Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Badminton Equipment: The Racket

Pride before vanity, and vanity before skills.

In this aspect we see a lot of players seek out the best racket money can buy, hoping the spirit of world class players will course through the graphite and into their veins.

I'm in no position to touch on skills here, so I'll use this time to state the types of rackets there are and what type of players I think they're suitable for.

I've got an assortment of 15 rackets, ranging from weight to balance and flexibility of the shaft, so I'm making this call based on what I have. Those with more experience and equipment can feel free to add their five cents.

Things to consider when buying a racket

1. Looks
Let's admit it, if it ain't looking good, we won't want to use it anyway. Despite whatever people say about a good racket being more than the design, I doubt you'd want to use a ugly hell piece of graphite (unless you're a Li Ning user).

Choosing something that looks good on the eye does two things, (i) it gives you something to look at when you lose a point; and (ii) it makes winning all the better.

2. Price
Sure, everyone wants a Yonex or Li Ning (why?!), but not everyone can afford one! If you're just starting out and want something that's "tried and tested", I would implore you not to fall into the newbie trap of getting the most expensive racket out there just coz it's used by some pro.

Just like you don't learn driving with a sports car, you should consider placing your faith in a racket that's within a nice cost bracket. Once you get a hang of the sport and is able to determine what sort of game you're comfortable with, you'll be in a better position to know which of the models in the top brands suit you.

Trust me when I say that Yonex rackets can differ in feel between the models. That's what makes them so good, in my opinion. So choose wisely, when you can know what's what.

3. Weight
Here's where it gets a little complicated. Rackets are made to different specifications, and each will appeal to a different person. The best advise I can give you now is to find one that gives you a nice good feel - not too heavy, not too light.

Hold it loosely in your hands and have a swing. You should be able to control the racket just right. A racket is an extension of your reach and should feel right. Don't let the weight of the racket hold back the swing of your arm.

Going into the deep end 
(Warning: reading this section may increase your urge to buy new rackets)
So now that you've got yourself a decent starter racket, got a few good hours of court time, am able to hit a shuttle decently without mishits, and am starting to feel an itch to start playing a better game, it's time for you to consider getting yourself an equipment upgrade.

Think of this as a level-up. *bing*

There are a few things when we talk about a racket's specifications, (i) Grip Size (ii) Weight; (iii) Balance Point or BP; (iv) Shaft Flexibility; (v) Length; and (vi) Recommended String Tension.

I've ordered them in order of relevance to your playing experience (in my own opinion of course).

Grip Size
Remember what I said about the racket first being comfortable? You should be used to a certain grip by now, and I don't think there should be a compromise. Luckily most rackets come in varying grip sizes. I've gotten rackets that are one size too big, and they just don't play as well. I can't get the wrist around the large grip sizes and that affected my game.

One way to get around this is to use an over-grip instead of a replacement. That way it won't end up as large a grip size. But be prepared to change grip often.

U, 2U, 3U, 4U and so on. Each U means how many units of 5g below 100g; a 2U racket should weight more than 90g, a 3U more than 85g, and so on.

Typically, a heavier racket allows more weight transfer between your swings. Deep clears become easier and you'll also notice the control getting better when you use a heavier racket. Expect less vibration as well, but all these at the cost of speed.

Three kinds, (i) Head Heavy; (ii) Even; and (iii) Head Light. Same principle with weight transfer and speed apply. Factor in weight.

Consider the type of game you play when determining the suitable balance. Use head lights for a quicker counter attack game with fast exchanges, an even balance for net play and wrist check smashes, and head heavys for extra power in that full-on smash.

For what I've experienced, less flexible rackets are suitable for those who favor the wrist over the arm. Vice-versa.

Once you've got the above in order, you'll want to experiment with various strings and string tensions to see which one suits you best. Increase or decrease in units of 2lbs.

Higher tensions allow greater control, but you'll need to use more strength to get the shuttle anywhere. Lower tensions give a greater repulsion from the extended string bed, but since there's more extension, control might be affected.

Also, higher tensions give a nicer, more crisp, smashing sound.

And that's the gist of it. Let me know if you've got anything to supplement.


Unknown said...

Hi Arthur,

I would like to say that you're reviews and posts (from what i have read) has been all very informative and helpful. I have a few questions however about rackets in general. I'd like to admit i did fall in to the trap of buying an expensive racket though it does not parallel my abilities as a player, however i have trained quite rigorously and is really looking for a new racket to suit more of my playing style exclusively.

So i guess you need to know a little about me first. Personally i started playing badminton using a Nanospeed 850, while my dad had an armortech 250. We were both quite leisure players until i decided to actually learn the sport. So as i began learning the sport i had this urge to buy a racket and my coach recommended an arcsaber 10 as it was an all around racket and easy to get accustomed to, however personally i wanted an armortech 900P. Following my coach's suggestion i bought an arcsaber 10 PG and loved it, however i realized my role in my doubles partnership is more of a backcourt player, and i want a racket that is more suited for that.

So i have already considered two rackets, the Voltric Z-Force ( i have read your review and i agree the marketing was amazing by Yonex, made me want one too *guilt*) , however my favorite player is Fu Hai Feng of china and after some research i noticed he was using a Kason Twister F9, after doing a bit more of research i found out that the F9 was similar to that of the Arc 10, but lighter and a bit more head balance, though not full head heavy. It is good for defense as it is lighter than the Arc 10, however it has a flexible shaft for easy accurate smashes. I am not sure which to get, but personally leaning towards the F9. Though i am a bit afraid of it is worth the buy.


Arthur Wong said...

Hi Ian, thanks for the affirmation! It's good to have someone read the stuff that I write and say that it's useful even.

Sounds to me like you could use a head-heavy balance, if you're asking for more power from the backcourt. I've not use the F9 per say, but I've had a positive experience with the Z-Force in terms of power and I can definitely say it'll be worth your backcourt play if you manage to tame the racket.

Also worth noting is that Fu can probably out smash us with a flyswatter. Choosing something at a professional uses isn't always a good gauge. In other words, it's form of marketing.

That's why one of my goals in the sport into try out as many different rackets from manufacturers so that I can share my experiences.