In effect, many different types of rackets began to appear on the market. Metal rackets were beginning to take over and the wooden rackets were becoming obsolete. Rackets that were made of steel appeared as early as the 1920’s but not until the 1960’s did the first steel racket become popular with the Wilson T2000 used by Jimmy Connors. The Wilson T2000 proved to be lighter and stronger than wooden rackets and innovators continued to develop more rackets like it.
However, the reign of the Wilson T2000 was short lived. According to Edward Tenner, author of When Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences, the Prince was the next metal racket to storm the market. Introduced in 1976 by Howard Head, the Prince was an oversized, aluminum racket mainly directed for amateur players. This new racket had a surface area almost twice the size of the normal wooden racket, which was still widely popular in the 1970s, at 130 square inches and a much larger sweet spot as well.
The Prince also seemed to lower tennis elbow symptoms (Tenner 1). Not only did this new racket appeal to the middle-aged men for whom it was designed but also professionals began to use it because of the exceptional power it offered compared to the wooden rackets of the time. As a result, metal rackets seized the market and wooden rackets were virtually eliminated. According to Edward Tenner, Bjorn Borg, one of the top players of his time, was one of the last few that used the wooden rackets. He proceeded to lose 12 of 17 games to a player ranked 52nd in the Monte Carlo Open of 1991. Bjorn Borg played with a wooden racket while the lower ranked player used a graphite-fiber racket (Tenner 2). Professionals using wooden rackets were not able to compete with those that used metal because of the extraordinary power offered by the Prince clones.
As time passed, more and more new rackets were introduced. Many producers began to develop rackets the consisted of metal composites where different metals were strung together to form the frames of the racket. At the entrance of the new metal composite rackets, one of the most famous rackets was the Dunlop Max 200G, which was used by John McEnroe and Steffi Graf. At around the same time as well, Wilson introduced wide-bodied frames giving rackets more racket stiffness. Although these rackets faded in popularity, they changed the way newer rackets were made and caused newer rackets to be wider than previous racket frame designs. In fact, many companies have looked towards electricity in the present day rackets to stiffen frames.
According to Jeff Cooper, a number of rackets made by Head use piezoelectric technology which converts vibration or motion to electrical energy, which in turn is used to stiffen the metal composite materials within the frame (Cooper 3). However, these rackets have not appeared to be appealing to the professional player, most likely because of the excess of power they offer that can often be uncontrollable for the advanced player.
To understand how the physical properties of a racket are obtained, a few laws of rackets are explained in the following paragraph. According to Tennis Warehouse, an accomplished tennis supplier, larger frames generate more power, are more resistant to twisting, and have larger sweetspots. A sweetspot is the area of a strung racket that provides the greatest energy return or power and accuracy with the least amount of shock or vibration. Also, heavier frames generate more power, vibrate less reducing the elbow stress factor, and have a larger sweetspot. In addition, a stiffer frame generates more power and has a larger sweetspot as well but puts more shock on the arm. A stiffer frame also gives a more uniform ball response on the whole area of the string making it more forgiving and giving the racket better feel.
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. H. Froes, tennis elbow was caused by the tremendous pressure of hitting the tennis ball repeatedly with the weight of the racket. This produced stress on the elbow damaging small blood capillaries in the elbow muscles and tendons thus causing pain in the elbow (Froes 1). Therefore, many companies began to seek new designs of rackets to increase power and control as well as dissipate the damages of wooden rackets.
The modern tennis rackets are made of contemporary metals and metal composites. According to F. H. Froes, the rackets of today are made from metals including steel, aluminum, magnesium, titanium, graphite, Kevlar, and metal-matrix composites such as carbon-fiber reinforced rackets (Froes 1). Metal composite rackets were designed to compensate for the twisting and weakness of the aluminum rackets. Professionals desired more control and accuracy than the aluminum rackets provided and therefore, companies developed metal composites such as the Wilson Hyper Carbon series, which is reinforced by carbon-fiber. Also, modern rackets tend to weigh much less than wooden rackets weighing at an average of 10.5 ounces according to Jeff Cooper (Cooper 3). A few modern rackets reach weights as low as 7 ounces as well.
Contradicting the wooden rackets, modern rackets have a very large sweetspot and are in effect, unlimited to virtually any design possible. Rackets made of metal and metal composites can be made small, large, long, or short and are not limited to the shapes or sizes of the heads, handles, and frames because of the flexibility in design of the metal and metal composites on the market today. In addition, tennis elbow is greatly reduced among the modern rackets because of the ability of the metal and metal composites vibration absorption.
Rackets today are also designed to complement the style of play the player prefers. They are made specifically for certain types of players such as baseliners or all-court players, which are publicly known as serve and volleyers. As a result, modern rackets offer players more flexibility and a larger market in racket selecting.