Why Do Tennis Players Change Rackets? (Fully Explained)

During professional tennis matches, you often see players switch rackets at certain times. There are, of course, several reasons for this. But why do tennis players change rackets?

Tennis pros change rackets several times per match. This may be because of loss of string tension, broken strings, broken or damaged frame, new grip, need for different string tension, or problems with the feel of the racket. In addition, players often change rackets when new balls are used.

For a recreational tennis player, it’s hard to imagine using multiple rackets during a match. In this blog, I will explain why the pros do this and how many rackets they use per match.

Why do Pro Tennis Players Change Rackets?

If you are a tennis fan, then it is likely that you have watched a tennis match where one or both players change their tennis racket mid-match.

If the racket is broken, it is obvious why they change rackets. However, there are situations where players change rackets for seemingly no reason.

So, without further ado, I will explain why tennis players change rackets.

Broken strings:

A common reason for changing rackets is broken strings. Most modern rackets are made of a graphite frame and nylon or polyester strings.

As the players strike the ball with considerable speed, force, and spin, the strings get damaged and can eventually break.

If they do, the player has to change the racket, which can be done between points. 

Because of how the strings are strung, it is not usually power that breaks the strings but spin. Players that play with lots of spin, like Rafael Nadal, are more likely to break their strings.

Broken or damaged frame:

Similar to broken strings, the frame of a racket can also be damaged.

Even a slight chip along the frame will warrant a racket change because tennis players are masters of their craft and can notice tiny differences. 

The frame of a racket rarely breaks accidentally or due to usage.

However, when tennis players get angry, they will sometimes smash and break their rackets. This is considered a code violation called racket abuse.

Broken tennis racket

Loss of tension:

Professional players have their tennis rackets strung in a very specific way to them.

Indeed, there are many different string tensions and types that work for different playstyles and players. 

When playing or just with time, strings lose some of their tension (which is why some players have their rackets restrung every day).

Tennis players can feel this in their play, so they will change their racket to get their preferred tension back.

Problems with the feel of the racket:

While this could be due to the loss of tension, sometimes a racket just doesn’t feel right to the player.

Tennis is not a science but a sport played by human players.

Suppose a racket doesn’t feel right to a professional player. They will change it, even if they are changing it with an identical racket, with the same string tension.

Not everything can be explained rationally, and sometimes, a racket just doesn’t feel right!

New grip:

As players use their rackets, they damage the grip with their sweaty hands that grip the racket tightly.

Grips need to be sticky to make sure that they stay in the player’s hand without moving, and the sweat and wear and tear can stop this from happening.

So, players will swap rackets to get a grip they are happy with.

You have undoubtedly seen tennis players unwrap their rackets from a plastic cover.

This is to protect the grip and strings from moisture and other things to be sure the racket is exactly how they want them.

Wanting a lower tension:

As a general rule, the higher the tension, the more effort it takes to hit quality shots.

This means that when a match goes on for a long time and the players are tired; they might change their racket to have a lower tension.

This is the case with Federer too, who usually brings two less highly-strung rackets with him in case a match goes on for a long time.

New balls:

A can of tennis balls

In tennis matches, the tennis balls are changed after the first seven games and then every nine games.

The new balls will be harder and faster, which might be more difficult to control. 

Because of this, players will change their racket to have a tension that they know they like for the new balls.

This, in theory, helps them control the ball better and will avoid stupid mistakes because the balls are new. 

To be honest, it might not make any real difference, but tennis is a very psychological game.

Having a routine for new balls helps tennis players stay calm and focused rather than worrying about the new balls, so changing rackets makes sense for psychological reasons. 

Changing rackets with new balls is a trend that probably began with Roger Federer.

He changes his racket the game before the change of balls so that he breaks in the new racket with the old balls and is then ready for the new balls.

How Often do Tennis Players Change Rackets?

Now that you know why tennis players change rackets, you probably wonder how often professional tennis players change rackets in a match.

The honest answer is that it completely depends on many factors and the player. 

Some players will do their best to keep the same racket as long as possible and only change it when necessary.

They will keep the same racket from day to day, restringing it every day during tournaments. 

Other players like to change their rackets very often.

It is not uncommon for players to bring six, eight, or even ten rackets to the court.

Depending on the opponent, the surface, how they are playing, the speed of the court, and many other factors, players might use all of their rackets or only one. 

Some players change their rackets every time new balls are brought in.

This happens after the first seven games and every nine after. For long matches, like at Grand Slams, this could mean a considerable amount of racket changes.

So, how many tennis rackets are used in a match?

It depends on the player and how many rackets need to be used. Some players bring only one or two rackets to a match, while others may bring six to 10 rackets. On average, you can expect a racket to get changed at least three or four times every match. 

Do Tennis Players Use a New Racket Every Match?

Once again, it depends on the tennis player. If they are superstitious, then they associate particular rackets with playing well.

In this case, they will stick to their racket as long as possible. Richard Gasquet is one of these players; he also regrips his racket during a match instead of using a new one. 

However, you can safely assume that most players will use a new racket every match. 

Players have sponsorships, so they don’t ever need to pay for their rackets.

This doesn’t mean that players are intentionally wasteful with their rackets. The most important thing for them is to be comfortable with their rackets.

With a new racket that has been strung to their liking, they are sure to be comfortable. So it makes sense to use a new racket at the beginning of every tennis match.

Conclusion

So, as we have seen, there are many reasons for tennis players to change rackets.

It can be due to problems with the racket, getting tired in long matches, or just getting into the right psychological frame of mind. 

Because they have sponsorships, tennis players have many rackets that they can change as frequently as they want and have new rackets every match.

Some players will use as many as ten in one match, while others will stick to the same racket as long as they can. 

Rackets are to tennis players what instruments are to musicians.

They need to be comfortable with them to produce art, so they will change them whenever they feel they need to, for whatever reason they want.

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.
Published: 
March 17, 2022

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Published: March 17, 2022