Excerpts from The Handbook of Tennis by Paul Douglas


Excerpts from The Handbook of Tennis by Paul Douglas, 1982 hardcover & 1992 paperback
University of Pennsylvania Press

Out of print, but still available used from Amazon.com via the links above.

    The bulk of The Handbook of Tennis consists of a guide to playing the game, covering all shots plus strategy & tactics. This how-to section is illustrated with excellent graphics and great photos of great players in action. Many of the photos are in color, and the players depicted include Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Evonne Goolagong, Margaret Smith Court, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Maria Bueno, Virginia Wade, and Hana Mandlikova, as well as Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and others.

Virginia Wade chases a forehand volley on her way to
winning Wimbledon in 1977 photo from the book

    The 1992 edition keeps many of these photos, and adds photos of Steffi Graf, Gabriella Sabatini, Jennifer Capriati, Mary Joe Fernandez, Natalie Zvereva, and more.

    The pics added in 1992 aren't as good as the older photos, but the book is still worth buying for the photos alone.

    The tennis instruction is also well-done (though not without flaws), and there are additional good short sections covering history, racket making and stringing, ball manufacturing, court surfaces, how tournament draws are conducted, and more.

    The rules of tennis are included, and the book is indexed.

    If you could only buy two books for both tennis playing and spectating reference, this might be one of them (the other might be Bud Collins' Total Tennis).

Chris Evert delivers a backhand drive
photo from the book

Composite racket manufacture (1992 edition only, page 270):

    A composite is a general term that has evolved to mean an article molded from plastic material reinforced by strong fibers. The plastic material is known as the matrix or resin. There are several types of reinforcing fiber used in the manufacture of composite rackets. Glass fiber, or fiberglass, is inexpensive, heavy, relatively weak and rather flexible. Carbon fiber is more expensive, but lighter and stronger and also stiffer - in the sporting world it is known as graphite but this is not strictly accurate: true graphite comes in pencils and is used as a lubricant. Boron fiber is more expensive than carbon, but even lighter and stronger. Other substances which have limited use are Kevlar, which is used in making bullet-proof vests and of course in Kevlar racket strings in hybrid compositions, and ceramics, of which many varieties exist, all of them expensive.
    All of these fibers are very strong, but they are threadlike in form, and consequently have to be bonded into a matrix in order to be used to make tennis rackets. Composites are much denser than wood, and a system which molds a hollow racket had to be used in the manufacturing process. Two different methods have been developed to accomplish this-- compression molding and injection molding.

    Compression molding
    The majority of composite tennis rackets are made by this system, which produces very high quality rackets. The matrix (the plastic material) is almost always epoxy resin, which is "thermosetting", that is, when heated it solidifies and cannot be remelted. The longer reinforcing fibers are coated with epoxy and placed in the mold, which is then closed and heated. To make the racket hollow, internal pressure is created by inflating an inner tube or using an expanding foam. In the construction of the racket, normal percentages of materials are matrix [resin] 40 per cent and fibers 60 per cent. A mixture of fibers is often used so that a racket may not be too expensive - a common example would be matrix 40 per cent, carbon fiber 30 per cent, and glass fiber 30 per cent. A racket in which all of the fibers are carbon is known as 100 per cent graphite, and, although this is not strictly true (since the 40 per cent that is made up of matrix is not carbon fiber), it is generally accepted for most trading purposes.
    Injection molding
    The Dunlop Sports Company introduced their unique injection molding system in the eary 1980s. The material used is "thermoplastic": that is, it melts when heated and solidifies when cooled. The matrix is nylon, and the short reinforcing fibers are entirely carbon fiber.

    To make the racket hollow, a core is produced from a metal alloy with a low melting point. This has the shape of the finished racket, but is slightly smaller in cross-section. It is fitted into the mold, leaving a small space between the mold and the core.

    The carbon fiber and nylon mixture is injected into the mold, and fills this space, sheathing the core. The molding is removed and then heated, causing the metal alloy to melt and run out, and leaving the hollow frame.

    In construction, percentages are matrix 60 per cent, reinforcing fiber 40 per cent. As with compression molding, a racket made with 40 per cent carbon fiber and 60 per cent nylon is referred to as being 100 per cent graphite.

An injection-molded composite racket
is removed from the mold
photo from the 1992 edition
click to see larger photo

Wooden racket manufacture (1982 edition only, page 270):

    The modern wood racket is made from a variety of steam-soaked and kiln-dried timbers, which include beech, ash, hickory, mahogany, maple, obeche, sycamore and hornbeam. The basic strength of today's racket is still derived from ash, but beech, too, now plays a major role. The throat area is mostly sycamore or mahogany with obeche being used as a spacer in the handle. Hickory can add strength and durability to the outside of the frame, and sometimes walnut is used for its appearance as well as its strength.
    The woods are made up into laminated multi-ply frames after processing to a moisture content of 10 per cent to insure uniform stress. Some timber trunks are peeled into veneers which are cut along the grain to the width of three rackets after steaming. The remaining wood is cut into planks and kiln-dried for making into other parts of the racket. The woods are always positioned so that the best use can be made of their different properties and so that the grain always follows the curve of the frame to avoid cross-grain weakness. Laminated frames greatly reduce warping tendencies, a common feature of the old solid ash frame. The center point of construction is a triangular section known as the "throat". In some frames the throat is made up of two wedge-shaped pieces of mahogany, these being bonded with an ash veneer which is centrally positioned. A thin wedge of obeche often extends along the handle between the laminated plies to provide width and reinforcement.

30 string holes are drilled in a racket at a time-- photo from the 1982 edition

click to see larger photo
    The shoulders of the racket are also reinforced both on the curved inside and on the outside facing surfaces. In both these instances the wood is bent to shape after steam soaking. Ash or beech are machine cut to form a crescent shape for the shoulders.

    The blocks of soaked and shaped woods are then sawed into slices to the thickness required. Sycamore and mahogany face pieces are used to build up the handle for strength and the various components - apart from the handle and shoulder facing pieces - are glued with a synthetic resin glue and then placed in their relative positions in clamping frames. Hydraulic pressure is then applied to bend the wood strips into the traditional racket shape around a former. The whole assembly is passed through an oven to set the glue. As the racket frames are of triple thickness they are then cut into frames of equal depth on a specially designed automatic machine. Facing strips are then glued on to the handle and shoulders of each racket frame, which is then subjected to a series of shaping and sanding operations. Sixty-four stringing holes are drilled into the frame on a multi-spindle drilling machine equipped with 30 special drill heads in two simple operations. Four holes have to be drilled separately because the machine cannot accomodate their separate angles. Countersinking and grooving operations are carried out manually to protect the strings from damage during play. Painting, lacquering and applying transfers complete the manufacturing process.

    The frame is strung with 18 main strings and 19 cross strings [these are actually just 2 pieces of gut or nylon string] with a colored thread of waxed cotton at the head and throat known as trebling. Although threaded by hand, the stringing is mechanically tensioned and held on a specially arranged clamping stand to give uniform tension. After thorough checking, an end piece is fitted and a leather grip wound on the handle...

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