Tennis Industry magazine
A few months ago, we received an email from Petros Biris of Greece, a USRSA Master Racquet Technician and the head coach and tennis manager at Nea Ionia Tennis Club. Biris (racketspecialist.gr) is a longtime stringer for recreational and professional players, and has strung at top pro tournaments since 1997.
Attached to his email, and presented here, was a photographic journey comparing a real Head YouTek IG Speed 300 frame, the kind of racquet used by Novak Djokovic, with a counterfeit version of the same frame. “The results of our research proved that factories are a step closer in producing widely deceiving frames, at least at first look,” Biris wrote.
by Petros Biris
We are happy to share with all readers our “investigation” on fake racquets held in our stringing workshop at racquetspecialist.gr.
Nole’s victory at Australian Open 2012 has made his racquets the target of Far East factories. Fake versions of Head’s best-seller have spread out across the 5 continents.
The similarities between the original and the fake model were such that skillful photography and post production techniques were essential to reveal the differences.
The “victim” is the lighter 16X19 pattern Head IG Speed 300 and the impressive results of our research proved that factories are a step closer in producing widely deceiving frames, at least at first look.
The first photo shows just a slight difference between the alignment of the bumperguard and the cosmetics underneath. That of course wouldn’t make anybody suspicious. (Click any photo to see it in full size.)
Cutting out the strings on both frames made the typical product code ΤΚ263Α apparent.
As expected this code might well be covered with the strings attached or be of insignificant meaning to the regular user.
Close-up photography was necessary to show the slight differences in the number and distance of the line cosmetics, measured in fractions of millimeters! Generally those thin lines are more dedicated and faint on the original racquet but you would need both racquets side by side to tell the difference.
This is truly an astonishing color and tone reproduction. With everything else kept identical we hardly found an elliptical line (marked with green) being greater in length by a few millimeters! Yet again a “victim” may well think that those minor differences are just normal tolerances during the factory paintwork.
Even the minor dots where the head meets the throat were precisely reproduced as you can see at the magnified photo inserts!
We wonder whether the factory searched among endless lists of fonts or created one from scratch to reproduce the exact look of the original. The result gives no room for doubt as both racquets look like twins at the tie-off area!
Special techniques highlight the “naughty” arrangement of graphite fibers in the fake version. Under the proper lighting and the ideal angle the original version reveals its parallel fibers that are actually helical.
The shape of the grommet barrels at the throat area differ slightly, with the one in the original racquet consisting of lower and more sweet curves, yet again it will hardly betray the identity of the fake one.
Here we reveal the most obvious flaw of the fake racquet. Notice that on the original version, the manufacturer placed the writing (model and brand) in a way that can be read under the angle those photos were taken.
Undoubtedly, the holograms are not the same, yet easily fool the unsuspicious buyer.
This photo clearly reveals the identity of the two racquets. The difference in the in between distance of the cosmetics is evident, but the quality stays at the exact level!
In the original handle the HEAD logo is located on both the grip and the rubber band. The grip of the fake also lists HEAD but not in black. The quality of the material and the implementation is poor but is perhaps the best of the imitations that have come across so far!
Removing the trap door showed that in the inner part of the handle the copyists failed, as instead of the original’s hollow handle they filled the compartments with foam.
The lid of the butt cap is identical only externally, as the security holder is upside down. I can’t think of a reason why copyists keep omitting the production code (TK219) so it would look even closer to the original.
Apart from all these minor differences are there any substantial differences?
To find the essential differences in our workshop, both frames were measured on perfectly calibrated diagnostic equipment.
Strung with the same string under the same tension, both showed exactly same string bed stiffness. The result is really surprising as it shows that both frames have had the same in-plane stiffness (the same head shape tolerance to multiple stresses placed from each string’s pull after finishing the stringing process)!
Other measurements showed that the fake model is identical in length, is barely heavier by just 3 grams and is lacking only 5 units in swingweight. The 2.10 cm difference in balance, with the fake being more head-light, would be easy to sense by the majority of club players.
The real difference was found though in the longitudinal stiffness of the frame, where the fake racquet showed a massive 10 unit variation, making it a much softer stick.
But is “soft” good in this case?
Our on-court tests showed that the fake stick falls short in performance, being unable to quickly recover from its bend position following impact. A dead feel was present in almost every shot due to the lack of proper stiffness at multiple points along the frame and to the cheap material used.
The complete absence of on-court performance tests makes it enough to distinguish the original from the fake. The common flaw of the fakes is always present and it is none other than the so called “dead feel.”
So shouldn’t you think twice next time you buy from (non-trusted) sites?
Feel free to email us for any additional info regarding fakes.