Buying a new racket is not about splashing the cash – a racket in the hands of one player can be a match made in heaven but hard to wield and game-ruining for another, depending on your level of skill, style of play and physical conditioning.
Very advanced players that regularly compete tend to know what racket suits them, so this review is aimed at those looking to upgrade and help improve their game, from beginners up to more experienced club players.
You can go into so much detail about the variables in tennis rackets that it would make your head hurt, so we’ve stuck to guiding you towards something that sounds like it may suit you from our experience with the racket and then you can read more detail about the full specs, such as swing weight and balance, in the link to the racket. Most websites also have excellent guides on what to look for in your new racket.
As a basic, whistlestop tour of considerations, weight and head size are key. Heavier rackets (over 300g) can be difficult to bring round to make the shot and will fatigue your arm more quickly, so they tend to suit more advanced players who have good physical conditioning. A larger head size (over 100 sq in) gives a more forgiving performance – a bigger sweet spot and greater power – so tends to suit beginners and some intermediates, whereas a smaller head size (under 100 sq in) gives greater control and so suits advanced players who can generate their own power and are looking for laser-sharp accuracy.
Choosing a racket of around 100 sq in head size and a weight of 300g will generally offer a nice balance of control and power, depending on the racket’s other characteristics. There are exceptions to these rules however, and it’s wise to have some coaching to help you control the power of a racket and keep the ball in the court, but they generally hold.
Each of the rackets on our list were play tested by a tennis coach and recreational player, and put through their paces on a hard court. They were assessed according to who they’d be suitable for and whether they do what they say they do. The weights we’ve included are unstrung and it’s worth remembering that strings and tension can be used to customise a racket and adjust the way it performs.
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The best tennis rackets for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Head radical S: £180, Head.com
- Best for those prone to injuries – Volkl V-Cell 4: £174.99, Tennisnuts.com
- Best for beginners – Prince TT bandit 110: £76.99, Tennisnuts.com
- Best for power – Babolat pure drive lite (Wimbledon edition): £174.99, Babolat.com
- Best for punch and pace – Head speed MP, £200: Head.com
- Best budget racket – Decathlon artengo adult tennis racket TR500 lite: £54.99, Decathlon.co.uk
- Best for arm-friendly power – Prince ripstick 280, £167.99: Pdhsports.com
- Best all-rounder – Wilson clash 100, £210: Wilson.com
- Best for control with comfort – Dunlop CX 400 tour: £151.99, Britishtennisshop.com
- Best for spin – Yonex VCORE 100, £245: Yonexshop.uk
Head radical S
We were seriously impressed by this racket, which will be best suited to intermediate players and those rising into advanced. However, a newer player could also pick it up and enjoy it. It’s light at 280g but could generate effortless power and spin from the baseline. The weight was a big plus at the net, with easy manoeuvrability and good feel, and seemed to increase racket speed on serves, delivering a quick ball with little effort. It felt easy on the arm and the larger 102 sq in head size increased the sweet spot, making it feel like it was almost impossible not to time a shot. Some more technically advanced players would probably like more weight (look at the rest of the Radical range) but for most players who play regularly and ambitiously, this is a great investment
Volkl V-Cell 4
Best: For those prone to injuries
This looks and feels like a bigger racket, with its 105 sq in head size and longer 27.6in length, but it’s very forgiving and was surprisingly manoeuvrable and stable at the net. It’s extremely comfortable to play with, with no sense of vibration through the frame, though this can make you feel a little disconnected from your shots. It generated good power and spin on groundstrokes. A racket that a beginner would enjoy because it’s instantly playable (aided by its 275g) but would also suit intermediate players that are coming back to tennis after injury or time off and would relish its arm-friendliness combined with performance.
Prince TT bandit 110
Best: For beginners
This is the lightest racket we tested (255g) with the biggest head size (110 sq in) and a slightly longer length for additional reach – its forgiving performance makes it a racket that will give confidence to those newer to the game. It could even see you into intermediate, particularly if you find heavier rackets hard to wield. It’s surprisingly manoeuvrable at the net and very solid with good pop on the volley. Ground strokes were comfortable and easy to hit with decent power and spin. The triple threat technology designed to reduce vibrations does a good job, with little reverberation through the arm.
Babolat pure drive lite (Wimbledon edition)
Best: For power
Go to a tennis club and you’re guaranteed to see a few pure drives – it’s an extremely popular racket that’s known for its power. This is the “Lite” (270g), which is 30g lighter than the standard pure drive, making it suitable for players who are rising through the intermediate ranks towards advanced but feel happier down in the lighter weights for arm-friendliness and an easy, fast swing. If you’re a physically strong player at that level, you could use the full-weight pure drive. If you’re having lessons, this racket will help you execute what you’ve been taught with ease. It generated a lot of power from the baseline and we felt in control of the shots at all times – the longer we played, the more we felt we could go for shots with confidence. The lightness of the racket through the air when serving felt as if it added a few mph to the serve and it had a good feel at the net.
Head speed MP
Best: For punch and pace
With its 100 sq in head size, 300g weight and 16/19 string pattern, this is a good, solid racket with access to power, spin and control. It adds punch and pace to your shots and the stability and feel were notable, particularly at the net. It is lower on comfort than other rackets we tested and beginners might find it hard to manage, but it will suit intermediate to advanced players who like to take a good swing at the ball.
Decathlon artengo adult tennis racket TR500 lite
Best: Budget racket
If you’re new to tennis or have been playing for a little while and you’re looking for a not-too-expensive racket to see you through to intermediate, this would be a good buy – it does everything you would expect of a tennis racket at a budget price. It’s light at 265g and therefore easily manoeuvrable, while able to generate good power from the baseline and its 102 sq in head size is forgiving for newer players. It lacks a little feel at the net but is certainly a good racket while you decide if tennis is the game for you.
Prince ripstick 280
Best: For arm-friendly power
A slightly lighter version of the Ripstick, weighing at 280g, we liked the easily generated power from the baseline and on the serve. It’s an arm-friendly racket with great levels of comfort and fast acceleration on the swing due to its lighter weight and large O-Ports at the edge of the racket, although it lacked a little feel at the front of the court. For intermediate and advanced players who like to stay back, this is a good choice.
Wilson clash 100
This is an increasingly popular racket that offers a bit of everything – power, spin and control – and it makes hitting feel very easy. Your shots stay in, even when you think they’re not going to. We’ve used the Clash 98 in the past and the 100 is very similar but with a lighter weight (295g) and larger sweet spot, making it a bit more forgiving. The flexibility of the frame makes this one of the most arm-friendly rackets around, but it still manages to be very stable at the net. It’s very hard to find a downside to this racket and it’s suitable for all levels of players who should get a lot of confidence from using it.
Dunlop CX 400 tour
Best: For control with comfort
An instantly playable racket for rising intermediates that are competent at most strokes and want to upgrade their racket as they move into being more advanced. It offers crisp, clean, powerful shots with easy access to spin. It’s extremely comfortable to play with, stable at the net and felt manoeuvrable despite being 300g. Its control is superb and gives you more than you’d expect from a 100 sq in head size.
Yonex VCORE 100
Best: For spin
Spin and power is what this racket is marketed for and it does what it says on the tin, making spin easy and achievable using technologies that increase racket head speed, even for less experienced players. It feels much lighter than its 300g and the large sweet spot on the 100 sq in head makes it accessible to people at the lower end of the intermediate bracket as well as those moving into advanced. The lightness generated easy power on the serve and made net play very comfortable with good feel. It’s also a favourite among coaches for its arm-friendly nature, which you need when you’re on court for hours. A more technically advanced player may want a touch more control but a swap to the 98 sq inch head size should solve that.
The verdict: Tennis rackets
The Head radical S is marketed with the motto “there’s no shot you can’t play” and we’d agree. It’s easy playability combined with great performance will suit a wide range of players and could probably stay with a player throughout a recreational career. The Wilson clash and Babolat pure drive lite were also strong contenders for appealing to a wide range of players.
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