Tennis Identity

New year, new racquet.

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TI Image lo resThe dawning of a new year brings fresh resolve to improve. One thing I'm considering adding to my tennis list is a new racquet. I've had mine a couple of years now and have played with it and its mirror companion a lot.

If your stick is old or has been played with hard and frequently, chances are it's "dead" and not helping your game. RPNY recently deemed a couple of sticks in this household as not even close to being worthy of restringing (or even charitable donation).

If you are jumping into the market, consider a variety of brands as well as the updated version of your old one, especially if your game is in a rut. There is some great new game-improving technology out there.

TENNIS Magazine's racquet advisor, Bruce Levine, who recently did a presentation at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, says that "selecting the correct racquet for a player's personal ability is the first step toward a successful match." But picking a new racquet is tough you say? The number of brands and racquet variables can be confusing. Head size, swing weight and beam width are just a few things to consider. It's really not a quick one-and-done decision for most. Like most things that take time, however, it's worth it.

Pay attention to the level or kind of player that the manufacturer says each racquet is designed for. This will help you to narrow the selection. A beginner should not even bother using Roger Federer's exact Wilson racquet for example. Look for a beginner version of it instead. Same goes for Andy Roddick's Babolat.

Racquets are designed to provide more or less power, more feel, or a little of both. Larger head sizes offer a big sweetspot and are forgiving of off-center hits. Beam width is important too. "The wider the beam, the more inherent the power," says Levine. "If you are looking for more control, a thinner beam is best." Stick stiffness and softness are related to touch and feel. Beginner racquets tend to be lighter than advanced racquets. Experiment a little with different swing weights and see what you like best.

Take some time to review manufacturer sites and user forums. Your pro may have some good suggestions but keep in mind that many tennis directors are tied to and supplied by a brand in exchange for promoting that line. Consider their ideas of course but supplement your tests with your own finds.

Levine suggests that you "try each racquet and then try them again under practice, drill and game situations." You might also want to consider restringing demos with a string you enjoy. If you like gut for example, you will likely need to put it into a demo yourself (or request it) as it will not be supplied to you automatically.

2010 racquets have begun to roll out. Prince and Wilson have already announced theirs. Stay tuned, there's bound to be something new to take your own game to the next level and into the new tennis season. Most clubs and racquet retailers offer demo programs. Online retailers appear to be less brand restrictive offering a full stable to test drive.

Happy New Year. Wishing good things for the world and for your game.