There are so many materials in the world that it would be hard to count; however, only a handful of them will make a decent tennis racket. In this article, I will explain the different materials used to construct tennis rackets. I will also dive deep into each part of the racket because there are different materials required for all of them.
Tennis rackets consist of 3 parts: handle, frame, and strings. The handle is covered with a grip that is made from leather or rubber. The frame is constructed of graphite, carbon fiber, or composites that can include fiberglass and kevlar. Strings are made from polyester, nylon, synthetic or natural gut.
As you can see, there are many materials that the different parts of the racket need to be constructed to get that perfect tennis racket with a good grip, lightweight yet sturdy build, and strings with good tension.
To fully understand what your racket is made of, you need to stick with me a while longer when I dive deeper into each area of the racket and open up the pros and cons of different materials available for the racket. Let’s get started from the handle!
- 1. Handle & Grip
- 2. Frame
- 3. Strings
- How Tennis Rackets Are Made? (Step-By-Step)
- Are Aluminium Tennis Rackets good?
- Why Are Composite Tennis Rackets Better?
- Do Tennis Pros Use Natural Gut Strings?
- What Kind of Tennis Strings Should I Use?
- My Favorite Tennis Equipment
1. Handle & Grip
So let’s start at the bottom. The tennis racket’s handle is part of the frame where I will dive deeper into shortly. However, the handle is covered with a grip, and the original grip can be covered with an overgrip to keep the original one in good condition and to provide more grip.
The purpose of an overgrip is to:
- Improve the grip & decrease slipping
- Increase the handle’s circumference
- Select the right feel & texture for the handle
- Add more comfort by increasing cushioning
- Absorb sweat
- Customize the looks
Most tennis racket grips are made out of rubber or synthetic materials such as neoprene. However, leather grips are still available, and some people prefer that old-school leather feel. Let’s review the pros and cons.
Synthetic Vs Leather Tennis Grip
Synthetic grips are comfortable, flexible, and easy to install when it comes to the grip of the tennis racket. Also, they are cheaper and more lightweight, so if you are a fan of comfortable, lightweight grips, then a synthetic grip could be the choice for you.
Take notice that nearly all overgrips are made of synthetic materials, so if you want a leather one, you need to use a replacement grip to replace the racket’s original one.
A leather grip weighs more than a synthetic one which could be a pro or a con depending on the tennis racket’s balance and the athlete’s strength. Many people like leather grips because they make the edges of the handle more noticeable, and the material is sturdier, which makes a good grip. Also, leather is far more durable than synthetic ones.
If you have a hard time deciding which one to choose, many people have chosen to use a leather replacement grip and a synthetic overgrip that makes a good base and a comfortable feel to the handle. All in all, there really aren’t pros and cons to the grip’s material, only preferences and what you are used to.
The frame of the tennis racket is the core to which the grip and strings are attached to. Tennis racket frames are often made of graphite, carbon fiber, kevlar, aluminum, or composite materials, including titanium and fiberglass. Old tennis rackets are made from wood.
Graphite is the most popular material because it’s lightweight yet extremely durable. The same is with carbon fiber. Then there are cheaper options such as aluminum, where form many beginner rackets are made. Finally, various mixtures of composite materials can include Kevlar, titanium, and fiberglass, giving the racket different features in terms of weight, stiffness, durability, and overall feel.
Let’s examine the main materials that tennis frames are often made of and see the features that they hold.
Graphite is one of the most used materials in tennis rackets. The benefits of graphite are that it is lightweight with a stiff body, making it great for players with great power.
There can be 100% graphite frames whose features are like the ones above; however, there can be graphite composites where materials such as fiberglass, titanium, or tungsten have been used. This makes different levels of weight, vibration, power, and flexibility. This is great if a player really wants to get a customized racket.
2. Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber is really lightweight yet extremely durable. These frames are made by braiding carbon threads together, which are then shaped into a frame through heat and pressure. Graphite and carbon fiber has many same properties; however, carbon fiber is even more durable than graphite.
Both graphite and carbon fiber are used by tennis players of all skills so that you can find ones more targeted towards beginners, yet you can find extremely high-quality rackets made for world-class athletes.
Aluminum is a great choice for beginner rackets because they are cheap, they offer medium power, and the feel is comfortable and easy to handle.
There are different kinds of aluminum rackets, so not all are the same. Depending on the shape and build of the aluminum frame, the racket can be more flexible or powerful. All in all, a great choice for an affordable beginner’s racket.
If you want a racket with features like graphite, yet want to transmit more vibrations with a stiffer build, then kevlar might be for you.
These features make kevlar rackets great for advanced players because the control and feel can be hard to master, and because of the hardness of the frame, they can be tough on your arm. In addition, kevlar rackets are often more expensive than graphite, carbon fiber, and aluminum, so I highly advise these rackets only for skilled players.
5. Composite Materials
Composite frames can include various materials such as graphite, carbon, fiberglass, titanium, or boron. The great thing about composite frames is that you can find a highly targeted racket specifically made for certain strengths.
For example, by adding different layers and amounts of certain material mixtures, the manufacturers can control the durability, weight, flexibility, control, and all the other features more precisely and add many perks from different materials into one racket.
High-quality composite rackets are often quite expensive, but on the plus side, you can find one for all skill levels and playstyles!
Finally, there is wood. Wooden frames aren’t in use anymore because there are better materials available nowadays. However, wooden frames were the thing from 1874 all the way to the end of the 1970s. That’s a hundred years of wooden rackets! The last time anybody played with a wooded racket in Wimbledon was in 1987.
If you want to play casual tennis with a vintage feel to it, then you might want to consider a wooden tennis racket because you still can find them all over!
When you have the handle and frame all figured out, the only thing left to add is the strings! Most tennis rackets come with a string job; however, there are rackets sold unstrung (find out why), which gives more options to the athlete as there are different kinds of strings to choose from.
Generally, there are 4 different types of strings: Natural gut, synthetic gut, nylon (multifilament), and polyester strings. As a rule of thumb, advanced players use natural gut and polyester strings more, whereas nylon and synthetic strings are geared towards beginners and recreational players. Let’s find out why.
1. Natural Gut Strings
Natural gut strings are the original strings used in tennis rackets. Originally, they were made out of sheep gut, but natural gut strings are made from cow gut nowadays, specifically from the outer layer of the cow’s intestine, which is called serosa. So if you’re a vegan tennis player, you might want to consider other strings.
Anyways, natural gut strings are highly popular even now because of the great features they provide. They have great tension maintenance, the sweet spot is the sweetest of all strings, and they are really comfortable.
On the con side, the durability isn’t the best, and they are quite expensive, which is why they are used mostly by pro tennis players with money to spend.
2. Polyester Stings
Moving forward to polyester strings, these strings are also favored by many skilled tennis players for various reasons. First of all, polyester strings are really durable, they have great control and spin, and the price point is fair.
Like all things, there are some cons as well. The power-on polyester strings aren’t the best, so your strikes won’t be powerful with polyester strings if you lack power overall. Also, if you use polyester strings, you need to restring often because they won’t hold the tension super long.
Polyester strings will do wonders for advanced players who like to play with spin and accuracy and already possess a great deal of strength!
3. Synthetic Strings
Synthetic gut strings are an excellent choice as entry-level or recreational strings. These strings are very affordable and are great as all-around strings with average characteristics on all sub-areas.
However, if you want to highlight your particular skills or add more power, comfort, or control, then synthetic gut strings aren’t for you because they lack greatness in singular features.
4. Nylon (Multifilament) Strings
Finally, there are multifilament strings. As the name suggests, these strings are made by weaving thousands of fibers together, making one string.
The great thing about nylon strings is that they have great comfort, and tension maintenance, and they are quite affordable. On the con side, they aren’t the most durable ones, so that restringing will be a part of your life, but it isn’t so bad with the affordable cost!
Read also: Should You Have Two Tennis Rackets?
How Tennis Rackets Are Made? (Step-By-Step)
The manufacturing process and molding of the racket’s parts are complex, with many steps and dozens of quality control points to ensure that the racket has its designed characteristics with the utmost quality.
The racket’s build’s angle, weight, size, and materials drastically determine whether the racket is best suited for control, power, spin, durability, lightweights, or flexibility, among other features.
Now, let’s take a step-by-step look at how tennis rackets are made and keep in mind that different manufacturers and materials can require different methods. Hence, the core principles apply, but the smaller steps can have differences. Anyways, here’s one way to make tennis rackets.
- Forming the racket: The first step is to create the layup of the racket from materials such as graphite. This process is made by hand with care because the angles and shapes need to be just right. After the layup is done, it is placed into a mold to be shaped into a frame.
- Baking the frame: After the frame is placed into the mold, an automated machine places the mold and frame into an oven where it is hardened in monitored temperatures. After this is done, the frame is removed from the mold and it starts to look like a frame.
- Cleaning the frame: After the baking process, the frame is cleaned off of all excess flashing, and dust, and it is sanded to a smooth condition. Then the frame is moved towards the inspection.
- Inspection: At this point, often a larger inspection is being made in order for the frames to get approved for further manufacturing. Although, quality control is being monitored every step of the way. This is done by the naked eye and with a machine that can see imperfections that a human eye wouldn’t.
- Drilling: After it is certain that the frame is up to the quality standards, it gets drilled with the right string pattern.
- Appearance application: In this step, the frame is painted, brand stickers are applied, and the cosmetics are placed in appropriate places. In most cases, the painting of the frame is done by an automated machine but the stickers and other cosmetics are done by hand which is an extremely careful process that requires a great amount of experience.
Installation of handle pallets and butt caps: In this step, the handle pallets are installed, and depending on the original plan, the thickness can vary for people with different-sized hands. Also, the butt caps are applied in the same process. Often, this process is fairly automated yet monitored with the human eye.
- Grip Installation: After the handle is ready for gripping, the racket is placed into a machine that rotates and when this is happening, a worker will move the grip slightly towards the racket’s head and the grip is installed in seconds.
- (String job): Depending on whether the racket is sold with strings, the strings are often applied at this point. However, rackets are often sold unstrung because it gives the tennis players more options on what kinds of strings he or she wants.
All in all, the manufacturing process is quite straightforward, yet it requires constant monitoring and years of experience to truly produce a quality product.
Check this video out by Tennis Warehouse and see how Yonex rackets are made from start to finish.
Are Aluminium Tennis Rackets good?
Aluminum rackets are good for beginners because they are cheap, lightweight, relatively flexible, and have reliable power, which is good for beginners. However, aluminum rackets are easily dented and can vibrate a lot, so if you have powerful strikes, they can hurt your arm.
Why Are Composite Tennis Rackets Better?
Composite tennis rackets are better because they are made from a handful of materials that work well together, improving strength and weight ratio, durability, power, and specific features targeted precisely to your personal strengths.
Do Tennis Pros Use Natural Gut Strings?
Most pro tennis players use natural gut strings because they are very powerful, they have great comfort, and they hold tension quite well. Natural gut strings are expensive, and they need to be replaced quite often, which is why mainly pro players use them. Polyester strings are a close second for pro tennis players.
What Kind of Tennis Strings Should I Use?
Generally, you should use synthetic gut or nylon (multifilament) strings as a beginner because they are durable and control-oriented. If you are an advanced player, natural gut or polyester strings should be chosen because of their power, stiffness, and tension-holding properties.
My Favorite Tennis Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Below you’ll find my top tennis equipment recommendations would like.
- Racket: My preferred tennis racket is the Wilson Ultra 100 V3. This racket is made from graphite and carbon fiber, making it durable, firm, and easy to swing. The racket weighs 300g, making it lightweight yet not too lightweight to generate power. The racket’s main benefit is power. I like to add multifilament strings to the racket, such as Wilson NXT Soft 16 (recommended tension 52lb/23.5kg), because they are comfortable and soft on the arm with a great feel to the game.
- Tennis balls: Best tennis balls are always pressurized, and I like them having extra-duty felt, which is fit for hard court play. I like Penn Championship Tennis Balls, and so does the ITF because these balls are approved for competitive play. So yes, these are the real deal.
- Tennis shoes: I can’t stress enough the importance of comfortable and supporting shoes. ASICS Gel-Resolution 8 tennis shoes are unique because the balance between durability and support mixed with comfort is something out of the ordinary.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.
As you can see, there are many things to know beneath the surface, and the materials aren’t limited to one aspect but all handle, frame, and strings. I highly advise that you carefully inspect all the materials and composites your potential next racket includes that you can get the maximum benefits specifically for your skillset.