When Should You Replace a Tennis Racquet
Tennis racquets are pretty durable, but they certainly don’t last forever. They undergo a lot of pressure and, like anything, will wear out over time. Yes, even those expensive racquets made with NASA-grade materials will need to be replaced at some point. But when is that? The short answer is that it depends on your specific racquet and how much you use it. However, there are certain things that you can look for to determine when you should replace your tennis racquet.
Restringing Your Racquet
If you’ve noticed that your racquet is performing the way it once was, you might suspect that it’s time to replace it. However, it’s possible that you can prolong the life of your racquet by restringing it.
In general, recreational tennis players restring their racquets based on how often they play and how hard they play while professional tennis players restring their racquets every day. This is because fresh string on your racquet can make a big difference in how you play.
Unfortunately, tennis strings lose tension from the moment you restring your racquet. For example, if you string your racquet at 60 pounds, it’ll likely be down to 50 pounds by the next day. The tension will continue to lessen with every hit of a tennis ball. If you play often and have a forceful swing, your racquet’s frame might not be the problem; it could be that you need to restring your racquet more often than you’ve been doing.
The Effect of Bad Strings
As the tension of your racquet strings declines, the more they stretch when the ball hits them. This will result in weaker shots since the ball is cushioned by the loose strings instead of it ricocheting off them. You’ll end up with less power but also with less control since the ball won’t go where you want it to due to the loss of energy after flattening out on the loose strings. The lack of power and the loss of control you experience here will inevitably cause you to change your stroke during the game. That will affect how well you play since you won’t be able to get comfortable on the court.
To get a little technical, loose strings stretch more which increased the dwell time of a tennis ball. The dwell time is how long the ball stays on the strings. With loose strings, the dwell time is increased by one or two milliseconds. While this might not seem like a lot of time, those extra milliseconds will cause your racquet to move through a larger arc both vertically and horizontally. In turn, this launches the ball on a more extreme trajectory (higher or more sideways depending on your swing). When this happens, you’ll miss your mark.
If you’re unaware that your strings are the problem, you’ll start to think it’s your technique causing the problems on the court. That will cause you to change your stroke and your whole approach on the court as you try to fix a problem that has nothing to do with your mechanics and everything to do with your equipment. When you start to notice a sudden difference in the way the ball feels when you hit it, take the time to restring your racquet before you replace it or assume it’s your technique.
Replacing Your Racquet
You’ll need to replace your racquet completely if you see cracks in the frame and similar physical damage that is impacting your performance. These physical problems will happen over time, but it’s also possible for the racquet to become damaged due to mishandling or accidents. When the problems are obvious, you’ll know that it’s time to replace your racquet. However, older racquets that have no signs of damage can be deceptive.
If you’ve restrung your racquet and are still noticing problems with your swing, the way the ball is moving, or just how your racquet is performing, in general, it’s probably time to replace it with a new one even if you don’t see any physical damage. Whenever you hit a tennis ball, the racquet’s frame distorts ever so slightly as it absorbs the impact of each shot before it bounced back to return the ball. This constant back and forth motion of the frame over time weakens the graphite and resins that make up the frame causing it to soften and lose its original stiff construction. The effect here is a loss of power and control.
Restringing your racquet also puts strain on your tennis racquet. During the restringing process, the frame is distorted slightly before it returns to its standard shape. Over time, this eats away at the structural integrity of the racquet.
With all of these factors to take into account, knowing when you should replace a tennis racquet is based solely on your individual circumstances. As an example, think of a club player who regularly plays at least two times a week. Assuming there is no premature damage like splintering on the frame, a new racquet can last for at least two years in this example. This timeline will change for people who play less, of course.
Another factor that can determine your replacement time is how you play. If you’re an aggressive tennis player who is constantly smashing balls down the line, you might find that your racquet breaks down faster than other players’ racquets. Similarly, if you play often and restring your racquet frequently, you may find that you need to replace your racquet sooner than other people do. Finally, if you buy low-quality racquets you’ll likely have to replace them more often since the materials aren’t as durable as those used in high-quality equipment.
How to Prolong the Life of Your Racquet
If you’re concerned about your racquet breaking down too soon and are looking to keep it in prime condition for as long as possible, there are precautions you can take to do so.
· Replace the grommet strip when you restring your racquet (not just the bumper guard)
· Keep your racquet in a proper racquet bag to protect it from temperature changes
· Never store your racquet in a garage or in the trunk of your car (humidity can damage it)
· Go to a skilled stringer instead of doing it yourself or going to a sporting goods store
· Avoid hitting your racquet against anything other than a tennis ball
Think of your tennis racquet like you do your car: regular maintenance and care will keep it performing properly for as long as possible.
While every tennis racquet is different and its performance and longevity depend mainly on your rate of play and the force of your swing, you can assume that your tennis racquet will work at an optimal level for two years. You should always look it over to check for damage, but after the two-year mark, start to pay attention to its performance, too. If you notice some changes in the way it responds on the court, try restringing it first. If that doesn’t help it perform better, it might be time to replace your racquet with a new one.