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Tennis Racquet Weight. Does it Matter?

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.

Three Racquets to Illustrate this Difference:
      

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.

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Discuss: “Tennis Racquet Weight. Does it Matter?”

  1. February 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Agreed and if you want some calculations related to weight of the raquet (presuming that you can swing both as fast), here they are:
    Hi,

    http://www.tennis.com/gear/2013/01/customizing-racquet-weight-how-heavy-too-heavy/46227/#.UQwqtx1bNes

    Law of Conservation of Momentum:
    What that means is that the two momentum (of the racket and the ball, after the impact) have to be equal and with a heavier racket, the ball’s speed will be increased, while the racket will not slow down as much (being more stable in your hands, as opposed to lighter frames).

    Now that got me thinking? Which one of the two would be affected more?
    The crux of the problem being:

    1. Would we be hitting much harder with a heavier racket?
    or
    2. Would the heavier racket be drastically more stable?

    What’s your guess?

    So, I’ve dusted off my rusty physics (ahem, googled it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elastic_collision) and the answer is:

    I’ve done some calculations (based on the equations bellow) and it seems that by adding 100g to a 500g racket:

    2. We’d be hitting about 18% harder and the heavier racket(by 100g) would be about 13% more stable.

    A bit more realistic calculations, with the ball at around 60g and considering that the pros hit in average around 75-85 mph and the hardest at around 100 mph, so they probably are able to swing the racket faster, say at 10 m/s:

    Example A:
    Ball: mass = 0.06 kg , velocity = 30 m/s (around 60 mph)
    Racket: mass = 0.5 kg, velocity = -10 m/s

    After collision:
    Ball: velocity = -41.4 m/s (about 93 mph)
    Racket: velocity = – 1.42 m/s (The racket continues to swing forward at around 73% of the original speed)
    ————————————————————–
    Example B:
    Ball: mass = 0.06 kg , velocity = 30 m/s (around 60 mph)
    Racket: mass = 0.6 kg, velocity = -10 m/s

    After collision:
    Ball: velocity = -50 m/s (around 100 mph an increase of 18% when hitting with the heavier racket)
    Racket: velocity = -2.7 m/s (The heavier racket continues to swing forward at around 86% of the original speed. Hence more stable, less impact on the arm and inducing longer swings/easier to go more through the ball as opposed to coming over too soon)

    Equations
    One-dimensional Newtonian

    Consider two particles, denoted by subscripts 1 and 2. Let m1 and m2 be the masses, u1 and u2 the velocities before collision, and v1and v2 the velocities after collision.
    The conservation of the total momentum demands that the total momentum before the collision is the same as the total momentum after the collision, and is expressed by the equation

    m1u1 +m2u2 = m1v1+m2v2

    Likewise, the conservation of the total kinetic energy is expressed by the equation

    m1u1u1/2 +m2u2u2/2= m1v1v1/2+m2v2v2/2

    These equations may be solved directly to find vi when ui are known or vice versa. However, the algebra involved can be cumbersome[dubious – discuss]. An alternative solution is to first change the frame of reference such that one of the known velocities is zero. The unknown velocities in the new frame of reference can then be determined and followed by a conversion back to the original frame of reference to reach the same result. Once one of the unknown velocities is determined, the other can be found by symmetry.
    Solving these simultaneous equations for vi we get:

    v1= (u1(m1-m2)+2m2u2)/(m1+m2)

    v2=(u2(m2-m1)+2m1u1)/(m1+m2)

    Posted by Marian
  2. August 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    Great calculations, however for it to be more accurate, you need to take into account the trampoline effects of the strings as well as the compression/decompression of the ball.

    Posted by Richard
  3. March 5, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    I have bought yonex Vcore tour G 97 310gr. I increased grip size from 3 and now racquet complete weight is 390gr. Balance now id 28,5 cm. Swing feeling is not like racquet would be 390gr but i feel very comfortable. What do you tkink. In not too heavy? Regards from Slovakia.

    Posted by keeper
  4. August 16, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

    Just retired. Age 67. I have been experimenting this past year and while I can play with whatever I am given, I have
    tried to determine my best option. Years ago I always used synthetic gut strung at 54. This was lower than most
    other players I knew. I had a Dunlop McEnroe wood racket and then a TAD wood racket and then a Dunlop carbon graphite. Never gave much attention to weight etc. I have been experimenting with string tension more than the
    racket. I have been using a multifilament. I tried kirschbaum at 50 and it was too loose. I tried babalot excel at 54
    and it seemed about right. Then I tried the old but improved babalot synthetic gut at 52 and it was about the same
    as the excel at 54. I cannot determine what type racket I should use. About average in all categories seems OK.
    But I have not come upon one which feels just right. What is my best kinetic energy formula? I am just an OK player.
    Not a really good 67 year old, but better than 90% at the same age. Dunlop seems too light. Wilson Blade 93
    seems awkward with the 18 x 20 string pattern. I have one of Wilson’s 100 year rackets. Pretty but not smooth.
    I have a Wilson profile 3.6 @ 95, which I seem to like more than the newer models. And I have tried other strings
    and rackets. Just want to get my best option and stay there. I will never be really good and that is not my goal.
    Just a bit of recreation. All of these numbers are good I guess. I think I need a racket not to exceed 11 oz strung
    with 6 to 8 head light points, and a swing weight of 310 to 320. I used a 4 5/8 grip in the 1960’s.
    I am using a 4 1/4 and 4 3/8 now. Give me a couple of suggestions. I have not tried a Voiki. I like then red color.
    I have an old Donnay I like pretty well. I think it is too heavy now. I had one of the first pro-staff 85 models I
    remember liking. Someone liked it more than I liked it. Missing. It was made in Ill. before the St Vincent move.
    I like the numbers of the new Blade 98. Just do not like that green. Well, what do you think? Go back to work?
    I surmise your answer is Yes and No. Thank you.

    Posted by Lee Girardeau
  5. February 8, 2016 at 3:59 am #

    Ive been buying and experimenting with racquets for the last 4 years and heres what ive come up with . I have a Volkl V1 classic with 8gm of lead weight on both sides of the head between the 4th and 5th cross string from the the throat . This might like the swing weight and balance would be horrendous but WOW what a smooth and powerful weapon it is .

    Posted by Martin Hindmarsh Australia
  6. September 5, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

    Dear Lee,

    You seem like a pretty decent player. As someone who started playing with wooden rackets and heavy graphites in the 80s as well, my suggestion is to look for classic feel rackets like the pro staff 90 or 95. The Head radical pro also has a nice feel and weight Other good option but a little more soft feel is Head prestige pro. You can experiment with the tension and strings (maybe lead strips) to find optimal setup.
    I tried modern rackets like babolat aero pro and pure drive, but they just don’t give me enough “feel” for the ball on volleys especially. Good luck

    Posted by Jamie

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