Racquet Management

A wreath of classic racquets

How many tennis racquets do you own and carry?  How many should you and what sequence are they used?

Tournament vs. Club Players

My “February” doubles partner, Hank Irvine advises tournament players to carry three racquets with them.  If you should only be playing with one and it cracks or strings break, you would really be up “Schitt’s Creek” (By the way, a great comedy series!). 

If you carried just two, and the strings broke in one, then you would go into a match playing with only ONE racquet — and worrying when those strings would go.  So, carrying three racquets will give that sense of security.

Racquet Rotation?

Many players have a “favorite racquet” and use that one until the strings break; and then pick up another one.  I have carried three identical racquets for many years; and I rotate all three every day; so they are virtually the same in feel and performance.  And then get all three re-strung at the same time.

You see the pros – and even some local players – carrying racquets with different string tensions and switch, depending on the playing conditions.

And you see some players switching racquets during a match to allow their racquet handles to dry.

You also see players use one racquet to serve with and another to return with.  I don’t understand that logic; so if someone can explain the benefits of that, that would be helpful.

How about YOU, how many racquets do you carry and how do you manage them?

Fred Drilling Update: Just got my knee replacement scheduled for Aug. 5th with Dr. Biggs.  Yesterday was first day I felt totally normal.  Have an appt. scheduled with a neurosurgeon on Aug 3rd to see if he can do something with my sore lumbar area.  Thanks, Fred

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14 thoughts on “Racquet Management

  1. I usually take 2 racquets for a friendly game and 3 for tournament matches. I agree that rotating racquets is a smart idea. If you play with only one racquet for a few weeks, the tension will gradually drop. When it finally breaks, the tension on your new racquet will be higher and thus NOT the same as the racquet you have been playing with, requiring an unplanned adjustment period, most likely at an inopportune time!

    Steve, right on! thanks, george

  2. Racquet management for ambitious tournament players has my very clear “rules” mostly to do with string tension:
    1) all your racquets should be weighted, gripped the same
    2) You should have a first set (livelier balls) tightest strung and a 2nd set (heavier, deader balls) looser (2-3lbs) strung racquet
    3) a wet, really heavy conditions (and 2nd set on grass) very loose racquet (6-8 lbs lower than normal
    4) When a national tier 1 or World Championships is imminent, string a new frame with your normal tightest tension rotating the used racquets to lower tension use (2nd set?) depending on the feel of how much tension is lost from original stringing.
    If playing 3rd set with new balls, switch back to tight strings racquet – if 10 point tiebreaker with 2 set used balls, continue with looser racquet .
    The reason for looser strings with heavier balls is so the same swing has the same result – you do not want to have to swing harder to get the same depth on your shot with a heavier ball.
    George, on the different racquet for serving vs receiving, I only do that when need tight racquet to control return against strong server but looser for serving because need advantage of heavier serve than tight strings produce against that opponent (he returns normal serve too effectively).
    In conclusion, 1 racquet low tension, 1 medium tension, 1 tight tension and 1 more either ready to or already strung tight.
    Sorry i do not have firm opinion to share!

    Winder, WOW! george

  3. Used to carry 4 frames, now only 3 as I don’t play as much. In the summer I rotate on every changeover so the grips don’t get sweaty. Even though they are the “same” I can feel subtle differences in each stick (grip size) so I don’t want to get used to 1 frame.

    Chris, i think three is the magic number. thanks, george

  4. I “carry” 3 racquets, but… Two are identical in every way, including when they were strung (give or take a day). The 3rd racquet is the “previous” racquet that I used before I bought the two current ones. Racquet #3 is my emergency back-up just in case I break strings on the other two racquets during the same match (which has happened several times – the downside of stringing my racquets at the same time is that they can wear out at the same time). Between my two current racquets, I switch at every change-over to let the handles dry a bit. If a match turns into a blow-out, I’ll switch to racquet #3 just so I can keep the feel of it just in case I need to use it for real.

    Terry, like keeping an old pair of glasses “just in case.” thanks, george

  5. Good input from Winder, like it.

    Howie, but waaaay too complicated for your tennis game! 🙂 george

  6. I always have three racquets in my bag. I have them restrung at the same time, two of which I string at the same tension (playing racquets) and one at a slightly lower tension (the racquet I use primarily for instructing and occasionally when playing a match, depending on the surface conditions). As you do George, I advise that players rotate their racquets for equal wear and restring them at the same time.

    I used to string my own racquets and I did it quite frequently – surely more frequently than I needed to – experimenting with different types and guages of string. If you haven’t ever discussed the topic of string types I’d be interested to know what your blog participants have to say about their choices.

    Alan, “strings” would be a great topic! I have added to my list of To Do. thanks, george

  7. when playing in the 45 national grass courts in philly, my opponent who i was scheduled to play in the next round had to default because he broke all 3 rackets that he brought on court to his match. he was a big server from california.
    i have brought 3 rackets when playing in a tournament. i didnt worry about the exact tension, i would usually restring one of them before the tournament, figuring i would be ok for the duration. it doesnt take long to get used to different tensions (unless they are very different).

    Joe, wow, he must have been a really Big Hitter! thanks, george

  8. I used to have 5 identical Wilson racquets that I played interchangeably for many years. By interchangeably, I mean that I would switch off among the 5 racquets on every changeover during a match, not duplicating any frames until I had gone through 5 changeovers. Then, I would repeat the pattern through the rest of the match.

    Last fall, I switched to a newer Wilson frame that is more modern and because my old racquets were showing frame fatigue. Now I have only 2 identical racquets that I play interchangeably. I still switch off between the racquets on every changeover, the only difference from before being that I have less racquets to do it with.

    In both situations, I have always gotten all of the racquets strung at the same time, using the exact same strings, and at the same tension. I also change all of the grips at the same time, whenever they need it.

    Once I get used to a frame, it bugs me to the extreme to feel any difference in racquets from one point to another, let alone from one game to another. If I try to play with a slightly different frame, or string, or tension, or grip, I inevitably feel it and it bothers me to the point that my concentration gets affected. I am a true creature of habit.

    Marty, ah yes, i think of the story of “The princess and the pea”! thanks, george

  9. Weighting (customizing) racquets is a tricky business. You have to deal with weight, swing weight, balance and one other variable which escapes me. Tinkering with one affects the other parameters. I looked into it but was put off when I saw it entailed solving 4 simultaneous equations with 4 unknowns. (despite being a Math minor). Much easier to switch at changeovers.

    Chris, let’s go back to The Good Old Days with basic racquets! george

  10. I have 3 racquets and alternate every time I play. I change the strings and grips when needed. I’m either not a good enough player or have poor observation because I just don’t notice much of a difference in my racquets. The only time I will be meticulous about new strings and grips is during tournament season. A golfer with a lousy swing can own the most expensive driver in the world and they will still hook, slice, etc. A top rated tennis player will notice the nuance in tennis racquets and still play a terrific game with a crappy stick.

    Andy, i agree that most average players can’t really tell much of a minor difference and will adapt to whatever is in their hands. thanks, george

  11. I always keep two racquets in my bag wherever I go. Last fall I purchased a couple of Wilson Blade racquets with an 18×20 string pattern. So far, I have been very pleased with their dampening technologies built into the frame to reduce shock. My string of choice is natural gut, both strung at 56 lbs. Gut has been a smart choice for me not only because of its outstandingly feel and control, but also for holding tension. Adding string savers also helps to prolong the life of the string. George,
    I too like to rotate using my racquets to keep string tensions between the two balanced and evenly used in case I break a string. I find no two racquets are exactly the same. There are subtle differences in feel, weight, and string tension which leads me to think we all have a “favorite racquet” we like to use. Sometimes, I wonder if having a third racquet strung slightly looser or tighter than your other two racquets, might be an option in certain situations where control would be a problem or more power is needed. In certain situations, it may help a player pull out a match.

    Glenn, if you want to go the variable racquet, check out Winder Bill’s comment on top!! george

  12. Glenn Morse post – I also use gut with string savers for the same reasons plus easier on my tender wrist, elbow, and surgically repaired shoulder. With the string savers (I use Tourna Cross as the easiest to install), my strings last over a year which makes the gut cost more acceptable.
    No two racquets are the same weight and balance unless you cheat like I do and have a professional racquet customiser weight and balance them so they are the same.
    Besides the “slightly” looser option Glenn mentions is my 2-3 pounds looser racquet for 2nd sets, heavier balls.
    A really loose racquet won me a national match against a better player one time – we played after a rain and the balls in warmup went into the high grass behind the court and got sopping wet. His heavy, powerful groundstrokes which normally would have overpowered me landed short and with less ooomph because of the wet heavy balls. He used his normal tension racquet and just could not add enough swing change to power the ball effectively. My 8 pound looser racquet placed the balls the same as normal and I lost one game or so in two sets. Does not happen often but …

    Winder, good story. thanks, george

  13. When I play in a tournament I want to have 3 rackets that are as identical as possible. Out of tournament season, I play with one racket until the strings break, then switch to racket 2, then to racket 3, etc. A week or two before a tournament, I string the racket I have been using, if I have been using it more than a month or two, and then rotate all three rackets in practice. Then when I go into a tournament, I am used to all 3 rackets, string tensions are about the same, and none of them have been played on very much so breakage is unlikely. These 3 rackets will get me through the FL tournament season. When I play in a national tournament, I use the same procedure.

    Gordon, i also rotate thru three racquets, but do it all the time. thanks, george

  14. Schitt’s Creek…..GREAT TV comedy!…and have to agree with Andy B above…..I have 3 raquets (2 for fun tennis…Spike’s!!….3 for the rare tournament….what’s a tournament?!!)) but I just use one over and over until the strings break…and that can be 2-3 months, and I usually feel comfortable with any raquet that’s even remotely like the ones I have. Stay safe, wear a mask.

    Scoot, that shows the two schools of thought: rotate racquets evenly or play with one till restringing needed! thanks, george

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