Many historians believe that tennis originated in the 12th century in the monastic cloisters of northern France, but the ball was then struck with the palm of the hand, hence the name jeu de paume (“game of the palm”). Rackets were not used until the 16th century, and the game was dubbed “tennis.” It was popular in England and France, and Henry VIII of England was a big fan of the game, now known as “real tennis.”
Some original tennis courts still exist, including those at Oxford and Cambridge, as well as Falkland Palace in Fife, where Mary Queen of Scots used to play, and Hampton Court Palace. With the terror that accompanied the French Revolution, many of the French courts were decommissioned. During the early days of the French Revolution, the Tennis Court Oath (Serment du Jeu de Paume) was a pivotal event. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members of the Third Estate who were barred from attending an Estates-General meeting on June 20, 1789.
The first tennis racquet was invented and used in London in 1874. Because it was the first racket constructed of solid wood, McEnroe could have done a lot of damage with it. Let’s look at how rackets have evolved through the centuries.
There are different types of tennis rackets, to make things easier, we’ve divided rackets into some basic types based on their features: Wood rackets, Metal Rackets, Graphite Rackets, modern power rackets, and others.
1. The Old Wooden Rackets
Major Walter C. Wingfield registered his patent in London in 1874 for the equipment and rules of outdoor lawn tennis, which is widely regarded as the first version of what we play today. Wingfield’s equipment sets were sold for use in Russia, India, Canada, and China within a year. The racquet head had grown to roughly the size seen on wooden racquets into the 1970s, but the shape wasn’t quite as oval, with the head typically wider and often flattened toward the top.
Between 1874 and the end of the wooden racket era more than 100 years later, rackets underwent only minor changes. It improved over the course of a century, thanks to advances in laminating technology and string technology, but they remained heavy around 13-14 ounces and had small heads of around 65 square inches.
The wooden racket industry was dominated by Dunlop, Slazenger, Wilson, and Spalding. Most of the other competitors went out of business during this time period due to a lack of innovation and large established brands. The Dunlop Maxply Fort and the Wilson Jack Kramer were the two most important tennis rackets at that time.
2. Metal Rackets
A racket with a metal head was invented in 1889, although it was tried and failed to gain popularity throughout the century compared to the wooden racket. The usage of wood as a frame material was not really challenged until 1967 when Wilson Sporting Goods produced the T2000, the first popular long-throated, small-headed steel frame metal racket. It became a great seller, and Jimmy Connors, who played at the top of men’s professional tennis for much of the 1970s became its most renowned user.
René Lacoste invented and patented the first metal tennis racket in 1957 for his own use. Wilson, a well-known tennis racket company, eventually purchased the rights to it, and the metal racket first appeared in a Wilson catalog in 1969.
3. Graphite Rackets
Although Arthur Ashe was the first to use a 100% graphite tennis racket, he was not the most popular tennis player to use this style of racket. In 1980, John McEnroe and Steffi Graf used the first famous graphite rackets.
Graphite is a lightweight material with high strength, stiffness, and vibration absorption. Graphite racquets had the most wood-like feel in their early days, compared to other composites on the market. The disadvantage of graphite is that its structure is made up of brittle fibers. Too much wear and tear on the court can cause damage, reducing its ability to be a useful tool in one’s game.
Most rackets on the market today contain graphite in some form or another. It is well-known for its lightweight and for providing excellent power, control, and feel for the ball. This material, however, works best when combined with another resin-like fiberglass.
4. Common Tennis Rackets of today
By the late 1980s, technology had advanced further, and the materials used were, and continue to be, a blend of alloys, ceramics, fiberglass, boron, titanium, and Kevlar. Tennis is one of the most watched and played sports in the world, so all of the brands got involved. The main difference between rackets from the 1990s and now is marketing and branding. For example, Andre Agassi, who switched from Donnay to Head, is responsible for the global sale of millions of Head Radical rackets. Or Andy Roddick, who popularized the pure Drive with his US Open victory in 2003.
Some companies have tried adding other materials to improve. Nothing has changed drastically in the way rackets are made up to this point. Kevlar is similar to graphite, with the exception that it is lighter, stiffer, and better at transmitting vibrations. Beginners, on the other hand, find that both kevlar and titanium tennis rackets are difficult to control and are hard on the arms after a while.
5. Power Tennis Rackets
Power tennis rackets, also known as game improvement rackets, enable players to hit with more power and depth while exerting less effort. These tennis rackets are typically excellent choices for beginners who have yet to develop the proper technique, form, and skill to generate power. At this stage, players will have shorter, compact strokes, which will evolve over time.
However, this type of tennis racket can also be an excellent choice for smaller players, men, and women with limited strength, or players in their golden years who struggle to generate the power they once had.
6. Tweener Rackets
A “tweener” racket is one that weighs between 10 and 11.5 ounces and has a head area of at least 98 square inches. It’s a terrific alternative for a younger junior player who wants a racket with decent control without being too light. Tweener rackets combine the lightness and force of power rackets with the control of player rackets.
Using a tweener racket has numerous advantages. One of these is universal utility. This racket’s characteristics provide the ideal balance of control and power, making it excellent for all levels of players, including novices. So, when your kids are into this sport, you are choosing the best options just like when you prepare the basic essentials they need to play baseball. This racket is also appropriate for a wide range of skill levels and playing styles.
Another advantage of a tweener racket is its affordability. The majority of tweener rackets available are less expensive than the other two categories, making them the ideal racket for beginners and intermediate players.