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RACQUET TECHNOLOGY (BABOLAT, VOLKL, YONEX, WILSON)

   This is part two of racquet technology. Last time I took a look at Dunlop, Head and
Prince’s latest innovations and how they are suppose to improve your game.
   BABOLAT – The string company which introduced their racquet line only a few
short years ago have taken the industry by storm. Babolat racquets have the woofer
system. The grommets of the racquet are rounded and made of shock absorbing
material. This is suppose to allow better string movement (like the Wilson rollers)
which increases the sweet spot and dampen the frame vibration. Babolat also came
up with Carbon Nanotubes (NCT) that are 10 times stiffer than regular graphite. There
only 4 grades of graphite and this falls into the high modulus category like Wilsonâ
€™s Hyper Carbon. Babolat’s newest technology is Aero Modular, in which the
frame has different shapes in various areas to help with control, power and swing
speed.
   VOLKL - The Catapult series of racquets have graphite springs in the grommets that
provide additional power and feel. The springs are compress upon impact and then
spring back into position to help “catapult� the ball off the strings. Now they have
introduces the “V-engine� which is a “V� shaped throat that is said to
increase power and torsional stability. They say that this makes the throat stronger (for
power) and the main strings longer (for control).
   YONEX – Muscle Power is the originator of the rounded grommets to increase
power & sweet spot size. Now to minimize frame vibration, Yonex introduced V-con
technology. The combination of  â€œgraphite, a ceramic alloy and an innovative new
elastic� tunes the vibration frequency to 150Hz instead of regular racquets at 170Hz.
The RD series have “isometric� shaped frames to increase stability and power.
Yonex also incorporates titanium in most of their frames.
   WILSON – The “Profileâ€� was the first wide body tennis racquet that changed
the shape of the frame to increase stiffness and power. The “Hammer� was
next which took a light weight racquet and put the weight toward the head producing
more power. Hyper Carbon is a marketing term for high modulus graphite which is the
best grade of graphite. The “Rollers� racquet had actual rollers along the side of
the frame. The string went over the roller and was suppose to increase the sweet spot
size by having the rollers move with the string upon ball contact.  Roller technology was
“rolled over� in one year and has disappeared. A two part racquet glued them
together between “Iso-zorb� a polymer and came up with the “Triad�
sandwich. The Triad’s were mainly for shock absorbing. To me the best innovation
Wilson had was adding Kevlar to the Pro Staff give them less shock and more feel. The
Wilson Classic Pro Staff 6.1 was the world’s best seller for many years and Wilson
is still using Kevlar in the Nsix-one racquet. Now it has the “N Codeâ€� racquet.  
The nano-technology process in which nano-sized silicon dioxide crystals permeate
the voids between carbon fiber reinforcing the molecular structure of the frame is
suppose to increase the stiffness and thus the power of the frames. Wilson combines
the Triad suppression system with N-Coded technology in some frames.
   Racquet technology will continue to push the boundaries of physics and human
limitations. What will they think of next?

Doug Hofer, USPTA & USRSA Certified      April 4, 2005
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