The Evolution of the Tennis Racket

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Complex Original

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The modern tennis racket has come a long was since its introduction over a century ago. Thanks to advancements in technology, and a bit of creative thinking from brands, today's tennis rackets are far superior than the original ones that were virtually just planks of wood. With revolutionary upgrades in the design department, and help in the marketing from some of the greatest tennis players in history, brands like Wilson, Head, and Dunlop have showed tremendous ingenuity with their approach to the game of tennis.

Follow along as Sneaker Report takes a look at how tennis rackets evolved over the course of history, and which legends helped put tennis brands on the map.


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The OG Tennis Match

Racket: Hand substitute

Year: 1100 BC

As the theory goes, the game of tennis was created by 11th Century French monks who used their hands as rackets, making it more like handball than modern tennis.


The First Racket

Racket: We'll call it the "Major Wingfield Original."

Year: 1874

The very first tennis racket was made in 1874 in London by Major Walter C. Wingfield. The racket was the first one made of solid wood, meaning McEnroe could have done some serious damage back in the day.


Introducing Laminated Wood

Racket: Lacoste Laminated

Year: 1947

Advances in laminating technology resulted in the first tennis racket made of laminated wood in 1947. This was a game-changer.


Wilson Gets in the Game

Racket: Wilson T2000

Year: 1968

In 1968 Wilson introduces the T2000, the first steel racket. The racket gained legendary status after tennis great Jimmy Connors adopted it as his own.


The First Oversized Racket

Racket: Weed Aluminum

Year: 1975

Though it never seemed to gain popularity, in 1975 American tennis brand Weed makes the first oversized racket out of aluminum. It's a shame, Weed and Boast could have been besties.


Prince Keeps it Classic

Racket: Prince by Howard Head

Year: 1976

Prince follows suit in 1976 with the oversized racket trend, giving players a larger sweet spot for added power. While the Weed racket never gained much attention, the Prince model, designed by Howard Head, quickly became a top seller.


Dunlop Domination

Racket: Dunlop Max200G

Year: 1980

By the 1980, wooden rackets became obsolete. Instead, brands like Dunlop and Prince switched over to graphite frames. World class tennis players John McEnroe and Steffi Graf dominated the court with the Dunlop Max200G.


The Beginning of the Wilson Era

Racket: Wilson Pro Staff

Year: 1983

In 1983, Wilson introduced the classic Pro Staff, its answer to the Dunlop Max 200G and the Prince Graphite. A racket with tremendous potential, the Pro Staff became the top choice for American great Pete Sampras and others pros.


Wilson Pushes Width

Racket: Wilson Profile

Year: 1987

Wilson continued with its innovation with the Profile. Introduced in 1987, the first “widebody” racket allowed for more powerful shots thanks to a larger beam width.


Yonex Enters the Scene

Racket: Yonex Brand

Year: 1990

In the ‘90s, Japanese brand Yonex entered the tennis spotlight as the racket of choice for World No. 1 ranked Monica Seles. Seles went on to dominate her competition thanks to her premium Yonex tennis racket.


Hammer Time

Racket: Wilson Hammer

Year: 1990

Anyone who was following tennis in the 90's should remember this monster. In 1990 the Wilson Hammer changed the game with a design that featured a heavier head for more solid shots.


Radical Rackets

Racket: Head Radical

Year: 1993

With tennis peaking in popularity, Head developed the Radical tennis racket in 1993 for Andre Agassi to match his on-court style. Agassi won 37 titles with the supreme racket, including a gold medal in Atlanta.


Babolat Goes Ultra-Light

Racket: Babolat Pure Drive

Year: 2003

Andy Roddick won the 2003 US Open with a Babolat Pure Drive tennis racket, putting the brand on the map. The ultra-light racket helped Roddick develop a monster serve and other great overall skills.


Prince Introduces an Aerodynamic Frame

Racket: Prince O3

Year: 2005

Prince up’d the ante in 2005 with their revolutionary O3 technology. Instead of having pin-sized string holes, the O3 featured much larger holes for more racket speed.


Babolat Builds for Speed

Racket: Babolat AeroPro Drive

Year: 2005

Spaniard Rafael Nadal burst onto the global tennis scene after winning the 2005 French Open. Like Roddick, Nadal went with a Babolat racket, the AeroPro Drive, further propelling the brand in the spotlight. Nadal's AeroPro Drive featured an aerodynamic design for smoother and more efficient strokes.


Federer's Winning Streak with Wilson 

Racket: Wilson K Factor

Year: 2002 - 2012

Over the past decade, no player has been more dominant in tennis than Roger Federer. As the face of Wilson, Federer used his signature K Factor racket to win 17 major titles.


Composite Rackets Continue to Evolve

Racket: Head YOUTEK

Year: 2012

The trend of composite tennis rackets continues today as brands like Head continue to create innovate gear. Guys like Novak Djokovic, who uses the Head YOUTEK, have had great success thanks to the evolution of the tennis racket.