The truth about racquet material innovation

Dartagnan64

Legend
I disagree. The development of stiff and light Pure Drivesque frames (strung with poly strings) was a game changer. You may like it or not..
It wasn't the frame that was the innovation, it was the string. The Frame changed to accommodate the string. Poly was very low powered with oodles of spin, so lighter and stiffer frames allowed the player to develop RHS to accentuate the spin and yet have enough power to still drive the ball.

I'm sure if players were still using 100% natural gut in their frames they'd be using more flexible lower powered frames
 

BillKid

Semi-Pro
It wasn't the frame that was the innovation, it was the string. The Frame changed to accommodate the string. Poly was very low powered with oodles of spin, so lighter and stiffer frames allowed the player to develop RHS to accentuate the spin and yet have enough power to still drive the ball.

I'm sure if players were still using 100% natural gut in their frames they'd be using more flexible lower powered frames
Poly and PD-like frames are a match made in heaven, favoring the "modern game". Small size thin beam graphite frames used before the "PD era" just do not provide the same results. I know that traditional player racquets are still very good for many players, but it is clear that PD like racquets (coupled with poly)represent an important evolution.
 
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BillKid

Semi-Pro
Maybe for recreational players with poorer form but I disagree at the elite level in the mens game. Very few, if any, top players are using current generation pure drives and we cannot be sure that they are overly stiff. Babolat rep here claimed that babolat strung their tour frames hundreds of times to reduce the RA to mid/low 60s. Fognini's pure drive mould is over 20 years old with a stock RA of 64. Nearly all tour players are over 340sw with many much higher. HEAD players are nearly all using flexible arm friendly and solid frames that are not hollow. H19 and H22 are not played light and stiff. RF97 is not light nor overly stiff. Nadal is using a frame that is mid 60s with a tighter pattern and solid.

The top level is dominated by arm friendly player frames with a much more even distribution between 18x20 and 16x19 patterns. You also see that a lot of top players use natural gut hybrids. Even after all of the marketing by the big companys, when players get to the top level they still don't gravitate to stiff pure drives and light setups. With poor form or understanding of the long term impact of poly strings they are arm killers. Del Potro moved away from full poly for this reason and James Blake looks back on poly as a necessary evil only in the top levels of the game.
I know this theory. It may be true, I do not know to what extent. There are still probably some pro players using stiff frames. And even if Nadal use racquets with a RA around 65 it does not make a big difference. Many pro or high level players (males and females) are now using such frames that are very different from graphite racquets used back in the 80's or 90's. The same goes for poly vs gut. I remember Guy Forget commenting on how racquets like Babolat coupled with poly strings changed the game. What I was saying is that the appearence of PD like racquets was a major evolution in the graphite era, unlike BS magic pseudo innovation that get many of us buying new racquets more than needed.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
I know this theory. It may be true, I do not know to what extent. There are still probably some pro players using stiff frames. And even if Nadal use racquets with a RA around 65 it does not make a big difference. Many pro or high level players (males and females) are now using such frames that are very different from graphite racquets used back in the 80's or 90's. The same goes for poly vs gut. I remember Guy Forget commenting on how racquets like Babolat coupled with poly strings changed the game. What I was saying is that the appearence of PD like racquets was a major evolution in the graphite era, unlike BS magic pseudo innovation that get many of us buying new racquets more than needed.
Except it was an innovation in specs not an innovation in materials. You can make a light stiff frame out of any material if you want. In fact light stiff frames existed prior to poly. We called them granny rackets.
 

BillKid

Semi-Pro
Except it was an innovation in specs not an innovation in materials. You can make a light stiff frame out of any material if you want. In fact light stiff frames existed prior to poly. We called them granny rackets.
True but my first post was about racquet - not material - innovation. You are right that stiff and light existed before. Probably they became interesting at high level only when poly strings arrived. But the same could be said for poly ; it was not a new material and I am pretty sure that they existed in the 90's or even before maybe. But anyway, my point is just that an important evolution has occured with the widespread use of these racquets coupled with poly strings. Things have significantly changed since the first graphite frames. Call it innovation, evolution or whatever.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
it was not a new material and I am pretty sure that they existed in the 90's or even before maybe.
It did. It was the cheap plastic string they put in el cheapo rackets. It was felt to be inferior to syn gut. But then someone showed that slippery strings imparted more spin than grabby ones and Kuerten bought into that theory, put some Luxilon Big Banger in his frame and the rest is history. Death of the S&Ver.
 

BRS1076

New User
In the 80's/early 90's, there were racquets marketed as ceramic or composites. The first racquet I picked out for myself was the Pro Kennex Prophecy. My sister still has a Silver Ace packed away in a closet.
As a kid, I imagined manufacturers were baking tennis racquets in a massive kiln. :-D What were these ceramic particles? Bits of ancient Greek pottery blessed by Zeus?
 

vsbabolat

G.O.A.T.
Having spent some years in a materials research lab, pushing the boundaries on materials innovation, I can say that the vast majority of advancements in racquet technology year after year are gimmicks. Most "real" R&D take at least 5 years for the results of research to make an impact on actual product, but new technologies in tennis racquets are introduced year after year in the form of exotic materials that are purportedly lighter, stronger, more powerful etc. etc. For those who played in the late 90s, that material was titanium. And yet Ti is neither lighter nor stronger than woven carbon fiber. Racquets that claimed to incorporate Ti were 99.xx% graphite composite, barely enough Ti to make any significant difference. In the early 2000s, Wilson introduced Hypercarbon; this was nothing than a high-modulus graphite composite, similar to Prince's Graphite Extreme, that had been rebranded to incredible success. Around that time, Head, who championed the usage of titanium, introduced Liquidmetal tennis racquets. It was circa 2002-2003, and as a high school senior I thought, "wow, what an incredible material for tennis". Being naive and enamored with tennis gear and racquet tech, I was inspired to study materials science in college. Fast forward 4+ years and I found myself in grad school, joining a research group that specialized in none other than metallic glass, the academic name for Liquidmetal. Within a few weeks I learned that Head's usage of liquidmetal in their racquets was entirely a gimmick! Oh, the irony! There was barely any of the alloy in the racquets to make a difference in performance, and after studying the material in more depth, I realized Liquidmetal in racquets was probably not a suitable application to begin with. So here's the truth - many racquet companies (and especially Head) uses the strategy of identifying a cool material, incorporating a teeny tiny bit of it to accompany the tried and true graphite composite, and promote the product as the newest and best in the market. Their latest travesty is graphene. Graphene is a single 2d layer of hexagonally-packed carbon atoms. Graphite differs from graphene only in the number of layers; i.e. graphite == graphene but with more layers that are "weakly" bonded together. But if a single layer can be isolated, the material is pretty much the strongest substance on earth. The problem is that NOBODY has been able to grow a sizable sheet of graphene, certainly not nearly large enough to wrap it around the cross section of a racquet. So what Head has done is mix a lot of graphene particles into the composite resin matrix; the result is a material that's stronger than resin matrix but actually weaker and more compliant than carbon fiber, the typical material in graphite tennis racquets. I'm sorry to disappoint some on these forums, but the truth hurts sometimes. I hope someone would start a racquet company focusing on quality control and producing nice players racquets without all the marketing junk. The next time you buy a racquet for its new technology, keep in mind that the main material is still nothing else but tried and true graphite composite :)
Thank you for such a well thought out post! That’s why I still use my HEAD racquets form the 80’s and 90’s. HEAD did once make great quality frames that were high quality and manufactured in-house in USA and Austria.
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
In the 80's/early 90's, there were racquets marketed as ceramic or composites. The first racquet I picked out for myself was the Pro Kennex Prophecy. My sister still has a Silver Ace packed away in a closet.
As a kid, I imagined manufacturers were baking tennis racquets in a massive kiln. :-D What were these ceramic particles? Bits of ancient Greek pottery blessed by Zeus?
This is actually a really good question and what you imagined isn't too far off ;). Tennis racquets are baked. For a graphite racquet what typically occurs is layers of carbon prepreg (flexible sheets of woven carbon fiber infiltrated with an uncured resin) are wrapped around a cylindrical tube. The tubes are then placed in a racquet mold and the racquet is literally baked while hot air is blown into the hollow tubes. When the resin reaches a critical temperature, it becomes very soft, causing the tubes to expand, molding them against the shape of the rigid mold. Once curing is complete, you have a graphite composite racquet. Regarding ceramic, most people equate ceramic with pottery. But the world of ceramic materials is actually incredibly extensive; for example, aluminum-oxide (i.e. sapphire) is a ceramic. And so is crystalline SiO2, also commonly known as quartz. I'm not sure the types of ceramic that were used in ceramic racquets but I'm pretty sure they weren't made of the same stuff as your toilet. Like carbon, one can fabricate ceramic fibers and create a thin sheet of ceramic-fiber prepreg or a sheet of resin embedded with ceramic particles. You can then layer the ceramic prepreg with the carbon prepreg; sky's the limit for what can be tried. I'm not sure why ceramics were phased out of the racquet industry but probably manufacturing cost had at least something to do with it.
 
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jmacdaununder2

Hall of Fame
I kinda assumed they disappeared once it became apparent how harsh they were to play with; might as well play table tennis with tea saucers...
 

jmacdaununder2

Hall of Fame
Having spent some years in a materials research lab, pushing the boundaries on materials innovation, I can say that the vast majority of advancements in racquet technology year after year are gimmicks. Most "real" R&D take at least 5 years for the results of research to make an impact on actual product, but new technologies in tennis racquets are introduced year after year in the form of exotic materials that are purportedly lighter, stronger, more powerful etc. etc. For those who played in the late 90s, that material was titanium. And yet Ti is neither lighter nor stronger than woven carbon fiber. Racquets that claimed to incorporate Ti were 99.xx% graphite composite, barely enough Ti to make any significant difference. In the early 2000s, Wilson introduced Hypercarbon; this was nothing than a high-modulus graphite composite, similar to Prince's Graphite Extreme, that had been rebranded to incredible success. Around that time, Head, who championed the usage of titanium, introduced Liquidmetal tennis racquets. It was circa 2002-2003, and as a high school senior I thought, "wow, what an incredible material for tennis". Being naive and enamored with tennis gear and racquet tech, I was inspired to study materials science in college. Fast forward 4+ years and I found myself in grad school, joining a research group that specialized in none other than metallic glass, the academic name for Liquidmetal. Within a few weeks I learned that Head's usage of liquidmetal in their racquets was entirely a gimmick! Oh, the irony! There was barely any of the alloy in the racquets to make a difference in performance, and after studying the material in more depth, I realized Liquidmetal in racquets was probably not a suitable application to begin with. So here's the truth - many racquet companies (and especially Head) uses the strategy of identifying a cool material, incorporating a teeny tiny bit of it to accompany the tried and true graphite composite, and promote the product as the newest and best in the market. Their latest travesty is graphene. Graphene is a single 2d layer of hexagonally-packed carbon atoms. Graphite differs from graphene only in the number of layers; i.e. graphite == graphene but with more layers that are "weakly" bonded together. But if a single layer can be isolated, the material is pretty much the strongest substance on earth. The problem is that NOBODY has been able to grow a sizable sheet of graphene, certainly not nearly large enough to wrap it around the cross section of a racquet. So what Head has done is mix a lot of graphene particles into the composite resin matrix; the result is a material that's stronger than resin matrix but actually weaker and more compliant than carbon fiber, the typical material in graphite tennis racquets. I'm sorry to disappoint some on these forums, but the truth hurts sometimes. I hope someone would start a racquet company focusing on quality control and producing nice players racquets without all the marketing junk. The next time you buy a racquet for its new technology, keep in mind that the main material is still nothing else but tried and true graphite composite :)
Damn, 36 likes!! Just goes to show what can happen when someone who actually appears to know what he's talking about bothers to post! :);)
 

BRS1076

New User
This is actually a really good question and what you imagined isn't too far off ;). Tennis racquets are baked. For a graphite racquet what typically occurs is layers of carbon prepreg (flexible sheets of woven carbon fiber infiltrated with an uncured resin) are wrapped around a cylindrical tube. The tubes are then placed in a racquet mold and the racquet is literally baked while hot air is blown into the hollow tubes. When the resin reaches a critical temperature, it becomes very soft, causing the tubes to expand, molding them against the shape of the rigid mold. Once curing is complete, you have a graphite composite racquet. Regarding ceramic, most people equate ceramic with pottery. But the world of ceramic materials is actually incredibly extensive; for example, aluminum-oxide (i.e. sapphire) is a ceramic. And so is crystalline SiO2, also commonly known as quartz. I'm not sure the types of ceramic that were used in ceramic racquets but I'm pretty sure they weren't made of the same stuff as your toilet. Like carbon, one can fabricate ceramic fibers and create a thin sheet of ceramic-fiber prepreg or a sheet of resin embedded with ceramic particles. You can then layer the ceramic prepreg with the carbon prepreg; sky's the limit for what can be tried. I'm not sure why ceramics were phased out of the racquet industry but probably manufacturing cost had at least something to do with it.
I was wondering if "How They Make It" ever had an episode on Tennis Racquets. I did see one episode on the construction of fiberglass hockey sticks. Thanks for the utterly fascinating thread. In your estimation what causes the differences in Quality Control in the manufacturing process? What comes to mind is that most PS85 users prefer the St. Vincent model to the ones manufactured later in China?

Just the difference in the graphite used? Impurities? Or is it just that difficult to control the manufacturing process, so you are going to produce some duds?
 

jmacdaununder2

Hall of Fame
IMO it's more the latter; QC is mostly about how far off from target specifications a frame has to be before they won't wholesale it, at least not through their official network. (As well as how generous the +/- regarding these target specifications is allowed to be.) You'd like to think that, generally speaking, 'in-house' manufacturing from a company that has managed to evince a high end image would produce inherently tighter QC, at least in percentage of items close to actual spec., but in reality, who knows?
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
I was wondering if "How They Make It" ever had an episode on Tennis Racquets. I did see one episode on the construction of fiberglass hockey sticks. Thanks for the utterly fascinating thread. In your estimation what causes the differences in Quality Control in the manufacturing process? What comes to mind is that most PS85 users prefer the St. Vincent model to the ones manufactured later in China?

Just the difference in the graphite used? Impurities? Or is it just that difficult to control the manufacturing process, so you are going to produce some duds?
Haha, I'm not that much of an insider to answer your question on quality control :). There are just so many possible factors. I've never played with St. Vincent PS85 so I wouldn't know whether there really is a noticeable difference. Do you think it's possible that a big part of the legacy of St. Vincent frames was Sampras' obsession over small details? I'm sure this has been discussed many times on these forums, but anyone who has played with both St. Vincent and China versions, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. As for how they make tennis racquets, TW had done a pretty informative video featuring Wilson's prototyping shop.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
I think most people knew this. Most of the technologies marketed to us can change the feel of the racquet a bit, but I doubt many are actual improvements. Could be better for a given individual, but "better" overall? I don't think so.
 

Holdfast44ID

Semi-Pro
so here is the question; does the listed RA matter more than the twaron in the throat? In other words, does a stick with 65RA and twaron in the throat play less stiff than a stick at 62RA without or is the RA the final say?
I'm going to glue some gold glitter to my racquets and see how the new "Gold Glitter" technology enhances the racquets.

Sent from my Pixel 3a XL using Tapatalk
 

DonPepe

New User
Well my Babolat Pure Aero feels pretty good, better than my Prince with Textreme. Now I think Im just going to stick with it for the rest of my life unless it breaks or I don't like it anymore.
 

H22 fan

Rookie
Having spent some years in a materials research lab, pushing the boundaries on materials innovation, I can say that the vast majority of advancements in racquet technology year after year are gimmicks. Most "real" R&D take at least 5 years for the results of research to make an impact on actual product, but new technologies in tennis racquets are introduced year after year in the form of exotic materials that are purportedly lighter, stronger, more powerful etc. etc. For those who played in the late 90s, that material was titanium. And yet Ti is neither lighter nor stronger than woven carbon fiber. Racquets that claimed to incorporate Ti were 99.xx% graphite composite, barely enough Ti to make any significant difference. In the early 2000s, Wilson introduced Hypercarbon; this was nothing than a high-modulus graphite composite, similar to Prince's Graphite Extreme, that had been rebranded to incredible success. Around that time, Head, who championed the usage of titanium, introduced Liquidmetal tennis racquets. It was circa 2002-2003, and as a high school senior I thought, "wow, what an incredible material for tennis". Being naive and enamored with tennis gear and racquet tech, I was inspired to study materials science in college. Fast forward 4+ years and I found myself in grad school, joining a research group that specialized in none other than metallic glass, the academic name for Liquidmetal. Within a few weeks I learned that Head's usage of liquidmetal in their racquets was entirely a gimmick! Oh, the irony! There was barely any of the alloy in the racquets to make a difference in performance, and after studying the material in more depth, I realized Liquidmetal in racquets was probably not a suitable application to begin with. So here's the truth - many racquet companies (and especially Head) uses the strategy of identifying a cool material, incorporating a teeny tiny bit of it to accompany the tried and true graphite composite, and promote the product as the newest and best in the market. Their latest travesty is graphene. Graphene is a single 2d layer of hexagonally-packed carbon atoms. Graphite differs from graphene only in the number of layers; i.e. graphite == graphene but with more layers that are "weakly" bonded together. But if a single layer can be isolated, the material is pretty much the strongest substance on earth. The problem is that NOBODY has been able to grow a sizable sheet of graphene, certainly not nearly large enough to wrap it around the cross section of a racquet. So what Head has done is mix a lot of graphene particles into the composite resin matrix; the result is a material that's stronger than resin matrix but actually weaker and more compliant than carbon fiber, the typical material in graphite tennis racquets. I'm sorry to disappoint some on these forums, but the truth hurts sometimes. I hope someone would start a racquet company focusing on quality control and producing nice players racquets without all the marketing junk. The next time you buy a racquet for its new technology, keep in mind that the main material is still nothing else but tried and true graphite composite :)
So true...
 

Lavs

Hall of Fame
Thank you for such a well thought out post! That’s why I still use my HEAD racquets form the 80’s and 90’s. HEAD did once make great quality frames that were high quality and manufactured in-house in USA and Austria.
Babolat did the same in the first 10-12 years of their racket's manufacture start-up. Very high quality frames with top notch QC. Then it's gone.
 

nvr2old

Professional
Great post IMO. Took my Head MG pro and PK 7G out last week to compare to my PP100p and PS97 and old Prestige IG and honestly the "older" sticks were better in my opinion. Gonna be a stringaholic in the future I think vs a racquetholic.
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
Babolat did the same in the first 10-12 years of their racket's manufacture start-up. Very high quality frames with top notch QC. Then it's gone.
Yeah, as with almost every consumer goods industry, scale-up results in the inevitable dip in QC. Perfect example is the restaurant business. As long as a good restaurant remains a single entity, you can almost guarantee the quality of food will always be great. But once they try to scale up on success and increase to multiple locations, quality takes a hit. I'm waiting for the next small racquet company (maybe Angell, but I don't think Paul will ever go down that path) that becomes a big company. That's the time to invest in those high quality players sticks because you can almost guarantee that a few decades later, those sticks will not only be the best quality frames the company has ever produced, but there will also be a contingent of people willing to pay high dollars for them, especially if they're in mint condition. Look how much are people willing to pay for a new old stock PT280/630 Made in Austria.
 

jmacdaununder2

Hall of Fame
Agree, they were never actually that good; had to deal with a lot of cracked PDs back in the day, the Pure Control variants seemed to hold up better. To be fair, I guess this could have also been in part a reflection of the level of player using them, with the PD popular across the spectrum.
 
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Sanglier

Semi-Pro
Was the OEM Pro Kennex in Taiwan? If I'm not mistaken, they manufactured racquets for other companies as well.
Pro Kennex is the house brand of Kunnan Industries. And yes, Kunnan made the first Babolats. You should visit us in the "Classic" sub forum and look through the archives; these topics have been covered ad nauseam over the years by successive groups of vintage racquet enthusiasts, most of whom experienced the graphite revolution in the '70s and '80s first hand, and likely agree with you that the material-science side of the equation reached its apogee more than 20 years ago. :)

Regarding ceramics, their use originated in the US by a manufacturer in LA, which also did contract work for the Defense Department, making ceramic armor for helicopters, among other things. It involved the addition of silicon carbide whiskers to the resin matrix, and probably marked the first instance in which a minor secondary component was given top billing in the composition of an otherwise ordinary carbon fiber frame. That was in the mid '80s, less than a decade after the introduction of "graphite". So yes, the quixotic quest to come up with something that can top "graphite" began right around the time you were born, and they are still at it today (at least the marketing guys are). :)
 

Bartelby

Bionic Poster
I'm sure that they make one-off prototypes in their design studio. The main problem with their OEM is due to their failure to pay for quality.

Babolat has never actually made a racquet. Their whole history they have only had OME manufacture their racquets for them in Asia.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
Having spent some years in a materials research lab, pushing the boundaries on materials innovation, I can say that the vast majority of advancements in racquet technology year after year are gimmicks. Most "real" R&D take at least 5 years for the results of research to make an impact on actual product, but new technologies in tennis racquets are introduced year after year in the form of exotic materials that are purportedly lighter, stronger, more powerful etc. etc. For those who played in the late 90s, that material was titanium. And yet Ti is neither lighter nor stronger than woven carbon fiber. Racquets that claimed to incorporate Ti were 99.xx% graphite composite, barely enough Ti to make any significant difference. In the early 2000s, Wilson introduced Hypercarbon; this was nothing than a high-modulus graphite composite, similar to Prince's Graphite Extreme, that had been rebranded to incredible success. Around that time, Head, who championed the usage of titanium, introduced Liquidmetal tennis racquets. It was circa 2002-2003, and as a high school senior I thought, "wow, what an incredible material for tennis". Being naive and enamored with tennis gear and racquet tech, I was inspired to study materials science in college. Fast forward 4+ years and I found myself in grad school, joining a research group that specialized in none other than metallic glass, the academic name for Liquidmetal. Within a few weeks I learned that Head's usage of liquidmetal in their racquets was entirely a gimmick! Oh, the irony! There was barely any of the alloy in the racquets to make a difference in performance, and after studying the material in more depth, I realized Liquidmetal in racquets was probably not a suitable application to begin with. So here's the truth - many racquet companies (and especially Head) uses the strategy of identifying a cool material, incorporating a teeny tiny bit of it to accompany the tried and true graphite composite, and promote the product as the newest and best in the market. Their latest travesty is graphene. Graphene is a single 2d layer of hexagonally-packed carbon atoms. Graphite differs from graphene only in the number of layers; i.e. graphite == graphene but with more layers that are "weakly" bonded together. But if a single layer can be isolated, the material is pretty much the strongest substance on earth. The problem is that NOBODY has been able to grow a sizable sheet of graphene, certainly not nearly large enough to wrap it around the cross section of a racquet. So what Head has done is mix a lot of graphene particles into the composite resin matrix; the result is a material that's stronger than resin matrix but actually weaker and more compliant than carbon fiber, the typical material in graphite tennis racquets. I'm sorry to disappoint some on these forums, but the truth hurts sometimes. I hope someone would start a racquet company focusing on quality control and producing nice players racquets without all the marketing junk. The next time you buy a racquet for its new technology, keep in mind that the main material is still nothing else but tried and true graphite composite :)
Spot on.

All the new material technologies are just impurities added to the graphite to give the marketing department a new thing to base their ad campaign on.
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
Pro Kennex is the house brand of Kunnan Industries. And yes, Kunnan made the first Babolats. You should visit us in the "Classic" sub forum and look through the archives; these topics have been covered ad nauseam over the years by successive groups of vintage racquet enthusiasts, most of whom experienced the graphite revolution in the '70s and '80s first hand, and likely agree with you that the material-science side of the equation reached its apogee more than 20 years ago. :)

Regarding ceramics, their use originated in the US by a manufacturer in LA, which also did contract work for the Defense Department, making ceramic armor for helicopters, among other things. It involved the addition of silicon carbide whiskers to the resin matrix, and probably marked the first instance in which a minor secondary component was given top billing in the composition of an otherwise ordinary carbon fiber frame. That was in the mid '80s, less than a decade after the introduction of "graphite". So yes, the quixotic quest to come up with something that can top "graphite" began right around the time you were born, and they are still at it today (at least the marketing guys are). :)
I have visited the classic sub forum; it's awesome! :) Hard to beat graphite (i.e. carbon fiber). Light, stiff, relatively cheap to manufacture, and a variety of layup configurations to tune flexibility in different parts of the frame. Cool to know that the ceramic in racquets featured SiC whiskers; SiC whiskers are typically single crystalline and have a Young's modulus several times higher than carbon fiber. So depending on how much SiC was used, racquets that incorporated them could have felt stiffer. SiC is also incredibly abrasive/hard, so wonder if those whiskers had a tendency to be separated from the resin matrix and create micro fissures over time. Kudos for figuring out when I was born! I'm right around the age where some of the players racquets that were popular in my early junior days are now considered vintage LOL.
 

TennisManiac

Professional
oh boy, a lot of things you're misunderstanding here.

Firstly, Graphene isn't marketed to change the "feel" of the racquet. It is marketed as making a racquet more polarized by REDISTRIBUTING the weight while still keeping the shaft strong enough to play with, which it does exactly as Head claims it to do. Whether or not this is optimal is completely dependent on the player and whether or not they prefer a more polarized racquet, but this is ultimately purely subjective (and many people do prefer using polarized racquets). You can read up on this here: https://www.head.com/us-US/sports/padel/technology/graphene/

"your objective assessment" is just another term for SUBJECTIVE. You prefer the buttery feel of the sweetspot, good for you - it's still a FEEL. Others prefer a more crisp, direct feedback, some prefer a very dead, muted response. Then you talk about stability of the frame, well I can think of plenty of just as stable frames. But more importantly, by increasing stability you're making sacrifices (usually at the cost of increased weight, maneuverability, etc.). And many players other than you will prefer a more maneuverable, easier-to-handle stick at the cost of decreased stability. There is no objectively-best racquet, everything (including your preference for those racquets) is ENTIRELY subjective.

All that being said, I still don't see the point of your original post - all the new innovations aren't "gimmicks" if they actually make a difference and do what they claim to do. And whether or not you like those differences (which in your case seems to stem from them not playing like your preferred racquets) is irrelevant
Sir, are you just trolling me? Because I think you are. And stop calling the material graphene because it really is not. It's tiny pieces of graphite embedded in plastic.
I believe he "is" trolling you.
 
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ChaelAZ

Legend
I don't buy any racquet for technology, but just the overall feel. So whatever application of materials they use to create that, new or old, if it feels right I buy it. Very few have met that criteria even, and I have been lucky try a lot of different racquets. Whatever setup Wilson has done with the Clash, I don't like the feel (nor the price), but unfortunately I do like how they setup the new Blade coming out. Hoping that isn't on the new $250 standard too.

I have snapped wood, bent aluminum, and cracked graphite, but have yet to have issues with the newest material racquets. Something has to have changed.
 

vsbabolat

G.O.A.T.
I don't buy any racquet for technology, but just the overall feel. So whatever application of materials they use to create that, new or old, if it feels right I buy it. Very few have met that criteria even, and I have been lucky try a lot of different racquets. Whatever setup Wilson has done with the Clash, I don't like the feel (nor the price), but unfortunately I do like how they setup the new Blade coming out. Hoping that isn't on the new $250 standard too.

I have snapped wood, bent aluminum, and cracked graphite, but have yet to have issues with the newest material racquets. Something has to have changed.
Better epoxy resins
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
I don't buy any racquet for technology, but just the overall feel. So whatever application of materials they use to create that, new or old, if it feels right I buy it. Very few have met that criteria even, and I have been lucky try a lot of different racquets. Whatever setup Wilson has done with the Clash, I don't like the feel (nor the price), but unfortunately I do like how they setup the new Blade coming out. Hoping that isn't on the new $250 standard too.

I have snapped wood, bent aluminum, and cracked graphite, but have yet to have issues with the newest material racquets. Something has to have changed.
I believe that there were definite advancements over the decades in the quality of the carbon prepreg and maybe manufacturing techniques, but the fundamental tech hasn't changed at all. I'd wager improvements in frame durability has little to do with the "revolutionary" stuff they're claiming to add to the frames. If titanium, piezoelectric fibers, Liquidmetal, Microgel, "Graphene", etc. are indeed game-changing materials, Head would not have stopped using them. I'm pretty sure in a few years we will no longer see "Graphene" racquets in Head's lineup. With the trend shifting back to more flexible sticks, maybe the next new thing will be a layer of wood shavings :).
 
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PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
Apparently there are bamboo fiber prepregs. I predict those will make it into tennis racquets at some point in the near future, marketed as "nature's sustainable super-material, infusing the racquets with natural flexibility and unrivaled feel". ;)
 
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hurworld

Hall of Fame
Apparently there are bamboo fiber prepregs. I predict those will make it into tennis racquets at some point in the near future, marketed as "nature's sustainable super-material, infusing the racquets with natural flexibility and unrivaled feel". ;)
After this thread, they ain't gonna bamboo-zle me!
 

Lavs

Hall of Fame
I believe that there were definite advancements over the decades in the quality of the carbon prepreg and maybe manufacturing techniques, but the fundamental tech hasn't changed at all. I'd wager improvements in frame durability has little to do with the "revolutionary" stuff they're claiming to add to the frames. If titanium, piezoelectric fibers, Liquidmetal, Microgel, "Graphene", etc. are indeed game-changing materials, Head would not have stopped using them. I'm pretty sure in a few years we will no longer see "Graphene" racquets in Head's lineup. With the trend shifting back to more flexible sticks, maybe the next new thing will be a layer of wood shavings :).
Babolat still sticks to his Cortex technology in their PD/APD/PA line since 2007. Standard Cortex, Active Cortex and now, in the new PDs/PAs, Cortext that is spread throughout the whole frame
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
How about TeXtreme; is it a hoax as well? The racquets that supposedly incorporate it seem to perform as claimed; greater torsional resistance without a corresponding increase in stiffness.
Textreme is just a brand name for a proprietary carbon fiber fabric. It’s woven differently than others. Whether or not this matters is a different question. Prince buys the material they do not own the IP rights.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Apparently there are bamboo fiber prepregs. I predict those will make it into tennis racquets at some point in the near future, marketed as "nature's sustainable super-material, infusing the racquets with natural flexibility and unrivaled feel". ;)
I don't want to put a link here since it is a competitor, but google for Vantage Bastcore:

With an inner core made of natural fiber, every BASTCORE frame recoils and returns to normal much quicker than standard carbon fiber.
 

stingstang

Semi-Pro
So it's basically Flexpoint without the holes?



^^ Wilson rollers were good but that's still my favorite miracle technology.
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
I don't want to put a link here since it is a competitor, but google for Vantage Bastcore:

With an inner core made of natural fiber, every BASTCORE frame recoils and returns to normal much quicker than standard carbon fiber.
Remember the Pro Kennex Core 1 racquets? Those supposedly had an inner core of wood, the original natural fiber, to give the racquets enhanced feel. I seemed to recall they didn't sell too well.
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
So it's basically Flexpoint without the holes?



^^ Wilson rollers were good but that's still my favorite miracle technology.
I'll never forget the Rollers! Guy on my tennis team had a PS 7.6 with rollers and he played pretty well, haha. Never got to hit with one, but I bet they were a nightmare to string. Anyone remember pros who endorsed the Rollers frames? Kind of hard to hide the absence of tech with a paint job unless they were actually using the racquets ...
 
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PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
I don't want to put a link here since it is a competitor, but google for Vantage Bastcore:

With an inner core made of natural fiber, every BASTCORE frame recoils and returns to normal much quicker than standard carbon fiber.
So I checked out Vantage Bastcore. A lot of contradicting statements and a very questionable graphic illustrating the quicker recoil. If you're making a more flexible frame, the stiffness is most certainly lower. So if you put your mouse over any of their 3 models, you'll see RA values ranging 49 - 52. Now the problem is that speed of recoil DIRECTLY scales with stiffness. The higher the stiffness, the more elastic/restorative stress the racquet will experience. So the marketing claiming that the natural fibers will give you BOTH more flexibility AND faster recoil is complete BS. The counter argument they may make is that the dynamic stiffness of natural fibers is higher than what the static RA would suggest; yes, that may be true but I highly doubt natural fibers would display that kind of viscoelasticity.
 
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Yeah, I chuckle every time I think about it. I actually play now with a Donnay Pro One Penta. The foam-filled technology actually does something (although again not sure increasing the number of cores actually makes it better) and I like the flex and solid feeling of the frame. They have some customer service issues but the company is uber small, so yeah. It's a good thing the racquet shop near me in LA actually carries the brand.
Which shop in LA?
 

deaner2211

Semi-Pro
Having spent some years in a materials research lab, pushing the boundaries on materials innovation, I can say that the vast majority of advancements in racquet technology year after year are gimmicks. Most "real" R&D take at least 5 years for the results of research to make an impact on actual product, but new technologies in tennis racquets are introduced year after year in the form of exotic materials that are purportedly lighter, stronger, more powerful etc. etc. For those who played in the late 90s, that material was titanium. And yet Ti is neither lighter nor stronger than woven carbon fiber. Racquets that claimed to incorporate Ti were 99.xx% graphite composite, barely enough Ti to make any significant difference. In the early 2000s, Wilson introduced Hypercarbon; this was nothing than a high-modulus graphite composite, similar to Prince's Graphite Extreme, that had been rebranded to incredible success. Around that time, Head, who championed the usage of titanium, introduced Liquidmetal tennis racquets. It was circa 2002-2003, and as a high school senior I thought, "wow, what an incredible material for tennis". Being naive and enamored with tennis gear and racquet tech, I was inspired to study materials science in college. Fast forward 4+ years and I found myself in grad school, joining a research group that specialized in none other than metallic glass, the academic name for Liquidmetal. Within a few weeks I learned that Head's usage of liquidmetal in their racquets was entirely a gimmick! Oh, the irony! There was barely any of the alloy in the racquets to make a difference in performance, and after studying the material in more depth, I realized Liquidmetal in racquets was probably not a suitable application to begin with. So here's the truth - many racquet companies (and especially Head) uses the strategy of identifying a cool material, incorporating a teeny tiny bit of it to accompany the tried and true graphite composite, and promote the product as the newest and best in the market. Their latest travesty is graphene. Graphene is a single 2d layer of hexagonally-packed carbon atoms. Graphite differs from graphene only in the number of layers; i.e. graphite == graphene but with more layers that are "weakly" bonded together. But if a single layer can be isolated, the material is pretty much the strongest substance on earth. The problem is that NOBODY has been able to grow a sizable sheet of graphene, certainly not nearly large enough to wrap it around the cross section of a racquet. So what Head has done is mix a lot of graphene particles into the composite resin matrix; the result is a material that's stronger than resin matrix but actually weaker and more compliant than carbon fiber, the typical material in graphite tennis racquets. I'm sorry to disappoint some on these forums, but the truth hurts sometimes. I hope someone would start a racquet company focusing on quality control and producing nice players racquets without all the marketing junk. The next time you buy a racquet for its new technology, keep in mind that the main material is still nothing else but tried and true graphite composite :)
Yeah just like spin creating strings. Everyone knows the key to generating spin is swing path and speed along with the type of grip you use.
 

PistolPete23

Semi-Pro
@PistolPete23 Is there any difference in materials between youth and adults graphite racquets?
For me it is every time a problem to choose racquet for my son.
I don’t think there is in terms of the way they’re constructed, but I’m not sure whether the materials are of a lower quality. How old is your son? I started using an adult racquet in my early teens, 10-11 years old, without any issues.
 
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