Ok, so you have chosen your perfect new stick to play with! Congratulations! It can be somewhat of a journey to find that next frame and once you have found it, you just can’t wait to get to court and start play testing it, and rightly so. However, sometimes you get the feeling that playing with your new frame will set you back quite a bit, especially if your new purchase was more or less based on on impulsive decision. It takes a bit of time to accustom to your new weapon so in this article I’ll walk you through some tips you can try to get used to your new racket as quickly as possible.
I’ve found that the best way to get used to a new racket is to playtest it a couple of times per week, while sticking to a specific exercise. As a rule of thumb, you should be playing your frame at about 75 percent of your power and speed. Focus on building a rally. Maybe you’ve done this before, but it requires you and your sparring partner to focus on hitting the ball between the service line and baseline and also aiming with a margin of about 50 centimeters from the lines. You can use line markers or pions to set up.
It is obvious that the first couple of try’s you’ll need to adjust or are hitting the ball with too much pace. The great thing about this exercise is that it forces you to speed up your groundstroke preparations. This means that you’ll lose a bit of your old habits, and start swinging away faster. It’ll compensate a bit for the slower pace of swinging, when adjusting to a more head heavy racket for example. While this may not be your typical rally because you might focus a bit more on keeping the points short while playing matches, it should force you to abandon your playing comfort zone and thus, give you a better overview of what type of play your new stick has to offer.
If you want to play points, you can, but you can start by playing ‘elevens’, skipping the overhead serve. Just bring the ball into play and from the second touch, the ball is free to score the point. However, if you play outside of your own, newly set up line markers, you’ll lose the point! Keep repeating this until one of you scores eleven points and then try again.
Another tip is to call around. Maybe you have a sparring partner you play with every week, but he or she also has a familiar type of play that you can probably dream by now. Not so great when adjusting to a new frame. It’s better to be forced into uncomfortable rallies that require you to adjust. So give a couple of other players at your local club a call or maybe you can even book a single lesson with your club trainer and ask if you can focus on playing a lot of rallies. It may costs you a bit more but you’ll definitely find a good sparring partner in a club trainer. In short, try to play as much with as much variation as possible.
A final tip is to try to switch things up in regard to your string set up. On of the most overlooked aspects of buying a new frame is that you’ll probably need a new string or at least might need to adjust your current string set up (and tension). If you switch to a midsize head, with a 18×20 pattern, you might to ditch the poly strings, high tensions or try a hybrid set up at first. In any case, it probably does not make sense to play with the same setup as before so be sure to get some advice from your favourite stringer and start to experiment with some variables.
Now let’s hope you have found your rythm and you can see your game improving by buying this new frame. Of course it could be that you have actually found that after all this play testing you can’t really seem to get the hang of it. That’s a pity, but also a part of tennis and racket sports. It’s just part of the game. Don’t be too hard on your self and just try to sell the racket on Ebay or another marketplace and switch back to your old racket temporarily (if you still have them). You just have to realise that if you don’t play test in the first place, you never have the chance to improve your gear at all!
What about you? What are your experiences with play testing new frames? And did you have any bad buys? Be honest, we’ve all been there! Just write down your thoughts in the comment section down below.