Thursday, April 30, 2015

Marco Bitran: The History of Tennis Rackets


Tennis rackets as we know them today started to develop in the late 1800's when they were originally made from wood. A metal racket was tried but not successful until carbon-fibre was developed.

The earliest accounts of people playing tennis are in the 11th and 12th centuries when French monks first starting hitting a ball against a wall as a form of relaxation and exercise. This developed into wearing a webbed glove to hit the ball with and then a wooden paddle.

By the 14th century there was the first crude racket developed in Italy, using a wooden frame and animal guts to make the strings. The game played was a little like squash but played over a net inside and the rackets had long handles and small tear-drop shaped heads. The frame was made from one or more sticks of ash bent into shape and glued together.

Tennis rackets as we know them day started to develop in the late 1800's. It was Major Walter Wingfield that patented the first tennis racket and also set the rules for lawn tennis, an earlier version of today's more modern game. The invention was quickly taken up around the world but the actual design saw little change over the next hundred years, except that instead of simply being made from ash for strength, the wood was laminated together. The rackets were heavy with small heads.

There was a flirtation with metal racket frames but it was difficult to get good tension on the strings. It was also difficult to drill holes in the tubing to fix the strings without cutting through them. In 1975 an aluminum frame was used to enable a larger racket head to be manufactured but problems with the design meant metal frames were therefore abandoned until carbon fiber was developed.

Wooden rackets remained the most popular and different woods were laminated together for specific purposes. For example sycamore and maple gave strength, hickory was resistant to wear and tear and obeche was lightweight and good for filling the handle of the racket.

In 1969, Head, a ski company, applied the same technology used in the manufacture of skis to making a tennis racket and produced a racket made from a combination of metal and plastic. Other companies and manufacturers then went on to experiment with different materials.

By 1979 technology had moved on and a racket was invented whereby the strings where looped through metal wires within the frame, so getting over the problem of racket tension. It also meant the racket head could be made much bigger than with a wooden frame. Around ten years later carbon-fiber was invented and metal rackets gave way to lighter, stiffer rackets made from this new compound. Various other materials were added to the composite of the racket such as titanium and glass fiber.

Overtime tennis rackets became longer to give the player a bigger reach and strings were manufactured from nylon or polyester compounds, although a few top players insist on natural gut as they say it is more responsive. The way the strings are put on the racket has also changed over time with it generally being accepted that a tight pattern gives better control were as more power and spin can be achieved with a more open string pattern.

Various methods have now evolved for making rackets. The main one is when the frame is made from concentric tubes of carbon-fiber all put together within the mold and then the mold is closed and a resin injected into the frame. This then undergoes pressure treatment and intense heat to form the all in one shape and strength of the tennis racket. An alternative method involves nylon fibers being combined with carbon-fibers and on heating, the nylon melts and sticks the carbon fibers together in a rigid form.

The use of carbon fiber has allowed tennis rackets to become larger, more long lasting and resistant but also to remain lightweight. Over the years other elements have been introduced to help shock and vibration absorbing and the major manufacturers of sports rackets and tennis rackets continue to develop and innovate with emerging technology.

Racket Reviewer reviews the latest and bestselling tennis rackets [].

The site also has news, articles and loads of information on tennis, squash and badminton with a real focus on tennis and tennis rackets [].

No comments:

Post a Comment