Choosing a tennis racket can be daunting given the variety of brands and products available. The specific differences between rackets–size, weight, string pattern–often vary depending on the skill level of the player, as well as personal preference.
The balance of a tennis racket is designated by one of three labels: head heavy, head-light, or even balance, which refer to the concentration of mass in the racket. If most of the weight is concentrated in the handle, we call the racket head-light. If most of the weight is concentrated in the head, it’s called head-heavy. If the distribution is about even, it’s called balanced.
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How Racket Balance is Measured (The Point System)
The static measure of weight distribution is measured from the butt end and referenced in “points,” with each point equalling 1/8th of an inch. According to Tennis Warehouse, “heavier racquets are head-light to maintain maneuverability, while most of today’s super-light racquets are head heavy to supply enough mass to the area of the frame where the ball is being contacted.”
For example, “A 27-inch racquet with a balance point of 12-1/2 inches is 1 inch, or 8 points head light (even balance would be 13-1/2 inches). A 28-inch racquet with a balance point of 15 inches is 1 inch (or 8 points) head heavy. Static balance ultimately affects swingweight (see below), which is an effective measure of racquet maneuverability,” continues Tennis Warehouse.
Measuring the Balance of a Tennis Racket
There are a few different ways to measure the balance of a tennis racket. Here we will cover the most common method, using a balance board.
To use the balance board to measure your racket’s balance, place your racket on the board so that the racket’s head is on your left and the handle of the racket is on your right, as shown below.
Now turn the knob clockwise or counterclockwise until you get the tennis racket to balance on the balance bar.
Find the length of your racket on the balance board and count the 1/8 inch marks to the edge of the racket handle.
If the racket’s end is on the left of your racket length mark, then your racket is head light. If the racket’s end is on the right of your racket length mark, then your racket is head heavy.
Each mark is 1/8 inch and represents a point. You should end up with the result that follows the format of (number of points) (head-heavy or head light). So, 6 points head-light. You could end up with an even balance as well.
Head Heavy Rackets
In general, head-heavy rackets offer higher hitting power but require more control to wield correctly. They’re built to propel the ball at high speed by using large oversized heads, lighter overall weights, and longer and stiffer construction. With weight concentrated in the head, even slower, more calculated swings can connect with the ball efficiently, sending it at the same speed as a faster swing with a head-light racket.
Head-heavy rackets are better suited for experienced players who often have the body control necessary to manage a top-heavy racket and connect with the ball in difficult positions.
It’s worth noting that if a racket is head heavy, it still may have a low overall weight. Some of the best rackets are lightweight but still head heavy. Many of the pros prefer these.
Overall, head-heavy rackets suit players with a long, fluid, continuous style of play. Where rallies involve broader, sweeping, and methodical swings that may not appear as quick but generate the same power due to the increased weight of the racket. Swinging slower can still generate enough power to remain competitive.
Head Light Rackets
Paradoxically, head-light rackets can have some of the highest overall weights but remain somewhat easy to control and put less pressure on the player’s wrist and arm if they are still developing strength in those areas.
For the most part, head-light rackets are suitable for less experienced players, offer more freedom and mobility, ease of readjusting to their opponents in real-time, and perhaps with a bit less foresight than experienced players.
Head-light rackets are excellent for aggressive players who like to press their opponents with swift swings and quick volleys. However, they have to ensure they can generate enough power with less aid from the racket’s mass.
Even Balanced Rackets
Of course, there’s always a middle ground for players who want to strike a balance between power and mobility. With balanced rackets, the point at which the racket balances is precisely in the middle, as measured from the butt of the handle.
The strung weight of a tennis racket can vary from about 8 oz to 12 oz, depending on the material, head size, stringing, and length. Even with balanced weight distribution, players can opt for larger or smaller head size, different measurements, and materials. This allows for considerable customization without having to opt for head heavy or head-light options.
For many players without a strong preference for head-light or head-heavy rackets, the even balance racket is a great starting point for trying different options. As one’s game progresses, the choice of the racket will evolve to help match the style of play. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to determine the best option.
Altering the Balance of a Tennis Racket
You can change the balance of your tennis racket by adding weight to either end of the racket. This will change the balance point of your racket. You should also know this will also add to the overall weight of the racket.
To make the racket more head-heavy, you will need to add weight to the racket’s head. This can be done with lead tape.
The same principle applies to make the racket more head-light. Add weight to the handle. In this case, you will need to take the cap off of the handle and add silicone to the handle.
Examples of Head-heavy Tennis Rackets
Examples of Head-light Tennis Rackets
|Wilson Clash 100 Tennis Racquet - Quality String (4-1/4)
|Babolat 2019 Pure Aero Tennis Racquet (4-1/4)
|YONEX VCORE Pro 97 (330g) Tennis Racquet (4 1/2)
|Wilson Pro Staff RF97 v13 Tennis Racquet (4 1/4" Grip Size)
Examples of Even-Balanced Tennis Rackets
Taking the balance of rackets into consideration is vital before making a purchase decision, and understanding the player’s goals and experience level. A player’s racket is an essential tool in an intricate game, and it’s critical to consider the nuances involved.
One of the best ways to narrow down the viable options is to reach out to a local tennis pro who will have worked with various players of various styles. Additionally, a given racket can always be modified after the fact. Tweaking weight and stringing may be just what you need short of buying a new racket.
Any competitor who is looking at settling on a new racket should examine the balance as well as test a few different options to see what suits them best. While each configuration has advantages, personal preference and comfort are most important to find the best fit.