Laver’s racquets had weight centered around the shoulders. That type of balance meant that he had to swing the racquet back, wait for it to gather itself, then swing it forward without letting it get out of sync with his body. You can see the 50’s and 60’s players doing that. They played tennis in slow motion. That was the insider secret to world class tennis: don’t do anything too fast: don’t just rip.
When racquets got better, the Prince Pro was the first, its balance was still centered around the stringbridge, but the stringbridge was low and the racquet was faster. It almost had an immediate response, which caused traditional players to say the game was losing its class because you could just go out there and rip.
Every other racquet was engineered to feel like the Prince Pro. Traditionalists have hated the Prince Pro. Everybody else loved it and tennis boomed. Becker’s racquet happened to be the best Prince Pro clone.
But lately, traditionalists have fought back. They are making racquets with the weight centered higher in the frame, more like the racquets Laver played with. Those racquets slow you down. We could go back to playing tennis in slow motion, never letting our bodies exceed the speed of the racquet, which was the secret to classy and successful tennis in Laver’s time. That tennis required a certain discipline but was less athletic.
It was classy, but Federer and Gonzalez have just showed us what the highest version of modern racquets can produce. How did Gonzalez get this racquet balance? Because Gonzalez’s game was in serious trouble. He was almost ready to quit tennis in the early rounds of the Australian. He was down on himself, and he has an influential coach, so his coach apparently got him some of the best state of the art racquets Babolat could produce.
The state of the art was no longer exclusive. Six-out-of-eight doubles semifinalist used the same racquet at the Masters. The doubles was spectacular. Federer came to the Australian with that racquet in perfect tune and played amazing tennis. Somehow, Gonzalez through his influential coach got this racquet balance technology. In two matches after he wanted to quit tennis altogether, Gonzalez had 65 winners and 5 errors.
In the Final neither Federer nor Gonzalez played well. That was probably because the traditionalists want to go back to 1950’s balance and they were actually offended by the tennis Federer and Gonzalez were playing. Traditional tennis is where you conform to the speed of the racquet. Gonzalez and Federer were both playing intuitive tennis, where you move the racquet as fast as your body could move. The tennis was inspirational. Tennis had achieved the pure athleticism of other sports.
It only lasted until the Semifinals of the Australian. That tennis was not seen in Chile yesterday as Gonzalez lost early. Nor at Delray Beach where Blake had the same racquet he used at the Australian, but it wasn’t at the level of Gonzalez’s racquet when Gonzalez beat him.
There is now another side to the “racquets are ruining tennis argument”. We’ve seen what perfect racquets can produce. They make tennis inspiring, which makes us think perfect racquets might be just what tennis needs.
Meanwhile, there is a war between racquet philosophies. Prince is slowly turning Sharapova’s racquet into Laver’s racquet balance. But Wilson decided on that occasion to give Serena the best racquet they could make. Sharapova got 3 games.
Last edited by johncauthen : 02-05-2007 at 04:30 AM.