Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

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Sunny Sarkar
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Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:53 pm

This is a request for experienced tennis players - seeking advice based on you personal experience (I have read a lot of whatever can be googled on this topic).

I have recently taken up playing recreational tennis 2 or 3 times a week. A friend said my level was 3, but I'm sure he was being very kind - because I can only occasionally produce a decent forehand, more than half my serves are wrong, and it's a miracle if any backhand makes it to the other side. So far I have tried learning from youtube videos, but I have started looking for a coach & lessons.

For rackets, I have tried several off-the-shelf starter rackets from Academy, Dicks, and Walmart ranging in price from $14 to $79. Some of them I like playing with, buy they all give me pain in the arm which I found out was called "tennis elbow". All the rackets I've tried have been light with oversized heads boasting power - which I found out on the internet were exactly the kind that may cause tennis elbow. Those tennis elbow articles are recommending heavier, head-light rackets - and all the recommendations are close to $200 price range which I'm uncomfortable with. So here are my questions:

(1) what kind of racket specs should I look for?
(2) what is the right price range for my level?
(3) any specific racket recommendations?

Thanks in advance,
Sunny
"Cost matters". "Stay the course". "Press on, regardless". ― John C. Bogle

Rupert
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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Rupert » Sat Sep 07, 2013 7:11 pm

Those stores sell mostly low-end rackets. If you're going to be playing a lot and think you're going to stick with it, you'll need better. Try tenniswarehouse.com. They have a great racket demo program. They'll ship demos right to you. They also sell used rackets for very reasonable prices. For a beginner, that's what I'd recommend: a good, gently used racket. As for which racket, different people prefer different brands. I've always had luck with Prince. For a newish 2.5 or 3.0 player, I'd recommend the O3 Blue. It's been easy on my elbow. Of course, it could be the form you're using to hit the ball, rather than the rackets you're using, that is bothering your elbow. A few lessons might be a better investment than a new racket.

Reubin
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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Reubin » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:54 pm

If you're going to hire a pro and take lessons why don't you hold off on your purchase until then and ask for their expert advice on the proper racquet?

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by DWD » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:23 am

I would also recommend getting some lessons. Poor technique is probably contributing although racquet could be a factor too. Racquet stores or stringers or online racquet reviews will have some recommendations on racquets that are easier on the elbow. I had a bout of tennis elbow and finally just stopped playing for ~3-6 months to let it heal and the problem hasn't come back.
Dave

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by investingdad » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:30 am

It's not the racquet causing tennis elbow, it's how you're holding it and your swing. Take lessons and let the pro know you are having discomfort.

I played for close to twenty years before giving up for good when I did permanent tendon damage that never healed properly.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by tainted-meat » Sun Sep 08, 2013 10:12 am

Rupert has some great advice.

(1) what kind of racket specs should I look for? - A racquet with a RA (stiffness rating) of 64 or less.
(2) what is the right price range for my level? - You can get an older model that still plays great at half the price.
(3) any specific racket recommendations? - Head Microgel Radical MP or Oversize. http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/searchr ... el+radical.

The stiffness is 57 for the midplus or 56 for the oversize. The oversize is better for beginners but I'd go for the midplus version as if you play 2-3x/week you will improve quickly. This is a racquet that you can play with at a very high level and will not need to be replaced.

4. Don't use a cheap string! Use a multifilament strung at a lower tension. A crappy synthetic gut or polyester string strung too high will kill your arm.

Also, check out the tt.tennis-warehouse.com forums. Lots of great information there that can help you.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by sdrone » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:38 pm

Sunny Sarkar wrote: All the rackets I've tried have been light with oversized heads boasting power - which I found out on the internet were exactly the kind that may cause tennis elbow.


You've only recently taken up tennis. Why are you blaming the racket for your elbow pain? "light with oversized heads boosting power" describes every racket since perhaps the mid 80s, maybe even earlier.

If your elbow bothered you before you took up tennis, you've got an elbow issue you need to resolve.

If your elbow only bothers you after tennis, you could have an existing elbow problem that a repetitive motion is simply aggravating.

Tennis elbow can be a catch-all term used to describe lots of elbow problems - heck even the herniated disc in my neck years ago first showed as shoulder soreness that migrated to elbow pain. Given what little we know from your post, you have not played enough tennis for tennis to be the cause of your sore elbow.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by BuckyBadger » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:50 pm

I second (third? fourth?) the recommendation to get some lessons with a tennis pro. S/he will be able to determine if your stroke might be causing your pain, as opposed to your racket. I agree that you don't seem to be playing enough to have your pain be caused by the racket, although it could certainly be caused by poor mechanics in your stroke.

Also, rackets and strings are VERY personal preferences. I play with a Prince Red O3, but I string it on the high end and use a hybrid string to give it less of the feel of an over-sized racket. You might love that racket, but might hate it with these strings. My husband plays with a small heavy racket strung with super-durable string because he hits so hard that he can shred a set of strings in two matches. Everyone likes something different, but at your level, you don't know enough to know what you do or don't like.

Is there a good tennis store in your area? We are lucky to have a tennis store with probably 30 demo rackets. You can rent a handful for the day for $2 each, or go out back and hit them against a wall for a few minutes for free. Again, a tennis pro should be able to help you with a starting point, and might direct you toward a good store.

Last thing - if you want to be able to find people with whom to play and not find yourself over faced, I'd recommend you ask the pro for an assessment of your level, or go to the self-rating descriptions on the USTA website. By your own description of yourself you are a between a 2 and a 2.5. If you play 3.0 players you won't have much fun.

From the USTA website:

1.5
This player has limited experience and is still working primarily on getting the ball into play.

2.0
This player needs on-court experience. This player has obvious stroke weaknesses but is familiar with basic positions for singles and doubles play.

2.5
This player is learning to judge where the ball is going although court coverage is weak. Can sustain a short rally of slow pace with other players of the same ability.

3.0
This player is fairly consistent when hitting medium paced shorts, but is not comfortable with all strokes and lacks execution when trying for directional control, depth, or power. Most common doubles formation is one-up, one-back.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by thomasbayarea » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:40 pm

I've played tennis for about 20 years, including competitive.

1. It's almost always the technique and not the racquet.

2. Try out as many as racquets you can. Start off with an oversize (110) and work your way to a regular size (95). I personally recommend the Wilson K-factor series.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by S&L1940 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:51 pm

A pro should be your first stop; ask your friends about their experiences with local pro's
Make sure you are comfortable with their techniques
Let the pro suggest a racquet based on your level of proficiency: head size & weight & flexibility
Stick with it and over the years you will probably use several different brands and models
A sporting goods store - not a big box outfit - will lend you 2-3 racquets based on your pro's suggestions
Even Tennis Warehouse will send you racquets to demo
Cost can be allover the scale but figure a "good" racquet will cost any where from $100 to $200 - like cars, you can get last year's model or a used demo (re-strung) at a lower price
Good luck, enjoy the game
Don't it always seem to go * That you don't know what you've got * Till it's gone

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by porcupine » Sun Sep 08, 2013 10:56 pm

Need to share my personal experience. I had wanted to ask this question earlier but was afraid folks would respond with a blanket answer that it is a medical question and I should be talking to a doctor. Anyway, since I have already done so (i.e., seen a doctor - see below), here I go ...

I have been playing doubles regularly on Saturdays with a group of friends for the last five years or so (and I've been playing tennis on and off for the last 25 years). My logic in choosing the least expensive racket was that I might as well do so rather than paying $20 to restring a racket every so often (no, that did not happen every two sets or so ... more like every few months). Anyway, a couple of friends warned me that I might develop tennis elbow if I did not switch to an expensive racket. My logic in continuing to use the el cheapo rackets was that a) I've never been bothered by a tennis elbow and b) it is the technique/style of play that mattered, not the racket used (which jives with much like what more than one respondents on this thread have said).

Anyway, one morning, out of the blue, I woke up to elbow pain. I don't think it was even the day after I had played tennis. I thought maybe I jammed my elbow at night or hit something while rolling in bed while asleep. Did not do anything until the weekend. Went to play tennis and realized that the elbow was just not up to it. Quit after 15 minutes (note that we usually play 1:30 to 2:30 hours). During the next week or two afterwards, the pain got progressively worse (though not enough for me to think that there was a big change overnight), but I noticed that I had a tough time lifting a gallon jug of milk and shifting gears on my automatic transmission.

Stubbornly, I did not go to the doctor. A month later - no tennis in between - the pain had still not subsided and then I fell coming down the stairs at a relative's house. As a result of that, I had to go see the orthopedic specialist. In passing (while getting a clean bill of health on the back which was still sore), I enquired about my elbow. He looked at it, touched the elbow and asked me to flex my hand, and declared that it was tennis elbow. He did not suggest any medication, only that I could wear a elbow brace while playing. I have got the brace but am yet to venture on couurt in it.

For the record, based on BuckyBadger's descriptions (some of these descriptions vary according to the site and I am too lazy to go look at the 'official ones' from USTA), I would rate myself as somewhere in the 3s maybe 3.0 or maybe 3.5 :-).

Bottom line - I still don't know what tripped my elbow over the edge, but looks like I need to be more careful playing tennis in the future.

- Porcupine

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by investingdad » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:01 am

The problem with wearing a brace below your elbow is that it works by restricting the tendons. Trying grasping your forearm below the affected elbow and squeezing to simulate the band. Now make a fist with your racquet hand. Feel the tendons moving? Feel the resistance your hand encounters to making a fist? That will translated into a weakened grip on the racquet. For me, it meant misses shot after missed shot because the racquet would twist in my hand as a result of that elbow band.

So wearing a band while playing usually doesn't work out.

You need to rest the injury for a long time. My issue is that I never gave it proper rest until I eventually did enough long term damage that continuing with the sport was impossible.

Even now, more than 10 years since I stopped playing I can't take more than a couple of shots without feeling the twinge of pain coming back.

My advice is that if you develop tennis elbow to rest it properly. If you're a new player, you need to take lessons.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by porcupine » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:26 am

investingdad wrote:[...]You need to rest the injury for a long time. My issue is that I never gave it proper rest until I eventually did enough long term damage that continuing with the sport was impossible.

Even now, more than 10 years since I stopped playing I can't take more than a couple of shots without feeling the twinge of pain coming back.

My advice is that if you develop tennis elbow to rest it properly. If you're a new player, you need to take lessons.

And how long would that be? Until there is no pain? It has been three months already! :oops:

Also, I assume you are saying that just rest is sufficient for it to heal. Now, are you also saying that I should not lift anything with my right hand if it hurts (such as the milk jug I referred to)?

Thanks for suggestions/advice!

- Porcupine

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by SPG8 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:37 am

porcupine wrote:Thanks for advice!


Soliciting advice on the internets can result in eccentric responses.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by investingdad » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:45 am

I cannot tell you how long, you need to talk to a doctor. I can only relay my own experiences. I didn't give the injury enough time to heal and re-aggravated it again and again. Looking back, I probably should have taken a 6 month hiatus when I first starting having trouble.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by strcmp » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:17 am

For those of you with tennis elbow or looking to avoid tennis elbow:

Many reviewers have stated that this is one of the most arm-friendly racquets you can use:
pro kennex kinetic 5g

I suggested the same racquet to my 3.5 level friend w/ tennis elbow and his eventually went away so that he could return to his original racquet.

Also, i'd suggest getting a 'flexbar' and doing exercises with it. It's a solid rubber tube that you twist. Google flexbar and tennis elbow and you'll see there are studies and links on exercises you can do with it to 'cure' tennis elbow by essentially strengthening your forearms. I have slight tennis elbow that flares up once in a while from using stiff racquets (pure drive, etc.) and doing the flexbar exercises helps me.

I would suggest for strings that you use synthetic gut or multifilament. Do not use poly / kevlar if you are worried about or have tennis elbow. Stringing it at a lower tension is also better than higher tensions.

And last, but not least.. proper technique matters. Get lessons if you are a beginner. :happy

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by chaz » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:06 am

With tennis elbow problem, safer to play chess.
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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Rupert » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:38 pm

A couple of other thoughts I should have mentioned in my first reply to your post: Make sure you're using the proper size grip and that you aren't gripping the racket too tight. A too-big or too-small grip and holding the racket, especially serving, with a deathgrip will kill your elbow. Having re-read your original post, I agree with folks who say you are probably not a 3.0. It usually takes about 12-18 months of pretty regular play before USTA will move you up to 3.0. You're more likely a 2.5, which is where USTA will rank you starting out if you have any experience playing tennis or have any history of playing sports (not just tennis). I mention this only because knowing what your approximate rank is can help you shop for rackets. Good luck! Teams are always desperately looking for 2.5 players; so take care of that elbow.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by bl2410s » Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:41 pm

Since you are a new player it is very common to have wrist, elbow, or shoulder pain. First thing I would say is go get some lessons, the pain is most likely due to poor technique. When you do get lessons don't just get one instructors opinion, go to 2-3 different people each a couple times. The other cause would most likely be overuse. Are you in shape, go to the gym or play any other racket sports? If not it probably that the muscles in your forearm don't get used that much. So I would either make you playing session shorter or only play twice a week for a while.

As far as a racket goes, I would go demo a bunch of rackets from a local pro shop. Expect to pay around $150+ for a quality new racket. Don't think to much into the specs because it most of them are not accurate or won't effect your game until you reach a 5.0 level. The only specs I would look at its head size, weight, and grip size. Don't go smaller than 98sqin and dont go bigger than 107sqin (assuming you are in decent shape and health). For weight, understand that light is unstable and reduces power. Heavier rackets will be more stable on off-center hits and will increase power. However, make sure you don't go too heavy, something between 300-325 grams, you can always add weight but cant take it away. Grip size is another thing that is important make sure the grip isn't too small. Typically if you have average size hands than go with a 4 3/8 or 4 1/2.

The other thing that is so much more important than most players realize is strings. Do not use any kind of polyester and if a demo is strung with it ask them to put in a synthetic gut. You wont need polyester string till you get better. As far as brand of string I recommend Technifibre NRG2. But in reality use any syn gut and replace it frequently. If you play with it for more than 40 hours or 10 weeks, cut it out and get new. Using dead string is awful for your arm. Also play with new dry tennis balls. By the way I string and customize tennis rackets for many up and coming pros and teach lessons on the side.

Goodluck it's a great sport!

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:47 pm

chaz wrote:With tennis elbow problem, safer to play chess.

Chess is easy. I can even play left-handed.
"Cost matters". "Stay the course". "Press on, regardless". ― John C. Bogle

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by chaz » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:00 pm

Sunny Sarkar wrote:
chaz wrote:With tennis elbow problem, safer to play chess.

Chess is easy. I can even play left-handed.

I'm left-handed.
Chaz | | “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Woody Allen | | http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by blastoff » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:26 pm

I'll add that there is no need to buy a new racquet for $200. You can easily buy the same thing used for $50-$100 (or even less). There is no point for you to buy a brand new racquet for full price unless you need to have something new. There have been no real developments in technology in the past 10-20 years. Many pros play with old models painted to look like new ones so you'll buy them, which is a case in point. Don't worry about a specific "technology". Just try some and buy one that feels good. Avoid the super light racquets.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by LifeLearner » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:48 pm

Hi,

I didn't read through many of the other posts above mine, so if I'm repeating what has already been said, please ignore this.

I played a lot of tennis growing up, but I was often plagued with tennis elbow problems. From doing a lot of reading and research on tennis elbow, the general consensus are that there are three key factors: form, racquet, and strings -- generally, in that order of importance.

Since it sounds like you're starting out, I'd recommend you seek some private coaching if you can afford to do so, so you can at least develop fundamentals and have a pro observe you and give you suggestions. Then you can practice during the week to put it into practice and use future lessons to ensure you're using sound technique. The big things are going to be to hit the ball out in front of your body, keep a firm, laid-back wrist (debatable with the modern forehand, but let's not go into that for a beginner), and don't arm it (i.e. use trunk rotation to hit the ball as opposed to swinging with only your arm). Also, use a fairly neutral/mild grip such as eastern or semiwestern. I'd stay away from western for now. If any of the things I mentioned above don't make sense to you, I'd urge you to check out some more tennis-specific forums for advice on form -- a fantastic one is the forum provided by Tennis Warehouse.

Racquet technology, for the most part, is a huge gimmick. The biggest progression in racquet technology in the past years has been the introduction of graphite into racquets. Unfortunately, with the introduction of graphite/carbon fiber, racquets can now be made much lighter and stiffer than they could be previously -- while maintaining structural integrity, that is. So racquets got bigger, lighter, stiffer, and more head-heavy, which means the center of mass of the racquet is concentrated toward the tip instead of toward the handle. Ultimately, this combination of light, stiff, and head-heavy often promotes poor form and transmits a lot of shock to your arm. As such, even though you are a beginner, I would recommend a 'heavier' racquet that has a low stiffness rating (under 60 on the RDC scale). [An aside, I put 'heavier' in quotes. When wooden racquets were around, it was common for even children to play with racquets that exceeded 12 oz in weight, which by today's standards, is considered a 'heavy' frame.] I have heard many good things about the ProKennex Kinetic series though I have not played them myself; based on other's experiences, it seems that the Kinetic technology actually works and is not a gimmick. I personally play with a ProKennex as well, but racquet brand -- generally -- isn't that important. Virtually every company makes racquets that fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, whether they are heavy and flexible (good for the arm) to light and stiff (bad for the arm). Demo different ones as suggested by another member, and see which one doesn't cause any pain.

Strings technology has changed the game drastically. The introduction of polyester strings have allowed professionals to swing harder, generating massive amounts of spin that couldn't be done in the past. Use of these strings has trickled down over the past years, and you see it on everyone's racquets nowadays. I'd recommend staying away from these things as they're generally stiff and not very arm-friendly. I'd stick to soft synthetic gut strings (Prince Synthetic Gut Original for instance) or multifilaments strings.

Other factors contribute as well though indirectly. For instance, make sure your grip is sized properly. Too small a grip, and you might be too 'wristy' (so really, it ties in to form). Too large a grip, and you may find yourself gripping the racquet too tight. Your grip should be comfortable and loose.

Lastly, check out therabands. Relatively recent research (I didn't come upon it when I first experienced issues with tennis elbow and only discovered it last year) is that eccentric loading promotes tendon repair. If you check out the wikipedia article on it, you should be able to find information about it.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:20 pm

Rupert wrote:A couple of other thoughts I should have mentioned in my first reply to your post: Make sure you're using the proper size grip and that you aren't gripping the racket too tight. A too-big or too-small grip and holding the racket, especially serving, with a deathgrip will kill your elbow.

Like many posters mentioned, my poor technique must have a lot to do with my tennis elbow, but I'm sure the poor choices I made with equipment didn't help either. I found out that I was using a racket 2 sizes smaller than what I need (4 1/4 instead of 4 1/2). Plus it was an ultra-light racket that was 7 points head heavy.

Rupert wrote:...you are probably not a 3.0. It usually takes about 12-18 months of pretty regular play before USTA will move you up to 3.0. You're more likely a 2.5, which is where USTA will rank you starting out if you have any experience playing tennis or have any history of playing sports (not just tennis). I mention this only because knowing what your approximate rank is can help you shop for rackets. Good luck! Teams are always desperately looking for 2.5 players; so take care of that elbow.

You're right that I am probably at 2.5, but I sometimes play with a friend who wins the 3.5 leagues in our town - I always lose to him, but I do manage to wrestle a few good games every time.

Rupert wrote:Teams are always desperately looking for 2.5 players

didn't quite understand this. What teams are looking for 2.5 players?
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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Rupert » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:07 am

What teams are looking for 2.5 players? Combo league teams (e.g., 5.5 combos, where a 3.0 player is paired with a 2.5 player or a 3.5 player is paired with a 2.0), trilevel tournament teams, etc. It's hard to find good 2.5 players for such teams. By "good," I mean a player who still carries a 2.5 rank but plays well enough to compete with a 3.0 or 3.5 player.

If you're just looking to go out and have fun playing on weekends, none of this matters - your rank doesn't matter so much. But if you're interested in getting involved in competitive league play, then it's in your best interests to remain a 2.0 or 2.5 player for as long as possible. You can always "play up," i.e., a 2.5 player can play on a 3.0 team. However, once you're ranked 3.0, you can never "play down" on, say, a 2.5 team.

If you don't know what these ranking numbers mean or how to acquire them, you should join the USTA. They'll ask you some questions and assign a rank to you. You have to have a USTA ranking in order to play on a team and compete in tournaments.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:50 pm

LifeLearner wrote:I'd stick to soft synthetic gut strings (Prince Synthetic Gut Original for instance) or multifilaments strings.

Is "Wilson Extreme Synthetic Gut 16" ok?

What are the basics around string types & tension?
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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by LifeLearner » Sun Sep 15, 2013 6:35 pm

Sunny Sarkar wrote:
LifeLearner wrote:I'd stick to soft synthetic gut strings (Prince Synthetic Gut Original for instance) or multifilaments strings.

Is "Wilson Extreme Synthetic Gut 16" ok?

What are the basics around string types & tension?


Yeah, it should be fine. There are several types of strings and the general trend in stiffness (high to low) is as follows: kevlar, polyester, synthetic gut, multifilament, natural gut. String near the low end of the recommended range on your racquet.

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Re: Tennis racket recommendation for beginner (tennis elbow)

Post by tennisfan2013 » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:10 am

As many people have pointed out, go with a natural gut string and keep the string tension down to between 55-65lbs.

Good luck

[note from admin alex - this is a thread restart, but it seems to be useful and the poster checks out OK]

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