The Evolution of the Tennis Racquet
5 minute read · Issue Number 81 · August 13th, 2021
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Many readers and podcast listeners have been asking me for book recommendations related to sports & technology.
While there are a few decent sports tech textbooks out there, there’s no book with a particular sports tech focus.
Therefore, I’ve been thinking about writing the first book on sports technology.
What do you think?
I have a few ideas, but if you have chapter suggestions, ideas, or if you want to proofread or collaborate with me in any way, please let me know!
Once in a while, I like to take a deep dive into the science, technology, and evolution of sports objects. So far, we’ve studied sports apparel, hockey sticks, snowboards, and mountain bikes. Today, we’re diving into tennis racquets.
The Evolution of the Tennis Racquet
Tennis racquets, bats, and clubs are part of the collection of sports objects that aim to extend the arm length and allow the athletes to reach for a ball outside their arm span.
Additionally, these objects also provide more speed and power that a regular human arm could not afford.
Technology plays a vital role in the evolution of tennis racquets. They were really different in the past.
Before the 1980s, racquets’ frames were primarily made from wood, and one thing that distinguishes them from modern racquets is their relatively small elliptical hoops.
Now, most racquets are made from a combination of materials such as steel, aluminum, fiberglass, carbon fibers, graphite, foam, and hyper carbon.
Here’s a crazy fact about tennis:
Believe it or not, in the early days of tennis, almost all racquet strings were made from cow intestines. Today, most strings are made from nylon and polyester because its cheaper and more durable.
Depending on the athlete's preferences, mixing materials could provide variations in preferred stiffness, vibrations, weight, and power distribution.
Power Spot & Dead Spot
Tons of scientific studies made a great effort in improving the racquet physics for tennis athletes. Power and dead spot were key findings.
The power spot (also known as the sweet spot) is the place in the hoop that carries the most bounce strength.
It’s where the racquet strings vibrate best to translate your effort to kinetic energy for the ball.
It is located at the throat of the racket, near the center of mass.
In contrast, the dead spot (located at the top) is the place in the racquet that absorbs most of the kinetic energy without giving it back to the ball.
The shift from small wooden racquets to what we have today was evident for racquet manufacturers after they figured this out.
Most players like to generate as much spin as possible when striking the ball.
It allows the ball to dive down onto the court quickly after it passes over the net, making it hard for opponents to reach it.
How does it happen?
Strings generate spin by stretching sideways and then snapping back into position while the ball is still on the strings.
This effect happens so fast you couldn't even see it.
When scientists discovered it, they started fabricating more slippery strings that could stretch and return to their original position after impact.
The Future of Tennis Racquets
In 40 years, science made tons of progress in tennis racquets; however, there’s still room for improvements.
The combination of various materials and modern manufacturing techniques gives athletes the most efficient solutions.
In tennis, factors such as grip, types of vibrations, and friction are a few areas in which racquets could be improved. Nevertheless, comparing what we have now to what we had only 40 years ago makes me wonder what racquets will look like in 15 years!
🎙 Halftime Snack of the Week
This week’s guest is Brittany Gilman – professional athlete, entrepreneur, trainer, fitness model, designer, marketing director, and more.
Brittany is the CEO & founder of BG Sports – an agency that provides various services such as representation, PR, event production, branding, digital marketing, and much more to organizations and individuals.
In our conversation, we talked about determination, lessons, and mistakes, the beginnings of BG Sports, innovating an industry, common challenges athletes face, how technology disrupts sports, and more!
🎥 Messi’s Twitch Interview Shows How Social Media Is Conquering Sport; An app used mostly for watching video games just clinched the sports interview of the year in another blow to the traditional world of broadcasting.
♟Why Championship Chess Sets Are So Expensive; Much of the set's value lies in just one piece: the knight. Each knight must be carved by hand to look exactly the same. Making this one piece takes two hours, and fewer than ten people are trained to carve knights for the championship chess sets.
From the Vault
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Until next week,
Halftime Snacks Podcast