Working the Angles
For decades, Madeline Hauptman has been a singular entrepreneur in the racquet manufacturing business.
After a bad day on the court, Madeline Hauptman did what comes naturally to many recreational tennis players. She blamed her racquet. Then she did something unusual. She designed and manufactured a new one.
As president of PowerAngle Rackets of Scarsdale, N.Y., Hauptman is a rarity in the male-dominated racquet business, in which household names like Head, Prince and Wilson predominate. Although she declined to cite sales figures, Hauptman says the PowerAngle racquet, which features a unique diagonal stringing pattern, is steadily growing in popularity as a result of word of mouth, the ease with which it can be strung, and publicized customer testimonials.
In fact, the company recently launched the Henry K. Somerville signature PowerAngle racquet as a result of the endorsement by the former tour player and head coach of the Hawaii Pacific University men’s tennis team.
In all, PowerAngle has seven racquets on the market, which were declared legal for tournament play by the International Tennis Federation in June 2002. Prices range from $99 for the junior model to $149. “This racquet works,” says Hauptman, who credits PowerAngle business director David Luskin with co-developing and co-patenting the design featuring two sets of diagonal strings of equal length, which Hauptman says produces a better balanced sweetspot that keeps the ball on the strings longer, imparts more spin, and lessens the impact on a player’s arm and elbow. Alejandro Berenstein, M.D., is the company’s investor and strategic planning director.
“Sometimes I think, what am I doing? [Competing] companies have hundreds of people working for them, and we just have a great product,” adds Hauptman, who is also an oil painter and therefore averse to stiffer frames that could result in arm pain. “But when I believe in something, that’s it.” Hauptman says her efforts to design a better racquet date back to the mid-1970s, when she was pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics education at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I loved to play tennis, but I just wasn’t that good. I thought, I’m bending my knees, taking the racquet back, doing everything right. Maybe if the racquet was strung differently, I’d have a chance,” she recalls. “I looked at some snowshoes in my apartment and wondered if you could string a racquet like that, so it dispersed impact in more directions. I decided to try.”
Using her knowledge of geometry, Hauptman ultimately designed a prototype using two sets of diagonals and one set of mains, with which she defeated — six times in a row — a tennis rival who had previously been her equal. Encouraged, she patented the Mad Raq (“Madeline’s racket”) in 1980. Produced by well-known racquet manufacturers, thousands of Mad Raq tennis racquets and half a million racquetball racquets were sold worldwide. Today, Mad Raq frames are displayed at both the Wimbledon Museum and at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Although Hauptman traded the racquet business for a position teaching mathematics in the 1990s, she says she never stopped wanting to improve her design. Pre-strung Mad Raq racquetball racquets were a success, she says, but resistance from the tennis stringer population proved to be too difficult to overcome.
Hauptman credits Luskin’s mechanical engineering expertise and her innovative experimentation with not only PowerAngle’s improved design, but with her enthusiastic return to the racquet business in 2002. Now, according to Hauptman, stringing a PowerAngle racquet takes about the same time as stringing a conventional racquet. Each racquet also comes with two vibration dampeners designed to minimize impact on the arm, as well as loops on the racquet cover to hold a can of balls.
“I want to grow tennis, and the best way to do that is by introducing something new,” says Hauptman, noting that PowerAngle racquets are available directly from the company and at many tennis facilities across America. “My first go-round was frustrating because people loved the Mad Raq concept, but it wasn’t viable [because stringing was difficult]. I learned from that experience, and now I just hope people will be open-minded enough to try PowerAngle. If they do, they’ll fall in love with it.”
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of RSI magazine.