Mixed reaction to ‘Technology Smokescreen’
I was glad to read Rod Cross’s article, “Technology Smokescreen?” in RSI (September/October). As a tennis pro and an avid golfer, I am always put off by all the claims about the new, generally “repainted racquets” from year to year and the promises of “10 yards farther” for each new driver that comes along twice a year in the golf world.
Yeah, these companies have to make money, but the public should get a little smarter and take the money and put it toward solid lessons from [certified] pros.
Twin Isles CC, Punta Gorda, Fla.
With all due respect to Rod Cross’s knowledge, accomplishments, and contributions to tennis, I think his “Technology Smokescreen?” article does a disservice to racquet designers and manufacturers. I’m not saying that most of his points aren’t valid, but I do believe that he has discounted some issues that are just as important as mass, swing weight, frame flex, and stringbed stiffness.
First, it’s important that racquet designers experiment with different materials, geometries, and features in their quest for better racquets. Without that willingness to try something new and different, we might still be using lop-sided wooden racquets.
Second, some of the changes that come about due to different materials, geometries, etc., bring with them changes in mass, swing weight, frame, flex, and stringbed stiffness, too. I, for example, tend to try a lot of different racquets. Sometimes I like the new version of a racquet, sometimes I prefer the old. If there wasn’t an easy way to differentiate between them, I might not try the new version at all, no matter what benefits there might be. In fact, one of the things that really bugs me is when a manufacturer makes “in line” changes to a product line that can be detected only using a Babolat RDC machine. For me and most other people, racquets that look identical should be at least close in terms of characteristics.
Third, changes in the way the game is played should be reflected in changes in the equipment. One example of this is the higher swing speeds that go hand-in-hand with the lighter racquets. Another is the stiffer racquets that better complement “poly” strings.
Fourth, I’ll bet the marketing departments of the various racquet manufacturers enjoy having something new to promote each season. If changes in marketing bring more people into the game, or get current players to buy more equipment, we should be celebrating, not denigrating.
Fifth, in tennis the relationship between the player and his equipment is highly personal. What Mr. Cross calls the “most important physical properties of the racquet” may be only part of why a player chooses one racquet over another. Racquets with virtually identical “important physical properties” can and do have distinct differences, to the point that one racquet might seem perfect while the other seems too irritating to justify its continued use, equal shot outcomes notwithstanding.
Last but not least, my take-away from the original article was that it was aimed at the retailer who might be confronted with a potential customer demanding to know why the shop did not sell the new racquets with “unobtainium” in them. By at least knowing what “unobtainium” is, and which competing racquet claims to use it, the retailer can respond substantively to the potential customer, perhaps even recommending racquets from his stock with similar mass, swing weight, and frame flex.
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