Racquets: Frames of Reference
Our exclusive Racquet Selection Map will help you guide customers to their perfect frame.
With all the choices available, selecting a new racquet can be a daunting task in today’s market. Basic Psychology 101 shows that when consumers are overloaded with too many choices, they often don’t make a decision, which means you don’t make a sale.
It is up to you to narrow the focus of your customer to help them choose a racquet that is going to fit their needs and elevate their performance on the court. If you are successful, not only will you make the sale, but also that customer will tell their friends about their experience. Word of mouth advertising is always the best promotion.
So how can you help narrow their focus? First, if you are not familiar with their style of play, you’ll have to ask some questions and listen carefully to their answers. While they may not know exactly what they want or need, with a brief conversation you will be able to get some good information to get them started.
Second, you need to know your inventory. Using our exclusive Racquet Selection Map on the following pages enables you to help your customer choose the perfect racquet for them quickly and easily, with the features and performance they want. You can also use the map to make sure your racquet wall has a good selection and variety across the map. If you find some gaps, fill in some models so that you don’t miss sales.
Our Racquet Selection Map presents the entire performance racquet universe on one grid that instantly locates each frame compared to every other in terms of power, control and maneuverability. Simply locate the specs of your customer’s current racquet on the map, then move outward in large or small increments in the direction of the customer’s primary preference — relatively more or less power, control or maneuverability. Once you’ve zoomed in to an approximate location on the grid, you can narrow down the racquet’s feel attributes by choosing from length, size, and flex specs coded into the racquet number.
Next, look up the racquet(s) by number in the accompanying table. Note, though, that the table on these pages only lists the performance racquets introduced in the last 12 months. If the racquet you find on the grid is not in one of these charts, you’ll find it online at tennisindustrymag.com, where we have the complete list of every racquet that is currently on the market.
Your customer will now have a handful of frames to try, and all you have to do is give them a couple of demos in their target area. Once they’ve given the frames a test drive, get feedback from them. Did your demo selection meet their needs? Do they need more power? Larger head? Something else?
From here it should be easy to hone in on that perfect racquet with a couple of additional demo sessions — and you’ll have a satisfied customer.
Trends & Technologies
‘Smart’ frames, more spin, and customization are some of the trends in racquets today.
Every year we see new technologies introduced as racquet manufacturers strive to improve their racquets. Their ultimate goal is to improve the consumer’s game, so if their newest technology can improve a player’s performance, there’s a good chance they will buy. And after all, just like you, the manufacturers are in business to sell racquets.
As a racquet retailer, it is up to you to not only make your customers aware of the new technology, but you must also be able to show your customer how that technology can elevate their performance on the court.
Some technology is easier to explain than others. What is generally referred to as “visible” technology is usually simple to explain and show, while a new material or handle system may be more difficult since the new racquet looks pretty much the same as the previous model. The bottom line is that you need to learn about new technologies as they are introduced and be able to explain what the technology is and what it can mean to a customer’s game.
Some of the trends we are seeing today include data technology, spin and customization.
- “Smart” Racquets: Babolat introduced the Pure Play model earlier this year. The racquet “talks” to your smartphone or computer, providing stats about your performance during a match or training session. Other products are in development, such as Shot-Stats, which tracks similar information and attaches to the strings of any racquet much like a dampener. Sony unveiled another device at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show that attaches to the butt cap of a racquet. As this technology evolves, we’re sure to see more products being developed.
- Spin Is In: Almost every company is touting spin in their marketing these days. Both Prince and Wilson introduced racquets late last year with open patterns to produce more spin and they are expanding their lines in 2014. For Prince, frames with Extreme String Pattern (ESP) have fewer mains and crosses and claim to provide up to 30 percent more spin. Prince offers ESP racquets across the spectrum, from a game-improvement super oversize to tour-level mid-plus models. Wilson’s Spin Effect Technology features racquets with fewer cross strings (15 or 16 in most models). The company claims this enhances spin with 3.3 times more string movement, 69 percent faster string snapback and 10 percent more spin.
- Customized Options: More companies are offering customized options in many models. For the most part this means offering the same racquets with variations in length, weight or string pattern. For example Head has three versions of its popular Speed model: The Speed, Speed Pro and Speed REV. Now the company takes customization to a new level, giving consumers the opportunity of options usually reserved for top touring pros by offering a Custom Racquet Program on their Graphene Speed model. On the website custommade.head.com, Head customers can choose cosmetics, weight, length, balance, handle shape, grip type, string pattern and strings. Roger Petersman of Head USA explains, “This is not for everyone. We do these types of custom builds for our touring pros and thought, why not make them available to everyone. All the racquets come from our Pro Room in Austria.” The service is $400 per racquet plus shipping. Because Head feels the market for this service is limited, it doesn’t plan to do a lot of advertising.
Racquet Selection Map Key
- Power/Control (columns). (formula = length index × headsize × flex × swingweight) ÷ 1000. Length index calculation: 27” = 1.0, 27.5” = 1.05; 28” = 1.1, etc.
- Maneuverability (rows). RDC (Babolat Racquet Diagnostic Center) swingweight units.
- Racquet ID. The number in the grid correlates to the accompanying racquet list.
- Headsize. Midsize and midplus (≤104 sq. in.) have no indicator. Oversize (105-117 sq. in.) = •. Superoversize (≥ 118 sq. in.) = :.
- Length. × = extended length. Standard length (27”) racquets have no indicator.
- Flex (RDC). a = < 60; b = 60-64; c = 65-69; d = 70-74; e = > 74. The higher the number, the stiffer the racquet.
- Company. Coded by number and color. See accompanying racquet list on the following pages.
- Racquet Quadrants and the Center of the Racquet Universe. The center of the racquet universe is located at the intersection of the two red lines. Approximately half the racquets lie to the right and left, and half above and below these lines. The lines divide the racquet universe into four color-coded quadrants – clockwise from top left: (1) quick power, (2) quick control, (3) stable control, (4) stable power. These characterizations provide a general vocabulary for comparing racquets.
- Racquet Finder List. The racquet list accompanying the map identifies all the new racquets and gives additional information. For a complete list of all current frames on the map, go to TennisIndustryMag.com. The map provides specific (very narrow ranges, anyway) swingweight, flex and power statistics, and general size and length characteristics. The racquet list specifies the length and size and further specifies weight, balance, and price.
How To Use It
- Ask questions. What are you looking for that your current racquet does not provide? What do you like most and least about your current racquet? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your game?
- Locate current racquet on map. If the racquet is not in the list, take measurements.
- Locating potential racquets. Depending on the answers to the above questions, draw an imaginary arrow (a wide or skinny one) from your present racquet in the desired direction for power and maneuverability.
- Narrowing the field. Shrink the choices using the length, headsize, and flex codes to match customer preferences.
- Selecting racquet demos. Once the choices are narrowed, locate the racquets by number in the racquet list.
See all articles by Bob Patterson
About the Author
Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005. He is Special Projects Manager for Tennis Industry magazine.