2013 Tennis Magazine Racquet Guide
Manufacturing is still largely a manual process
The racquet with which Andy Murray won Wimbledon has come through quite a technological journey.
Despite the authorities of Wimbledon shunning the advances in sport's fashion by insisting that clothing must be predominantly white, there is nothing they can do about the continuing advances in racquet technology.
Head is one of the leading manufacturers of racquets, and it can count six of the current men's top ten players among its patrons – Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Tommy Haas, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Tomas Berdych. The company's head of R&D, Ralf Schwenger, is challenged with keeping the leading players on top.
Back when Rod Laver and Stan Smith strutted their stuff on Centre Court, wood was the material of choice. In fact, wood was the only material available until Wilson launched its metal T2000 racquet in 1967; its long-throated, small-headed frame became the craze.
The head itself remained a constant size until Howard Head, the founder of the Head organisation working for the Prince brand at the time, introduced the first oversized head in 1976. The Prince Classic featured an aluminium frame and oversized head that was 50 per cent larger than the 65in2 of the standard wooden racquet.
Although the racquet was light and benefited from a huge sweet spot and increased power, it caused problems to advanced players as their power would distort the frame causing shots to fly off course. The answer was a new stiffer material – carbon fibre bonded by a plastic resin and dubbed as graphite, although that was technically incorrect. One leading example of this was the Dunlop 200G, used by John McEnroe and Steffi Graf, weighing only 350g.
"Nowadays the weight of a racquet varies a lot, " Schwenger says. "Our lightest racquet is around 230g and our heaviest is around 330g, so quite a large difference. I remember my parents playing tennis in the 1980s – my father was a strong man while my mother was a petite woman. However, their coach sold them both the same racquet because there was not the variety. Today we can offer different racquets to different players with different needs."
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