Tennis racquets typically come in three headsizes: midsize, midplus, and oversize. Guidelines say that a midsize racquet should offer 85–95 square inches of hitting area, a midplus racquet about 95–105 square inches, and an oversize racquet more than 105 square inches.Larger heads have more weight farther away from the long axis, making it difficult to move the racquet around it. The sweetspot is thus bigger on larger racquets: off-center hits on large racquets cause less twisting. But not always: smaller headsizes may have more weight nearer to the axis. On center-line hits, a larger racquet alone should not make any difference to the power. Indeed many mids and midpluses will provide very high power for hits along the center of the racquet because of their mass distribution. In fact, many so-called player’s racquets are near the top, and are usually characterized by higher weight and lower headsize, balance, and stiffness. It is the higher distribution of mass near the head that more than makes up the difference, resulting in higher power potential.
Racquets are 27 to 28 inches in length. The longer the length of the racquet, the greater the leverage on a swing, and thus the greater power given to the shot. The advantages of longer racquets are extended reach (covering more of the court) and greater leverage on the serve, which generates more power. The main drawback of longer racquets is their reduced maneuverability and the greater difficulty controlling ball placement.
Weight is related to resistance to movement in a straight line. For example, the racquet resists your lifting efforts until you apply a force equal to its weight; only then can you lift it. You can feel the racquet’s weight by picking it up by the tip or handle, allowing the other end to hang down, or by picking it up at its balance point. Weight influences balance and swingweight, but it is rarely what the player experiences directly when interacting with the racquet.
A stiff racquet does not bend as much as a flexible one. Bending wastes energy, as the frame does not snap back before the ball leaves the strings. With the program above, you can see that frame stiffness seems to matter least just below the center of the racquet, and most near the tip. Near the center, at the “node of oscillation” (or “no vibration sweetspot”), the racquet will not bend when the ball hits it. At those locations, the program will list highly a few very soft frames with a lot of power. At the tip, where the frame wants to bend the most, stiffness is more important; here you will see stiffer frames at the top of the list.
Until the 1970s, almost all racquet sports employed wooden racquets with leather gripped handles and natural gut strings. The introduction of aluminum and steel frames paved the way for increasingly lightweight and durable materials. Now most racquet frames are light-weight graphite or graphite composites, incorporating materials like titanium, Kevlar, and fiberglass. These increase frame flexibility, while remaining cost effective.
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