~Apurva Tennis Academy
Stiffness and Power.
Our advice would be to purchase a one-piece racket. If you don’t know if your racket is one or two pieces, check the bridge, the bottom of the racket above the throat. In a cheaper two-piece racket you will see a plastic bridge insert holding the strings. A one-piece racket is one unit, it is able to transmit your power from your swing into the ball more effectively than a racket with two pieces. Two piece rackets are fine for juniors but adults will actually lose some of your racket head speed playing with a two-piece racket. The racket is more likely to twist in your hand when you hit a hard ball.
The very best rackets are made from high grade graphite or carbon fiber. These can be stiff to absorb the vibrations from the racket and transfer your swing to the tennis ball. Entry level rackets are usually made from aluminum or alloy. Alloy is light but it certainly does not perform as good as the higher grade materials in the high end rackets. Even at mid price range you can purchase graphite composite frames which have the characteristics of a top end frame but without the price tag. Although alloy rackets can be restrung they would typically not be as strong as a carbon-based racket meaning after a broken string they may not last as long. So if you are a string breaker probably best to invest in a more expensive frame. Whilst playing with these rackets the model on the left felt ok but the Radical MP on the right was just much more solid. It seemed to be able to both hit the ball harder and absorb the power from big shots a lot better.
Those of us who are very particular when they play will often cut out the factory strings and restring with their chosen string and tension. But I know many players who play with these strings and have no issues. I have tried new rackets before with shocking strings that move about under every shot and have a trampoline type tension. Although it may seem like a waste of the strings it is actually quite a good idea. Who knows how long the racket has been sitting in a warehouse or store? The strings begin to lose tension as soon as they tensioned. The chances are you could be playing with a racket strung at 20lbs. If you find your shots are a little pingy or move a little too much under pressure then it could be time for new string job. In the cheaper racket the strings were a standard synthetic gut. The more expensive racket featured a polyester string which is more suited to performance players as it offered enhanced durability and spin.
As a rule the more expensive the racket the better the string job. Less expensive rackets will likely not have great strings however if your strings feel good and you can play with them then certainly do not cut them out. Remember strings are the only thing that make contact with the ball, they are worth investing in. Why do pro players have freshly strung rackets every day? It makes a huge difference. Now us mere mortals cannot afford to string our sticks every day but remember string your racket at least as many times as you play per week. Eg play 4 times a week, then string your racket at least 4 times a year.
Just as there is a tradeoff in weight there is also a tradeoff in headsize. I would always recommend playing with as big a head as you can get away with without compromising power. My first proper racket was a Head Liquidmetal Radical Oversize. It was 107 sq inch and as an intermediate player I found myself having a super sweet spot and plenty of power despite the size. A larger headsize makes it easier to hit the ball but the tradeoff is it may not move through the air as quickly as a smaller headed racket.
A smaller headed racket 90-97sq inch are best reserved for technically proficient players. The sweet spots on such rackets are quite small and therefore require an enormous amount of precision to hit the ball effectively. The most popular sizes at the moment are around 100sq inch, these rackets are ample size to provide a big enough sweet spot without being too unwieldy to manoeuvre in close combat situations. Like weight, headsize does not make a racket good or bad choice for you. It is a personal decision one fundamentally based on what is going to be good for your game.
So to summarize cheaper rackets aren’t necessarily bad and offer new players a step up into the game. The offer reasonable performance and very good value for money. The Head Radical 27 is a good racket especially if you want to have a modern racket on court. Its lightweight and easy to swing. The Head Radical MP is certainly worth the additional money. Overall it is a much better racket. Extremely hard to explain via the medium of a blog, its just better. Everything about it is superior to the Radical 27. You may wish to spend a little bit more money initially to ensure you aren’t buying twice in the future.