A tennis racket may look simple to the eye, but the technology surrounding this simple piece of equipment is in fact extremely elaborate. Over the course of the last century and a half the tennis racket has undergone a drastic period of evolution to become rackets like the 2019 Babolat Pure Aero. The modern tennis racket first entered the light in 1874, this racket was hard heavy and made entirely from solid wood. Advancements in laminated technologies allowed for the first laminated wooden racket, this was a game changer as it was lighter, offered more stability and allowed for higher accuracy. Wooden rackets held the spotlight for nearly a whole century, up until the year 1970. In the year 1970 steel rackets finally took the spotlight. A player known as Jimmy Connors entered Wimbledon and completely demolished his opponents who were using the outdated laminated wooden rackets. This thrashing brought upon a change in popularity and slowly everyone changed to metal rackets. In 1973 the first aluminium racket was die cast. Aluminum rackets gained popularity but only for a brief period of time. Many players found that hard hitting shots would cause flexibility in the frame, thereby changing the way in which the string plane was facing, causing the ball to rikochet into some unintended direction. For this reason many manufacturers switched to graphite rackets. Graphite rackets gave players a significant advantage as they were less flexible than the aluminum rackets, they were just as light and provided the player with a power advantage. Since this evolution to graphite, racket materials haven’t changed much. Nearly all rackets today have some form of graphite composition in them for stiffness and stability.
Today’s tennis racket is not all that simple, every racket has a purpose. All tennis racket companies have started to or already have engineered tennis rackets to suit a person’s playing style. For instance today’s tennis racket now comes in three different types. The first is known as the power racket. Power rackets are generally very versatile, they come in a wide range of materials such as titanium and carbon fibre. These rackets are generally light overall, but feature a larger heavier head to supply extra power in each swing. The next racket is known as the ultimate control racket. This type of racket is more commonly used by intermediate to very high skilled players. Characteristics of this racket include a small light head, heavy weight, thin beam, improved balance, and a frame that is not too stiff. Although there are various types of this racket, their main purpose is to provide ultimate control. The final type of tennis racket is the tweener racket. This racket incorporates both elements of the other two types to create a racket that has medium power and control to suit all types of play styles. Furthermore, Engineers are constantly working till this day, experimenting and testing new materials to create innovative new ideas and developments for the tennis racket. Although there hasn’t been any stand out changes to the tennis racket since graphite materials were introduced, engineers for tennis companies such as Babolat are embracing new technologies such as robotics, digital mapping and material science to create high tech rackets such as the 2019 Babolat Pure Aero, which has a higher swing rate, and upgraded aerodynamic beam from the previous year model.
Tennis rackets also have strings, and just like the rest of the racket this element has also evolved overtime. Although not as much of a significant change to the game and its players as developments in the framework, strings still are a part of the evolution of today’s racket. When the modern tennis racket was first made in 1874, its strings were made from the outer skin of the sheep intestine called serosa. After World War II and some experimenting, many started switching to strings made from cow gut as it was more effective and required half the amount of cows to sheep. Strings made from animal guts are still used to this day by serious players looking to have a certain quality of tension in their rackets. Although some people still use natural gut, it is an expensive material and is not that durable. Hence the reason why, a new and cheaper string appeared on the market. In the 1970’s synthetic strings began to be explored as a way to cut costs and increase durability. The main materials utilized to make synthetic strings are polyester, kevlar, zyex, ventran, polyurethane, or nylon. Tennis popularity boomed in the 1980’s and it was from here that racket producers started experimenting with the physics behind the game, and which racket string tensions were able to enhance a player’s performance. For this reason hybrid strings were introduced. Hybrid strings serve one main purpose, apart from being cost effective, they allow a player to alter the strings they use to a certain playing style, for example some hybrid string combinations allow for more spin than the usual synthetic strings. For this reason most professional tennis players and competitive players use hybrid strings.