Pros and cons of stiffness

Discussion in 'Racquets' started by clutch21, Aug 12, 2011.

  1. clutch21

    clutch21 Rookie

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    I was wondering what are some of the benefits and drawbacks of a stiff racquet. does a stiffer racquet allow for more pop, but has less feel?
     
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  2. msalamon

    msalamon Rookie

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    From what I gather- a stiffer racket provides more power-but can also lead to elbow pain and injury. By contrast, a more flexy frame feels plush and soft, but is generally low powered. You will typically find heavy rackets that have very low stiffnes ratings-they are low powered and build for control. A good example is the Dunlop Bio 200- this is a great feeling frame-very comfortable and easy to pinpoint direction-especially on serve. The drawback is that you have to supply the power. I found myself hitting very weak service returns because I'm not at the level to take advantage of such a stick. That being siad, I think it is worht noting that flex is hard to alter - so it is an important aspect when looking for a racket. I would look for one with an RA under 68 for sure
     
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  3. clutch21

    clutch21 Rookie

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    Hmm thats interesting. it seems like a more flexible racquet would be less accurate.. thats kind of counterintuitive
     
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  4. Ben Hadd

    Ben Hadd Semi-Pro

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    From playing both extremes of the spectrum, accuracy doesn't seem to be an issue with the difference in flex. The stiffer the racquet imo, the more solid pop. Only thing I've noticed, and that could just be a dumbo feather.
     
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  5. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

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    The stiffer racquet provides better directional accuracy while the flexier frame provides better depth accuracy.
     
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  6. brownbearfalling

    brownbearfalling Hall of Fame

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    I agree with msalamon. Just to add to the last part: The flex of the racquet frame is very hard to alter. But by using tinkering with strings of different stiffnesses you can achieve different feels. For example if you use full bed of luxilon alu power strung at high tension, no matter what the racquet stiffness is, the racquet is going to feel stiff. And same goes for if you use a soft mulifilament string in a stiff racquet, you will get a softer and in a sense more flexible feel from the frame.

    Personally I prefer a stiff frame because I get a lot of response from the frame. With a stiff frame, you'll get bad feedback from your racquet when you hit terribly off center. But you will be rewarded for a shot with good contact. Stiff frames also give me a sense of stability. I can't stand frames that are too flexible. They seem unpredictable to me.

    Another difference between a stiff racquet and a flexible one is the sound the racquet makes through contact when hitting the ball with a lot of racquet speed or force. Players that like stiff frames like the hard "pop" and "crack" that comes from a stiff racquet. Soft frames give a "thud" sound.

    So to sum this up, most people that I see who choose a frame by stiffness have already been around the block and know what head size and weight they prefer. Or they have good reason to pick a racquet by stiffness rating which is elbow or shoulder issues. And you should also know that most frames these days are considered pretty stiff. And the trend of racquet technologies is to make the racquet stiffer with each generation of frames. That goes for most manufacturers with some exceptions.
     
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  7. JGads

    JGads Hall of Fame

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    Never thought of it in quite such simple terms but I think this is bang-on correct, from my own experiences.

    Also from my own experience: the stiffer the frame, the better the first serves but they can sometimes make it tough to feel the ball on second serves (kickers, slices), whereas softer frames have the opposite effect: better on seconds but less pop on those firsts.
     
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  8. travlerajm

    travlerajm Hall of Fame

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    I think that the advent of extremely spin-friendly stringing options have made it so the second part of this statement is no longer necessarily true.

    Nowadays, a stiff frame can be set up in a way that it can spin the ball just as easily as a with a flexier frame. (Nadal's APD, e.g).

    Not going out on a limb here, but this is the reason why more and more pros are using stiffer frames these days. With spinny setups, you can get the benefit of of better directional control without giving up the ability to make the ball dip into the court with good depth control.

    As an aside, I find it interesting that roughly half of all top pros are using dense 18x20 string patterns, while 98% of racquets being marketed to the public have a more open 16-main pattern.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
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  9. Zagor Tenay

    Zagor Tenay New User

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    "As an aside, I find it interesting that roughly half of all top pros are using dense 18x20 string patterns, while 98% of racquets being marketed to the public have a more open 16-main pattern."
    Interesting, if its true what can be the cause ? Maybe extreme power level of the top pros ?
     
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  10. Al1978

    Al1978 Rookie

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    You're correct in a sense. All other specs equal, the more flexible frame will result in less velocity off the stringbed than the stiffer frame. That's one component of control. But the flexible frame may also result in less directional control and feeling of precision for some players due to the ball's increased dwell time.

    Edit: movdqa said it best.
     
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  11. travlerajm

    travlerajm Hall of Fame

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    More likely, the pros with the best control tend to rise to the top. And since denser patterns are better for control, 18x20 patterns are disproportionately represented at the top of the game.
     
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  12. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

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    > Not going out on a limb here, but this is the reason why
    > more and more pros are using stiffer frames these days.
    > With spinny setups, you can get the benefit of of better
    > directional control without giving up the ability to make the
    > ball dip into the court with good depth control.

    I find it interesting that the Head players in the top ten (Djokovic, Murray, Soderling and Berdych) use flexible frames. Nadal and Federer use stiff frames and I have no idea what Ferrer, Monfils, Fish and Almagro use.

    The Head players using flexible frames manage to generate a decent amount of spin too.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
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  13. I think that just illustrates the fact that you can talk spec until the cows come dancing home. But put just about any racquet in talented hands, and you're gonna get some magic.
     
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  14. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    TW has a very in depth discussion about racquets and, in particular, the effect of racquet stiffness.

    "The amount a frame deflects during ball contact directly affects its power potential. A stiffer racquet bends less, thus depleting less energy from the ball. A flexible racquet bends more, resulting in more energy loss. A common myth among players is that a flexible racquet, that bends back more, returns more power to the ball due to a catapult-effect. The ball remains on the strings for 3-5 milliseconds, much shorter than it takes a frame to recover. Consequently, a racquet frame doesn’t “return” energy to the ball, it absorbs energy - either more or less, depending on stiffness. Stiffer racquets don’t deflect as much on impact, resulting in less power drain than a flexible racquet.

    "Frame stiffness doesn’t only affect power though. Control and comfort are also at stake. Generally speaking, a racquet that offers more power provides less control. . . ."

    http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/LC/SelectingRacquet.html
     
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  15. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

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    > I think that just illustrates the fact that you can talk spec until the cows
    > come dancing home. But put just about any racquet in talented hands, and
    > you're gonna get some magic.

    The best pros are picky about their frames too.

    Nadal uses a variant of the APD that is no longer available at retail.
    The head players use paintjobs.
    I would guess that all or most of the remaining unknowns in the top ten use paintjobs too.
    Federer probably comes the closest but even he make moderate mods.
     
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  16. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

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    One other thing about the pros (or at least some of them), is that they crank up the swingweights (and sometimes static weights) which can result in some very powerful racquets.

    If you have the strength to swing them.
     
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  17. Hidious

    Hidious Professional

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    I can't put my finger on all the subtleties but, for me, stiffer racquets improved my volleys and serves but affected the consistency and placement of my ground strokes.
     
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  18. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    This topic gets tossed around here now and then, but it might be a tricky deal to search up the previous discussions - no biggie.

    I previously used the stiffer ProStaff 6.1 Classics for a while and these were wonderful both for S&V action and serious doubles (for me). While the heft of these frames made them nice and stable, their heft and stiffness combined for nice pop that helped me really punch the ball around the court with authority. That hotter response also gave me a smaller margin for error with my ground strokes and I couldn't swing very hard at the ball without including a lot of spin to keep the ball down. Volleys and blocked returns of serve seem to have nice zip with a stiffer racquet, too. Even serves seem to get an extra jolt of life with extra stiffness.

    When I was trying to get stronger and more consistent around the baseline, I also tried some more flexible racquets including the Volkl C10. That frame along with some other "softies" in the 12+ oz. weight range had noticeably less pop, which seemed rather undesirable at first, but the lightning struck for me when I got cozy with those Volkls.

    The slightly more mellow response in the softer C10's gave me an extra measure of control that gave me a license to swing away. My full strokes became much easier to keep down on the courts, due in part to what seems to be mildly better spin potential with greater flex. Since these racquets are also nice and heavy, they remained stable and lively enough up at the net for me, too.

    Feel is really subjective and I think that a frame with any sort of flex rating can feel either right or wrong depending on its string setup (along with individual preferences). Generally, while a stiffer racquet will typically provide more power or "pop" at contact, a softer frame with more inherent control actually allows me to play with more power when I want to hit hard from the back court. Too soft can result in a racquet with performance that's too dead, but too stiff can mean harsh feel or a frame that's too lively.
     
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  19. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Forgot to mention the upside of stiffness in a middleweight racquet. A more modern style of hitting can include more angular contact along with higher racquet speed to generate extra levels of both pace and spin on the ball. Some stiffness in a frame can be good for this style to help keep velocity up, since players are often swinging across the ball instead of through it. That sort of swing path with a very soft racquet can make for a tougher time of generating acceptable pace.
     
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  20. martini1

    martini1 Hall of Fame

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    The most obvious advantage of a stiffer frame for me is on those full stretched saves. When I could barely touch the ball a stiffer frame can pun the ball deeper. Everything else a more flexible frame offers more feel and hence better sense of directional and spin control. It is not automatic better control but the feedback offers better fine adjustment. If a stiff frame have more directional control more top would use them. However from what I read on TW most pro frames are more flexible than retail frames.
     
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  21. Winners or Errors

    Winners or Errors Hall of Fame

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    Stiff frames. I used to play the Prince Precision Equipe MP, stiffness 72. It had an addictive, crisp feel that I really enjoyed. It never bothered my arm. It won every collision with the ball.

    The generalization that stiff frames are going to lead to tennis elbow is overdone. I play more flexible frames now, 62-63, but they just don't win that collision as well as the Prince did, even the Dunlop M-Fil 200 18x20, and there are times when I've been up against a heavy hitter that I find myself wanting a little stiffness, a little more crispness.

    That said, I can't imagine playing a stiff frame like that will full poly, as I always used synthetic gut strung at around 55, and if I ever get another stiff frame, I plan to use synthetic gut or some multi to keep it from ripping my arm off. There have to be compromises in the name of health.

    If you play full poly, I agree that stiff frames should probably not be on your list of things to buy... and those of you who are in your teens and 20s, just wait until you hit your 30s and 40s to give advice on arm friendliness. I never felt a single twinge until I hit 40, not even close, and now I can feel the pain after a single match if something went wrong with strings, mishits, etc. It sucks.
     
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  22. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

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    I played with a very stiff widebody frame in my early 30s and it was great. Until it wasn't. One day I felt pain, and then more and more pain. Until I had to stop playing for quite some time. I read up on the stuff at the racquet research site and went to something softer which allowed me to resume playing.

    Some people have the right genes to play with very stiff frames with no problems at all. Others don't. I've also read that arm problems can come with age.

    I play better (as in win more matches) with stiffer frames. But my arm complains after the match. So yes, I'd like to stick with the stiffer stuff but the aches and pains can pile on when you get older and you have to make compromises.
     
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  23. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Good post from Winners or Errors there.

    I agree with the idea that stiffer racquets aren't something to be afraid of, but it's smart for players to pay attention if the arm - especially the elbow - begins to raise objections. I've very much enjoyed my ProStaffs strung well into the 60's with 17 gauge syn. gut and that setup ran quite nicely for me, while the 16 ga. version of the same string at the same tension brought me an extra dose of harshness. While the heft in that racquet is probably a plus in terms of shock reduction, the thinner string was clearly a softer, kinder option for me.

    I've also seen a few young sluggers in my area blow up their elbows while using poly strings, even in softer, more "arm friendly" racquets. These were kids with good training who were on track for smaller college teams. The typical solution for those young guns has been some rest and therapy along with a switch to softer string. While I'm leery of anyone in their late 30's and beyond messing around with the poly, I'm also quite cautious with the kids I coach when they ask about it.
     
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  24. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

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    Strings do make a huge difference.

    I had a nasty bout of TE last year and moved to a co-poly. I tried multis but hated the way they played. My arm was okay with the co-poly with the KPS88 (which is stiff and heavy) but I wanted something that was better than okay so I'm on the hunt for something.

    BTW, I have full poly in a flexible frame right now and it's fine on the arm. It feels like a pillow to my arm but it hits the ball like a brick.
     
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