Best tennis racquet 2021: The top racquets for kids, adults and competitive players from £35

It doesn’t matter if you’re a tennis champion, picking up a racquet for the first time in years or have never played before in your life: choosing the best tennis racquet for you makes a huge difference. And “you” is the crucial word there.

Every player is different, and a racquet that’s ideal for a friend could give you tennis elbow. Here, we’ll reveal not only what to look for when buying a tennis racquet but provide a best tennis racquet choice for different budgets, different playing styles and different skill levels.

One of the big questions is which tennis racquet to choose for children. These racquets come in numerous different sizes, so we explain what the numbers mean and how to pick the right one. We’ll also cover the pros and cons of the different racquet brands. Which is best, Babolat or Dunlop? Wilson or Yonex? Sadly, you won’t become the next Roger Federer simply by using the same Wilson racquet that he does.

Then there’s the detail. What size of grip should you choose? Should you stick with the string it came with or opt for something special? Read on to discover the answers to all your questions.

Best tennis racquets: At a glance

  • Best tennis racquet under £50: Wilson Burn Excel 112 | Buy now
  • Best tennis racquets under £100: Head Ti S6 Titanium | Buy now
  • Best racquet for club players: Babolat Pure Drive 2021 | Buy now
  • Best racquet for “touch”: Wilson Clash 100 | Buy now
  • Best racquet for younger children: Head Radical Junior Tennis Racket | Buy now

How to choose the best tennis racquet for you

How much should I pay?

Let your budget be dictated by how keen you are. There are genuine rewards for spending more, but moving from a £50 racquet to one costing £200 won’t magically transform your standard.

That said, if you go too cheap you may rapidly outgrow your racquet; there is nothing worse than starting to hit with a friend’s racquet and discovering how much better it is.

As a rule of thumb, we suggest you budget between £50 and £100 for your first racquet. Club players should spend £100 to £200. Only those who compete should spend more than £200.

For kids’ racquets, there isn’t much need to spend more than £20 to £50 until they become both older and more skilful. Not least because you will need to buy new racquets as they grow.

Which racquet should I buy for my child?

This totally depends on their age and height. Children’s racquets move from 17in (measured from top to bottom of the strung area) to 26in.

The guides below are again a rule of thumb. If your child is tall for their age, go one size up. The worst that can happen is that you will keep it in the under-stairs cupboard for a year.

  • Under two years old, 17in
  • Ages 2-4: 19in
  • Ages 5-6: 21in
  • Ages 6-8: 23in
  • Ages 8-10: 25in
  • Ages 10-12: 26in

Note that most affordable kids racquets are made from aluminium. If your child is really keen, consider a more expensive graphite racquet.

What difference does weight make?

Buying the wrong weight of racquet is a common mistake that can have a big impact on your game. Go too light and you may become frustrated by a lack of control due to swinging too fast; go too heavy and you may find that it isn’t manoeuvrable enough for your liking.

More athletic players will generally benefit from racquets weighing 280g or more; we think 300g is a good sweet spot to aim for (for men and women). If you’re of a lighter build then consider a racquet under 280g, and if you like to really whack the ball then consider frames 315g and over.

Note that companies often make lighter and heavier versions of their racquets because they know there’s a market for them. For instance, Babolat makes a Lite version of the Pure Drive we feature below – and a heavier Tour version.

Which racquet head size should I choose?

If you’re a beginner or restarting after a long break away from tennis then you may enjoy a racquet with a larger head size; anything over 102 square inches will increase the “sweet spot” and reduce the chance of a ball flying off into the distance.

More advanced players should opt for racquets with head sizes of 100 square inches or lower, as this gives them more control over the ball.

What do the grip sizes mean?

Adult racquets come with a choice of grip sizes denoted by the numerals 0 to 5, whilst children’s grip sizes are clumsily labelled with sizes of 00, 000, 0000 and 00000. Sometimes websites say Grip 2, for example, other times G2, and you may even see L2. But fear not: what matters is that the larger the number, the bigger the circumference. Here’s a quick conversion into inches:

  • 00000 is 3 ½in
  • 0000 is 3 ⅝in
  • 000 is 3 ¾in
  • 00 is 3 ⅞in
  • 0 is 4in
  • 1 is 4 ⅛in
  • 2 is 4 ¼in
  • 3 is 4 ⅜in
  • 4 is 4 ½in
  • 5 is 4 ⅝in

You can take a rough measurement of your own hand as a guide: place a ruler flat on your palm (level with your thumb) and measure to the tip of your ring finger. However, the best way to find out is to pick up someone else’s racquet and play with it for a few minutes. The grip size is printed on the racquet’s base, so you can judge, Goldilocks style, if it’s just right, too big, or too small.

Note that you should err on a smaller size if you aren’t sure, as you can always put an extra grip over the top of the existing grip.

Will my racquet come with strings?

Racquets costing under £100 almost always come with strings, but more advanced players are better off choosing an unstrung racquet and then choosing their own string. This allows you to specify the right tension for your play (the looser a racquet is strung the harder you can hit the ball, but the less control you have) and also the precise string that you would like.

You can’t string racquets yourself, so your local club or stringing service is the best place to go for advice if you’re unsure.

Does it matter what my racquet is made from?

Your budget will dictate what your racquet is made from. As a rule of thumb, if it costs under £50 then it’s made from aluminium. This is light and sturdy, making it a sound choice for beginners.

Move closer to £100 and you should expect to see graphite make an entrance. Not necessarily as the sole ingredient, but in combination with a metal such as titanium. The presence of graphite is a good indicator of quality.

What difference do the brands make?

Don’t be overly influenced by brand names. The quality of the racquet is determined by what it’s made from, not by whether it’s a Dunlop or a Wilson. Likewise we would steer away from racquets branded with a player’s name, unless you think it will convince your children to play.

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The best tennis racquets to buy (in 2021)

1. Wilson Burn Excel 112: The best tennis racquet for under £40

Price: £35 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re new to tennis, or haven’t played for years, then you may not want to spend over £50 on a new racquet. In which case we’d direct you to this: a lightweight aluminium racquet with a big head to maximise your chances of getting balls back into play.

We certainly aren’t going to argue that it rivals the Babolat Pure Drive below for quality, but it’s a step up from the very cheapest racquets in both styling and performance. Note that it isn’t the sturdiest of beasts, so don’t bash it on the ground in a temper!

As with all cheaper racquets, the Wilson Burn Excel 112 is supplied pre-strung – and the strings aren’t of the highest quality. If you hit the ball with lots of spin, you’ll frequently need to adjust the spacing between them with your fingers.


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