Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Fri, July 19

Column: What's coming next in tennis?

Wood tennis racquets are now gone.

As are long skirts and trousers, white tennis balls, leather grips and natural gut strings, among other things.

Even how the next group of potential professional tennis players is chosen has become much more scientific than it used to be.

Times have changed and with each new generation of ideas and research, our streamlined-fast paced life, space-aged electronics and new materials keep giving us more of an edge with the game of tennis and the modern world we live.

Now more than ever the evolution of our society is at a crossroads to new breakthroughs in all kinds of physical, material and mental information.

Major Wingfield would never have guessed how the game of tennis would grow throughout the world and develop in so many great ways.

The winding road of tennis and its humble beginning got started with the advent of the lawn mower in 1830, followed by Charles Goodyear's vulcanized rubber in 1843.

The industrialized time of the latter 1800s created more time for socialization and reasons to come up with fun games of interaction for mixed genders, thus the Major and his patent of tennis in 1874.

Racquets have changed from the common material of wood to metal, to aluminum to different composites to graphite.

Strings have progressed from natural gut to synthetic strings made of nylon, polyester and Kevlar.

Grips have gone from wooden grooves, leather, to rubber/sponge, and every kind of over-grip based on the weather at hand.

There have been some wonderfully insightful people who have helped change life on the court and certainly with clothing and equipment through the decades, too many to mention in this short column.

Susan Lenglen got rid of some of the heavy women's clothing that prevailed for years.

Jack Kramer was one of the first men to go from long trousers to tennis shorts.

From that point on, tennis clothes became more colorful, sporting and now light and breathable.

Rene Lacoste was known in many circles, as a player, businessman and inventor who came up with a tubular steel racquet that was produced by Wilson named the T-2000.

It went along very well with his polo shirt that had the alligator on it.

Howard Head designed the first over-sized tennis racquet called in 1967 which changed the game of tennis.

The governing bodies changed and added a few rules, Jimmy Van Alen's tie break at 6-6 in games, no ad tennis scoring for doubles with third set tie-breaks, which leaves us on a roll of new expertise in jump-starting the game for the 21st century.

The new technology continues with Hawk-Eye where high speed cameras create a picture of where the ball lands for umpiring matches.

There are computer chips in racquets to stiffen the frame as needed.

There are air-conditioned handles and grips, computer chips in shoes that relays information to your iPod on calories spent, amount you've run and more.

It's absolutely mind-boggling and there's so much more just around the corner.

A gentleman by the name of Jon Niednagel is researching a project called "Brain Typing" which shows what behavior traits you're born with.

This can help many people determine easier ways to learn and what sports and life endeavors each might be better geared for.

Computer chips are being implanted in people brains to help them with spinal cord injuries.

Tennis-wise what will take place next?

Glow in the dark tennis balls?

Tennis courts that don't crack? Patch material that lasts 5 years?

Racquets with computers in the handle that record your shots and movements?

A small monitor on the racquet that tells the speed of your serve or a brief message/video to show you good form?

An empty flask in the handle for a quick drink or maybe a robotic tennis ball retriever?

No matter if it's an upgrade in our equipment, clothing or mental/physical training, we certainly have become aware that changes sometimes take place in small and major ways and on occasion even undermine things we were told scientifically to believe only years before.

Guess that's life in the big city.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-445-1331 or


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