Identifying & Selecting Tennis Equipment

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson we will identify and select various types of tennis equipment. This will include not only the racket, but also strings, shoes, tennis balls, and even the ever important subject of nutrition.


Tennis is a highly athletic sport for both women and men that requires quality equipment for players to play at their best. Who hasn't marveled at a sizzling Angelique Kerber forehand or a smashing Pete Sampras serve? Who doesn't remember Andre Agassi's Gold Medal moment? Of course the pros have incredible skills, but identifying and selecting the proper equipment can benefit both the pro and the amateur as well.

Tennis Racquet

The tennis racket is the main item used by the players and so it is important to go into depth in deciding which racket is best suited for each player. There are five main components to picking a racket and they are distribution of mass, frame mass, frame width, grip size, and head size. There are also some other miscellaneous factors that can come into play in racket design. Of course we remember the players in the '60s using wooden rackets and then in the '70s sporting metal rackets, but today the materials of choice are aluminum or the more expensive carbon fiber, often called graphite.

A standard racket is 27 inches long. The average racket weighs a little more than half a pound. An aluminum racket can be purchased for around thirty dollars but pros will spend hundreds of dollars on a quality graphite model. Most tennis grip sizes fall into the 4 to 4 1/2 inch range. Women tend to use the smaller grips and men opt for the larger grips. The choice of grip size is not only influenced by hand size, but also by the desire to have more or less wrist action in the shots. Today's rackets, like golf clubs, have larger head sizes, but the average amateur would be better off choosing a model with a slightly smaller than average head size.

Comparison of a wooden racket and a carbon fiber racket.
wood and carbon fiber rackets

Tennis Strings

Pro tennis players (and many amateurs) are obsessive about their racket strings, and with good reason, as the tennis strings are the only surface that actually touches the ball. Tennis strings are divided up into two main categories-- natural gut and synthetic. A common misconception is that tennis strings are made from catgut, but they are actually made from the intestines of cows. In the past they were also made from the intestines of sheep. Rackets are either strung loosely or tightly (or somewhere in between), depending on both the strength of the player and the desired shot characteristics.

Tennis Shoes

Along with the racket, the tennis player's shoes are critical to the game. Because of the incredible amount of side-to-side movement in the game, a player's legs take an incredible beating over time. In fact, amazingly while pro golfers enter their Senior Tour at age 50, tennis players enter their Senior Tour at the age of only 35! Shoes determine two main factors, how in balance the player is while hitting the ball and how fast she or he gets to the ball in the first place. Most people fall into one of three categories: flat feet, high arched feet, or neutral feet. When purchasing a new pair of tennis shoes the player may look at his old pair and examine the 'wear pattern' to determine what type of shoe would be ideal.

Tennis Balls

All tennis balls are pretty much the same as there is very little deviation allowed by the governing bodies. A tennis ball roughly weighs 2 ounces and is 2 1/2 inches in diameter or slightly more. The balls are made of hollow, inflated rubber and then are covered with fabric, which must be uniform. There are many colors, but in competition, the white and yellow balls are the only ones used. There are also highly rigid standards on how much the balls bounce and compress. Type 1 balls are fastest, Type 2 balls are standard, and type 3 balls are slowest.

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