On the Origin of Contemporary Tennis – Part 3: Moving Away from Wooden Racquets

Billie Jean King won the US Championships, now the US Open, in 1967 using a Wilson T-2000 racquet.  This was the first time someone won a major singles title using a non-wooden racquet.  In 1974, Jimmy Connors went undefeated in Grand Slam play and dominated the men’s tour using the T-2000.  It is odd to think of the T-2000 as a revolution for the sport due to it being a racquet that screams relic of the past.  Still, a lighter and stiffer racquet could produce greater power.  The trampoline effect of the T-2000’s string bead also could lead to power if one had the accuracy to avoid spraying shots.

By 1984, tennis seemed to be settling on graphite  racquets.  John McEnroe recorded his best season ever using the Dunlop Max 200G.  Jimmy Connors introduced the Pro Staff for Wilson despite shifting back and forth between his new frame and his trusted T-2000. Connors used his T-2000 in a one-sided loss to John McEnroe and used the Pro Staff at the 1984 US Open in which he absorbed a 5 set loss to McEnroe in the semifinal (progress?).

In 1984, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander were using graphite frames.  Young attacking players Stefan Edberg and the soon to emerge Boris Becker were also using graphite.  The 1984 Davis Cup final between the US and Sweden gives a visual of this shift.  In the doubles rubber, John McEnroe and Peter Fleming were using Max 200G racquets.  Stefan Edberg was using a Pro Staff.  In Wilander and Connors’ singles rubber, Jimmy was also using a Pro Staff while Mats Wilander was using a Rosignol racquet with its memorable inverted throat.

Edberg using the Pro Staff that would be the template of many champions’ racquets in the 1990s

More of course needs to be said about racquets and especially about strings, but by 1984 tennis had moved to frames that had a huge impact on the 1990s and are recognizable for impacting today’s frames.

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