How to Demo a Tennis Racquet: Get the Most Out of Your Demo Racquet ExperiencePublished on 03/20/2023 · 6 min readDemoing tennis racquets is a great way to find something you like before purchasing! Check out these tips on racquet demoing from Tennis Expert Danny G.!
Rackets from my personal collection - the Head Extreme S, Yonex Regna 98, Babolat Pure Drive Tour, Wilson Shift 315. Photo courtesy of Danny G.
As a Tennis Expert here on Curated, I’ve demoed countless racquets and have helped many players at all experience levelss demo tennis racquets. I’ve compiled my best advice on playtesting into one great article. This content should be helpful no matter what stage you’re at on your tennis journey, so let’s dive in!
Why Should You Demo a Tennis Racquet?
The short answer is that it can save you a lot of money. If you impulse-buy a tennis racquet, you may dislike it and be out some serious dough. At best, you can resell it at a loss. Most retailers will not accept a tennis racquet return if you strung it and removed the plastic from the handle or if it shows any wear.
Utilizing a demo program is a relatively low-cost and risk-free way to try a bunch of tennis racquets without committing to purchasing. From my personal experience, I've paid a $15-$25 fee to demo racquets. Most programs let you demo for one week before returning them. It’s also a great way to see if something new can help level up your game or get you out of a rut. Rest assured that some racquets make things easier than others.
The latest model of your racquet may perform differently than the model you have now. The manufacturer may have changed the string spacing, stiffness, balance, or mold entirely, meaning it’s a different frame under the same name. For example, Head has released different molds over the years. So, one year’s Radical, Prestige, or Extreme could be a different racquet than another year’s frame.
Find the Best Racquet for Your Game
You’re likely not currently using the optimal racquet for your game if you have not playtested anything in the last six months—especially early on in your tennis journey! The odds of anyone selecting the best racquet for their game on their first try is pretty unlikely, so there’s an almost 100% certainty there’s something better out there for you.
Using your coach’s recommendation is usually a good starting point since they understand your game well. Still, not all amazing tennis instructors are experts in equipment or will give you an unbiased opinion!
Other Reasons to Demo
If you have improved or lost a step due to injury or age, it may be a good opportunity to change things up. Demoing is a great way to avoid buyer’s remorse. And spicing things up with a new addition to your bag is fun!
Getting the Most Out of Your Demo Racquet Experience
Consider First Impressions
First impressions of a racquet are really important and often foreshadow your experience on the court. Are you blown away by the aesthetics? Does it feel good to hold or when you shadow swing it? Those are all great signs.
Beware of the honeymoon phase. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve purchased Babolat Pure Drives and played lights out for a couple of weeks before my game came crashing back down to earth. Reducing any variables you can control is important to ensure the honeymoon does not blind you. So here are some tips for having a thorough playtest and being well-informed by the time you have to return them.
Tips for a Thorough Playtest On Court
- Get a good warmup before making any judgments.
- Hit with people that are familiar with your game. Ask for their feedback, or be mindful of their commentary. Ideally, pick a demo buddy and hit a couple of times. If you can’t find a hitting partner, pay for a lesson or some time on a ball machine. (You’d also be surprised how far a bottle of wine or six-pack will go when finding volunteers!)
- Run through the same routine with each racquet. This can be a series of drills, target practice, or playing sets against the same person using different demo racquets.
- Get out there as many times as possible! The larger the sample size, the better. Doing so will help reduce the likelihood that you’re in the honeymoon phase.
- Take notes along the way! Write them down on paper or in the Notes app on your phone. Examples: “racquet felt great, but had bad strings,” “served better, but made backhand worse,” “super consistent, but low powered,” “Bob said my serve was harder.”
- Try to play in different conditions. This includes different times of day, different surfaces or courts, indoor/outdoor, and even using different balls.
Don’t Force It
Maybe you’re a longtime, loyal Wilson Pro Staff user struggling to make the new racquet work. If that’s the case, load up on the old ones while they’re still on sale and wait for the following iteration! The racquet might look amazing, and the specs are right in your wheelhouse on paper, but there’s no magic despite your best efforts. If you don’t feel like you can adjust to it, or wouldn’t like it with different strings or tension, trust your instincts and move on. As the old cliché says, as one door closes, another one opens.
More than 70% of points end in error at almost all levels of tennis. Unfortunately, those points usually don’t make the highlight reels. When I playtest racquets, I treat the experience like I would equip a character in a video game. That involves trying to find something to improve at least one aspect of my game without hurting anything else. For example, I would not switch to a racquet that improves my serve while taking away pace from a groundstroke or making it less consistent.
Ideally, all the racquets would come with our desired string and tension when playtesting. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and we’re often dealt a different string, tension, and amount of wear on the strings with each demo frame. Most of us do not have the luxury to cut out the demo strings and restring with our preferred setup, so keep that in mind when playtesting.
Avoid the rabbit hole! If you find something significantly better than your current frame, look no further! The likelihood of finding something even better than that is incredibly minuscule and not worth the extra time, money, effort, and energy. Your best option would be to get dialed in with the racquet you’ve already found rather than spending countless more hours trying to one-up the upgrade. Of course, you can always demo another batch of racquets in the future if you get bored or something new hits the market.
Reach out to a Tennis Expert if you’d like some help on your demo journey!