Wimbledon’s two weeks of top-tier tennis is thrilling sports fans worldwide this July. Yet despite lawn tennis harking back over 150 years, the extent to which today’s game employs modern technology may just surprise you – and it’s pushing the sport to its limits.
As the cream is readied for the strawberries and the players begin their final preparations, tennis fever is ready to grip the nation harder than the players handle their rackets. Here’s a little about the science behind the serves, smashes and sets.
Serving the aces
Of course, the player’s toolkit has moved with the times. From the large, cumbersome wooden rackets to feather-light carbon graphite and titanium – aerodynamically built – the modern player enjoys equipment that enables swifter, lighter play. Yet that’s just the start.
Collating and recording performance data is de rigueur for elite athletes. Smart technology spreads across all sport, from the obvious such as swimming and running, to the unlikely, such as boxing. Tennis is no different.
Smart rackets, with sensors that track movement, power, and resistance are big on practice courts right now. QLipp, for example, is a detachable dampener that feeds information to a connected smart device, giving players the skinny on their technical game. Statistics on speed, spin and the point on the racket that’s connecting with the ball provide invaluable data for players to improve their game.
The tech has been incorporated wholly into rackets, as demonstrated with the Babolat Play, the type of tool favoured by Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal. Something of a victim of its own innovation, live feedback from the device during competition has been banned by the International Tennis Federation. Regardless, never before have players been afforded the kind of information that the smart rackets provide: pin-sharp accuracy that is capable of enhancing the play of all who wield them.
SOLIDWORKS has played its part in furthering the game’s progress too. BOLT Rackets have restrung the design of the modern racket, quite literally. A patented Zipstrip helps to combine the flexibility and absorption of a modern racket with the raw power of a wooden one. Its integrated spring suspension absorbs the ball power instead of the racket, increasing the player’s precision and control. This breakthrough innovation was designed in SOLIDWORKS’ 3D CAD, where the team were able to bridge old and modern to pioneer a revolutionary racket.
On the court
Smart tech shouldn’t feel out of place on a modern tennis court. Whilst football is only just starting to embrace video-assisted refereeing, tennis has been employing the technology for the best part of a decade. Called Hawk-Eye, the system is a precision ball-tracking video system that can trace the path of a ball down to individual millimetres. Being the reliable technology that acts as an official eye for the umpire removes the sting of doubt over any hotly-contested decisions. (We’re looking at you, McEnroe.) If human eyes can’t decide whether a ball is in or out, it’s over to Hawk-Eye to verify with certainty. It’s a near infallible system that encourages fair sporting contest.
Other innovative tech that assists those wielding the racket is possibly making its way to a court near you in the near future. Technis is a program embedded within the court itself. Essentially a smart court, the technology provides feedback to the players about ball and player placement and weight distribution. For the training athlete, it’s more information to work with and improve their game.
We can be serious: the future of tennis
Modern technology is shaping the future of tennis. More control. Greater accuracy. Faster learning. The leap in technological advances has enabled an accelerated process in player training, pushing the boundaries of performance.