I think it is safe to say that technology has had some impact on all of our lives. Actually, I know it has because if you are reading this, you are on the web. Tennis, like every other sport, is no exception to jumping on the technology train and going full steam ahead. To sum up the drastic changes that racquets have gone through over the years, think back to Ken Rosewall and “Rocket” Rod Laver with their wooden racquets. Now think about Novak Djokovic’s frame that has a smart material in it which can sense, by the impact of the ball, whether it needs to stiffen or loosen up for the best results. Quite the evolution.
Biomimetics. What does Biomimetics mean? Break the name down and it gives us the definition: bio = life, mimetic = to imitate; to imitate life. Dunlop has studied various structures and concepts in nature that have proven successful, then interpreted and applied them to tennis racquets.
The first technology piece of Biomimetics, and the most visible, is called Aeroskin. Sharks have an amazing ability to swim very quickly through the water because of the tiny riblets all over their skin. Dunlop took this and applied it in strategic locations on a tennis racquets to help reduce aerodynamic drag when players swing their frames through the air. Dunlop research states that this reduces drag by up to 25% when compared to previous Dunlop technologies. It is also a very visible and tangible technology.
The next piece of Biomimetics is HM6 Carbon. This was inspired by the Honeycomb, which is one of the strongest and most efficient structures in nature. The HM6 Carbon is a complex mass of hexagonal cells, placed between layers of Aerogel, to naturally absorb impact while maintaining its shape. The 6 sides of the HM6 Carbon structure reduces and absorbs unwanted racquet vibrations, creating a more stable and comfortable frame.
The gecko can stick to any surface, whether dry or wet, upside down or upside right. This sounds like the perfect concept for a grip so your racquet will never slide out of your hand, right? Dunlop made their grips 50% tackier, so players can retain ultimate control on their shots without having to worry about losing their racquets in the third set tiebreaker, in mid-July. These grips, to the touch, do not feel tacky until the player starts to sweat.
The YouTek technology concept is centered around the player, and the racquets being able to play to the player’s needs. What does that mean? For example, one of the ingredients to the YouTek recipe is d3o, which are tiny molecules that soften at slow impact giving the player much more feel. On the flip side, d3o stiffens-up at hard impact when players need a stiffer frame for a more effective shot. The d3o technology is known as a smart material, reacting to the impact of the ball and the player’s needs.
Head has also added the Innegra ingredient to this YouTek Recipe of You. Innegra (IG), which has similar effects for Formula 1 Racing, gives the IG racquets consistent performance over the entire lifespan of the frame. IG is an extremely tough fiber with low density and combines with carbon fiber to improve stability and reduce shock. The addition of IG gives players even better feel and control on the ball.
Head’s Power racquets feature the YouTek concept, as well as other technologies. First is the Quadface design, which extends the stringbed at key points resulting in maximum power and an enlarged sweet spot. There are two types of the QuadFace technology: Inner QuadFace and Outer QuadFace. Inner QuadFace is an indentation on the inside of the frame that allows the strings to be more flexible, providing a more forgiving sweet spot. The Outer QuadFace extends the outside of the frame to allow the strings to be longer, providing more consistent power throughout the sweet spot.
The Power racquets also feature Control Ring technology in their frames. The Control Ring reduces the string deformation providing added control and accuracy on every shot. It comes in a 2 piece or 4 piece style. The 2 piece Control Ring is located at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the inside of the frame with excellent control, while the 4 piece Control Ring is added at the 8 and 4 o’clock spots for maximum control.
Prince, the maker of the Original Graphite racquet, changed their game to the EXO3 Technology. EXO3 are big holes in the frame of the racquet that take the place of traditional grommets and give strings more “freedom” to move around. What does this do? This gives a softer point of impact, for starters, which makes it a much more comfortable frame, and along the same lines, makes the sweet spot a little bigger for players.
Prince uses the Double Bridge technology in the throat of the racquet to improve shock reduction and reduces string vibration for added comfort.
The String Suspension Inserts combine the vibration dampening of thermoplastic with the ‘pop’ and responsiveness of carbon fiber for better feel.
Tecnifibre has two lines of racquets out, one focuses on power (SpeedFlex) and one focuses on control (VO2 Max). Their SpeedFlex Technology is a design in the shaft (throat) of the racquet that gives players 10% more stiffness, but doesn’t sacrifice control. This technology is also said to increase stability in the frame.
The VO2 Max Technology features carbon braids in the shoulder of the racquet that increase stability at ball impact. This allows the frame to stay still as the strings stretch and absorb the impact, giving the player much more control and precision on their shots.
Volkl has introduced a whole new line of racquets for 2011, featuring the Organix Material. Organix is a combination of Carbon Nano tubes and organic cellulose fibers, offering players more dynamic power. This technology loads up with energy during ball impact and then releases it back again immediately, giving the player 30% more dynamic power.
Volkl also has a visible technology called OptiSpot, which helps players hit in the sweet spot much more frequently. There are four same-color painted spots on the frame at 12, 3, 6, and 9 that help players zone in on the sweet spot at ball impact.
<– Without OptiSpot
<— With OptiSpot
Did you ever wonder how skyscrapers withstood the seismic waves of an earthquake and keep standing tall? How could this relate to tennis? Volkl studied the methods used to protect buildings from the vibrations that earthquakes cause, and applied them to tennis racquets to prevent the vibrations that big shots cause! Volkl’s Bio Sensor Handle system has a pin with a mass in the end of the handle, which then has the possibility to “swing” against the initial vibrations, thus creating better playability.
Wilson focused their efforts on creating the ultimate feel for players with BLX Technology. BLX are woven Basalt fibers, longitudinally through the frame, which delivers clean feedback on shots. The Basalt fibers that are woven through the frame are natural volcanic rock that creates incredible resistance to vibration.
For those of us that have tennis elbow issues, or general arm pain, Wilson’s Triad technology is something to consider. This is a three piece system where the hoop and handle are separated, then put back together with Iso-Zorb in between them to absorb shock and vibration.
Wilson also utilizes technologies with their grommets: AGT and Double Hole. The AGT (Articulated Grommet Technology) allows an extraordinary 76 degree string movement; creating more power and more comfort. The Double Hole grommets are bigger holes that allow the strings to move 26 degrees more than traditional grommets for a bigger sweet spot.
When you hear the name Yonex, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Isometric, right? Yonex’s Isometric technology has been their trademark for years and years, which features a more rectangular shaped head (when compared to traditional tennis racquets) that offers players a larger sweet spot.
The 3D Vector Shaft has deep grooves to improve racquet stiffness and reduce twisting of the frame for 20% more racquet stability than conventional racquets. The 3D Vector Shaft also delivers precise control and greater bite with the most efficient transfer of power.
X-Fullerene is positioned at the top of the frame and bonds with the carbon fibers in a revolutionary cross-linking pattern. X-Fullerene prevents the frame from twisting during hard impact and also helps make a thin frame maneuverable, aerodynamic and stable.
Yonex has a new frame shape with their EZone and VCore racquets. The new frame shape consists of a deeper channel which contains Neofade to absorb and reduce shock and vibration.