingweight can be measured, different players could react differently to the same racket while swinging it because of the various other specifications involved in a racket.
One of the biggest factors which affects the swingweight is the weight distribution of the racket; if the weight of the racket is more concentrated away from the handle (i.e. towards the tip of the racket), the swingweight will feel a lot more than if the weight is more towards the middle, throat portion of the racket.
Adding more weight towards the handle of the racket till about the point where it’s held by the player wouldn’t affect the swingweight. It’s measure is usually affected by the distribution of the weight from the pivot point – i.e. where the racket is held – to the tip of the racket.
Higher the swingweight, heavier the racket would feel when it’s swung during play by the player.
Typically again, a player starts off with a lower swingweight and once used to it, he/she can look to increase that measure by making slight adjustments to the tip of the racket.
For e.g. one can add a lead tape to the tip of the racket or even opt for slightly heavier strings which would increase the swingweight since this extra weight would be concentrated away from the middle of the racket.
Here’s a slightly more scientific explanation for what is swingweight?
Assume the tennis racquet is a clock pendulum. The swingweight is measured as a distribution of the weight along the pendulum. It will act as a measure of the resistance met by the racket in that circular motion. Assuming the pivot mark, i.e. where the fist holding the racket ends, is the focal point of that circular motion, higher the swingweight, more resistance will be met by the racket and slower will be the acceleration but more power will be generated with the same amount of force.
Also, more the swingweight, the force applied by the ball on the racket while playing a shot will not move the racket as easily as when the swingweight is lower. This implies a higher swingweight will allow for more stability and lesser shock.
What’s a Tennis Racket Balance?
The balance of a tennis racket is the distance from the centre of the racket at which point the racket will balance equally, i.e. the weight will be distributed equally.
The balance of a tennis racket is denoted as a whole number or a point with each point representing 1/8th of an inch towards the handle of the racket from the racket centre. This figure gives an idea about where the weight of the racket is concentrated.
To give an example, if a racket is 28 inches long and it balances perfectly at 14 inches, then it is called a 0 point Headlight racket. For every 1/8th of an inch the balance point moves towards the handle, the Balance Headlight number increases by 1.
Typically, the balance of a tennis racket is anywhere between 4 to 10 Headlight, but lower the number, more powerful is the racket since the weight is more concentrated towards the head of the racket.
To get more power on the racket, a lower balance is required while a higher balance point ensures greater manoeuvrability.
To get a more solid understanding about the Tennis Racket Balance, check this video out:
What’s a Racket Stiffness?
The racket stiffness is a number which denotes the amount a tennis racket frame flexes while making contact with the ball. Higher this number, higher is the stiffness, and lower the racket flexibility.
Most tennis rackets used at the highest level will lie between 60 and 75 stiffness.
A higher racket stiffness will impart a lot more power on to the shots because it will flex a lot lesser, while a lower racket stiffness will absorb the power thanks to its flex and lose the power.
Is a tennis racket of higher ‘stiffness’ harmful for the arm?
Stiffer the racket, more is the free power which is available while hitting a shot and that makes it a favourite among players. However, it could also result in injuries to the player’s shoulder, arm and wrist.
As mentioned earlier, a tennis racket stiffness is measured using RA Ratings, which is a decent guide to tell you whether you are using a racket with too much stiffness. However, at times it’s tough to understand based on that standalone figure if the racket could cause an issue to the arm.
In such cases, it makes sense to try the racket while playing to understand if it suits you and read reviews online about what other users are saying about it.
If the racket stiffness is high, add to that a lower tension string; high stiffness and high string tension could make for a potent combination and run the risk of a tennis elbow.