July 2017: Wimbledon
Every summer, the oldest tennis tournament in the world is held in London. We’re referring of course to Wimbledon, which has been hosted by the All England Club since 1877. This year’s event runs from 3-16 July. In addition to the players, Wimbledon draws hundreds of thousands of spectators each year, and about 750 entries for ball boys and girls are narrowed down to about 250 through a rigorous training routine.
The sport of tennis has become quite high-tech in recent years. Tennis rackets were originally made of wood, but eventually designs came about with metal frames – first made of steel and then aluminium. The metal frames could handle more tension in the strings, allowing for a wider head. Today, most rackets are made of aluminium, fiberglass or a composite of graphite for their strong yet lightweight qualities. Aluminium rackets often contain other materials such as silicon, magnesium, copper, chromium or zinc. These alloys can make the rackets stronger, lighter or easier to use depending on how the various materials are combined.
While the manufacturing process of creating tennis rackets is fairly straightforward, an essential element of racket design takes place in a lab. The physics and mathematics of materials, design and how the ball interacts with the strings are highly complex. Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) allow for extreme precision in this process. This makes tennis rackets a prime area for innovation and maximizing the effectiveness of raw materials.