When is it time for a new tennis racquet?
Some things in life are designed to last forever – like diamonds and tattoos. But tennis racquets start to break down the moment you first string them. This may come as a surprise to some, since many racquets are constructed with some of the same materials that NASA uses to build shuttles. But while racquets are more durable than ever, they are not indestructible.
Obviously, if you see visible cracking, you know it’s time for a replacement. But if your frame still looks the part, yet isn’t performing the way you remember, action could also be required.
Each time you strike a ball, the frame distorts backward to absorb the impact, then bends forward as it returns energy to the ball. Over time, this process damages the bond between the thousands of graphite fibers (the primary composite of racquets) and the resins that hold them together.
Eventually, the frame loses stiffness and becomes “soft.” When that happens, you lose power and control.
What’s more, restringing puts even more stress on the racquet head. During the course of stringing, a frame deforms, elongating and condensing before returning to its customary shape. This also eventually breaks down the structural integrity.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect formula for determining how long your frame will last. But assuming you don’t intentionally splinter it, a new racquet should last at least two years before you have to start worrying about performance-affecting fatigue.
This two-year rule applies to club players who play two or more times a week. Someone who plays once a month and restrings his racquet every other year shouldn’t be overly concerned. Aggressive baseliners who blast the ball and players who hit with a lot of spin may need to update more often.
The first thing to do is restring to see if that improves playability. If that still doesn’t impress you, demo a new model of your current racquet alongside a freshly strung Old Faithful. If the new frame plays better than the older one, it just might be time for a change.
For more on the latest gear and tennis technology, visit TENNIS.com.