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The Best Tennis Racquet for Senior Players

What type of tennis racquet is best for older tennis players?

Tennis is a sport enjoyed by all ages, and the beauty of the game is that there's always something to improve on no matter what your level or age bracket. The dynamic range of movement required helps your joints work through a range of motions, and covering the court is also a good form of cardio so as a form of exercise when you're over 50 it's ideal.

Local tennis clubs offer senior leagues so you can play with people of a similar age and ability and I've played against players who are well into their 70's who still hit multiple times a week. 

However, not all racquets suit the senior game, and that heavy stick you have been using since your twenties might be negatively impacting your game. But what type of racquet is best for an older player? Are there any specific models designed for seniors? Or can they use any racquet? 

Recently I received the following question via email asking just that and I've decided to republish it here along with my answer.

I have just read your article about choosing a tennis racquet. I would just love your advice, please.

I want to buy a new racquet for my 76-year-old husband.

He only started playing tennis when he gave up cricket, 45ish but just loves his tennis, plays doubles on average, three times a week For the last few years he has been playing with a Wilson Hyper Hammer 7.3, given to me 17 years ago, and occasionally with a Head Liquid Metal Radical, sweet style rating L4, if that means anything to you.

He's 6'2″ is fit and slimmish, had a hip replacement 18 months ago but that is now no problem. He does complain about his shoulders a bit – too much bowling or golf – but essentially he is strong and active and I see no reason why he shouldn't have five or even ten more years of tennis in him.

So I'd love to give him a racquet that would be fun for him and perhaps also give him an edge through newer technology/design. Any advice or suggestions?

The Problem With Trying To Find a Racquet Suited To The Senior Game

racquet-seniors

The problem most older players run into when trying to find a racquet is that there are no manufacturers out there who are designing or marketing racquets purely for older players.

Despite the fact millions of players north of 60 play weekly across the globe, it's still a niche market within a niche market.

So without having the luxury of being able to pick from a select bunch of frames designed for the senior player, you're forced to either learn more about the physics involved with a racquet or just take a punt on a frame you like the look of and hope for the best.

If that sounds like you, then below are some tips on what sort of racquets you should be looking for.

What To Avoid and What To Look For in a Racquet?

choose-racquet

For an older player, I'd recommend staying away from racquets that either fall into the very heavy or ultra-lightweight category. For too light, for a male that would be anything under 280g unstrung and for a female 270g. For too heavy, anything above 350g for a male or 340g for a female.

The general rules I use when it comes to racquets are as follows:

  • Lighter racquets are more prone to twisting on off-centre impacts than heavier racquets. So if you play singles and face younger guys, a frame that's too lightweight is going to mean you get pushed around too easily.
  • Lighter racquets are more manoeuvrable and are easier to swing.
  • Lighter racquets tend to be stiffer which means more shock is transferred to the joints so they're less arm friendly. 
  • Heavier racquets, in general, are harder to swing and will cause you to fatigue quicker.
  • Heavier racquets mean more mass so more power, all other things being equal.
  • Heavier frames tend to be more flexible and absorb more of the vibrations from off centre hits.

I know a lot of male players only use heavier sticks because that's all they're used to and it's a real man's racquet. So my limit of 350g will seem far too low to a lot of people. But strangely they don't look as enamoured with their 14 oz beast of a frame when players with lighter racquets are blowing them off the court 😆

With those things in mind, the goal is to find the heaviest racquet you can handle properly, for the type of tennis you play and for the duration you are on the court.

How do you know a racquet is too heavy? If in match play, when you are on the run and are consistently late on the ball then your racquet is probably too heavy or has too high a swing weight.

Or if you feel tired after swinging the racquet during a hitting session, or after serving for a couple of sets – it's too heavy.

How do you know a racquet is too light? This is harder to spot, but if you feel like you have a lack of stability and are struggling to against players who hit a heavier ball, then the racquet is too light.

Another sign a racquet is too light can is when it causes elbow or shoulder issues due to being too easy to swing. A racquet can become almost too playable and your technique will suffer.

Consider The Type of Tennis You Are Playing

club-doubles

If you're playing singles against younger players that like to hit the cover off the ball, then using a lighter racquet that’s designed for manoeuvrability and easy swings—not stability will cause you to struggle and get overpowered.

For recreational doubles, you can usually get away with a slightly lighter, larger head size, ‘power' orientated racquet. They lose stability but because the doubles game isn't really about power, the added manoeuvrability and swing speed works well up at the net.

What Specification Should An Older Player Go For?

I recommend finding a racquet that falls into the following specification:

For a male:

  • 100 sq inch to 110 sq inch head size
  • 290g – 330g unstrung
  • 4 – 10 points Headlight

For a female:

  • 105 sq inch to 120 sq inch head size
  • 280g – 320g unstrung
  • 3 – 8 points headlight

The reason I recommend headlight is because they're more forgiving on the arm than head heavy racquets. Headlight has more weight in the handle and therefore absorbs more shock.

With headlight, you do have to work a harder to put pace on the ball. But that is a worthwhile trade-off for injury prevention.

Swingweight Makes a Big Difference

swing-weight

So far I've only talked about the static weight, but another thing to consider is the swing weight. You might find a racquet that is heavier than I recommend, but due to its headlight properties, it can be easier to swing than a lighter frame that is head heavy.  That's why you should always try to demo a racquet before you part with your cash.

Try To Demo If You Can

demo

While this post will give you some idea of what to look for, ultimately a player does need to experiment and find out what works for them the best, not just go off what  I or somebody else says.

Ideally, you should always demo a racquet before buying one. If you want me to recommend some demo programs for your location then drop me a comment below or contact me and I can point you in the right direction.

Shoulder and Arm Friendly Racquets

arm friendly

In the question I received via email, shoulder pain was mentioned. The general consensus here is that lighter racquets pass more of the shock of impact on to the user, which isn't good for the shoulder or elbow. Whereas a heavier and more flexible frame does more to absorb the shock.

If you have a slow swing and think lighter is the way to go, it’s worth taking into account that a light racquet might be too easy to handle and cause arm problems. 

There is, of course, a point where heavy becomes “too heavy” so like I mentioned goal is to find the heaviest racquet you can handle properly, for the type of tennis you play and for the duration of your hit.

Needless to say, your personal experience may be the opposite, but in general, a heavier frame is easier on the arm. 

Strings Change Playability A Lot

string-type

A huge factor in playability and arm friendliness is the type of string you use. If you're a senior player with more classic type strokes looking to preserve your arm, then I would avoid any string made from polyester.

Instead, a softer multifilament string would be the way to go. Natural gut is the best choice and although it's expensive, it does hold it's tension better than any other type of string and will last a long time when looked after. 

The other choice I would recommend would be Ashaway MonoGut ZX. But again, if you have the chance, then play around with different strings and tensions. 

Recommended Racquets

prokennex

So what racquet is the best for an older player? Can I recommend any specific frames? Not without knowing more specifics about your game and your current racquet, but I can point you in the direction of some brands that are highly regarded and ones I've seen a lot of older players using.

The problem with recommending specific frames as cure-alls is that no two players are alike. To give any racquet the ‘best' title is somewhat misleading as what works for one player might not work for someone else.

A classic example of this was at my tennis club where one player swore by a Prince racquet that had alleviated his tennis elbow. Another player was having similar problems with elbow pain and went out and bought the same racquet.

What happened? Well, you can probably guess, it made his elbow worse. Most recommendations are made on purely anecdotal evidence. You'll find some older players that swear by certain frames like the Babolat Pure Drive which has a notorious reputation amongst players for causing shoulder pain, yet for others, it's made their game pain free!

So what brand and frames should you be looking at? My first recommendation is to take a look at frames in the ProKennex range of racquets. 

prokennex

ProKennex are not massively well known on the ATP or WTA Tours with Andreas Seppi one of their only sponsored players. But they are highly regarded for producing some of the most comfortable and forgiving frames on the market.

Browse ProKennex Range

I've hit with the ProKennex Ki Q+ 5 Pro and it's one that is very popular with older players and if you read through some of the reviews on Tennis Warehouse it's used extensively by a lot of senior players.

volkl

Another brand with a solid reputation in this area is the German brand, Volkl. Volkl is one of the more popular brands for senior players because a lot of their designs are orientated around combatting tennis elbow.

The V Sense range is one to look into with the Volkl V-Sense 3 proving popular amongst a lot of older doubles players.

In doubles, you rarely face someone who hits a heavy ball and can push you around the court so the blend of power and comfort in the V-Sense lineup works well for a lot of players.

Browse Volkl Range

The final recommendation isn't a brand, but a specific frame, the Head Radical Oversize.  It packs a 107 sq. in and comes in at 320g but has a manageable swing weight and has a low-ish stiffness rating of 64.

The final thing to remember is that everybody reacts differently to equipment so what feels terrible to some could feel quite comfortable to others. So like I have mentioned several times, do demo racquets and play around with different configurations to see what works.

If you are a senior who is a step slower and feel like you need more power or something arm friendly etc, tell me what racquet you are using, and what you want to change in the comments below and I will let you know if I can come up with any frame suggestions.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Federer and tennis in general.

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35 Comments

  1. This is totally different article and useful for the ones needed…good to know as I don’t have much clue about these…. p

  2. With steam coming out of my ears, I have to say something. Roger Federer was too old or too expensive for the slave labour company, NIKE. BUT, they have rehired Michael Vick, the f…ing dog abuser!!! WTF. Old news but resurfaced again.

  3. Great article, Jonathan. Senior years just around the corner? I met a woman who is 82 yo and plays 2 -3 times a week. The more you keep moving the more you can. And she hates Serena, lol.
    When I used to golf, clubs are the same. The driving range/ pro shop had clubs to try out before purchase. You could go hit some balls at the range or in the indoor setup. I don’t know anywhere around here that is set up for that with tennis rackets. But such a good idea. Perhaps with tennis becoming more popular in this neck of the woods, there will be more shops focused on tennis.

    1. Thanks.

      Yeah I wouldn’t have written if I hadn’t received the question, not something I thought much about before that.

      Demoing is quite common in the UK and US. Most big tennis specific stores have programmes. Canada has Merchants of Tennis who have one.

  4. OK, so I’m 51 and this article is for me! Hummm… here’s my contribution:
    -Starting with injuries, which is something one should put on the top of their list, I will go against the stream and say that I never found the Pure Drive that uncomfortable at the extent of causing pain, even with polyester (I had one strung with Volkl Cyclone at 23 kgf and just did not like the plastic feel and the muted whack on impact).
    I think most of the discomfort comes from stressing the arm, wrist and hand too much by *trying* to whack the ball over and over as hard as you can. If you play relaxed (it’s not something that just comes around when you summon it…) it’s not likely you’ll injure yourself.
    -Weight: starting from the last paragraph, I have also a 6.1 95 that weighs 355 g, all included (strings, overgrip and dampener). Yes, it feels more comfortable on impact. And yes, it does not feel as heavy as the number show… but after about one hour hitting, I feel a little sourness on the shoulder because it’s… objectively heavier and a little less powerful, but that is something that a little extra muscle workout wouldn’t sort out. With the PD (and the likes) I get nothing of that simply because I can just sit down, swing it lazily and get the job done… Not good for refining the technique!!
    But I will say this: when I was a skinny 17 year old kid I used to whack balls all afternoon with a 90″ 360 g aluminum racquet and no pain whatsoever.
    Personally I would not recommend very big head sizes simply because I tend to feel a bit lost in the huge area without a clue whether I hit the ball on the center or not, and for me the feel is all important.
    A softer frame might also be the way to go, to so wrap it up, I would say that for an older folk, 100 square inch head (really, 110 is too big), up to 330 g strung, stiffness max 65 and even a soft polyester might not be that bad (string it low, 21-23 kgf). Or a nice multifilament.
    Cheers

      1. My most beloved racquet is by far a Dunlop M5.0, slightly weighed in the handle to make it closer to the Pure Drive (2 of these in the bag, too) but with a vastly better feel. My 17 son bugs me all the time because I like to try different racquets, which does nothing for my improvement. Hahaha! He embraced the Wilson 6.1 and never looked back.
        So, yes, I’m a tweener guy. (But that 6.1… what a feel, stability and, dare I say, honesty…)

  5. I’m just 70 and I started to play being 50. A bit late (I mean, I lost a lot years of joy).
    My experience with rackets is maybe typical some way. Never any parameter but grip size in mind. Always incidental choices. My first was Rossignol cannot-recall-which-one. It seemed not optimal for first tennis lessons, but hey … this was incident. I got heavy fatigue on wrist and elbow and even needed some rehab, but probably due to me automatically trying to replicate table tennis hitting technique ;).

    Next was Wilson Hyper Hammer – chosen by my instructor. I was satisfied with the racket, my technique was slowly improving and I think, I could play any racket then.

    Next one (after first 5 years) was Dunlop M-Fil 3-HUNDRED. The racket seemed to be too difficult for me, so I was switching all the time over more more than 10 years between Wilson and Dunlop. After some time I decided to stick with Dunlop and started to experiment with strings. I found optimal for me some hybrid strings (Kirschbaum xxx) strung with 23-25 kg.

    I have 2x M-Fil still as replacement and I feel, I could use them still with comfort.

    Then I had some series of overstress (wrist and elbow) and at the end (5 years ago) a knee twist.

    This was the reason for extreme experiments – extreme light Head racket (don’t recall the model, it was misunderstanding) and Wilson K-factor with 118 inch head (!!!) – another failure. I gave away both rackets after very short time and went back to Dunlop.

    4-5 (not sure) years ago I switched to Baboiat Pure Strike 98″, 330 g unstrung with hybrid strings (Natural Gut and Polyester, both from Head) (you will know, why just this racket ;)). Since then I’m playing the same racket not changing anything and I’m quite comfortable with it. I think, I found just an optimal mix from my technique, the racket and it’s parameters. No injury, fatigue or overload since 5 years 🙂

    I think, everyone will have his/her individual story. I have a lot of playing friends in different ages and nobody uses the same racket. Also nobody knows probably, why just THIS 😉 At least I know, why just this frame – never had courage to try Pro Staff 🙁 but who knows? When Fed is 70 and still playing, maybe I will try, hahaha … (would need learn first to hit Fed-like slices and never use another shot).

    1. Cool. The Thiem racquet. I like that frame. What does Thiem string with?

      I use Ashaway but tried all sorts, I think I’ve had Big Banger in for about 6 months now.

      1. Thiem uses Babolat hybrid stringing, consisting from Babolat RPM Blast Rough and Babolat VS Touch (must try this season) after my current blast 😉 Big Banger was a kind of trendy last year, wasn’t it? I have tried it but was not happy with it. Ashaway? Never heard of this brand 🙁

        Ah, there was a short time, I started to play new partner, who used double-strung Blackburne. I was curious to see how it plays, have bought the racket and “reselled” to the new partner after 2-3 months, during which I could not find out, how to play topspin with it. My partner did play everything with a kind of self-made slice 😉

        And – just realized there is some numerical relation between me (as tennis player and fan) and my two heroes – Fed and Dominic.

        About 20 years ago Fed started his pro career, I started my “almost-pro” career and Thiem started to hit the yellow ball with his father 😉

        Do you play Babolat Pure Strike regularly or you swittch between many rackets, depending on opponent or so? Ever played Fed’s racket?

      2. Actually, I meant I have had RPM Blast in for about 6 months. Not big banger, mixed up the two. I string them myself so have tried all sorts.

        Ashaway Monogut is a great string.

        I don’t use a Pure Strike. I have a frame made by Zus Tennis which is the best racquet nobody has heard of 😆 . Very good quality frame, overkill tbh for the frequency and level that I play. I have a matching pair and those are the only racquets I own now.

        I used to have a K Factor 90 racquet which Fed used. Was great to play with in the strike zone but a bit too heavy and unforgiving when on the stretch. Then I had a Pro Staff 95.

        If I was going to get a new racquet from the main brands, I’d go with Yonex every time. Their quality is way above Wilson IMO.

      3. ZUS, Ashaway – you seem to use only the gear nobody heard of 😉 Maybe Federer’s secret brands and only you know??? 😉

      4. Haha yes all the secret brands. Ashway is common in the US. Less so in Europe.

        Tomic used Zus racquets briefly when Head dropped him.

  6. Yes, it’s a bit light and that’s why I put a little lead inside the handle. It’s at 315g fully equipped now but I’m feeling the need to go heavier and that’s why I venture with the six.one more and more often. A similar one is the Dunlop M2.0 which I also play with occasionally although the power is not quite on par with the Wilson. I guess the tweeners will take a holiday until my youngsters grow up…

  7. Someone using still at times wooden frames?

    I have Dunlop Maxply (Laver) and Slazenger Victory (Rosewall) with original natural strings.

    Cannot play full strength and every shots but very, very nice feeling 🙂

      1. You mean in the before-alu-or-graphit era?

        I have still fun to use them but I need then the opponent to play also a wooden racket. I would lose the racket or wrist+elbow or both when playing this one against somebode hitting heavy topspins 😉

  8. Hey, has anyone watched Dustin Brown winning Sofia Antipolis Challenger? What a thrill. He seems to be in good physical form and completely kamikaze as usual! You never know what he’s going to do next…

    1. No Federer no tennis for a lot of people 😆

      I tweeted the compilation video earlier, some awesome shots and droppers. Pretty big title for him to win, he beat some decent clay courters en route too. I thought Krajinovic would be far too solid but Dreddy came up with the goods.

      I’m guessing this Mourtogalou tournament has aspirations to get bigger.

      1. That’s a similar level to most other small Challengers? Anywhere from like 5k to 20k when I usually look…

        I dunno what the plan is, just figured with Nice now defunct and Mouratogalou putting his name and academy to it then the plan would be to grow it.

      2. “No Federer no tennis” – precisely!
        Though yeah, thanks for the Dreddy kamikaze video, it was a great fun. I could have easily gone to watch because I know Sophia Antipolis very well (I used to live 10 mins drive away).

  9. How come did I miss this post?
    Great tip for geriatrics, yey! But question is ‘Can I still play?’ I got Writer’s Wrist (or Cramp), Tennis Elbow and bad back.

    1. My doctor banned me from impact sports years ago because of my bad knee 🙁 So my only racquet is I think a Slazenger I bought back when I was at uni in France a few decades ago – I can’t even access it at the moment! And like PRF I think grip size was the major consideration back then!

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