TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.
Does anyone make "women's racquets” anymore? By this I mean a lighter racquet with a flexible frame. Currently, I use a Head Microgel Extreme Team strung with Wilson NXT Tour at 55 lbs.—Penny Maag
While I understand the thrust of the question, Penny, I have trouble conceptualizing what “women’s racquets” would really feel and play like. Among women, just as there are a number of different playing styles and ability levels, so too are there a number of diverse racquet preferences. Yes, women, as a whole, do tend to use lighter racquets than men, recreationally and on tour. But doubtless, not all women enjoy flexible constructions; the popularity of certain stiffer, game-improvement frames attests to this.
That said, you’re right that lightweight, flexible racquets are a minority in today’s market. This is due to the fact that, for the most part, manufacturers make lighter sticks stiffer. Why? In part because, on off-center hits, light frames vibrate more than heavy frames, and stiff constructions are better than flexible ones at muting those vibrations, as the former bends less on impact. (Note, however, that flexible frames, not stiff frames, are superior at decreasing excess shock, which bears more responsibility for arm injuries than excess vibration.) If you’ve played tennis enough, you know that an awful mishit can really sting the hand; the culprit here is bad vibes. Filtered down through a stiffer racquet, that sting feels more like a bump.
(Of course, the best way to increase power, maximize comfort, and reduce the likelihood of injury is to regularly hit the sweet spot. As tennis physicists Rod Cross and Crawford Lindsey explain, in Technical Tennis, “The ball speed off the middle of the strings doesn’t depend on racquet stiffness because frame vibrations are not generated for such an impact. Thus, when you hit in the middle of the strings, there is no difference in power between a stiff or a flexible racquet.”)
Nonetheless, if you’re partial to a flexible response, and are looking to replace the Extreme Team with a frame from the same neighborhood, demo the Head YouTek Graphene Speed Rev. The Rev—though half an ounce lighter and a few points more head heavy than your current spec.—plays with a great deal of “give” in the hoop, which you should enjoy. (If the spec. difference is a problem, you or a racquet technician could easily add lead tape to the Rev’s handle, which would increase its weight and balance it more head light.)
However, if head size is an issue—the Team and Rev are 107 and 100 square inches, respectively—consider the Pacific X Force Comp, which measures 105 sq. in., is flexible, and weighs in below eleven ounces.