When I discovered the racket manufacturing process, it was a whole world I wasn't expecting.
I realised that everything I knew was wrong.
I decided to start from scratch by asking myself a question: what is tennis, technically speaking?
Tennis is a sport that's all about timing, feel and compromise:
- Feel: in tennis, when a player hits the ball, the racket vibrates, and what the player feels combined with the resulting ball trajectory gives the player a sense of the benefits or disadvantages related to the racket (power, control, forgiveness, stability, manoeuvrability, etc.).
These sensations are also known as "product benefits" and will depend on the player.
- Compromise: in tennis (unlike in golf), a player has only one racket with which to hit a variety of strokes, play offence or defence, serve, etc. And depending on their body, playing style, technical skills and level, the compromise they choose to make will vary. We don't believe in a single "ideal" racket that will be optimal for any player. Instead, we develop a range of different rackets designed for different players' varying needs
- Timing: this matters because learning to play tennis involves "coordinating" your mind and body very precisely to know "when" you should start swinging to hit the ball, no matter how it comes towards you.
Timing is directly related to manoeuvrability. It's important to note that one of the first things people get wrong about tennis rackets is the relationship between manoeuvrability and racket weight.
We tend to think that the heavier the racket, the harder it is to handle and vice versa. But this simply isn't true. Weight is only one part of the equation when it comes to manoeuvrability, and it isn't the most relevant factor. Take, for example, a hammer. Hold it by the handle and shake it, then grab it by the head and do the same. I guarantee that you won't have the same feeling of manoeuvrability, even though the hammer's weight hasn't changed, only its position in your hand.
When talking about tennis rackets from a technical viewpoint, we have to distinguish between product benefits and technical features.
1. Product benefit: feel, which depends on the player.
2. Technical feature: measurable according to a protocol > does not depend on the player.
Rackets have seven basic technical features:
- Head size
- Swingweight (best technical feature), correlates with manoeuvrability
- String pattern
These seven features are easily measured.
Note: I could also add grip size, which affects feel, but I tend to think of this as an option to consider once a player finds the right racket - it really depends on the player's hand.
There are also seven basic product benefits: