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The evolution of the tennis racket.

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Introduction

Until about thirty years ago, wooden rackets were largely the popular rackets used by the majority of tennis players. As the trend to developing new technologies and increasing one's ability to play, new rackets arose from many new companies. These new rackets were made of metal and metal composites as well as included many advantages over the older wooden rackets. However, the introduction of this new generation of rackets proved not to be as valuable to companies and to the game as the wooden rackets were beforehand and thus changed the future of tennis. In the following paper, the new metal rackets of today will be proven to be an elevator for the game of tennis instead of stifling the growth of tennis, contrary to popular expectations. French monks first played tennis in the 11th and 12th centuries using their hands to hit the ball against a wall. Over time, people began to use other mechanisms to hit the ball because the constant pressure on the hand from hitting the ball caused pain. Gloves were the first innovation to the game and a few years later, players used webbed gloves to increase the hitting area. From gloves arose paddles and then the first strung rackets. According to Jeff Cooper, a tennis professional and historian, ancestors of the rackets that we formally know today were widely used by the 14th century (Cooper 1). However, it was not until the 1500's that Italian inventors developed wooden rackets and tennis was first played across nets. Nevertheless, tennis still did not have real rules. According to Jeff Cooper, it was not until the late 1800's that Major Walter Wingfield published the first rules of tennis similar to the tennis rules of today in London (Cooper 1). ...read more.

Middle

The stringing of the racket also affects the racket performance. Lower string tensions have been proven to provide more power while higher string tensions provide more ball control (Basic 1). The handle or grip of a racket is also important in the rackets' performance. Handles usually come in sizes between four and five inches and are made from wood or plastic covered in leather. Currently, racket grips are covered in polyurethane and are made with unique designs to provide the most comfort to the player according to Wilson Sporting Goods (Cushion-Aire 1). Added up, all of these characteristics are required to complete a good racket that meets the public's standards. The ever popular wooden rackets of the 1900's and earlier were originally made from wood with ash, maple, and okume. Wooden rackets usually weighed approximately 14 to 15 ounces and consisted of a balance centered at the neck of the racket with a small head. Because of the excessive weight of wood in making rackets, frames could not be made very thick or the racket would be too heavy to swing comfortably. However, this resulted in a flimsy, twisting racket with flexibility at the tip of the racket and smaller racket heads. If one had wanted to have a string tension reasonable for play, the head had to be small as a result of the pressure the string tension would produce. A larger wooden racket head would fold under the force of the string because of the limitations in the strength of wood. In addition, the wooden rackets featured a small sweetspot closer to the neck of the racket compared to the rather large sweetspots of modern rackets. As a result of these wooden racket characteristics, the wood rackets had a habit of causing tennis elbow. According to F. ...read more.

Conclusion

And with more frames than ever being designed for specific types of players, finding that magic wand has never been easier." (2001 Racket Guide 1) In addition, modern rackets are designed for all different types of players including strictly baseliners to serve and volleyers. Mark Macky, Dunlop's director of racket sports, shows this in the following statement, "It's no longer enough to make a racket for one ability level - beginner, intermediate, advanced. Today, companies make rackets that are targeted to specific styles of play. A serve and volleyer, for example, will want a different type of racket than a baseliner." (2001 Racket Guide 1) Although while racket manufacturers may have suffered from the introduction of modern rackets, consumers seem to benefit. According to "New York Times" newspaper, the new metal rackets prove to last longer and need restringing less often saving consumers money (Tenner 3). Furthermore, metal rackets can last up to ten years or more contrary to the wooden rackets that were damaged by age, warping, and cracking. In conclusion, although many tennis professionals believe that wooden rackets would increase the charisma of tennis, there is undeniable evidence that proves modern rackets to be better for the game and all levels of players. Newer rackets provide more options for tennis players, giving them more power and control than ever before therefore elevating the level of play in the game of tennis. They also appeal to lower levels of players making the game easier to learn and in effect, better for everyone. In addition, although the market seemed to be falling, it is currently rising for the game of tennis and showing this, the U.S. Open has had more viewers in the year of 2001 than ever before in the history of the game. 1 ...read more.

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