The Physics and Technology of Tennis

By Howard Brody, Rod Cross & Crawford Lindsey


By Howard Brody, Rod Cross, & Crawford Lindsey

This book fills several niches. It was conceived to be the all-in-one source of enlightenment for all things scientific and technological about tennis equipment and its affect on a player’s performance. This task was not undertaken simply for the pure joy of intellectual pursuit. There is a great need and want in the marketplace and on the tennis courts for information about equipment. Tennis equipment has become so technologically advanced that buying a racquet or choosing a string requires either a Ph.D., in order to make an intelligent choice, or total blissful ignorance, to avoid the stress of making the wrong decision. Other sports have become the same way — golf in particular.

For years, players have pondered many tennis mysteries:

  • Is a stiff frame good or bad?
  • Where is the sweetspot and what does it do for me?
  • What causes shock and vibration? Is it injurious, and does it affect my shots?
  • Does string elasticity make a difference, and how can I influence that elasticity?
  • What difference does string tension make?
  • Where should I impact the ball on my racquet?
  • Should I use a lighter or heavier racquet?
  • Can I and should I alter the weight and balance of my racquet?
  • How much difference do different string materials, constructions and gauges make?
  • How can I create ball spin, react to spin, and read spin?
  • How can I hit with more power?
  • And many more …

All of these questions can be answered with a little understanding of the physical fundamentals underlying the universe — tennis, of course, being its most important microcosm. In the past, these questions have been answered with one part science and two parts folklore, and a pinch of myth. Sometimes the answers are correct, but the explanations are wrong. Sometimes both are correct, but if you measure the physical quantities involved, they are not enough to make a difference anyway. And sometimes, players' perceptions of what is happening at ball impact with the strings, racquet and court are at odds with the measured physical reality. And we all know that you can't talk players out of what they feel.

So this book is here to set the record straight. This book is a hybrid of sorts. It is part textbook, part reference, and part "good read." There is tennis science here for every level of expertise and curiosity. It is "popular science," but without leaving out the hard explanations that make for true understanding. Concepts are fully explained in words. But, where necessary, words are supplemented with formulas, and the formulas, if very important, interesting, or intrinsically fascinating, are derived. In all cases, the math can be skipped without loss of the conceptual train of thought, and most of the chapters are formula free anyway. Where present, the formulas help to better understand the relationships that are involved in any equipment associated event on the tennis court. And, of course, if you want the answer to a specific question like, "How fast will the ball go, or where will the ball land if I hit it in such and such a way with such and such a racquet," then you will need to use the equations. The book is also heavily illustrated with diagrams and graphs to complement the text and to add visual understanding and eye appeal.

There is some duplication of discussions and explanations in the book. This is on purpose. Not every reader is going to read the book from front to back. Nor is it our intention that they do so. Rather, our intention is to have each chapter stand by itself as much as possible, so the reader can delve in anywhere one's need or whim dictates. To do this, some chapters require concepts and explanations from other chapters. We make no apology for that. Quite the contrary. The end result is that each chapter's discussion can be understood in a larger context, without reading any prerequisite chapters.

Appendices complete the presentation. Here you will find a glossary, handy units and conversions, equipment rules, court dimensions, references and other more esoteric information.

The authors would like to thank the following for photographs: Ron Waite / Photosportacular for the player photographs at the beginning of each chapter; The University of Sheffield and the ITF (International Tennis Federation) for the ball bounce photos in the Contents; and NASA Ames Research Center Fluid Mechanics Laboratory and Cislunar Aerospace, Inc. for the wind tunnel photos in the Contents. Thanks also to R. Christian Anderson for his beautiful cover design.

Recognition is due also to Racquet Tech Publishing, which is a division of the United States Racquet Stringers Association (USRSA). The USRSA is a worldwide organization of over 7,000 racquet technicians, teaching professionals, racquet sports retailers, manufacturers, sales organizations, and tennis (racquet sports) enthusiasts. Its mission is to educate all its constituencies to better understand, service, perform with, and enjoy the technological wonders known as racquets, strings, balls, courts, shoes, and stringing machines. For information about membership, products, or services, go to its website at

Book Specifications
Chapters 42
Sections 4
Pages 450
Illustrations 310
Glossary Yes
Index Yes
References Yes
Appendices 6
Cover Paperback
Size 8.5 × 11
ISBN 0-9722759-0-8