Let’s begin with three overall recommendations for selecting the right racket. First, enlist a knowledgeable teaching professional to help you through the process. Second, try several demo rackets, which are available at most shops, to see how you like the racket before you invest any money. Third, if you ask for help from a teaching professional and use his or her demo racket, please purchase a racket from that person rather than heading out to the chain sporting goods store to save a few bucks.
The most popular racket manufacturers in the United States have consistently been Prince, Wilson, and Head. Each of these companies offers a wide range of rackets with different playing characteristics and in various price ranges. You can’t go wrong with a racket from these leading manufacturers. Other brands produce good-quality rackets as well, but they are less well known and command a smaller market share.
Next, let’s look at grip size. There are two common methods for determining your optimal grip size. For the first method, use a ruler to measure the distance from the tip of your ring finger on your racket hand to the farthest main vertical line in you hand (figure 10.1a). This measurement typically shows a grip size of 4 1/4, 4 3/8, 4 1/2, 4 5/8, or 4 3/4 inches (European sizes 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6), which are the most common grip sizes for rackets.
For the second method, hold the racket with your dominant hand and slide the index finger of the other hand between the tips of your fingers and the base of your palm (figure 10.1b). If the grip is too small, there will be no room for the index finger. If there is extra room, the grip is too large.
Most men have a grip size between 4 1/2 and 4 3/4 inches (European size 4 to 6). For women, the range is typically 4 1/8 to 4 1/2 (European size 1 to 4). Keep in mind that if you add an overgrip for cushioning or absorbing perspiration, it will increase your grip size by about 1/8 inch (one European size).
Choose a grip size that is comfortable. Keep in mind, however, that a grip that is too large will force you to squeeze the racket more tightly and tire your arm. At the opposite extreme, a small grip may cause you to whip the racket and eventually cause arm or elbow problems. Try a racket with the grip size indicated by your measurement and use it for a while. If it feels uncomfortable, experiment with one size larger or smaller.
Today’s rackets are made of aluminum or a composite of several materials, such as boron or graphite. A beginning player on a limited budget will probably be happy with a prestrung aluminum racket in the price range of $75 to $125. After some time, you may want to upgrade to a higher-performance racket, which may cost about double the price. If you choose a higher-performance racket, buy it unstrung and put in the strings that you find most playable.