Ask the Pro Shop: Sticks for Accurate, Consistent Serving
Question: I’m interested in buying a racquet that will improve the accuracy and consistency of my serve. Which attributes should I keep in mind?
Answer: According to Greg Raven, a Master Racquet Technician with the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, “Selecting a racquet to optimize your serve is much like selecting a racquet in general. You’ll typically want to use the heaviest racquet you can with the greatest swingweight and twistweight”—measures that refer, respectively, to how heavy the racquet feels when swung and how much it twists upon impact—“without it altering your stroke timing. And for comfort and maneuverability, you’ll want the racquet to be head light (that is, with the balance point of the racquet closer to the butt cap than to the head).”
Answer: Adam Queen, of Your Serve Tennis in Atlanta, agrees with Raven that, for serving proficiency, racquets should have heft. But Queen also calls attention to beam flexibility and string pattern. “Using a racquet that weighs more, in general, will increase control, as that extra weight stabilizes the racquet during impact,” says Queen. “Control can also be improved by using a racquet whose beam is thinner and more flexible, as this allows the ball to remain on the stringbed longer upon impact, while the stick flexes and bends back to its original position. Further, choosing a racquet with a denser string pattern (i.e., 18 by 20) can allow for greater consistency, because it limits string movement. However, this will lower spin potential, and likely won’t be a good choice if your game relies on heavy topspin.”
Answer: Joe Heydt, of Racquet Corner in Omaha, likewise recommends heavier, head-light frames for pin-point serving. But he also believes that players should consider racquets with extra length. “Keeping in mind that proper technique will address what you’re looking for in your serve,” Heydt says, “I would recommend experimenting with racquets that are longer than the 27-inch standard. Paired with good technique, a longer racquet can help raise the impact height of your serve while still allowing you to hit the sweet spot, both of which are factors in consistency and accuracy.”
Bottom Line: If you’re looking to improve your serving percentages and placement, demo relatively heavy, head-light, and flexible racquets that are appropriate to your skill level and comfortable to swing. Also consider experimenting with frames that are longer than 27 inches. If in doubt, talk to a USRSA-certified racquet technician. They should be able to help determine which racquet is best for you.