Understanding the Dynamic Behaviour of a Tennis Racket under Play Conditions

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Experimental Mechanics, 2014, 54 (4), pp. 527 - 537
Issue Date:
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The 'feel' of tennis rackets is of increasing importance to manufacturers seeking product differentiation in a context where further performance enhancements are prevented by a combination of mechanical limits and regulations imposed to protect the integrity of the sport. Vibrations excited during a shot contribute greatly to the perception of 'feel'. Previous studies have been reported but none has covered the full set of mode families or the frequency range in this study. In-plane vibrations associated with the routine use of topspin shots in modern tennis have not been documented so far in the literature. To consider modal behaviour, multiple measurements during play conditions are required but this is practically impossible. This paper proposes an alternative approach and successfully relates a comprehensive modal analysis on a freely suspended racket to vibration measurements under play conditions. This is achieved through an intermediate stage comprising a necessarily more limited modal analysis on a hand-gripped racket and use of the mass modification modal analysis tool. This stage confirmed the prevailing view that hand-gripping can be considered as a mass modification distributed along the handle of the freely suspended racket but the associated mass was much lower than that of an actual hand and the hand also increased the damping ratio of frame modes significantly. Furthermore, in frame vibration measurements during forehand groundstrokes, a greater reduction in bending mode frequencies was observed, consistent with a mass-loading of around 25 % of the actual hand as a consequence of the tighter grip. In these play tests, the first two bending modes, the first torsional mode, the first eight stringbed modes, the first three hoop modes and the third in-plane bending mode were identified, with the stringbed modes being particularly prominent. © 2013 Society for Experimental Mechanics.
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