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Whit's Tennis Tips: Racquets

Whitney Kraft, Director of Tennis at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, is here to answer your questions on the game of tennis in his column on USTA.com called “Whit’s Tennis Tips". Whether you're looking for that perfect racquet, having a dispute over scoring a match, or just looking to improve your game, all you have to do is Ask Whit.
* Please note, due to the volume of emails Whit receives, he is not able to answer every email.

From: Rashmi,
Subject: Junior Tennis Racquet


My son is 9 years old and his coach wants me to buy him a 26" with a 4" grip racquet, I went to various sites and I saw so many different brands and a wide range of prices, I want to get him a good racquet at reasonable cost. Can you please suggest me a specific racquet that will be adequate for him.


Hi Rashmi,

You might want to look over this online guide to selecting racquets: http://www.racquetsportsindustry.com/articles/2008/04/2008_racquet_selection_map.html

For sizing purposes, have your son stand with arms naturally by his side-the racquet when held in hand should just clear the ground.

Good luck,


From: Kenny
Subject: Increasing Racquet Head Speed


Love your column. Thanks for your input on this question:

You have said in previous posts that racquet head speed is a critical element to a stronger serve. My question is this: how do I increase racquet head speed? What training methods or exercises can I practice to increase my racquet head speed, specifically for my serve? Thanks so much for your help!

Also, are there any exercises that you can recommend?


Hi Kenny,

There are three basic approaches to increase head speed/power; equipment, technique, and fitness. Working towards a sum using all these factors is the best approach.

Plyometric exercises are great to add power, but before you jump into plyos…get a tennis specific trainer to evaluate your strength base, and then organize the exercises and progressions to optimize development in a safe manner.

A certified tennis coach, that is particularly proficient in biomechanics, can look at you service motion and see where the "room for improvements" lie.

The medicine ball is probably the most commonly used piece of exercise equipment for power development. Click here for a USTA link for some specifics, and look for books by Don Chu; Power Tennis Training and Jumping Into Plyometrics available at www.humankinetics.com publishers. Please remember, as I mentioned earlier, a strength base and shoulder/core stability are critical in allowing plyometric exercises to safely improve performance, and Rotator cuff exercises are of particular importance.



From: Harry
Weight of racquet and power

It is a bit confusing about racquet weight, and what creates power. I understand stiffness and swing weight As a middle age tennis player, I've decided to increase the power of my racquet with lead tape in the head. I thought that this would allow me to put less effort into my swing and still generate power. My racquet now weighs just under 13 oz.

How can a lighter racquet be more powerful? Even if it were more stiff or a larger head size, It seems that you would have to put a lot more effort in the swing to make your shot go as hard vs increasing your racquet;s weight in the head to have more mass therefore more power. Am I right?

Hi Harry,

Basically, you are correct…however, head speed and mass both contribute to power. If the same frame is made heavier, particularly with the balance towards the head, and the racquet is swung at the same speed, more power will be generated. 13 oz is considered heavy by today’s standards, as the heaviest factory weight is usually 12.5 oz…and always a head-light balance. You did not indicate what frame model you have added the weight, but clearly you have shifted the balance point further towards the head.

Generally speaking, manufacturers offer two contrasting approaches to weight/balance; (1) light weight, but balanced head heavy (usually stiffer frame designed for power), or (2) heavier, but balanced head-light (usually medium flex designed for control)

Most pros play the latter, and when adding lead tape, it often is placed under the grip to maintain head-light balance, which makes the face easier to control during high speed strokes, but still adds weight for power but in a more controllable configuration. To make a racquet heavier, without changing balance; lead tape may be either placed directly at the zero balance point, or at two locations: some under the handle, and some on the racquet face, located in such a manner that the weight distributed between these two locations retain original balance point.

If your stroke swing speed is towards the slow end of the spectrum; adding weight to the head is the correct method. Contrarily; if you accelerate rapidly to generate topspin, adding weight to the handle, or in that method to maintain, or slightly alter original balance would be more appropriate. Since you have stated a desire to exert less effort, head heavy is the theoretical adjustment.



From: Kathi
Subject: Hand and Racquet


Today in a match my partner hit a ball at the net player on the opposing side.

The ball hit her hand (and she says then hit her racquet) and came back across the net.

I stopped the play as I thought it hit her body and not the racquet. She persisted that it also hit her racquet and without knowing the answer we decided to play the point over.

After the match we all talked about it and would like you to confirm.

Should a ball hit any part of the body- before or after it hits the racquet- the point goes to the other team?


Hi Kathi,

The instant the ball touches the body…the point is over….period. It is the responsibility of the player whom the ball touched to make the call themselves.



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