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

Tim Danton
3 Aug 2021
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Up your game with the best tennis racquets for beginners and aces alike

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 the key word there is “you”.

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 also 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 racquet 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
  • Best racquet for keen, older children: Babolat Pure Aero Rafa Junior 26 | 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’s 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’ll 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’ll 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 the 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, while 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 3½in
  • 0000 is 3⅝in
  • 000 is 3¾in
  • 00 is 3⅞in
  • 0 is 4in
  • 1 is 4⅛in
  • 2 is 4¼in
  • 3 is 4⅜in
  • 4 is 4½in
  • 5 is 4⅝in

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 too big, too small or just right.

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.

So, this is a starter racquet. If you’re keen, you may quickly move on to our next choice.

Key specs – Head size: 115 square inches (approx); Weight: 260g (approx); Composition: Aluminium


2. Head Ti S6 Titanium: The best tennis racquet for under £100

Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon

If you haven’t played for years then this very light Head racquet – now several years old but available for a great price on Amazon – is a huge step up from basic aluminium racquets such as the Wilson Burn Excel 112. And despite being made from a mix of graphite and titanium, it’s affordable at £80.

One reason for its continued popularity is the sheer size of the head: at 115 square inches it’s difficult to miss the ball entirely. This does mean that you may come to outgrow the racquet, as your technique improves and you take longer swings, but if you haven’t played tennis for a while or are a first-time player, then you will appreciate its benefits.

As a very minor plus point, it comes with a full-length cover, too.

Key specs – Head size: 115 square inches; Weight: 225g; Composition: Graphite/titanium


3. Babolat Pure Drive 2021: The best tennis racquet for keen club players

Price: £173 | Buy now from Tennis Nuts

The Babolat Pure Drive has long been a favourite among club players, and this 2021 edition includes some minor improvements to keep it at the top of the game. It’s loved due to its balance between power and control: at 300g it shouldn’t give most players (male or female) aching arms, but has enough meat to it that if you need to turn on the pace then it can deliver.

For the best control, we recommend you invest in some Babolat RPM Blast strings (as with most high-end racquets, the Pure Drive is supplied unstrung). We recommend the RPM Blast as it plays particularly well with this Babolat racquet: we found it added more control for drop shots and an extra dollop of spin.

The final thing we like about the Pure Drive is its price. While other racquets are brasher and laden with player endorsements, this understated racquet continues to win fans among competitive club players.

Key specs – Head size: 100 square inches; Weight: 300g; Composition: Graphite/tungsten

Buy now from Tennis Nuts


4. Wilson Clash 100: The best tennis racquet for “feel”

Price: £187 | Buy now from Amazon

Here’s one for players who have a delicate touch: the Wilson Clash 100 provides a “feel” for the ball like nothing else we’ve tested, with one tennis coach we know (and a long-time Babolat Pure Drive advocate) switching to it for precisely this reason.

Much of this comes from the Clash 100’s flexible frame, which was Wilson’s intention when designing it. This should give you a longer contact with the ball, and if you have the right technique that means you’ll have greater control.

We don’t recommend it to hard-hitters, who will benefit from a heavier frame, but it still offers enough power for that moment when you need to hit a clean winner down the line.

Key specs – Head size: 115 square inches; Weight: 225g; Composition: Graphite and titanium


5. Head Radical Junior Tennis Racket: The best tennis racquet for younger children

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Test a dozen different tennis racquets for kids and, colours aside, you’ll struggle to tell them apart. They’re all designed to make it easy to pick up the sport, with large heads, a light frame and a low price.

If your child would be enticed by a branded racquet then there are alternatives. Take a look at the Head Unisex-Youth Novak Tennis Racket and the Wilson Federer Junior Tennis Racket. We wish we could point to a Naomi Osaka racquet for kids, but Yonex (Naomi’s racquet supplier) is yet to produce one.

The most cost-effective option, however, is to choose a racquet that can accompany your child as they get older. The Head Radical is a great choice for this, as it starts at the Radical 19 for 2-4 year olds and stretches up to the Radical 26 for children aged 8-10.

If your child is older, and keen, then we recommend you step up to a higher-quality racquet, such as the Babolat Pure Aero Rafa Junior below.

Key specs – Head size: From 81 square inches; Weight: From 175g; Composition: Aluminium


6. Babolat Pure Aero Rafa Junior 26: The best tennis racquet for keen, older children

Price: £89 | Buy now from Tennis Nuts

You only need to hold the Pure Aero Rafa Junior 26 to realise what an upgrade it is on the more basic Head Radical (above). Inspired by the Pure Aero racquet that Rafael Nadal uses to thump balls into oblivion, the Rafa Junior 26 is geared for spin.

Unlike the adult version of this racquet, it isn’t overly heavy: a weight of 250g puts it at the upper end for children’s racquets, so we wouldn’t choose it for a ten-year-old, but if your child is 12-15 and loves to play then it’s a super stepping stone before they move into the realm of full-size racquets.

The final positive to note is that it’s made from graphite, like many top-quality adult racquets. This not only helps reduce vibration but also gives a sound – when they hit the ball right – that older children will love.

Key specs – Head size: 100 square inches; Weight: 250g; Composition: Graphite

Buy now from Tennis Nuts


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