The Evolution of Tennis Rackets

Evolution of Tennis Rackets

Football boots in soccer, bat in baseball, stick in hockey... These are all examples of pieces of equipment for some of the most famous sports. One of the most iconic examples anyone can think of is the racket in tennis. In this article, we will talk exactly about that - the significance and evolution of tennis rackets. Nowadays, it matters a lot what kind of tennis racket you play with, because everyone is unique in their own way - what material it is made of, what kind of strings it has, what size and weight it has - every component of the racket matters.

The evolution of tennis rackets

Early Tennis Rackets

The first tennis racket in history was made in London for the game of "Real Tennis" or "Royal Tennis". This happened in the 16th century, when King Henry VIII of England heard of a game in France, called "tennis", and decided to popularize it in his nation as well. Making this a reality, Henry built his own tennis court at Hampton Court Palace. The first tennis racket, however, was called a "batoir", because it did not look like the rackets we have today – they were without strings. These batoirs looked like wooden paddles with long handles and an oval head.

Classic Wooden Tennis Rackets

About 3 centuries later, in 1884 in London, was created the first rаcket in the form we know today. The father of the first tennis racket was Major Walter Wingfield, who made the racket, which was designed for lawn surfaces (grass courts). The racket was made of solid wood and wrapped with a leather handle. With time, people began to use other types of wood, such as ash, which was not as solid and could bend more easily. Along with this, the rackets became lighter. Considering that wooden tennis rackets have historically been used the most, they were effective but also had their limitations. Since the beginning of the last century, there have been attempts to make metal rackets as well, but they were too heavy. Thus, people have found no point in making the transition to the more durable rackets yet.

Speaking of limitations, however, wooden rackets were not durable and their strings snapped very often - much more often than metal rackets for the simple reason that metal is a stronger material than wood. Until the 1980s, the manufacturers mainly made wooden rackets, with the biggest brands being Slazenger, Dunlop and Wilson. Some of the greatest players in the 20th century such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Billie Jean King, and Rod Laver won titles with exactly the racquets made by the manufacturers mentioned above.

Introduction of Metal and Composite Rackets

In 1957, a French manufacturer called René Lacoste created the first steel racket. It was far more durable, and some tennis players tried playing with these instead of wooden ones but then reverted back to the more familiar choice. In the early 1980s, however, manufacturers like Wilson bought out the rights to the metal rackets because they felt the wooden ones wouldn't be used much longer. By saying this, Roland Garros 1983 will remain forever in history as the last major, in which both men's and women's tournaments were won by players, using wooden rackets. Shortly thereafter, rаckets made from a mixture of several metals came into use – the composite ones.

However, they also contained steel, although a lighter one. At some point, aluminium rackets have also been created - a solution that proved to be revolutionary in the history of tennis rackets. Although aluminium rackets (which were much lighter) were not used for long, manufacturers and players realized that an even lighter and more bendable material had to be used – graphite.

Technological Advancements

Talking of technological advancements, with the use of more bendable and resistant materials, rackets could be made in different sizes, weights and lengths. Improvements in racket development meant that manufacturers were more flexible in deciding what material, stringing or grips to use.

The Transition to Graphite and Carbon Fiber

The official transition from heavier materials like steel and aluminium to lighter ones like graphite was made in the early 1980s. The graphite racket had many advantages regarding its importance for the players on the court. Until then, the tennis world had never seen rackets as effective as the graphite ones. They had bigger heads and were made of durable materials, but at the same time were not heavy and did not cause any discomfort or even injuries. They also improved the stability and responsiveness for the players on the court. In the 80's, maybe for the first time, everybody realized that it already mattered exactly what rаcket the players used. Up until that point, it was all about what skills the player had - not anymore.

A historical year for graphite rackets was 1988, when Steffi Graf won a Golden Grand Slam (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open and Olympics) using the iconic Dunlop Max 200G. The most interesting fact of all is that the change made in the 1980s was so revolutionary that it affected racket-making until today. Let's take for example the Graf graphite racket from 1988 - it can be easily used today and be as effective as it was back then. The icing on the cake was the carbon fibre material. It came into use at the beginning of the 21st century by the biggest manufacturers. Until today, this is the highest-performance and most premium material for tennis racket-making. Its strength-to-weight ratio is the highest, making it the best choice for players who want to have a top-notch product in their hands. Carbon fibre is also resistant to deformation and fatigue, allowing tennis rackets made from this material to last longer.


The evolution of tennis rackets is fundamental to the overall development of tennis historically. It is also very interesting because in the era of wooden rackets, it didn't matter exactly what model you played with, whereas in modern tennis it largely determines how successful you will be on the court depending on the racket you use and the way you control it.