Tennis Equipment – A Beginner’s Guide

A guy standing on a tennis court with a racket and tennis shoes

With the official first day of summer right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about the best outdoor activities for you to enjoy the warm weather. Tennis is the perfect sport for spending quality time outside in that sweet summer sunshine. 

Tennis also gives your body a fantastic workout – you can burn over 800 calories in an hour-long match. Within a few weeks of playing, you will notice increased muscle tone in your:

  • Calves 
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Biceps
  • Triceps 
  • Shoulders

A very complex sport, tennis takes lots of persistent practice and determination to build your technique, coordination, speed and agility. Make sure to find a good teacher, either through lessons or a helpful friend or family member. 

If you are new to the sport, the first thing you will need to do is obtain a few pieces of essential equipment for tennis – a racket, shoes and balls. In order to improve your skills while also making sure not to injure yourself, it’s critical to pick out the proper gear. 

Are you confused about how to pick the right equipment? Have no fear, we are here to guide you. 

Racquets

a tennis racket and 3 balls

The racquet comprises of a handle and a rounded rim with a surface made of strained strings. The string surface is used to strike the tennis ball across the court. Depending on the brand, the rims are made of a variety of different materials including metals, carbon fiber and ceramics. The strings can be both natural, made with bovine veins, and artificial, made with nylon, polyester or Kevlar.

Usually, sports stores have special machines to attach the strings to the racket. The tension forces are different on the horizontal and vertical strings, with the vertical strings having less tension. Now that you know all about the structure of the racquet let’s get into how to pick the best one. 

How To Choose Racquet

Beginners want to pick a racquet that is easy to use and comfortable to play with but also has the perfect blend of power. In addition to conducting research, you will also want to try the racquet out in person to make sure it feels right for you. Here are our current tennis racquet recommendations.

You can save time and money by purchasing a racquet that comes pre-strung right out of the box, so you don’t have to get it strung at the shop. 

Some racquet features that are important for beginners to look out for: 

Head Size

For beginners, the head, or rim, of the racket should be 100 square inches or more. As players get more advanced, they tend to graduate to smaller racquets, typically less than 90 square inches. As a beginner, the natural swing of your hand might not produce much power, so having a large head helps give you maximum control. 

A large head also allows for better energy transfer, better resists against twisting and has a more prominent sweet spot. The sweet spot is the area in the center of the rim where you are supposed to hit the ball. Having a bigger sweet spot is beneficial because you can still get a decent hit even if you don’t hit the ball in the exact middle. As you build up your technique, you will naturally get better at hitting the ball in the center of the rack.

Weight and Grip

Lightweight handle: A light handle is essential for beginners still learning proper form. It’ll allow for quick swings on the court, is easier to use and gives you maximum control. Heavier models should be saved for more advanced players because an improper technique can result in pain and injuries. Intermediate and advanced players use heavy rackets to reduce vibrations and deliver more powerful blows.

Comfortable grip: Picking a proper grip should involve trying the racquet out in person. You’ll want it to feel firm but comfy, and the material should feel pleasant in your hand. Also, try out different grip sizes to see which fits your hand best. Your little finger should fit between your thumb and other fingers while holding it. Adult grip sizes usually run between 4 and 4 ½ inches and kid’s grip sizes are typically under 4 inches. Here are our current overgrip recommendations.

Racquet length: The typical adult racquet length is 27 inches. Longer rackets give more power and reach but less maneuverability and control. Kid’s racquets range from 19 to 26 inches. 

The racquet brands most well-known for quality and durability include Wilson, Yonex, Babolat and Head. Next, we will go over picking out tennis shoes. 

Tennis Shoes 

Tennis shoes on court

To ensure the best performance on the tennis court, correct fitting tennis shoes are a critical piece of gear. There are so many different brands and styles of tennis shoe on the market, it can often be challenging to choose the perfect ones. We listed our current tennis shoe recommendations in this post.

As a beginner, you definitely want to find a shoe that is exceptionally lightweight and comfortable to ensure that you can move around the court quickly and freely. You also want to make sure your shoe provides optimal lateral support to prevent foot and ankle injuries. 

Here are a few other things you should consider when shopping for tennis shoes: 

Different Surfaces

Tennis courts have different kinds of materials on their surfaces, and shoes perform differently depending on the surface they are used on. Luckily, the majority of popular brands create multi-purpose shoes, which are the best investment for beginners. Here are the different types of courts: 

  • Hard Courts: If you are going to be playing on a court made of hard material, such as cement or asphalt, it can take a real beating on your tennis shoes. You’ll want to make sure to pick a shoe that is designed with a durable sole to hold up on the rough surface. Also, look for shock absorption and cushioning features to ensure maximum comfort and protection.
  • Grass Courts: A tennis shoe with a nub patented sole is best to improve traction on slippery grass. Shoes designed for playing in the grass are usually made of synthetic material and breathable mesh. They are also designed to protect the field from excessive wear. 
  • Clay Courts: Tennis shoes made for clay courts typically are soft and lightweight for increased maneuverability and fast speed. They have a good grip and a herringbone tread to prevent the clay in the court from clogging it.

If you want to get a deeper understanding of how tennis shoes works on the different surfaces, you can read our other article about the topic.

Foot Type

In order to ensure peak comfort while running around the court, make sure to pick out a shoe that is comfortable for your foot shape and size. There are three standard foot types: 

  • Normal: Normal foot types have a natural arch, which you can tell by the gap under your midfoot area. Pretty much any kind of tennis shoe should be comfortable for you.
  • Fallen Arches: Fallen arches, or flat feet, can be a natural condition or a result of an injury. Look for a pair of tennis shoes with ample arch support that is also wide enough for comfort.
  • Wide: If your feet are on the broader side, do not worry – many brands carry wide options as well. Make sure your toes are not squished, and there is ample room through the midsection as well. 

The tennis shoe brands that are the most well-known for comfort and quality are Asics, Nike and Adidas.

Tennis Balls 

tennis balls on a grass court

Many people overlook the advantage of playing tennis with a high-quality tennis ball. Though it may not appear so, not all tennis balls are made the same. Choosing the right tennis ball is just as valuable as picking a perfect racket and shoes. We listed our current tennis ball recommendations in this post.

The tennis ball is a hollow rubber ball, wrapped in felt and painted in a bright color, typically fluorescent yellow for high visibility. Tennis balls differ by skill level, pressure and coverage. Here’s an overview:

Skill Level: Packages of tennis balls have different labels based on degree of experience and use case. Usually beginners pick recreational level balls.

  • Recreational level: Recreational level balls are best for beginners, for use in tennis machines or for day to day practice. 
  • Championship level: Championship level balls are pricier and ordinarily used for league matches. 
  • Professional level: Professional level balls are the highest quality and the most expensive, used by pro-level athletes. 

Ball Pressure

Tennis balls come in both pressureless and pressurized options. Again, the ones you choose to buy depends on skill level and use case. 

  • Pressureless: As a novice tennis player, you should start out practicing with pressureless balls. They have a springy rubber shell that creates the bounce rather than using pressure to create the bounce – so they don’t lose their springiness over time as pressurized balls do. They are much more durable and better suited for recreational use and practice. 
  • Pressurized: Pressurized balls use high air pressure inside them to create extra bounce, spin and speed. They do however lose their bounce as the pressure declines, sometimes within weeks, so they are best reserved for tournaments. 

Coverage: With different levels of coating, or coverage, tennis balls are designed specifically for the type of court they will be used on. The different types of ball surfaces include: 

  • Typical Coverage: Typical coverage balls, or regular balls, have a thin layer of coating and were created for smooth indoor or clay courts. 
  • Extra Duty Coverage: Extra duty coverage balls were built for use on hard surfaces. They have more density to reduce abrasion on the court surface and prevent getting fluffy. 
  • Grass Court Coverage: Grass court coverage balls are the same as regular balls, but with a stain resistant treatment. 

The tennis ball brands most well-known for quality and endurance include Wilson, Penn, Slazenger and Dunlop

Now that you have the rundown on the best equipment for starting out on your tennis journey, all that is left for you to do is book a lesson, get out to a court and start practicing your strokes. 

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coaches upcoming talents.

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