TENNIS RACQUETS: EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION January 25 2017, 0 Comments
THE TENNIS RACQUET
The man known as Slew was asked in the late 1970s about the changes in the equipment used to play tennis. He didn't hesitate. "You can play with a tomato can on a broomstick if you think you can win with it," he quipped. As the then-chairman of the US Tennis Association, his opinion carried.
But oh, how times have changed.
In 1993, Hester Slew died at the age of 80. During his lifetime he saw a game that evolved immensely. Wooden racquets became steel. (Jimmy Connors won at Wimbledon with a Wilson T2000 steel racquet). Steel became carbon. Carbon will - sooner rather than later become graphene.
Not all players used steel racquets, some being more comfortable with the wooden-frame models. Administrators were worried about the direction the sport was taking and questioned whether tennis drifting in a similar direction to motor sport where the game would be won or lost because of the technology and not the player?
Although Connors used metal until the mid-1980s, he soon found he was being left behind in the technology stakes. His rivals had shifted to more advanced designs and manufacturing techniques. Steel began to lose it’s shine but instead of returning to wood, other alternative were being explored. The result of all this innovation would herald a sport that was on its way to changing beyond all recognition.
Unlike Slew Hester, those responsible for tennis regulations today - the International Tennis Federation (ITF) - were bothered about technology. They keep tabs on everything - squishing every ball, for example, to ensure it makes the grade - bouncy, but not too much.
When the ITF looks at racquets its principal concern is whether they offer too much power. Given a free rein, a manufacturer could make a racquet so good at smacking the life out of a ball that the game of tennis would quickly descend into being little more than a serving competition. In other words, bone-dry boring. The awards and medals would then be highly predictable and spectators would dwindle.
The ITF tests racquet power using machines that move faster than the eye can follow. A computer calculates the speed of each ball. At 120 mph capability, the steel racquets fell well within the stated limits. However, to give some perspective of the power of players, Andy Murray delivered his fastest shot at a speed of 145 mph! A mind-blowing 233 km/h!
In the small Austrian town called Kennilbach, Head Inc., innovators of top racquets, set up shop. It is here that the champions Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova’s raquets are manufactured to their precise specifications. Innovation for improvement is ongoing and there are many more materials in the wings, waiting to add to the exhilaration for the crowds, watching tennis balls flying at speeds previously thought impossible.
Awards are part of the drive to be great. See http://www.prestigeawards.co.za/search?q=tennis&x=0&y=0 for the trophies and awards available to you, for all your champions! And there is much more to come.