Parts of a Tennis Racket
The term “racket” was taken from the French word “raquette,” literally translated as “wand” or “bat.” Aptly, it refers to a handheld apparatus swung around.
The tennis racket was originally made out of solid wood when it was created in 1874 by a Welsh inventor and a Major named Walter C. Wingfield. Because of this, it was heavy and could practically be used as a weapon outside of the tennis court (just like its namesake, the bat).
Amazingly enough, this wooden implement remained the official racket for the sport despite the invention of the metal version in 1889.
Other steel versions followed through the years but never trumped the popularity of the original wooden racket.
That was until 1967 when Billie Jean King won the US Nationals wielding a Wilson T-2000, a lightweight, stainless steel racket designed by French tennis legend Rene Lacoste in 1953.
It had a larger head than its wooden counterpart and provided the player with more control and force on the ball. It became even more popular when it became Jimmy Connor’s signature racket for 18 years, winning admirers and grand slam tournaments with it. He loved it so much that he didn’t stop using it until the end of its production.
History of the steel racket
After that pivotal moment in history, the tennis racket manufacturers continued to experiment with other materials, such as aluminum, graphite, carbon fiber, titanium, and even Kevlar.
Much of today’s rackets are composites of these. Size has changed too, with the introduction of wider racket heads starting with the Prince Classic in 1976.
The wider head allowed players—pros and beginners alike—to have a lesser margin of error when hitting the ball. This increased more interest in the sport.
Designs gradually leaned towards bigger racket heads, prompting the International Tennis Federation to put a cap of 125 square inches in the sport’s rules in 1981.
Most professional players today use rackets with a head size between 95 and 100 square inches. The preference of different players has spurred on the evolution of the tennis racket, and it continues to do so today.
The Parts of a Tennis Racket
A lawn tennis racket is made up of three major parts:
- The Head
- The Shaft
- The Handle
Now that we have a general image of a racket, the details of every section and subsection of a modern age tennis racket will be discussed below.
The head is the oval-shaped frame of the racket where the strings are tied to give a better return of the ball. This is the area where all shots should be hit.
The tennis racket head is further characterized into the following parts and optional components.
The Beam or Frame
This is the side of the racket’s head, indicating its thickness. It may look like a small part of the racket, but it’s significant. Large beams allow strings to move more than smaller beams do.
Stronger beams can endure more string tension, allowing for adjusting the string tension to the player’s needs.
Such tight strings can give the player more power, but the downside is less control of the ball, as thicker beams add more weight to the racket itself, making it hard to maneuver around.
Most players prefer a racket with a smart balance of strength and beam thickness, where there is enough string tension to assist a low power shot.
The material of which the frame is made is equally important. The most common material for the manufacturing of a tennis frame is graphite.
This lightweight but powerful material may be used in its pure form or composite form, along with other materials such as Kevlar, fiberglass, copper, titanium, tungsten, aluminum, and maybe boron.
The Bumper Guard
The bumper guard is a plastic protective extension on the top of a racket that protects the top of the frame and the strings.
It is usually millimeters in thickness but can prove very vital. Players usually need this when playing shots close to the ground.
This layer protects the racket frame and the string coming out of the top from scrapping if the racket gets dragged on the court surface.
These bumper guards may need to be replaced depending on the usage of the racket. For those who frequently play on cement ground or any other tough courts, the bumper may be worn off and needs to be replaced by a new one.
This may sound a lot of work or expense, but it isn’t too laborious compared to a string snapping off or a cracked frame.
This refers to the outer edge of the racket’s head or frame. It is usually referred to as the rubber collar sliding over the overgrip finishing tape, keeping it in place.
It’s not vital to the construction of a racket, but most players prefer it for the extra protection, and premium look it provides to the racket itself.
Grommets are the plastic hollow knobs that prevent the strings from rubbing against the frame, protecting both the frame and the string that passes through it.
Grommets typically protect the string from breaking or scrapping. When the string is tightened on the frame during the fitting process, the harder and sharp edges of the frame may break the string even before playing with it.
Grommets play the fundamental role of a shield at the moment of the fitting.
These plastic hollow tubes are also sometimes referred to as Washers and may need replacing when they wear down. They can also absorb vibrations and endure shocks if they’re thick enough.
They can also absorb vibrations and endure shocks if they’re thick enough. The Grommets may come in single hollow pieces or in a single grommet strip unit to be placed with ease and efficiency.
A Grommet can also vary in aspect ratios. The length, width, and thickness of a grommet can vary regarding your frame dimensions.
Smaller rackets require a smaller and narrower grommet. A bigger racket requires a longer and wider Grommet. Each dimension of a grommet has a certain property and condition to its gameplay.
A narrower grommet restricts the movement of a string in its frame during contact with the ball. This reduces the power but increases the efficiency of the shot. On the contrary, a wider grommet has the advantage of producing more power in the shot.
But due to massive movements of the string in its axis, as compared to the narrow washer, it compromises the control in the shot.
Characteristics and dimensions of a racket head
The dimensions of a tennis racket in the market vary greatly, mainly due to categories or age groups of players adopting this game.
A beginner or an amateur may like a smaller racket, and a professional might prefer a broader head. A beginner medium-sized head can vary around 95 – 100 square inches.
Big heads are those that reach 110 square inches, and massive racket heads can go up to 120 square inches.
With a larger head size comes more power for your hits but less ball control, and a smaller head means more control but less power. A smaller head also allows players to move faster.
All amateur and advanced players want balance, control, speed, and power, depending on their technique and style of play.
They prefer mid-sized rackets, while beginners are encouraged to use the ones with oversized heads.
Do professional players sacrifice power for speed with the smaller racket heads? Not necessarily. The hours of practice and the amount of effort they pour into the sport allow them to develop power in their hits while maintaining proper ball control.
The standard dimensions available on the market are majorly concerned by amateurs and beginners.
Strings are the most important part of the racket, but they form the face of the head when woven. These are thin materials running throughout the head.
The vertical strings are considered mains, while those running horizontally are crosses. Tennis strings are significant because of the contact point with the ball.
Different kinds of strings and the amount of tension they provide affect the feel of the racket and the performance.
A tighter string tension of 70 pounds or above provides greater control but requires more power generation.
The strings below a tension of 65 can help generate more power, but control of the ball is lost. So, a moderate string tension can help achieve the perfect balance of power and control in shots.
Tennis racket strings can be made of different kinds of materials that can either be natural or synthetic.
Natural materials include the cow intestine, which is the most efficient kind of tennis string for its ability to stay soft even when tightly strung. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive to produce.
Synthetic tennis strings are usually made of nylon and polyester but can also be combined with other materials, such as Polyurethane, Polyolefin, or Kevlar. These combinations are called “Multis.”
Recent advancements in string technology have produced some Multis that rival the performance of natural strings. The materials used in the strings and the amount of tension it is strung with impact the player’s power, control, and amount of vibration in each shot.
The small hollow portion between two V-shaped rods joining the bottom rail of the head to the top end of the handle is called the racket’s shaft.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be hollow, but most modern rackets are hollow or open throat, as it cuts down excessive and unwanted weight and helps the aerodynamics of the racket.
This design is also significant, as it dictates the racket’s flexibility. Almost all modern rackets are open-throat.
The handle is the bottom area of the racket where the player grips the tennis racket, typically ranging from 4 to 4 5/8 inches without the grip.
Though the variation in circumference seems subtle, it is significant to the player who handles the racket. A tiny change in what’s comfortable might result in strain or injury.
Although companies manufacture every same racket in multiple handle sizes. This provides players with a choice of handle length and circumference that suits their gameplay. A small change in the length of your new racket may seem significant.
As the length of a racket’s handle increases, the torque required also changes and makes the shots much difficult. Uneven distribution of torque for your wrist may prove to be a serious setback.
Much like the head, the handle of a racket also has some characteristics and important parts that add meaning to this base instrument of the game.
Here are some of them explained in detail for a better understanding of the final construction:
Each racket has 8 bevels or edges on its handle, as can be seen from the bottom, and is illustrated in this diagram.
These are numbered 1 through 8 clockwise for a right-handed player and counter-clockwise for a left-handed player.
Bevels 1 and 5 are parallel and longest of all sides and are in line with the flat or net surface of the head. The even edges are the shortest sides and are located at 135 degrees from all odd sides.
The 3rd and 7th bevel are parallel and are at a 90-degree angle to the 1 and 5. These bevels are in line with the frame of the racket head.
This uneven length distribution of edges provides a better feel of the grip corresponding to the frame of the racket when rotated in the palm and helps get better control of the handle.
Each bevel also corresponds to the grip styles of the modern era, depending on the finger placement on each edge.
This is the thick yet soft broad ribbon-like insulation used to tie around the bevels. This is done to provide a better contact area for the player’s hand.
Tennis grips can be made up of many materials. It all comes down to the personal preference of every player. Common grip materials used rubber, leather, or synthetic polymers, such as Neoprene.
The synthetic grips can have patterns on them or textures that help to increase the friction and also provide a lively touch to the grip. Most grips have embedded dots that help air circulation and reduce sweat buildup on the grip in hot summer games.
The Over Grip
Most players like to use an extra grip over the main grip to provide some extra cushioning on the handle.
This overgrip also helps reduce the strain on the wrists and knuckles, and the fingers can go deeper into the grip rather than brushing off.
The Grip Tape and Collar
The grip tape is found at the top of the handle. It helps keep the grip from detaching. Some rackets also have a rubber collar attached on top of the grip tape to make it more secure.
The Butt and the Butt Cap
This is the end or the bottom of the handle and is closed by the butt cap. The butt cap is the wider piece put at the butt, which is wider than the handle with the grip.
This prevents the racket from sliding out of the player’s grip, giving the racket a knuckle of stability. The butt caps are made up of plastics of different qualities. These are usually removable and allow the player to add weights to balance the racket.
Brands also use butt caps as a way of showing their Branding popping out on the racket in new 3D reflective or embossed logos.
Some brands offer extended handles for more power and leverage. This can be a good advantage depending on the kind of grip the player has.
In summary, any person can be easily overwhelmed when asked about something ambiguous, even if the subject isn’t much difficult itself.
This article covers all the basic knowledge regarding the parts and construction of a racket. Once all these have become familiar, the game of tennis will start to feel much easier, natural and based upon deep-rooted knowledge and understanding.