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.
How Racket Balance is Measured
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.
Head Heavy Rackets (HH)
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 to 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 do 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 (HL)
A head-light racket will have more of its mass located toward the handle end of the racket. Most traditional players’ rackets are head-light to help maintain maneuverability. Paradoxically, head-light rackets can have some of the highest overall weights but still remain somewhat easy to control as well as 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 as well as 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 mass of the racket.
Balanced Rackets (EB)
Of course, there’s always 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 lengths, 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 from which to try 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.
Taking the balance of rackets into consideration is vital before making a purchase decision, as well as understanding the player’s goals and experience level. A player’s racket is an important tool in an intricate game, and it’s essential 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 a variety of 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 there are advantages of each configuration, personal preference and comfort are most important to find the best fit.