We have a new guest contributor. Fellow tennis nerd, Landon Hendricks, has written about Exploring Longer Racquets.
Exploring Longer Racquets
Longer Racquets (“XL, Plus, Extended”) tennis racquets are currently experiencing a modest surge in popularity. If you’re contemplating switching to a longer frame, you may be wondering why it’s worth considering and which one to choose.
Fortunately, the market isn’t flooded with longer options, making the selection process much less daunting than wading through all standard lengths.
In my experience, I’ve found that for an XL racquet to provide the same whip as a standard frame, it should have a balance of at least 6 points headlight and a swing weight in the 320s. These criteria ruled out the Yonex Plus racquets, leaving me with just a few choices. Among these options, I already owned two ProKennex (PK) racquets that slightly deviated from the listed specs, weighing 302 grams and having a swing weight of 295. Still, I decided to try the new Pure Aero+, believing the extra power would come in handy during moments of low energy.
Longer racquets in match play
After a series of practice matches, my initial plan was to primarily use the 2023 Babolat Pure Aero+ for my latest USTA and UTR season. However, my journey with XL racquets had taken me down this path before, and I had my PK racquets patiently waiting in my bag.
While the Pure Aero+ is a formidable racquet, it lacks the connected ball feel and precision I desired. Its lightweight swing had me struggling on the backhand side and eroded my confidence. I often ran around to avoid backhand shots due to my hesitance. It simply wasn’t working for me. On a whim one day, I picked up my Pro Kennex, and the transformation was almost immediate.
The PK racquet offered a significantly improved ball feel, a slightly higher swing weight, more comfort, and an unexpectedly high power level from its thin beam. Its 16×20 string pattern gave me superior control, allowing me to hit with confidence into tight windows. Despite the added length, the racquet’s 8-point balance made it surprisingly maneuverable. Consequently, I rediscovered my backhand and embarked on a winning streak. The PK racquet was a clear winner over the Pure Aero+.
Are longer racquets for you?
So, who should consider the PK racquet or an XL racquet in general? Let’s examine the pros and cons.
The advantages are compelling. The extra half inch of length provides more leverage for groundstrokes and serves, adding power without increasing the static weight. Additionally, a higher contact point on serves typically translates to greater power. I served with more authority from the baseline and at the net without exerting extra effort.
However, it’s not all smooth sailing. I noticed that I was slightly slower in maneuvering around the court for inside-out forehands, causing my shots to the Ad court to go wide. Maintaining precise footwork is crucial because spacing becomes an issue if caught flat-footed. Approaching the net necessitates a conscious effort to choke up higher on the handle, and some players may find that the added length strains their arms and shoulders, even with a racquet as comfortable as the Pro Kennex.
What did I learn during my five months with an XL racquet? I genuinely appreciate its advantages, such as enhanced backhand performance and an extra punch on serves. However, overcoming the feeling of having to handle that additional length can be challenging, making me uncertain about a long-term commitment to XL racquets.
Swinging an XL racquet can be reminiscent of using a heavier standard-length racquet due to the additional energy required for each swing. With this in mind and a desire to bolster my net game, I added a heavier frame to my bag – but that’s a story for another time. Stay tuned for more updates!