Most models come in a variety of sizes and which you choose will have a large bearing on how that racket performs.
So it pays to familiarise yourself with your options and understand how each will affect your game.
What are the different racket head sizes?
The racket’s head – as its name suggests – is the large hoop that contains the string bed.
Years ago head sizes, particularly at a professional level, were fairly uniform and much smaller than those you’ll see today. But over the last few decades, as more lightweight and stronger materials have been developed to manufacture frames, head sizes have grown. And that’s allowed for more powerful rackets.
Head sizes now range from around 85 to 120 square inches (or 548 to 774 square centimetres). That’s a measurement of the entire surface area of the hoop.
For simplicity those are broken down into four main categories:
Despite the name, Midsize heads are actually the smallest heads available, ranging in size from 85 to 96 sq in.
You’re hard pressed to find many on the lower end of that scale these days as they’re considered a little lacking in power for the modern game. But in his day Pete Sampras for one used a Wilson Pro Staff with an 88 sq in head.
Probably the most common head size for club level players and up, the Midplus ranges from 96-106 sq in. That’s actually quite a broad range when it comes to playability and can encompass anything from a newbie stick to a tour level frame.
Oversize heads tend to be popular with beginners as they offer such a large sweet spot and natural power thanks to their 106-116 sq in surface area.
Anything 116 sq in and up is considered Super Oversize. These rackets are (thankfully) pretty rare as while the sweet spot is large they’re usually really cumbersome. We wouldn’t advise getting anything this big.
According to the International Tennis Federation the size of the racket’s hitting surface “shall not exceed 39.4 cm (15.5inches) in overall length…and 29.2 cm (11.5 inches) in overall width”. That’s about 178 square inches so little chance of breaking that particular rule!
How does head size affect a racket’s performance?
There are five main performance factors that are affected by a racket’s head size:
As a rule, the larger the head size the more powerful the racket.
Simply put, the larger the surface area of the string bed the more springy it is. The more springy it is, the more energy is transferred back to the ball.
Good news, right? Well kind of. But that additional power comes at a cost…
The larger and springier the string bed, the less control you have over your shots. You’re a victim to far more randomness and shot variability.
For that reason SMALLER head sizes are seen as better for control and often favoured by stronger and more advanced players who can generate their own power.
A larger head size means that the strings tend to be more spread out. That allows them to grip and pocket the ball better which is useful if you want to add spin to your shots.
An obvious one this, but larger head sizes make the racket difficult to move around the court. Especially at the net where reaction times are crucial, an oversized head can be a real disadvantage.
Finally, one big advantage of a larger head size is a larger sweet spot. That’s the area of the string bed that allows you to make a clean shot. Hit too close to the frame and you’ll probably see the ball bounce into the net. A larger head size makes that less likely. Although these days newer racket technologies have allowed for larger sweet spots in even Midsize frames.
What racket head size is best for me?
When selecting a racket for yourself you’ll see the head size clearly listed in its specs and usually included in the model’s name. EG the Wilson Pro Staff 97 or the Wilson Clash 100.
When deciding which is right for you, you should consider both your preferred style of play and your skill level:
We tend to recommend beginners go for an oversize head. For all their limitations, they make learning the game much easier as the sweet spot limits bum shots and they offer free power.
Beginners are better off concentrating on technique than trying to muscle their way to winners so the power of a larger headed racket is useful.
When it comes to more advanced players you should consider a midsize plus or even a midsize.
If you’ve been playing for a while you’ll have developed your tennis strength and be less reliant on a large head. You’ll also be more accurate with your shotmaking so you’ll benefit from the added control and speed of a smaller head.
Exactly how large a head you go for at this stage will depend on your…
Style of play
If you’re more of a speedster who likes to rush the net, a smaller, more control oriented head could be better for you. You’ll be quicker around the court and more reactive (and subtle) on your volleys.
Don’t get too big headed
Hopefully you’re coming away from this with a decent idea of what sized head is right for you.
If you’d like to apply that knowledge, feel free to have a look at some of our racket guides. Or if you’d like to learn more about what to look for when choosing a racket we’ve got you covered there too.
What size tennis racket should I get in terms of length?
Almost all adult tennis rackets are actually the same length – 27 inches.
Occasionally you may find an extended length racket anywhere up to 29 inches long (the legal limit).
There are some advantages to an extended racket, notably improved reach and a small increase in power and spin. But unless you’re tall enough to wield it that comes at a cost as inevitably the racket is harder to manouevre and control.
Junior tennis rackets on the other hand come in a variety of lengths. You should check out our guide to make sure you get the right sized racket for your child.