They have been around for almost 150 years but their history dates back to the 11th century.
This article will introduce you not only to the history of tennis rackets but also how they are today. Moreover, do not skip the end because we got you some interesting facts there.
It can be shocking but the first racket we used is… our hands! The French monks played a sport similar to tennis back in the 11th century. However, they used their bare hand to pass the balls back and forth. Later on, they wore gloves to protect their hands but no one thought of rackets.
It takes another 800 years for the first real racket to be invented in London by Major Walter C. Wingfield. In 1874, wood was a common material and for the next 100 years that what they used to make tennis rackets. Nonetheless, the first products were the heaviest because they were made of solid wood.
By the mid 19th century, lawn tennis came to life and became people’s favorite sport. That is when a lighter wooden racket type with wide heads was invented. Players could pass the ball easier with those but they were still relatively heavy for them.
The real change came in 1947 when laminated wooden rackets were born. It was an innovative development at the time. It helped lighten the idea substantially and made them so much more straightforward to use.
All the big names including Dunlop, Slazenger, and Wilson gained their popularity during that time. They created a competition bringing continuous developments and new creations in the industry.
In 1969, Wilson introduced their first metal rackets. Their T2000 had 67 square-inch heads allowing players to create the most powerful shots. Consequently, they created a new trend. Laminated wooden rackets quickly disappeared into the past.
Since then, companies have been trying to create lighter and more flexible rackets with materials like aluminum and graphite. However, too flexible can be a problem. That is why aluminum models are not a popular choice now but graphite ones which gained their popularity since the 1980s.
1. Modern rackets’ main features
Since the invention of graphite models, there has been no dramatic change in the tennis racket world. Now, most of them have heads around 100 square inches. Besides, our current rackets all have some graphite in them to add stability and flexibility.
Graphite rackets are also extremely lightweight compared to their ancestors. On average, they only weigh around 10 ounces. Some can even be as light as 7 ounces. This is a huge step in preventing injuries and providing more comfort for the players.
As players’ wants and needs are paid more attention than ever, they now can choose the level of control they want in a racket. The beginners can start with mid-control models. Meanwhile, experts can show off their power using ultimate-control them with thin beams and smaller heads.
Some other materials have been brought into the game including Titanium and Hypercarbon. However, they made with these materials are hard for beginners to control. In the end, graphite ones are still the most common and favorite rackets.
2. Popular brands
As tennis has become one of the most popular sports in the world, the number of tennis racket brands has increased considerably. Nevertheless, the biggest name in the industry is still Wilson. They are commonly used by both professionals and regular players.
Coming close to Wilson’s first place is Head. They are always in competition for the most used them in ATP top 100. In WTP, the name against Wilson is Babolat, another strong competitor in the race to be the biggest tennis racket brand.
Some other familiar names are Yonex, Tecnifibre, Prince, Dunlop, and Pacific. However, they are more common to amateurs. Usually, up to 70% of professionals in ATP and WTP use models from Wilson, Head, or Babolat.
3. Current trends
After a long period of extending rackets’ head, the regulation for it was set at 120 inches. Nowadays, most companies focus on making head symmetrical and stable. It is not all about power anymore but also the control over the rackets.
Besides, design and look are becoming an important part. Wilson recently launched a platform allowing players to customize their products according to their tastes. Personalization is now one of the key cards for tennis racket brands to retain and acquire customers.
4. The future’s rackets
Tennis rackets are a growing industry that attracts large investments each year. Companies are still constantly researching and launching new models. It is foreseen that the use of materials such as aluminum will continue to be perfected to create better rackets.
However, as the quality of the tennis racket has become so high, even the biggest name in the industry is having problems making progress. The latest big news is Head introducing a piezoelectric tennis racket that uses electric energy to dampen the vibration.
Nonetheless, it is still in the early phase and people are still skeptical. With all the magical technologies now, everything seems possible but we need to wait and see what possibility can come true.
What was used in old tennis rackets? We all know they were first made of wood but then came an interesting list of ingredients. Some had steels, fiber–polymer composites, and any kind of materials that might help to make them lighter.
How are tennis rackets made? The process of making them is a long and complex one. Different layers of materials including aluminum, graphite, and fiberglass are combined. Then, they are cured and harden before string holes are made. Finally, there will be a polishing step.
What country is tennis from? Although a similar form of tennis had been played in France, modern lawn tennis was created in England in the 19th century.
Are old products worth anything? There are collectors of old products. They can also be found in sports museums. However, ancient tennis models are not commonly known to have a high market value.
When did they stop using wooden rackets? People still use wooden models after the introduction of metal products in 1969. No one knows exactly the year when the wooden racket disappeared but it was in the 1980s when graphite products took the throne.
What are products made of today? Unlike their ancestor, modern rackets are made of various materials. They verify among different types of these products but the most common ones are graphite, kevlar, fiberglass, copper, titanium, and tungsten.
When were wooden rackets last used at Wimbledon? People last seen a wooden racket in Wimbledon was in 1987.
Why is it called tennis? The name of the game came from its French origin. In the language, “tenez” is the plural imperative form of the verb tenir which means “to hold”.
The history of tennis models has gone through a long and impressive period. It has a big part in transforming tennis into the famous sport we know today. Nevertheless, it is a history in the making because there will be so much more to come in the future.