Should kids learn with old racquets

bjk

Hall of Fame
Fed Nadal and Djokovic all learned with the old rackets and they're dominating the players who grew up with the new rackets. The old rackets taught you to hit the ball in the sweet spot and hit flat and hard. Should juniors play with the old rackets until they're ten, to learn to hit flat and hard and in the sweet spot? Before you say it would hurt their development to switch playing style at ten, consider that it didn't hurt any of the big 3.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Equally how many of their contemporaries gave up tennis before the age of 10 because they didn't find a love for the game due to the inappropriate equipment making the game way harder than it needs to be. Equipment and courts of an appropriate size and weight is not just about creating elite players, it's about helping young players develop a lifelong love for the game of tennis.
 

Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
My feeling is that almost all professional players began playing with the best rackets available in their time.
These were not "old" rackets to them. So, for players just starting, I would suggest the same- to check out
various currently available rackets and find one that they like best. They might still find some old wood racket at a thrift store
and practice with it if they feel the need.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
I hear what you're saying but a 34 yo just beat a 33 year old man for FO title. The younger generation is failing to beat the prior generation. THere is something wrong and one obvious place to look is the equipment.
 
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Ash_Smith

Legend
I hear what you're saying but a 34 yo just beat a 33 year old man for FO title. The younger generation is failing to beat the prior generation. THere is something wrong and one obvious place to look is the equipment.
Yeah... or maybe just the two "old" blokes are f**king unbelieveable tennis players.

And the quarters contained Tsitsipas, Rublev, Sinner, Thiem, so it's not like the current gen is failing to beat the old gen - they are just failing to beat 2 (3) of them.
 

3loudboys

Hall of Fame
Age appropriate equipment for me and that's what the coaches my sons have had have recommended. Using a 90 sq inch head at 350g for a young kid learning is off unless they are a Fedalovic in the making. What is the benefit of using old kit?
 
this isn't really about old vs new imo, it's more about consistency; there used to be a time when you could buy many quality frames over a long period of time, ensuring young players to keep at it with the same equipment during their learning process.
Nowadays it's the opposite; most frames get a make over every 1-2 years, making it harder for juniors to stay with the same racket for long (at least before they get a sponsorship deal).
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
I hear what you're saying but a 34 yo just beat a 33 year old man for FO title. The younger generation is failing to beat the prior generation. THere is something wrong and one obvious place to look is the equipment.
Cmon man how many other 33-34 yo players are in top 20? 50? The big 3 is just extremely good, have been for all the years, against their peers, against others who learned with any racquet you might bring up. The bit most, lost to some, stayed healthy for over decade of pro career and kept passion, building up experience and confidence. What they prove is that tennis is not a dominantly physical sport, and that most talented and discipline players with top-notch off-court regiment and team support don’t loose their step in their thirties.
Tennis is at its top in terms of pure quality of players and plays.
 

Addxyz

Professional
I saw this Asian dad with his two teenage kids on public courts drilling one time. Both had PS85. Of course, he was pretty strict and yelling at them an awful lot...
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
Feliciano Lopez won the last Queens tournament (singles and doubles) at 37 years old. Isner won his first Masters in Miami at 33. Karlovic - never that great in his prime - is still winning matches at 41. It's not just the big 3.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
Age appropriate equipment for me and that's what the coaches my sons have had have recommended. Using a 90 sq inch head at 350g for a young kid learning is off unless they are a Fedalovic in the making. What is the benefit of using old kit?
The benefit is that the racquet provides feedback, and getting constant feedback is the best way to learn. You know when you hit the sweetspot with a Prostaff 90 but not so much with the new racquets. Imagine learning to shoot baskets but the hoop was the size of a big garbage can. Would you learn accuracy better than if you practiced with a normal hoop? Young players don't get the feedback or learn the accuracy if they're hitting with spin from a young age.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
I saw this Asian dad with his two teenage kids on public courts drilling one time. Both had PS85. Of course, he was pretty strict and yelling at them an awful lot...
Yeah I've also seen people hitting with the wooden paddle rackets that have small heads. I think the idea is the same.
 

BlueB

Legend
Fed Nadal and Djokovic all learned with the old rackets and they're dominating the players who grew up with the new rackets. The old rackets taught you to hit the ball in the sweet spot and hit flat and hard. Should juniors play with the old rackets until they're ten, to learn to hit flat and hard and in the sweet spot? Before you say it would hurt their development to switch playing style at ten, consider that it didn't hurt any of the big 3.
They didn't. They used what was current at that time.
Also, there are pics of baby Nole with an aluminum kids frame.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
That's fine but an aluminum rackets are hard to hit with, they are more demanding than current racket tech.
 

BlueB

Legend
It was the current tech, for kids, at his time.
All of the 23-25" kids frames are still aluminum, today. Only about 50% of 26" junior frames are graphite.
 

nyta2

Rookie
Fed Nadal and Djokovic all learned with the old rackets and they're dominating the players who grew up with the new rackets. The old rackets taught you to hit the ball in the sweet spot and hit flat and hard. Should juniors play with the old rackets until they're ten, to learn to hit flat and hard and in the sweet spot? Before you say it would hurt their development to switch playing style at ten, consider that it didn't hurt any of the big 3.
what do you mean by "old"? i grew up with the head ti radical (circa 1999), which is probably still "modern", and could still play with it if they had it.
 

nyta2

Rookie
Equally how many of their contemporaries gave up tennis before the age of 10 because they didn't find a love for the game due to the inappropriate equipment making the game way harder than it needs to be. Equipment and courts of an appropriate size and weight is not just about creating elite players, it's about helping young players develop a lifelong love for the game of tennis.
what's your thoughts on using equip slightly too big/heavy... they idea being that they are encouraged to swing the racquet with their body, vs. manipulate the racquet head? that said, a 13-14oz woodie is probably too much for a 5y old :p. do you find the usta (or similar) racquet length suggestions to be accurate? (eg. https://www.usta.com/en/home/improve/gear-up/national/what-racquet-is-right-for-me-.html)
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
what do you mean by "old"? i grew up with the head ti radical (circa 1999), which is probably still "modern", and could still play with it if they had it.
I'm not an expert so that's why I'm asking. Anything pre-poly strings maybe.
 

3loudboys

Hall of Fame
The benefit is that the racquet provides feedback, and getting constant feedback is the best way to learn. You know when you hit the sweetspot with a Prostaff 90 but not so much with the new racquets. Imagine learning to shoot baskets but the hoop was the size of a big garbage can. Would you learn accuracy better than if you practiced with a normal hoop? Young players don't get the feedback or learn the accuracy if they're hitting with spin from a young age.
Not my experience to be honest, my boys all used age appropriate equipment and learnt technique very well. They did toy with heavier sticks but it just served to slow swing speed and agg the joints. They found the sweetspot just fine with a 98 or a 100. We got them graphite all the way through and spent the money on strings and grips, the two items you have give you contact & feel of the ball. Not saying what works for my kids is the template for everyone but definitely did the job.
 
I think it should be called skill appropriate equipment instead of age appropriate. I started my kid at 4 with 19" racquet and red balls after 3 months went to 23", at 5 went to 25" and orange balls, now at 6 he is using a 26" hitting green dot and yellow. Switching to 27" maybe when he is 9.
Kids don't have problem using 27" sticks rallying ground strokes. But too long a stick they will hit the ground when they serve.
If I knew what I know now, I would have him using a 25" racquet at age 4.
 
Cmon man how many other 33-34 yo players are in top 20? 50? The big 3 is just extremely good, have been for all the years, against their peers, against others who learned with any racquet you might bring up. The bit most, lost to some, stayed healthy for over decade of pro career and kept passion, building up experience and confidence. What they prove is that tennis is not a dominantly physical sport, and that most talented and discipline players with top-notch off-court regiment and team support don’t loose their step in their thirties.
Tennis is at its top in terms of pure quality of players and plays.
I agree that it is very likely not the equipment and the big 3 are outliers but according to this ranking there are currently at least 20 guys 31 and older in the top100. That is probably the highest rate ever.


But on topic I would not start kids with heavy rackets because for preteen players mostly fun and learning some technical fundamentals should matter
 
One has to be careful of "Survivorship Bias", where one only looks at the successes and works backwards to try and discover the reasons for success. There are also probably the vast majority of non-greats who grew up playing with "old racquets" who didn't make it. Taking that into account, can one really say it was "old racquets" being responsible, even partially, for their success? It's not clear to me.

If you take any group, you can work backwards to try and find "the reason" why they are different. It's possible, though, that it's random; that the reason isolated has nothing to do with the outcome.

You see this all of the time when studying longevity: they ask a centenarian how he lived so long and the answer will completely contradict medical theory or be the polar opposite of another long beard. In other words, that factor was irrelevant.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
what's your thoughts on using equip slightly too big/heavy... they idea being that they are encouraged to swing the racquet with their body, vs. manipulate the racquet head? that said, a 13-14oz woodie is probably too much for a 5y old :p. do you find the usta (or similar) racquet length suggestions to be accurate? (eg. https://www.usta.com/en/home/improve/gear-up/national/what-racquet-is-right-for-me-.html)
The clue should be "too big/heavy". I want kids to be able to manipulate the racquet head - thats kind of the point!

I've not seen those specific guidelines, but yes from a quick glance at the link you included I would say they are ball park correct, allowig for the variances in size of kids through those age groups.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
One has to be careful of "Survivorship Bias", where one only looks at the successes and works backwards to try and discover the reasons for success. There are also probably the vast majority of non-greats who grew up playing with "old racquets" who didn't make it. Taking that into account, can one really say it was "old racquets" being responsible, even partially, for their success? It's not clear to me.

If you take any group, you can work backwards to try and find "the reason" why they are different. It's possible, though, that it's random; that the reason isolated has nothing to do with the outcome.

You see this all of the time when studying longevity: they ask a centenarian how he lived so long and the answer will completely contradict medical theory or be the polar opposite of another long beard. In other words, that factor was irrelevant.
Djokovic Nadal and Fed are each several SDs away from norm. Very small probability that its random. We'll see if the younger generation also lasts into their mid 30s winning slams. I doubt it. They can't win slams in their physical peak.
 
Djokovic Nadal and Fed are each several SDs away from norm. Very small probability that its random.
That wasn't my point, which was if I search hard enough, I can find factors common among the Big 3 and think "aha! THAT is why they are so good.", when, in fact, there isn't enough information to draw that conclusion.

At that point, I broaden my search and see who else has those factors. If no one else does, then that strengthens my case. But as soon as I find people with the same factors, it weakens my case: why didn't they go on to achieve greatness?

That's what I meant by random: no causation even correlation can be established. The racquets may have played a role or maybe none at all. What if Uncle Toni didn't switch Rafa to lefty? What if Federer chose soccer instead? What if wartime Serbia pushed Djokovic down a different path? There are so many factors as to be incalculable. To then narrow it down to racquet type is not reasonable, IMO.

We'll see if the younger generation also lasts into their mid 30s winning slams. I doubt it. They can't win slams in their physical peak.
The more general conclusion I draw is we might never see another Big 3 dominate the sport like the current bunch. But it doesn't mean there is a reason for the concurrence: maybe an accident of timing. If they were born 20 years apart, we might not have a Big 3. But they just happened to be born within this time range when they're all winning Slams.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
Djokovic Nadal and Fed are each several SDs away from norm. Very small probability that its random. We'll see if the younger generation also lasts into their mid 30s winning slams. I doubt it. They can't win slams in their physical peak.
If what you hypothesize is true, why aren't others who also learned at the same time as the big three also dominating younger players who learned with more forgiving equipment? If their equipment made that much difference in their formative years, then why are not similarly aged guys like Lopez, Kohlschreiber, and Simon also dominating? These guys would have learned with the same equipment as the big three. Lopez is a lefty like Nadal, Kohlschreiber has a game like Federer, and Simon plays similar percentage tennis like Novak.

I think it's human nature to want to find cause and effect. It is how we managed to survive in the infancy of our species. But trying to place causation where there is no link has also been the bane of our species. Correlation is not always causation. I like to frequently reference this web page when having this kind of discussion.

 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
Here are some arguments that suggest that the OP makes zero sense.

- The racquets that Nadal and Djokovic play with now don’t have much in common. What exactly makes them fall into the ‘old’ racquet category?
- They also played with other racquets as juniors.
- There are racquets being made by companies today that have specs similar to what Djokovic and Nadal play with and a junior can play with those racquets if he wanted.
- All the major brands have made heavy to extremely lightweight, mid to super-oversize, flexible to very stiff, thin to thick beam racquets ever since they started making graphite racquets - if anything, there was more marketing by the racquet companies to push players towards lightweight (less than 10 ozs), stiff racquets in the Nineties when Nadal and Djokovic grew up as the danger of elbow injury posed by those types of racquets was not as well understood.
- What exactly is a ‘new’ racquet that kids should avoid? Whatever the definition, those racquets were also available in the Nineties.

The prize money difference between early-round losers and tournament winners (who also get appearance money and fat endorsement contracts) in most tournaments makes up-and-coming players barely make a living while the Big3 can take a huge entourage in private jets to all the tournaments. When a Big3 player travels with two coaches, hitting partner, physio, massage therapist, fitness trainer, has an analytics guy on payroll, has his family with him while a Top 150 player travels maybe with one coach and is struggling to make ends meet, it is very hard for young players to bridge the gap and develop the kind of body that is needed to survive a 2-week Slam tournament. This is probably much more of a reason for the dominance of the Big3 and older, successful players compared to past decades when young players could win Slams when they were teenagers.

We are fortunate to have three ATGs with almost perfect technique that have the mental drive to keep improving and the work ethic to keep their bodies in great shape even as they are older. They don’t party and abuse alcohol and recreational drugs like ATGs of past decades were reputed to do. So, their longevity is much greater and they should be respected for that. To say that their dominance is just because of the ‘old’ racquets they played with as kids is to disrespect everything else that makes them great.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
If what you hypothesize is true, why aren't others who also learned at the same time as the big three also dominating younger players who learned with more forgiving equipment? If their equipment made that much difference in their formative years, then why are not similarly aged guys like Lopez, Kohlschreiber, and Simon also dominating? These guys would have learned with the same equipment as the big three. Lopez is a lefty like Nadal, Kohlschreiber has a game like Federer, and Simon plays similar percentage tennis like Novak.

I think it's human nature to want to find cause and effect. It is how we managed to survive in the infancy of our species. But trying to place causation where there is no link has also been the bane of our species. Correlation is not always causation. I like to frequently reference this web page when having this kind of discussion.

Lopez won one 500 tournament before 35 and won two 500 tournaments after 35. Lopez is "dominating" in his old age vs what he did in his prime.
 
Lopez won one 500 tournament before 35 and won two 500 tournaments after 35. Lopez is "dominating" in his old age vs what he did in his prime.
That's hardly the level of dominance displayed by the Big 3.

So you may be on to something. But before you conclude so, do the same analysis on every other top 100 ATP & WTA player to see what kind of results you get. Otherwise, you are cherry-picking your samples for ones that agree with your idea.

Again, randomness plays a potentially big role: what happened in those 2 post-35 tournaments that perhaps didn't happen prior? How strong was the field? What kinds of upsets occurred that potentially cleared a path for him? Did he happen to peak at the right time? There are many factors involved.

You're only concentrating on what can be seen; you aren't accounting for all that is unseen.
 

BevelDevil

Hall of Fame
Equally how many of their contemporaries gave up tennis before the age of 10 because they didn't find a love for the game due to the inappropriate equipment making the game way harder than it needs to be. Equipment and courts of an appropriate size and weight is not just about creating elite players, it's about helping young players develop a lifelong love for the game of tennis.
One has to be careful of "Survivorship Bias", where one only looks at the successes and works backwards to try and discover the reasons for success. There are also probably the vast majority of non-greats who grew up playing with "old racquets" who didn't make it. Taking that into account, can one really say it was "old racquets" being responsible, even partially, for their success? It's not clear to me.

If you take any group, you can work backwards to try and find "the reason" why they are different. It's possible, though, that it's random; that the reason isolated has nothing to do with the outcome.

You see this all of the time when studying longevity: they ask a centenarian how he lived so long and the answer will completely contradict medical theory or be the polar opposite of another long beard. In other words, that factor was irrelevant.
If what you hypothesize is true, why aren't others who also learned at the same time as the big three also dominating younger players who learned with more forgiving equipment? If their equipment made that much difference in their formative years, then why are not similarly aged guys like Lopez, Kohlschreiber, and Simon also dominating? These guys would have learned with the same equipment as the big three. Lopez is a lefty like Nadal, Kohlschreiber has a game like Federer, and Simon plays similar percentage tennis like Novak.

I think it's human nature to want to find cause and effect. It is how we managed to survive in the infancy of our species. But trying to place causation where there is no link has also been the bane of our species. Correlation is not always causation. I like to frequently reference this web page when having this kind of discussion.


It seems like a mishmash of cohort-effect plus survivorship bias plus spurious correlation that applies. Maybe Fedalovic all grew up watching "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" on TV, along with the rest of their cohort, most of who never broke through and we ignore. NextGen grows up watching "Futurama" re-runs. Clearly, we need to have our kids watch The Fresh Prince.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
Lopez won one 500 tournament before 35 and won two 500 tournaments after 35. Lopez is "dominating" in his old age vs what he did in his prime.
But what does that have to do with older players dominating younger players because of the equipment they used growing up? Is his ranking higher than players like Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Zverev, Berretini, Rublev, Shapavalov, Khachanov, Garin, Auger-Aliassime, Ruud, Coric, Fritz, deMinaur, Hurkacz, Opelka, Humbert, Kecmanovic, Sinner, or Bublik? Because these players are all 24 or younger and are ranked higher than both Simon and Lopez, who are both younger than Federer.
 

SinneGOAT

Professional
I’m not sure children under 10 should be playing with 70 square inch 380 swingweights and 35 flex 18/20. Perhaps once they reach 11 they can use specs used by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
Pro tennis is about the mental game. Experience, nerves of steel and developed confidence matter far more than any racquet does.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
Still waiting for OP to define what ‘old racquets‘ means and in contrast what ‘new racquets’ means as the full range of racquet specs (light to heavy, flexible to stiff, thin beam to thick beam, mid to super-OS) has been available since graphite racquets were introduced from every major racquet brand.
 

blablavla

Legend
Fed Nadal and Djokovic all learned with the old rackets and they're dominating the players who grew up with the new rackets. The old rackets taught you to hit the ball in the sweet spot and hit flat and hard. Should juniors play with the old rackets until they're ten, to learn to hit flat and hard and in the sweet spot? Before you say it would hurt their development to switch playing style at ten, consider that it didn't hurt any of the big 3.
if you want to learn to hit the sweet spot you can try and use a so called tennis pointer.
it is essentially a tennis spoon, except that you can't eat soup with it.
and believe me, you will see immediately if you hit the sweet spot or not.

the weight is similar to modern rackets.

Top level juniors use it in their training.
Tsitsipas uses it as well.

And the beauty of it, is you can incorporate it into the training process when the kid is eager to improve.
You don't need to lose all the kids that can't handle the small head, heavy weight, huge SW racket, because someone thinks that this is what sets Big 3 apart from the rest of the humans.
 

blablavla

Legend
I saw a guy hitting with this. Looks hard to do.

do you think that hitting with a heavy frame, small head size, low flex, high SW is easy to hit?
especially for a kid say 4-6 years old?

the new equipment will allow more folks to learn the sport, enjoy it and stay with it.
such equipment allows specific training.
if you want to improve hitting the sweet spot - there you go.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
I've seen kids hit with the light balls and it looks like a lot of fun. But in terms of laerning to hit hard and flat, I'm not sure it's the best form of practice. I look at the dominance of players born in 81, 85 and 87, they look to be right on the cusp between the graphite/gut era and the Babolat/poly era.
 

blablavla

Legend
I've seen kids hit with the light balls and it looks like a lot of fun. But in terms of laerning to hit hard and flat, I'm not sure it's the best form of practice. I look at the dominance of players born in 81, 85 and 87, they look to be right on the cusp between the graphite/gut era and the Babolat/poly era.
dude, look where Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, Nalbandian, Davydenko, and almost every other pro player born in the beginning of the 80s are.
they mostly retired. It's Fed and Karlovic from those years.

Heck, even the Djokodal generation is having troubles.
Berdych retired.
Age is catching up with Wawrinka and Murray, and while kudos to them for still trying, they will probably not come back to top 10 anymore.
If Sampras didn't retire after winning the USO 2002, for another 12 months he would be a top 20 player on those USO 2002 points alone, but he did retire.
Dimitrov who is 29 years old is seeing his results fading down because of injuries.

If there is one conclusion that you can make out of the Big 3 domination, that:
Fed and Novak were able to avoid major career threatening injuries, with Novak being very lucky with his elbow injury being healed, or managed
Nadal is a truly unique athlete, coming back after so many injuries, in particular on knees.

it's not really about rackets used in childhood.
it's much more about extending the years when your footwork allows you to be competitive.
Do you remeber Janko Tipsarevic? born in 1984, he was famous for his footwork, but injuries had something to say.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
How do you explain that nobody today can hit as hard and as accurately as Gonzalez or Delpotro or even prime Roddick? The reason is that they all learn to hit with spin from a young age. Go watch Soderling beat Nadal. He is hitting hard and flat winners from deep behind the baseline. If prime Soderling faced Nadal today on clay it would be 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
If prime Soderling faced Nadal today on clay it would be 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.
Yeah absolutely, if to be more precise:
40:30 - 1-0
3 times deuce - 2-0
40:0 - 3-0
deuce - 3-1
40:15 - 4-1
15:40 - 5-1
40:30 - 6-1

and you know the other sets, so I won’t bother.

35 winners for Soderling with 17 UEs
13 winners 15 UEs for Nadal.
 
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blablavla

Legend
How do you explain that nobody today can hit as hard and as accurately as Gonzalez or Delpotro or even prime Roddick? The reason is that they all learn to hit with spin from a young age. Go watch Soderling beat Nadal. He is hitting hard and flat winners from deep behind the baseline. If prime Soderling faced Nadal today on clay it would be 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.
we are probably watching different tennis.

while watching the highlights of previous week, in St. Petersburg and Cologne, Zverev, Shapovalov and Rublev are routinely hitting 140-150 km/h winners.
that's as good Del Po at least.

another thing is that courts apparently are being slowed down to counter the ever stiffer frames, coupled with poly strings that allow tennis pro to hit balls that were impossible for Gonzalez, Delpotro, prime Roddick and Soderling to routienly hit and get them into the court.
so, you have the Nadal and some others playing from the stands, because the ball bounces higher and slower, something that was impossible on courts where the ball was bouncing faster and lower.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
The stiffer the frame the harder you're going to hit. The older players didn't need stiff frames to hit hard. They used bamboo reeds and hit harder than these soy boys.
 

blablavla

Legend
The stiffer the frame the harder you're going to hit. The older players didn't need stiff frames to hit hard. They used bamboo reeds and hit harder than these soy boys.
I think you need to explain yourself.

the next gen kids are producing similar speed like the old guard, kmh / mph.
how can Del Po, Soderling or Gonzalez hit the ball harder if the the measured velocity is similar?

keep in mind that the next gen kids are hitting with more top spin, so part of the energy goes into RPMs, to make those balls land inside the court.

P.S.
that's not to start the discussion about how stiff is / was Del Po frame, and whether purely theoretically there is any possible connection between the stiffness of that frame and his wrist issues

P.P.S
if Del Po frame is that stiff as rumoured, how can he hit the ball harder than the next genners?
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
They say ATP is weak era because big 3 is long-time dominating.
They say WTA is weak era because there are no dominating champions.

Are they wise?
 
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