The Pro Shop

Gear Q&A: A Lighter Frame

Saturday, May 04, 2013 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

I’ve been a “heavy” racquet user all my life. Since I started playing 20 years ago I’ve gravitated towards frames that are around 12 ounces. At the moment I’m using a Prestige Mid. But now that I’m firmly in my mid-40s, I’m wondering if I should be using something lighter. Not super-light, but one of those frames in the 11-ounce range. Everybody else I play with seems to be doing it. Is it a smart move?—Michael B., Lansing, MI

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So you’re thinking about cutting weight. As you mentioned, you’d hardly be alone; tweener frames are hugely popular (Pure Drive, anyone?). But peer envy is hardly a reason to hop on the bandwagon. There should be some logical reasons to put your frame on a diet. Such as:

Added maneuverability
You mentioned you’ve graduated to senior status—in tennis parlance, of course. Has it resulted in a loss of swing speed? Do you find your racquet more cumbersome, your arm more weary, than it used to be, particularly later in matches? If yes, then these could be reasons to try a lighter frame. Keep in mind, though, that less total mass isn’t always the solution. You use a Prestige Mid, which has an extremely head light balance, meaning more of the weight is toward the handle. The result is a relatively low swingweight and respectable maneuverability. For stability and power purposes a lighter frame may have more of its weight toward the head making it swing and feel heavier. The YOUTEK Graphene Speed is more than an ounce lighter than a Prestige Mid, but has a higher swingweight. Sometimes the feel of a racquet in your hand reveals more than a number on a scale.

More spin and pop
Time for a little elementary physics: Force = mass x acceleration. So a heavier object swung at the same speed as a lighter object will provide more force. Hence, an argument for a heavier frame. However, we’re not talking about a great deal of mass—up to an ounce—and the extra acceleration provided by a lighter frame could more than make up the difference; not only in pace, but in spin production. Many of the tweener frames have mid-plus head sizes and open string patterns. The extra acceleration, along with these characteristics, could result in more revolutions on the ball. If your shot arsenal is serve and groundstroke heavy, this is a welcome benefit. That’s why the baseline community—the largest in the sport—is so enamored with these lighter frames.

All-courters and doubles players? Not as much. Less mass on a short stroke, like a volley, can result in less stability and punch. Plus, tweener frames tend to be on the rigid side to make up for their lack of heft. Throw in stiffer polyester strings that help accentuate the power and spin potential of these racquets and touch and feel—two of a net players best friends—become harder to find. So style of play may weigh heavily (pun intended) on whether or not you opt for a lighter frame.

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