Pro Tennis: It’s High Time to Bring Back Wood Rackets

Wood Tennis RacketsBy D-Wil of AolSports fans - Professional tennis players need to go back to wood.

After watching Maria Sharapova hit one of her patented squash-like wristed stretch forehands and watching Rafael Nadal (both Maria and Raffa bludgeoned their opponents today at the French Open) do the same, and many other not-so well known players hit similar shots, I got disgusted. I’m joining John McEnroe’s oft-spoken suggestion to both the men’s’ - ATP - and women’s - WTA - tours, bring back the wood!

I have grown tired of watching pros hit "equipment shots," the kind of shots that were impossible before the advent of composite tennis rackets. I’m tired of players with marginal games, but with one weapon only advance far in tournaments because they can now use their on stroke, swing as hard as they can and hit winners from anywhere in the court.

Today power is more important than strategy and speed is more important than court position. The ability to generate tons of power only through racket speed means players are no longer forced to think their way through a point. Why do that, when you can slug your way out of trouble, a la Fernando Gonzalez? Sure, Gonzo has hired Larry Stefanki, to help him think more on the court, but he still largely stomps his way through matches like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

Wood rackets are much heavier than their composite cousins, and do not require as much racket speed to generate power. However, with their smaller racket heads, the "sweet spot" - that perfect striking area on the racket face - on a wood racket is actually smaller than a tennis ball. The sweet spot on composite rackets is more often than not, oval and the size of two tennis balls in width and two and-a-half balls in length.

These rackets were originally derived with the everyday player in mind; to make it easier for that player to share in the experience of playing tennis. What composites did, though, is make these rackets so costly that playing tennis is not a viable exercise activity for many people; $200 dollars for a good racket compared with about $50 for a wooden racket, $70 strung - is a pretty penny for an instrument that you them must take lessons - more money - learn to use. So, rather than make the game more accessible to the average person, with new material technologies applied to tennis rackets, tennis priced itself into a near, elite-only, status.

But back to the game itself. If top players and satellite players were forced to use wooden rackets, we would find that many players we think are good now are not quite what they appear to be. The game would be slower, forcing the players to think their way through nearly every point; think about the consequences of every shot. On quicker surfaces, especially grass, serve-and-volleyers would regain their inherent, fast surface advantage. However, this advantage would not be at the expense of the game itself.

Back in the day of Bjorn Borg and early McEnroe, a casual observer could see how good a players’ hands were. We’re not talking pure hand-eye coordination, but feel for the ball on the racket. That art is nearly lost today. No longer can a player like Johnny Mac or Borg slice-and-dice a player to death; a wide shot here, a deep shot there, a slice her, a topspin shot there and before you know it, you’ve lost 10 points in a row - and you didn’t feel a thing. Today, it’s a 130 mile per hour serve (Venus Williams hit a 129-mph serve at the French Open this past week), 80-95 mph forehands, backhands whacked as hard as possible, swinging instead of punched volleys - power, power, power. And whoever can corral their power best wins.

Ack! I want to see thought and guile. I want the blend of speed, grace, good hands, and deft shot-making. I want wood.

How about you?

2 Responses to “Pro Tennis: It’s High Time to Bring Back Wood Rackets”

  • TennisPlaza

    This is absurd. In regards to the cost of a racket you can go to Wal-mart and spend $12 on a decent beginner racket that would shame wood. I started when I was young with wooden rackets and they felt horrible and possibly caused more injuries to the elbow and shoulder of a tennis player because of their weight.

    I enjoy player older players because of their control and finess of the ball to compensate for their lack of speed BUT we should not change the sport. Let it continue to evolve and grow. Let’s not dwell in the past but move forward with the sport.

  • TennisPlaza

    I think fewer would watch tennis if the players played with slow wooden rackets, just like in Golf.

  • Leave a Reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.