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Tennis technology

tennis technologyWimbledon is not all strawberries and glamour - there is hard science at work behind the scenes!

Tennis balls

For the first Wimbledon tournament in 1902, each tennis ball was hand sewn and no two were alike. Balls were made from rubber with a wool cloth covering. Today they are made of a hollow rubber core, covered in a wood or nylon shell which is known as the nap.

Different tournaments are played with different balls because of the different surfaces. The surface of the court will affect the speed and bounce of the ball so the weight and compression will differ slightly. The cloth also has to be more durable on abrasive surfaces such as hard court and clay. The tennis governing body is thinking of using larger ball on fast courts like Wimbledon to slow the game down as the bigger the ball, the slower it travels through the air, thus making for more exiting games with longer rallies.

Slazenger, the official sponsor of Wimbledon, provides 52,000 balls for the competition. Every single ball will have been individually tested for bounce, weight and compression. Each ball must also measure exactly two-and-half inches (6.35cms) in diameter and weigh two ounces (56.7 g).

The spare balls are kept in a refrigerated container at 68 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them in perfect condition. Balls used at Wimbledon are sold afterwards at the All England Tennis Club and funds raised are donated to charities.

Tennis racquets

Until the 1970’s racquet frames were made of wood. Now they are made of graphite, fibreglass and other man-made materials which means that they are a lot lighter but just as strong.

The tension of the strings on a racquet is almost as important as the choice of frame. The best racquet strings are made of animal gut although synthetic strings are more common these days. Strings will lose their elasticity with time and use. Top players usually have their racquets restrung after every match.

Tracking the game

A system of infra red beams is used at Wimbledon to help determine whether serves are in or out. It is called Cyclops after a one-eyed monster from Greek mythology.
It works by projecting a horizontal array of five or six light beams across the court 10mm above the ground. It will make a loud beep noise whenever the ball breaks the beams situated beyond the service line.

Two specially designed radar sensors are positioned behinds the baseline at either end of the court . Once a player strikes the ball the radar gun detects its speed and the information is flashed up on the court-side screen. The fastest serve belongs to Andy Roddick and clocked 144 mph

There are 54 television cameras on site at Wimbledon, nine of which are robotic.

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