A year back, we discussed how to buy any tennis enthusiast a top-end racket, but we won't mention any here.
Buying a top-end racket is difficult and requires thorough demoing and string research before coming to a conclusion. On top of that, each top-end racket offers unique playing characteristics that are difficult to qualify as "better" or "worse." It would be impossible to pick out one or two that stick out above the rest.
Instead, we'll cover a few products at various different price points that could be perfect for your tennis crazy partner, or someone you know just getting into the sport.
The Tennis Newbie
When starting at an introductory price point, it is good to remember that a racket made of graphite will play infinitely better than a racket made of aluminum.
In fact, it's a bigger step up in quality from aluminum to one of our introductory graphite offerings, than from these rackets to the top end. Graphite rackets will give players better stability, power, and spin potential, all while providing 90% of the "feel" characteristics of the top-end stuff.
Finding the appropriate weight is paramount for matching the right racket to the right player. Our rule of thumb is if you swing fast, a heavier racket will crush the ball harder. A lighter racket will be easier to swing if you have a shorter and slower stroke. What's more with the Warrior? These rackets were strung by our team!
The Head Graphene XT Radical S is also a great offering at $129.98. Essentially an old top-end racket, Head decided to re-release their Graphene XT series at an introductory price point. The technology might be slightly outdated, but the racket is still very useable, especially at the price.
The Future Prodigy
Now you might have read the above recommendation thinking: "that's all good and well, but my tennis newbie is 7 years old, and there's no way I'm spending $130 on their first racket." Don't worry, we've also got you covered.
If your kid is getting into tennis, there are plenty of junior racket offerings at $34.98. To be honest, other than racket length, the color will be the most important factor in determining which is best. After all, they'll associate the sport with this racket, so we want them to love how it looks.
At a young age, all the spin, power, and feel jargon won't amount to much. Kids hit with low compression or foam balls, so the racket-to-ball interaction isn't nearly as consequential.
On the other hand, getting the right length is very important. Here is the breakdown by age:
- Between ages 2 and 4 (you bet they can play), we recommend a 17 or 19-inch racket.
- Between 4 and 6, we recommend a 21-inch racket.
- Between 6 and 8, go with 23, and between 8 and 10, 25.
After that, they can probably play with a lightweight adult racket. Of course, these are a general guide. To test if the racket fits them well, have them grab the end like a hammer and drop the racket head towards the floor. There should be about an inch or two of space between the tip and the ground. If the sizing is off, you can always bring it back.
Tennis outfits are unique because they require some sort of technology to hold the second-serve ball. Not everyone knows this, and the result is sometimes hilarious, sometimes catastrophic. For convenience, many players leave the ball on the court mere inches away from where they're serving. As you can imagine, this can cause some funny falls but also some rolled ankles. We don't want that.
Tennis dresses and skirts have a spandex hip belt that keeps the ball firmly in place. One of our favorite dresses is the Knit Pindot Marin Dress ($119.98) from local brand, Lija. Not only do we love supporting a fellow Vancouver business, but Lija's quality is almost unmatched, with our customer satisfaction for the brand nearly perfect.
If you know someone who might prefer a skirt and shirt, try combining the Deep V Tee ($79.98) with the Deuce Skirt ($94.98). Trust us; you'll make someone suffering from "second-serve-ball-itis" very happy when you open their eyes to tennis without their fuzzy friend in their way.
A new pair of shoes is one of the best tennis gifts. We see a lot of players hitting with rackets from 20 years ago, and, to a certain extent, that's fine. On the other hand, playing with shoes from 20 years ago isn't totally fine.
Hard courts are essentially made of sandpaper; every time a player steps, the outsole wears away, and the whole shoe softens up. Apart from the massive performance lost with a worn-out pair of shoes, there is also a real potential for injury. You can learn more about when to replace a pair of court shoes here, but getting a fresh pair will make a world of good.
At Rackets & Runners, we love the Nike Vapor Pro. It typifies the modern tennis shoe in that it's lightweight, natural fitting, and very comfortable while remaining supportive and stable. Coming in at $159.98, it also represents excellent value for money.
For a more durable and classically supportive option, give the New Balance LAV V2 ($189.98) a shot.
Everyone loved the first LAV; this version just feels a bit sturdier and more stable. Plus both the men's and women's version come in a standard and wide width making it perfect for a variety of foot types.
Get a Backpack
Vancouverites are known for being one of the most sporty populations in all of North America. Heck, it's the dead of winter and some of us still bike to work in the pouring rain. You can do the same with tennis.*
Biking to the courts is not only environmentally friendly but also the perfect warmup for tennis. The problem is that carrying a 15-racket bag on your back is not ideal for balance, comfort, or any other practicality metric. The good news is most of us don't use fifteen rackets; we use one or two.
*We don't recommend biking to outdoor courts in the pouring rain; you will be bitterly disappointed.
If that's the case for someone you know, gift them a tennis-specific backpack. You can carry a couple of rackets and all the miscellaneous items you need on the court in a far more compact package. Babolat makes some of our favorite backpacks on the market. If someone you know plays with a Pure Strike, Aero, or Drive, try to match it to their racket. Otherwise, any version will do.
Happy Gift Giving!
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