Tennis Industry magazine

 

Racquet Selection: Finding the Perfect Fit

Our exclusive Racquet Selection Map will help you select a diverse inventory so your customers can choose their perfect frame.

By Bob Patterson

As manufacturers continue to introduce more racquets, it can be difficult to choose what frames to carry in inventory. Most shops cannot afford to carry everything, so you’ll need to make sure your inventory is varied enough to accommodate all player types — without going overboard. If you have 20 different frames on your wall, you want to make sure that you don’t have a lot of duplications from brand to brand.

Our Racquet Selection Map can help you choose an inventory that covers all player types and reduces duplication.

First, take a close look at your clientele and make sure you have something to offer everyone. Cover the gamut of power, control and maneuverability. Use our Racquet Selection Map to analyze your inventory offerings and fill in where needed. Knowing your customers will help tailor the inventory mix to maximize sales. If the majority of your players fall in one area of the Map, you’ll want to go a bit deeper in these models and perhaps carry more subtle variations such as length, head size and string pattern, if your budget allows.

Second, use your knowledge to help your customers hone in on the racquet that will suit them best. Find out what they are currently using and what they would like to change. Using the Racquet Selection Map, you can show them frames to demo. Once they try the demos, listen to their feedback to determine what to suggest next. Do they need more power? More maneuverability?

The Map makes narrowing the selection easy and your customers will appreciate your expertise.

Trends & Technologies

‘Smart’ frames, spin and customization are still some of the trends in racquets.

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 include data technology, spin and customization.

• “Smart” Racquets: Babolat introduced the Play Pure Drive model last year, and this year added the Play AeroPro Drive, which Rafael Nadal started using at the Australian Open. The racquets “talk” to your smartphone or computer, providing stats about your performance during a match or training session. Other products are being developed that track similar information and attach to the strings of any racquet much like a dampener. In fact, Sony unveiled a device last year that attaches to the butt cap of a racquet, and Wilson and Yonex have racquets that are set up to hook into the Sony system. 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, with manufacturers introducing racquets with open patterns to produce more spin.

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. Both Prince and Wilson continue to add models to their ESP and Spin Effect lines.

• 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. But Head has several racquets with its new Adaptive String Pattern, where, by changing out the side grommet strips, the string pattern can be changed from 16 x 19 to 16 x 16.

Racquet Selection Map Key

  1. Power/Control (columns). (formula = length index x headsize x flex x swingweight) ÷ 1000. Length index calculation: 27" = 1.0, 27.5" = 1.05; 28" = 1.1, etc.
  2. Maneuverability (rows). RDC (Babolat Racquet Diagnostic Center) swingweight units.
  3. Racquet ID. The number in the grid correlates to the accompanying racquet list.
  4. Headsize. Midsize and midplus (≤104 sq. in.) have no indicator. Oversize (105-117 sq. in.) = •. Superoversize (≥ 118 sq. in.) = :.
  5. Length. x = extended length. Standard length (27") racquets have no indicator.
  6. Flex (RDC). a = < 60; b = 60-64; c = 65-69; d = 70-74; e = > 74. The higher the number, the stiffer the racquet.
  7. Company. Coded by number and color. See accompanying racquet list on the following pages.
  8. 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.
  9. 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, click here. 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

  1. 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?
  2. Locate current racquet on map. If the racquet is not in the list, take measurements.
  3. 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.
  4. Narrowing the field. Shrink the choices using the length, headsize, and flex codes to match customer preferences.
  5. Selecting racquet demos. Once the choices are narrowed, locate the racquets by number in the racquet list.

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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 Executive Director for the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association.

 

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