Does tennis gear really matter?
Does tennis gear really matter?
Gear - we all love it! For some having the latest tennis gear and gadgets brings as much excitement as the game itself. Tennis gear has ignited endless debates among players and surely been a catalizator in lot of tennis friendship demises. The legend says that tennis gear can help us play a better game. The gear also has powers to turn us into infamous posers if we overdo it. Some say that it is not possible to play tennis and win matches without the latest technology. It’s so confusing, so what’s the truth?
When it comes to choosing a tennis racquet, there are so many variables involved. The two major ones are surely the racquet head size and weight. Weight is especially important as not all tennis players took lessons or learned to play when they were kids so their strokes are not optimized. Recreational players so often improvise tennis strokes and don’t follow the conventional rules of technique like proper body positioning, swing path etc. This can lead to potential injuries and problems such as annoying tennis elbow and similar issues, which can be amplified by using improper gear. This is why choosing a racquet of correct weight and head size is important. Another point is racquet balance, does it have more weight towards the head or all the weight is in the handle?
We could generally say that every racquet that is made by top manufactures such as Wilson, Head, Prince, Babolat or Yonex and that is in the price range of $70+ will surely work well. As long as you don’t buy a tennis racquet for $9.99 in a grocery store that is made of plastic, you’ll be okay. This being said, tennis racquet differences in quality and general usability at certain price point just simply start to dissipate, so it doesn’t mean that most expensive racquet will be the best one to use for you. Try before you buy, most tennis shops have demo programs where you can take a bunch of racquets to a court to play with them for a week or so, until you decide which one is the right fit for you. Does the quality of a tennis racquet matter? Yes. Will it make you a better player if you don’t already have good technique foundations? Probably not, but it will make practice more satisfying and help you get there.
Strings are something very few beginners or recreational players pay attention to. There are different types of strings out there, which are made of completely different materials. There is a big difference between natural gut string and polyester strings. At the club level, the choice is usually between these three types of strings: synthetic gut, polyester and multifilament. Synthetic gut strings are cheap and feel pretty comfortable, polyester strings are more durable and offer more power but have less comfort and multifilament are somewhere in the middle. Although it can be costly, it is highly recommended to try out each of these string types to find the one that feels the best for your game. For example, players that find synthetic gut strings comfortable can have elbow issues with harsh and stiff polyester strings. It is important to find the right strings for your game and more importantly for your body. Type of string and its speciality such as “spin”, “control” or something else advertised on the package does not mean you’ll be able to hit with more spin automatically. It might help you generate more spin if you already know how to hit with nice top spin and the difference might be very subtle.
Another aspect is string tension. The best is to consult with your tennis stringer about the tension you should be using when stringing the racquet. Finding the right string tension can indeed have an impact on your game.
Often overlooked accessories for tennis racquets are vibration dampeners and overgrips. There are so many tennis players playing with the the grip that came with the racquet. Usually, it’s shred to pieces and those players are often the ones who have problems with nasty blisters on their hands. Using an overgrip is a cheap fix that can make a big difference. Overgrip can enhance friction and feeling. The racquet will be held more firmly - even on those miss-hit shots that tend to spin the racquet in our hands (ouch!). Also, it can be really hard to serve with a grip that doesn’t react well to sweat and which feels slippery. When it comes to vibration dampeners, some players prefer to use them for muted feeling of the string bed while others hate them. Try one out to see which one of those players you are.
Personally, this feels like a myth even though some players swear that they can perform miracles if they play with certain brand of tennis balls. Those players incidentally only lose matches because they “didn’t like the balls”. In the end, there are only “new balls” and “old balls”. All “new balls” are good and will bounce around the same for both players. It is how good we are at adapting our footwork and swing timing and how closely we are really watching that fuzzy ball that makes or breaks our game. Used balls can also be nice to play with, if they are not already played with for too long. Generally those balls just lose a bit of the softness and bounce so the game might feel a bit slower. Like with cars, the best balls are the new balls. That’s why pros change tennis balls several times during matches.
What really matters?
What really matters is the combination of our technique, skills as a tennis player and fitness level with the quality gear to match our style. We do need “the gear” in order to achieve optimum performance on the court. Lots of close matches have been won just by grabbing a backup racquet that had a fresh set of strings on. This seemingly small change would have resulted in more depth and pace of the shots as well as better feeling for the player - just what everyone needs in tough matches to turn them around! Another example would be the overgrip change, you must have seen pros do it in some of the matches? Why? Because new overgrip enhances feeling and playability. When the playing level of two tennis players is close, benefits different tennis gear brings can indeed have a tremendous impact on the outcome. This is why it’s so exciting to follow the trends and explore new tennis gear technologies, after all - we did come a long way from using heavy wooden racquets. The modern tennis game is getting faster and faster every day, and we do need to keep up.