Your racquet is the most important piece of equipment you’ll ever buy. However, some players do not realize this and stick with a racquet that is too heavy or too light for them. The result: poor performance and possibly injury. Here’s how to make sure your next purchase makes a positive difference in your game.

Before even shopping for a new racquet, make sure you go through everything about your current racquet from the grip size to the string tension to ensure it fits your preferences and playing style. If you’ve been using an older model that doesn’t match these criteria but find yourself smashing winners anyway, then it’s time for a change – even if there isn’t anything drastically wrong with your old stick. “When I first played with the Head Youtek Radical Pro, I realized how much better it was than my old racquet after just a few minutes hitting back and forth,” said No. 8-ranked Mardy Fish of the U.S. Davis Cup team. “The feel and touch were incredible – it felt like it was an extension of my arm.”

The next step is to find out what type of player you are: baseline basher or all-court player? If you’re a power player who likes to stand way behind the baseline and slash away at every opportunity, then look for something that’s head heavy, has a larger sweet spot and is slightly more flexible than average so you can generate maximum racket speed and spin around the court. If you’re a more versatile player who likes to mix things up by rushing the net or hitting high, heavy balls that drop into the corners of the court, then something with a little more weight in the head will help keep your shots inside the lines.

Racket manufacturers use different materials and technologies to construct racquets. For example, for years titanium was used as it had all the stiffness of graphite but was 40 percent stronger. Then along came new materials like ceramics which are stiffer than titanium yet weigh 30 percent less. So if you want to move away from one-material racquets, start checking out some of the newer designs on the market today.

“I am currently using a Prince Textreme Warrior because it’s extremely versatile, but I like racquets that are powerful and I can ‘crank up’ when necessary,” said No. 1-ranked Serena Williams. “This racquet is perfect for me.”

But whatever you do, don’t buy a new racquet without first testing it out at your local club or hitting facility. If you’re able to demo one or two before making your final selection, all the better. But if not, the best thing to do is find a retailer who will allow you 30 days after purchase to use their demo program so that you can see how it feels in match play. And once you’ve found the right racquet, just remember: practice makes perfect!

“When I first picked up a racquet, I really didn’t get the hang of it,” said American John Isner. “I still remember when my mom bought me a Prince graphite racquet and I used to hit against this wall all day long. By the time she bought me another one, I was hitting forehands and backhands. It takes practice, but with enough dedication, you can do anything.”