The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, it matters because some racquets are simply too heavy for some peoples’ muscles to handle. But, it’s more complicated than just the number of ounces printed on the side of the racquet. In fact, picking a racquet based on how much it weighs is a bad idea. Just to illustrate this, when I was a kid (10-12 years old) I played with a Pro-Kennex Copper Ace. It weighed 11.8 ounces, and I never had any problems handling it. But, I’ve played with 10.5 ounce racquets these days that I swear are too heavy. No, it’s not just because I’m an old man that some of these racquets are giving me trouble. It’s because of a little measurement that few people pay any attention to – swing weight. It is swing weight that you should really be more concerned about than the actual weight.
What is Swing Weight?
Swing weight is a measurement that tells us how heavy a racquet feels when swung. The weight of a strung racquet, while sitting stationary on a flat surface is it’s strung weight. But, swing weight is the number that measures how the racquet feels as you grip it at the handle and swing it through the air. The reason we need a swing weight measurement? It’s because racquets have different weight distributions and lengths; depending on design, a racquet can concentrate weight at the head, in the handle, or it can have an even distribution. All of these configurations drastically change swing weight and feel.
Yonex VCore 100S: Strung Weight – 11.1 ounces; Balance – 5 pts HL (Head Light); Swing Weight – 306.
Babolat AeroPro Team GT: Strung Weight – 10.6 ounces; Balance – 0 (even balance); Swing Weight – 315.
Prince EXO3 Tour 100 Lite: Strung Weight – 9.6 ounces; Balance – 5pts HH (Head Heavy); Swing Weight – 314.
You can clearly see that the heaviest of the three racquets, the Yonex Vcore 100S, feels like the lightest of the three when in motion. It is 5pts head light. This means that the weight of the racquet is concentrated closer to the grip than the head, which makes the racquet more maneuverable (easier to swing and pivot upwards – say, for a volley or something) than the other two racquets.
Why Make Head Heavy/Head Light Racquets?
Generally speaking, the higher the swing weight the more stable a racquet is when it strikes a ball (there are other factors that help determine stability, like beam width, but for now we won’t go there). The ball moves toward the racquet, and the racquet is moving toward the ball. Thus, the more racquet swing weight the ball encounters at impact the less the racquet will be affected by the ball’s force. But, the lower the swing weight of the racquet the faster it can move toward the ball, meaning, also, more stability at impact. But, wait, there’s more. Higher weight, head light or even balance, racquets pass less vibration into the player’s wrist and arm. High mass racquets are more stable and more shock resistant. However, we aren’t all built like Monfils or Tsonga, and we can’t swing 13 ounce racquets with that kind of efficiency; we need to find a happy place where the racquet is light enough that we can maintain a good swinging motion and not get too tired, yet massive enough that it has some stability. Head heavy racquets, some think (but not me), are the answer. They are light racquets with medium to high swing weights. In my opinion, though, a high swing weight is a high swing weight; no amount of disguise can hide it forever. Without some mass closer to your wrist you are inviting injury because of the lack of inherent vibration dampening that mass provides. Head heavy racquets allow people with inefficient swings to produce shots that would otherwise be impossible. Good for sales and egos, bad for long term resistance to injury if you play a lot. If you play just once a week, it might not matter too much. Manufacturers aren’t trying to injure you. They’re trying to build racquets for every player.
It’s because of the many variables in tennis racquet engineering that it is important to demo racquets before buying. Not only are we all built differently, but we also have personal preferences that necessitate these many varied racquets. Like I mentioned before, every Professional player modifies his or her racquets to suit just themselves. We don’t need to be quite that fastidious, but we do need to tinker and experiment. The strung weight of a racquet is the first measurement most people look at, but it is far from the most important. Balance and Swing weight matter more.