Outlook 2007 -- Living in the fast lane
For spring, frame manufacturers are looking to boost swing speed to help players generate more power and spin.
By James Martin
Speed kills. You’ve heard that phrase used to describe the importance of being quick on your feet. But it also neatly summarizes the main trend in the racquet industry this spring. In an effort to help players swing faster, manufacturers have developed new frame materials and dimensions to make their racquets more aerodynamic. Other companies have devised constructions to help compliment fast and furious swings.
The thinking behind the speed kills theory is simple: If you swing faster, you’ll generate more power and spin. The extra action on the ball then gives you more control. It’s the holy trinity for tennis players: power, spin, and control.
Here’s a look at what some companies are doing this season to help you take a better rip at the ball.
Proving that the Sopranos isn’t the only exciting thing coming out of New Jersey, the folks at Prince have done an excellent job of reinvigorating their racquet line over the last few years with O Port technology — the grommet-less string holes designed to allow players to swing faster.
This spring, Prince will introduce a new version of the technology, called Speedports. Instead of round grommet-less string holes, the Speedports are rectangular and a bit larger. Positioned throughout the frame’s head, the Speedports increase racquet-head speed by 24 percent, according to Prince. They also allow for even more movement of the strings, which creates a forgiving string bed and bigger sweetspot on impact.
You’ll find Speedports in three new models, the names of which correspond with the original O Port frames:
The O3 Speedport Silver is for players with short swings. It has a whopping 118-square-inch head, is super light, and has a head-heavy balance. For more of a blend between power and control, Prince offers the O3 Speedport Blue. It has a 110-square-inch head, a medium weight, and an even balance. The O3 Speedport Red, with its 105-square-inch head, is made for players who want more control and have moderate to fast swing speeds. All Speedport racquets also have a new aerodynamic shaft.
With its two new racquets, the Extreme and Extreme Pro, HEAD is unveiling a new technology specifically for the younger generation of players. You know, those baseline bangers you see swinging for the fences, trying to maximize their racquet-head speed.
To better help these players generate more spin (and thus control) on their shots, HEAD has increased the length of the cross strings at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. This produces a round head shape. What this does, according to HEAD, is allow the ball to travel farther across the strings on impact as the player rolls over the ball. This, in turn, will enable the player to impart more topspin. With a more expansive string bed, it’ll also provide a greater margin for error, so you don’t have to be on the money every time.
Both the Extreme and Extreme Pro have 100-square-inch heads. The Pro is 27 inches and weighs 11.6 ounces strung, while the Extreme is 27¼ inches long and slightly lighter at 10.9 ounces. Each frame will also feature HEAD’s new Microgel, which is injected between the carbon fibers throughout the frame to disperse shock for a rock-solid feel, says the company.
In addition to the Extreme, HEAD is expanding two of its existing racquet lines this spring with the Metallix 2, Metallix 6, and Airflow 1.
Although Dunlop has been quiet for quite a few months, the company looks to create some excitement this spring with its new Aerogel racquets. The titular technology is the lightest solid in the world (look it up in the Guinness Book of World Records), weighing .0001 pounds per cubic inch, yet it’s sturdy. This cloudy, transparent material of silica and air, aptly nicknamed “frozen smoke,” is placed throughout the frame. The benefit? It gives the racquet some backbone, if you will, as well as a comfortable sensation, Dunlop says. The beauty, of course, is that you reap the benefits of added stability without weighing your swing down.
You’ll find aerogel in four new Dunlop sticks this spring: the Aerogel 2Hundred, Aerogel 3Hundred, Aerogel 5Hundred, and Aerogel 5Hundred Tour. And keep your eyes peeled for an Aerogel 4Hundred later this year.
This season, Yonex plans on releasing the RDS-002 and RDS-002 Tour. Each has the company’s new Aero-Box Variframe, which combines (you got it) an aerodynamic shape on the sides of the head so you can swing faster, along with a box shape at the top and bottom so the racquet remains stable when you’re taking such a quick, fast cut.
Yonex is also building on its success with the RSQ-11 racquet, which is used by Martina Hingis, by introducing the RQS-55 and RQS-33. These frames have larger head sizes and stiffer constructions that will appeal to the beginner and intermediate player who isn’t quite ready to challenge on the pro tour.
In other news …
Wilson (wilsonsports.com; 773-714-6400) will host a global launch in February of its “[K]Factor” technology. Roger Federer switched to the new [K]Six.One Tour at the Australian Open, and we hear he had a hand in the design and development.
See all articles by James Martin
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