To truly be good at a sport, you need to understand every aspect of it. When it comes to tennis, knowing the anatomy of a tennis racket may not be vital, but it’s definitely helpful.
It’s a key component in both selecting the right racket and understanding the nuances of the sport.
A thorough awareness of the anatomy of a tennis racket is recommended when learning to play tennis. An instructor might say, “place your left hand on the throat of the racket.”
If you don’t know where the throat is, you won’t know where to place your left hand.
If you’re in the market for a tennis racket, understanding each individual part and how it affects the way you play is essential. A tennis shop merchant might ask you, “what head size do you prefer?”
If you don’t know where the head of the racket is much less what size you prefer, you can’t answer the question well.
Having an idea about the anatomy of a tennis racket will come in handy as you’re learning how to play tennis.
- 1 The Overall Structure of a Tennis Racket
- 2 Tennis Racket Handle
- 3 Tennis Racket Shaft and Throat
- 4 Tennis Racket Head
- 5 The Next Tennis Racket Anatomy Professor is…
The Overall Structure of a Tennis Racket
Tennis has been around for a really long time, and despite changes and developments in the game over the years, the basic build of the tennis racket has remained largely the same.
The racket itself is split into three key parts; the head, the shaft, and the handle. Within those primary areas, there are then further components that make up the entirety of its anatomy.
It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between the parts and the specifications of a tennis racket.
The parts are the individual components that make up the racket’s anatomy – the physical nature of the racket. However, the specifications refer to the particulars of each racket, such as its weight or length – further classifications as a whole.
Although both are important in selecting a tennis racket, in this particular article, we’re focusing on the components.
Rackets can be constructed from a large variety of different materials that have their own individual impact on how the racket performs.
Racket materials have come leaps and bounds since ye olden days when they were made mostly of wood.
Now, all sorts of fancy and impressive materials are used, including graphite, aluminum, titanium, kevlar, and carbon fiber. Regardless of the material that are used, the names of each of the components remains the same.
Tennis Racket Handle
Within the general handle area of the racket are some specific components, these are:
- Butt and butt cap
- Grip tape and collar.
While the handle might seem like an obvious part of a tennis racket to point out, there’s more to it than there appears to be on the surface.
Butt and Butt Cap
Yes, it’s called the butt of the racket, so let’s get that joke out of the way right now.
In all seriousness, the butt and butt cap are more than just funny-named pieces of plastic.
The butt cap refers to the piece of plastic at the base of the racket that flares out slightly, a shape intended to keep it from slipping out of the player’s hand.
The butt, however, just refers more generally to the very bottom part of the racket or the lowest part of the handle.
Tennis Racket Handle
You probably guessed it. The handle refers to…well, the handle!
More specifically, (and less sarcastically) it’s the entire area of the racket that the player holds with their hands.
A typical handle ranges in circumference from 4 ¼ to 4 5/8 inches. Handles do come in extended lengths for players who want more reach, but I’ve never seen one on a shelf in a tennis shop so they won’t be something you’ll come by every day.
The grip is the sort of spongey material that covers the entirety of the handle. Its use is mostly for hand comfort and traction.
Most tennis rackets come with a fairly standard grip, although it can be changed or customized if the player so wishes.
Like so many other things in tennis, replacing grips or adding overgrips is a personal decision.
Grip Tape (and Collar)
At the very top of the handle where the grip meets the shaft of the racket, there’s a piece of tape at the end of the grip (grip tape) that allows the grip to stay in place.
(When applying a grip or overgrip to a racket, you begin at the butt of the handle. The grip usually has adhesive on it so it won’t move as you wrap it around the handle. Due to different sizes of handles [length and width], there isn’t adhesive at the end of the grip/overgrip. This is where the grip tape comes in. The grip tape is wrapped around the end of the grip to ensure it stays in place.)
Sometimes there’s also a rubber collar. The function here is simple – to keep the grip securely in place.
To me the rubber collar is just about marketing (Wilson, Babolat, etc.). If the tape won’t keep the grip in place, I don’t think a little rubber piece will.
This rubber piece isn’t found on every racket, but if it’s on yours, you’ll know what it is.
Tennis Racket Bevels
A closer look at the exact shape of a tennis racket handle will reveal it isn’t round. It has eight defined sides. Exciting stuff, we know.
These sides are referred to as bevels and are designed to keep the racket from twisting in your hand during play.
Like the butt flares out some at the bottom to keep the racket from slipping out of your hand (vertically), the bevels add some traction to keep the racket from moving laterally.
If the racket had a round handle it would be hard to hit a serve as keeping the racket in your hand would be difficult as your hand would slide all over the place.
Tennis Racket Shaft and Throat
Just above the handle is the shaft, an area of the racket that really only has one primary component, the throat.
(An aside: Since the throat is the only component within the shaft, I’m not sure why both names are required.)
Although almost all modern rackets have open throats. Back in the 80s, it wasn’t uncommon for this area to remain in just one piece before joining with the head.
Tennis Racket Head
The head refers to the top portion of the racket where the ball is struck. It’s the oval portion that’s strung to create that ever-critical hitting surface.
The head of the racket also includes some smaller components such as the grommet strip and grommets, rim and bumper guard.
Racket Head Size and Strings
The size of the head has a pretty big effect on how it feels when you strike the ball.
Head sizes vary but generally land in the 95 to 110 square inches range.
Within the head are the strings. The strings are further categorized as the main strings/mains (which run vertically to the handle) and the cross strings/crosses (which run perpendicularly to the handle).
As a beginner these are unnecessary details, but you won’t always be a beginner tennis player.
Most rackets will have a “sweet spot” – an area that generates the most power with the least effort. You won’t always hit the ball there, but when you do, you’ll know it!
Tennis racket strings get worn down with regular use, so strings should be periodically replaced depending on how often you play.
This is another self-explanatory component.
The rim refers directly to the rim of the head or the part that extends around the outside edge of the strung area. The strings are directly attached to the rim through the grommets.
Tennis Racket Grommet Strips and Grommets
Around the outside of the head, there’s a strip of plastic through which the strings are woven. I know – it sounds very strange. Look at your racket closely and you’ll immediately know what’s being referred to.
This is the grommet strip and is designed to protect the strings from fraying on the edges of the holes (in the racket) through which they’re inserted.
On the inside of the head, the grommet strip pokes through to reveal small tunnels or holes. The strings are individually threaded through those holes. These are the grommets.
At the top of the racket is a strip of plastic known as the bumper guard.
Just like the bumper of a car, it’s there as protection, keeping the main frame of the racket safe during occasional brushes with the surface of the court.
Bumper guards aren’t something that are considered often, but should be replaced when they start to show signs of wear and tear.
The Next Tennis Racket Anatomy Professor is…
You may not be teaching classes about the anatomy of a tennis racket immediately, but you will soon! This information should help you with overall tennis knowledge. It’ll definitely pay off when it comes to choosing your next tennis racket.
If you plan on being the next big Wimbledon star, knowing the anatomy of a tennis racket is a pretty good place to start your journey.