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The Best 5 Tennis Rackets For Serve And Volley In 2018

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If you really wanted the best vehicle for cornering, would you waste time researching the best Jeep?  Of course not!  You need the tennis racket that will fit your level and your game more than the “best” all-purpose racket.

So in tennis, there are basically two types of broad styles. You’re either a baseliner or a net crasher (serve and volleyer). Each style has very different needs.

Baseline players have more margin for error. A racket with power that can produce topspin is their main need.

For the serve and volley player, rackets with more control and maneuverability are more important. The top rackets for serve and volley players are definitely different from those for baseline players, and we’ve gathered all the data together here with this very specific player in mind.

In this post, you’ll find our selection of the top 5 rackets of 2018 for serve and volley players. We broke each racket down in detail and listed their strong points and weaknesses.

This is what we chose to be the best of the best for S&V:

 

How We Determined The Best Rackets For Serve And Volley

We determined the best serve and volley rackets in three different ways:

  1. Through personal experience, trying out each racket.
  2. Studying the specs of each racket to make sure they are ideal for serve and volley.
  3. Reviewing a very detailed study that tenniscompanion.org did on the 22 best rackets and then we used the study to narrow down the 5 best rackets for serve and volley.

The tenniscompanion.org study was compiled using six key attributes. Each attribute was scored on a 1-10 scale for every racket they reviewed. These attributes are power, control, maneuverability, comfort, touch/feel, and stability.

Let’s quickly look at each attribute in order of importance and determine its significance to a serve and volley racket.

Control – Control is very important to the serve and volley player, especially when placing shots. Typically, smaller head sizes and thinner beams offer more control but less power. Control was an attribute we deemed important for our selected rackets to score well in.

Maneuverability – This is a measure of how easily the racket can be maneuvered to hit a shot, particularly a volley. Most good maneuvering rackets have more weight in the handle than the head. This makes them feel lighter and allows them to be moved quicker. We feel this is important for volley players, so we looked for rackets that scored high in this attribute.

Touch/Feel – Interestingly, rackets that offer touch are very similar to rackets built for comfort – heavy and flexible. The main exception is touch rackets have smaller head sizes. Since touch is very important to the volley player, this is an attribute our rackets had to score well in.

Stability – A stable racket is one that is responsive and delivers a consistent, accurate strike of the ball. These rackets tend to be heavy with wider beams and less flexible frames. This attribute is semi-important to the serve and volley player but it wasn’t one of the key attributes for our rackets.

Comfort – This is a measure of how comfortable your arm and body feel when hitting the ball. If there is less vibration and stiffness in the frame, that is deemed a comfortable racket. Comfort is an attribute we feel is not very important to the serve and volley player. However, one of the rackets on our list has comfort as an added bonus.

Power – Except on the serve, power is not the most important attribute for a serve and volley player; and it may even be the last. Serve and volley players are more concerned with touch and maneuverability. For that reason, most of the rackets on this list are not the most powerful.

Overall, the most important attributes for selecting a great racket for serve and volley are control, maneuverability and touch/feel. Keep in mind that all the rackets we selected have power as well, but not as much as the rackets made for baseliners.

 

The 5 Best Serve And Volley Rackets Of 2018

 

Babolat Pure Strike – 16 x 19

This racket ranked first on the tenniscompanion.org list of all the rackets they reviewed. It’s an all-court racket but at 11.3 oz and 98 sq inches, excellent for serve and volley. Its light weight allows for great maneuverability at net and quick reaction times.

The frame of this racket is slightly more flexible than the other members of the Babolat racket family. This affords more control and touch, perfect for the serve and volley player.

The only drawback I saw of this racket is slightly less power than most of the other Babolats I’ve used. But there are always trade-offs. With the Babolat Pure Strike you sacrifice a bit of power for more control. However, it’s also a fantastic racket for groundstrokes and returns.

Overall, this racket scored high marks across the board. Though unchanged since 2017, we still endorse it as one of the best serve and volley rackets for 2018. If you’re an all-court player who serves and volleys part of the time, few choices are better for a racket.

Check the current price of this racket on Amazon.com (affiliate link to Amazon for the exact model I’m reviewing here).

I personally played with the Babolat Pure Drive for years and had great success with Babolats. In the last couple of years, I switched to the Head Prestige MP, but I’d easily buy another Babolat for my next racket.

Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph

The original Wilson Pro Staff from the 1980s and 90s was made popular by Pete Sampras. The new model for 2018 was popularized by Roger Federer, hence his initials in the title.

This racket is quite unique to other rackets in its design. It makes use of braided graphite construction with thin beams and a light head.

At 97 square inches, it has a great head size for serve and volley. Surprisingly, the racket weighs 12.6 ounces, which is one of the heaviest strung rackets on the market. The heavy weight gives the racket great control, but maneuverability is compromised.

Still, the Wilson Pro Staff makes up for the heavy weight in every other way. It feels stable, solid, and affords excellent control. Whether at the baseline, net, or serving, the Wilson Pro Staff handled solidly.

We picked this racket because it scored very well on volleys, slices, and net play according to tenniscompanion.org, which stated:
“One of our favorite places to hit with Roger’s Pro Staff was up at the net. It felt solid in our hands and allowed us to hit crisp and controlled volleys with little effort. Combined with a heightened sense of touch and it gave us the feeling that we were in control when we approached the net.”

Check the current price of this racket on Amazon.com (affiliate link to Amazon for the exact model I’m reviewing here).

We endorse this racket for serve and volley, especially if you’re an advanced player who can handle a heavier stick. Hey, if it works for Roger Federer, it can work for you, right?



Prince Phantom Pro 100

Prince has long been known as of the best racket manufacturers. They really nailed it with this racket. With a 100 square inch head, 11.3 oz strung weight and a frame stiffness of only 54, you couldn’t ask for a racket with more control.

Arm friendly and responsive, you can be confident coming to net with the Prince Phantom Pro 100. This is a racket ideal for intermediate and advanced players who like to attack the net and desire control.

Most of the 11.3 ounces of weight is in the handle of the racket. This translates to a low head weight, giving it exceptional maneuverability at the net. On groundstrokes, the racket proved capable but doesn’t give as much spin and power as some of the other rackets on this list.

The main drawback of this racket is lack of power. But power is the main sacrifice when designing a racket for control. Overall, I thought this racket performed well when I hit with it. Players who swing fast won’t have power issues.

Check the current price of this racket on Amazon.com (affiliate link to Amazon for the exact model I’m reviewing here).

As a hack, you could string a bit looser than normal, which should make up for some of the lost power. I believe giving up some power for all the control the Prince Phantom Pro 100 offers, is worth the trade-off. Especially if you attack the net consistently.

For that reason, I highly endorse this racket as one of the best serve and volley sticks of 2018.

Wilson Six One 95 18 x 20

For the pure serve and volley players out there that love control, this is your racket. The head size is only 95 square inches yet it weighs 12.3 ounces strung, making it almost as heavy as the Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph.

The heavy frame allows for comfortable contact and moves through the ball with ease. A light head balance, thin 22 mm beams all the way around it, and added it weight at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, give this racket superior control.

This racket also boasts Wilson’s parallel drilling technology, which creates a more forgiving string bed and increased sweet spot. The racket performed great from the baseline and at the net in tests.

Check the current price of this racket on Amazon.com (affiliate link to Amazon for the exact model I’m reviewing here).

The main drawbacks of the Wilson Six One is the heavy weight and reduced power. This is a common theme among some serve and volley rackets. Maneuverability and power are not this racket’s forte.

But if you can get past that part, you have a stick that will provide you a ton of control and stability on your shots. We’re sure you’ll love coming to net with this racket.

Yonex EZONE DR 98 Blue

This racket is a great choice for all-court players. It will still be a valuable addition to the serve and volley player with it’s excellent control and touch.

Yonex made this racket with Nanometric DR carbon graphite composition. This allows the frame to flex while snapping back into place on contact. The EZONE also features Yonex’s signature square head shape.

The square head increases the sweet spot of the racket compared to other rackets of its size (98 square inches). This racket also has technology that dampens vibrations from the ball, offering increased comfortability.

Like most of the other rackets on this list, the Yonex offers superior control and good maneuverability. While the racket lacks a bit of power, we feel it more than made up for it with its other attributes.

You should be able to hit good serves with this racket and have plenty of feel on the volleys. From the baseline you’ll hit good, consistent groundstrokes, especially with the larger sweet spot on the racket.

Check the current price of this racket on Amazon.com (affiliate link to Amazon for the exact model I’m reviewing here).

If you’ve never played with a Yonex before, you’ll find them to be very comfortable. My first racket was actually a Yonex, but that was back in the day. If you’re an intermediate to advanced player who swings relatively fast, this racket is a great choice.

 

Other Factors That Affect The Racket For S&V

Other factors will affect the way the racket plays. These are grip size, choice of string, string gauge, and string tension. Here are some quick guidelines on ways to determine these choices.

Grip Size: The size of the grip is largely dependent on the person. Rafael Nadal uses one of the smallest grips on the men’s professional tour, while Juan Martin Del Potro favors a larger one. It comes down to a personal choice.

Most grips start at 4 inches (on the small side) and up to 4 5/8 inches on the large size. We recommend trying out different size grips before selecting one. Going too small or too large is usually a detriment. Try to choose a grip that is comfortable for your hand size.

As a helpful tip, if you’re already playing with a grip that’s too small, you can add an over grip to make it larger. Grips that are too large cannot be made smaller unless you change the entire grip.

Choice Of String: Nowadays, players generally have two different choices for string material – synthetic gut or polyester. Synthetic gut is easier on the elbow and usually costs less. The feel of the string will also last longer.

Consequently, synthetic gut is a good choice if comfort and durability is your main concern. You’ll also spend less in restringing costs.

On the flip side, polyester will give more feel and bite on the ball. This results in more spin and power, which is helpful to both baseline and serve and volley players.

The drawbacks are that polyester loses feel after playing with it much quicker and stringing costs will be higher. Polyester is also harder on the arm, especially when strung with a high tension.

I personally need to restring with polyester every 3-4 weeks in comparison to 7-8 weeks with synthetic gut. Almost all professional players use polyester and there are a ton of options to choose from.

For serve and volley players, either string, synthetic gut or polyester, will do the job. But polyester gives more bite on the ball.

String Gauge: This is another important factor in playability. Tennis string gauge refers to the thickness of it. The gauges vary in size from 15 to 18, with 15 being the thickest and 18 being the thinnest. Most players use a 16 or 17-gauge string.

The lower the gauge, the longer the string will last, but the less playability it will have. The opposite is true. The higher the gauge, the shorter the string will last but the more playability it will have.

I use a 16L and 17-gauge string and love it. In the past, I used regular 16-gauge string and played fairly well with it. However, the increased feel of the 17-gauge string is worth the extra time and money for me.

For serve and volley players, either string will work, but polyester provides more feel and spin. If you can afford the extra money, go with polyester.

You can try my string recommendation if you like. If you’re an avid player, the difference is a few hundred dollars a year more for using good polyester strings. Remember, all the pros use polyester.

String Tension: This refers to how tight or loose the strings are tensioned when put into the racket. Most rackets have a recommended string tension listed on it. It may say something like “Recommended Tension: 55-65”.

I personally favor higher string tensions because they give more control. They’ll also last a little longer, as even when the tension drops from playing, they’ll still remain fairly tight.

Keep in mind that tighter tensions are not very friendly on the elbow. So if comfort is important, string lower. Most rackets give you a 10-point spread in the recommended tension. You can’t go wrong with a tension in the middle. For example, if between 55-65, string at 60.

After you string your racket and play with it for a few weeks, you’ll know if you need to adjust up or down. Keep in mind that small bits of tension are lost every time you play.



I find that the first few times of play don’t necessarily give a good indication of the strings. If you string tight, you need to hit with the racket a few times before the strings “break in” and you can honestly assess them.

If you use polyester and play often with the same strings, you may notice they ultimately become unresponsive and have a “dead” feel. That’s when you need to restring. If you continue playing with such strings, you’re likely to hurt your elbow and be an unhappy camper.

I personally favor polyester and go with a hybrid 16L and 17-gauge string with a high tension (around 63-65).

Main Strings: Signum Pro Plasma HEXtreme Pure 16L String – Check the current price on Amazon.com (affiliate link to Amazon for the exact model I’m recommending here).

Cross Strings: Diadem Evolution 17 (1.25) String (Azure Blue) – Check the current price on Amazon.com (affiliate link to Amazon for the exact model I’m recommending here).

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