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Wondering if you should invest in a new racket or if your old one will see you through? Discovering the right tennis racket can be an exhilarating journey, one that promises not only enhanced performance but a whole new level of enjoyment on the court. But you can be overwhelmed by choice.
“You’ll get much more enjoyment with a racquet that matches your ability and playstyle,” says a well-known Auckland coach.
A new racquet in the right size is essential for beginners. For juniors, it can help to really elevate performance and build fun factor. It will especially make a difference if you’re an experienced player or returning social player. However, if you’re playing to encourage a 5 or 6 year old child, a fancy racquet won’t make a huge difference – but you will certainly arrive looking more stylish than with your old retro model!
As a total beginner, aged between 4 up to about 9 years of age, learning is easier on a cheaper lightweight aluminium racquet with a big sweet spot, such as the Babolat B’fly (cute pink feminine colours) or Ballfighter (playful boyish colours). For cool cats who love to play with a racquet that looks the same as Rafa Nadal’s, Babolat’s Nadal Junior range with Rafa’s groovy gender-neutral colourway is one of Babolat’s top-selling tennis racquets for beginners.
It has a racquet in every size, and is ideal for young children learning on an orange or red ball. These racquet styles help to build confidence and get them hitting the ball more consistently. Plus it helps to look cool! Babolat is one of the world’s top tennis brands, and is renowned for its chic French colourways. Aluminium starter rackets cost $70-85. See below for tennis racket size charts.
Once your child can rally and play three quarter court at Hot Shots orange level or is transitioning from orange to green ball, the 25 inch Drive Junior for a 7-8 year old or the 26 inch Aero Junior are full graphite options, i.e. a racket that will last a little longer.
It in nutshell, the pros say: don’t give your children your old racquet with a big grip and older heavier frame. Coaches use mini nets, low compression tennis balls and lighter rackets; to get beginners scoring and serving sooner. Heavier rackets make it hard for them.
For a youth beginner on a budget, the entry level option for a full length racket is a Babolat Evoke (around $120). It has a combo aluminium graphite frame.
For a youth beginner, check out the Babolat Evoke around $120 with a large 105” head for a super big sweet spot to really help with more consistent shots or Pulsion ($140-$160) – also a big head at 102”. A large head is a super encouraging feature (who doesn’t love a bit of encouragement?). If budget is not an issue Boost Aero $220) or Boost Drive ($220).
These are lightweight, mid-level rackets which help consistency and confidence, until they are ready to transition to a heavier frame.
For an adult beginner, the Babolat Pulsion or Evoke models are cheap to get you going. A cooler colourway is a little more – try the Boost Rafa ($220) or for a racket that will see you further, a lightweight Pure Aero or Evo Drive is a sure-shot. Evo Drive is an all-rounder; it suits everyone, followed by the Aero. Beginners should avoid a Pure Strike – “it’s unusable unless you’re a really good player.”
Getting a racquet with some graphite in the frame enables your juniors and intermediates to develop their game and learn more about tactics and spin. Intermediate players are serving, rallying, scoring and striking not a bad tennis ball.
As children grow taller and stronger, they will need a longer racquet to match their height. Typically children get a second tennis racquet between age 9-14 and the aim is to get a lighter model. Boost is the entry-level graphite frame, Evo is one of the most popular racquets at Rebel. It’s designed for intermediates over 150cm tall, and Pure is the range for more competitive players. Transitioning to a racquet like the Boost or Evo Drive is a wise decision if your coach indicates your child is underpowered in their current gear.
When your child is playing at green ball (this is the third level of ball, after red and orange, after which children get to play with a normal yellow ball), it’s time to move up to at least a $220 full-spec lightweight tennis racquet.
Check out the Babolat Boost, Evo Drive Lite or Evo Aero Lite boost comes in five models and three weights. For a Junior 9-14, we recommend the 260g or 270g models. For 13 and 14 year olds, who are not as strong in their game yet, Evo Drive or Aero Lite are a solid option. Evo is a really popular, affordable racquet.
If your child is playing interclub and it’s their first season, it makes sense to move from an aluminium to a graphite racquet; the ball comes off the strings better. The most popular Babolat for this level is the Babolat Pure Lite range racquet for a 12-13 year old playing in a team, because it’s a full-sized lightweight racquet. There are three Pure Lite racquets – Pure Aero Lite (spin), Pure Strike Lite (control) and Pure Drive Superlite + Lite (power).
The moment you start playing in tournaments, (12 and 14 year olds are the biggest group), the Mums and Dads get keen and get coaching. Those are the years you’ll get children buying a racquet or a spare in case they bust a string in a tournament.
The stringing can make a huge difference – it’s like putting a bigger engine in the motor. Tighter or looser, polystring or lively, the string changes the racquet dynamics. The durability of strings is a consideration; a 12 or 13 year old getting coaching every night might be busting strings once a fortnight. At $40-60 a pop, you want one that’s not too hard on the arms but lively on the ball. Babolat have a good range of strings.
Fun fact: “I’ve been told that how many days a week you play is how many times a year you should restring”
The Evo range sails out the door here, retailing between $300-$360. It is a popular and forgiving range due to the slightly oversized head (104) coming in at 270-290g. If you like spin, go for the Evo Aero. For power, the Evo Drive or for a combo, the Evo Strike.
The Pure Aero Lite 285g model is a weight that many females or lighter-weight teens from 14 onwards use (good for teens who haven’t yet fully filled out). This racquet will last longer if you’re a lighter build but is at the pricey end $460-$480. The lighter weight means your arm doesn’t get so tired. Developed or experienced female players should use a 300g racquets so the racquet does a lot of work for you, for power.
Males also use 300g, but could use a 285g if they want a bit of manoeuvrability at the net.
Younger teens who are lighter in build, may mature and fill out in their mid to late teens with more body mass, meaning they will be able to handle a heavier racquet that facilitates more power and spin. Typically, a 16-year-old boy has a mature physique.
When your child’s physique matures, they can swing a bigger racquet with more oomph, are playing a gutsier game, and hitting with more length, “you get him/her a cannon rather than a pea shooter,” explains Pro shop coach Alastair.