It is always nice to hear from the readers of this blog, especially when they share a question that I bet a lot of us share regarding our improvement towards tennis. This article goes over the problem that a player from the country of Chile has regarding the best racquet to have great performance on the court without the shoulder pain. I will dive into his question now but before I do, remember to send me any questions you may have and I'll be happy to help you out as much as I can! Also, please note that my blogs will be biweekly during the late fall and winter as I try to finish my book before spring hits! More details coming on that :)
Here is the summary of what Francisco is dealing with regarding shoulder pain and finding the right racquet:
Francisco: "When I started playing tennis 20 year ago, I played with a racquet that in today's measurements could be consider a heavy racquet. I played with a Yonex rd tour 95 which weights about 340 grams unstrung. Years ago I changed to a lighter racquet that was about 310 grams unstrung. This change in weight significantly added pain to my shoulder after hitting with it. A few weeks ago, I found my old yonex racquet in my parents house and I put new strings on it. The feel was like playing with an extension of my arm for about 45 min and then the weight was difficult to handle. One thing I noticed the morning after was that my shoulder didn't hurt. Given this situation, a tennis coach in my club suggested me to take a light frame and put some lead to it until I reach the level of comfort I need.
What do you think about this suggestion? Also, how much does your racquet weight? I have been reading that pros customize their racquets. Do you customize your racquets?"
Me: You provided a lot of great information regarding your question about heavy vs. light racquets. I'm going to do my best to be as specific as possible rather than giving a general "it depends on the person" type of answer. I'l base my answer on the fact that you are a intermediate to advanced recreational player since you have been playing for years and you are using a racquet that a beginner would struggle with. I hope this helps!
Right now I use the Yonex vCore Pro 100. Looking at your racquet with just weight might not be the best way to look at it though. I would look at the following for a good racquet for you:
Swing weight. The Yonex Rd 95 has a swing weight of 327. This tells you how heavy the racquet feels when swinging. The more more mass the less speed you have to swing (force = mass x acceleration. The more mass, the less acceleration to get the same force). One thing a lighter racquet allows you do is swing faster but it also can allow you to swing with your arm rather than your body as the strength to swing it doesn't require the entire body and can mess with your mechanics a bit. My racquet has a swing weight of 317. I liked this swing weight because it gave me enough time to get around the fast tennis balls coming at me at a mile high here in Colorado :) The heavier version of this racquet has a swing speed of 330, making it harder for me to get around on the ball. You definitely don't want to go below 315 for you because of the fact that you will have to swing harder to get power and lighter racquets tend not to absorb impact of the ball as well as heavier racquets, adding to your shoulder pain. You may even want to consider the the two vcore racquets (300g and 330g versions) that I just mentioned.
Flex: Babolat for example, is known for stiff racquets. Stay away from a stiffness rating higher than the mid 60s. Higher stiffness means the impact is absorbed by you rather than the racquet.
Balance: So the reason other than the swing weight to why I liked the 300g racquet rather than the 330 pro vCore racquet is the how head light the racquets are. The 330g is 7 points head light, making it have very little mass (compared to 4 pts for the 300g racquet) behind the ball. You can get higher swing speeds with head light racquets but that was a bit too little mass in the racquet head to hit strong shots.
Other factors to consider:
Grip size: Make sure you have a smaller grip size that can allow you to fit your hand around enough to barely have a gap between your palm and fingers (if you hit flat with a continental grip, the bigger your grip).
String and Tension: So the pros have started using lower tension with the added technology of racquets to be able to hit with top spin. The more spin, the more control so you can have more power with lower tension. Lower tension also gives the added benefit for absorbing more impact on the ball hitting the string bed. Type of string is obviously important as you probably know. Softer string on the crosses will be easier on your shoulder and adding a more durable string on the mains will allow the strings to last longer if needed.
Back to tweaking a racquet with lead tape:
Pros will customize their racquet but not to keep shoulder problems from happening as they have perfect form and it's more about the performance of the racquet. I would first try to demo some racquets (tennis warehouse is a great one) and see what feels the best. Then add lead tape to the top of the racquet for more power and higher swing weight while adding to the bottom of the racquet will add weight but not add to the swing weight as much.
I hope that helps! Happy Hitting!
Here's a video on using an ordinary towel to learn to drive through the ball better!