Why Nadal has so many strings to his bow

Plasmodium Roar Rookie

By Plasmodium, Plasmodium is a Roar Rookie

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    Actually, it’s not the number of strings in his racket that’s contributed to Rafa’s numero uno spot in tennis but the type of strings he uses. Rafa employs high-tech copolyester strings, which help him put tremendous topspin on his shots.

    The efficacy of these strings was proven by researchers using a camera that shoots at the amazing rate of 10,000 frames per second. The ultra-high-speed exposures showed that copoly strings slide with the ball and snap back as the ball leaves the racket thereby transferring more energy to the ball and giving it more spin.

    Aussie physicist Rod Cross found that because copoly strings are slippery and stiff, they generate not more friction but less. Friction was once thought to be responsible for spin, but the reverse turns out to be true.

    What a difference these strings are making in tennis. As Nate Ferguson, the stringer and racket techie for Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Soderling said recently, “A ball lands on the baseline, rises just 18 inches, and Rafa sends it rocketing back looking like it’ll hit the back fence, but the copoly strings bend the ball down to land on his opponent’s baseline for an untouchable winner.”

    Nobody’s saying that it’s just technology that makes Nadal so good – he’s very strong, a terrific athlete, and would be a fine player even if he used a frying pan – but it does make you wonder just how many slams somebody like Laver would have won had he had access to a big-head, graphite-and-tungsten Babolat Aeropro loaded up with Isospeed’s Axon Mono 16L copolymer strings.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Guru

      January 30th 2011 @ 5:30am
      Vinay Verma said | January 30th 2011 @ 5:30am | ! Report

      Plas, you are a fount of information and certainly technology has made champions into legends. The question you ask is if past legends would have been immortals in the 21st Century. I certainly think so. Sarazen and Hogan would have been the equal at least of Woods and Nicklaus may have won 30 majors. Laver could have won a lot more,too. And Bradman may have averaged 150.

      It was a pleasure watching Clistjers and Li Na yesterday. No squealing and screaming. Tennis played in the best possible spirit.

      • January 30th 2011 @ 6:12am
        Colin N said | January 30th 2011 @ 6:12am | ! Report

        “Plas, you are a fount of information and certainly technology has made champions into legends. The question you ask is if past legends would have been immortals in the 21st Century. I certainly think so. Sarazen and Hogan would have been the equal at least of Woods and Nicklaus may have won 30 majors. Laver could have won a lot more,too. And Bradman may have averaged 150.”

        I disliks these assertions because although all were great champions in their day, would Laver have really competed with Nadal or Federer? Why would Bradman average 150? As technology and science gets better, so do players, therefore better athletes are produced.

        Yes, technology would have helped Laver and Bradman, but surely it means bowlers are better because they’ve been helped by technology?

        What’s to say a mediocre modern day player wouldn’t have dominated in Laver’s day because they are better conditioned and better athletes?

        • Roar Guru

          January 30th 2011 @ 6:24am
          Vinay Verma said | January 30th 2011 @ 6:24am | ! Report

          ColinN,the cricket ball has remained largely unchanged. That is why bowlers have to resort to means fair and foul. Bats,helmets,protective equipment have made great changes. The sweetspots are larger and more forgiving.The pitches were uncovered and the boundaries were long. Most of those averaging fifty now would be lucky to scrape 40.

          The Big Bertha drivers give you an extra 50 yards. The short irons have more loft and give you more control.

          • January 30th 2011 @ 7:32am
            Colin N said | January 30th 2011 @ 7:32am | ! Report

            So bowlers must have improved then.

            Don Bradman certainly seems to be the greatest batsman by some margain, but I don’t buy the idea that his statistics would have been infinitely better in modern day.

            Who’s to say that had he played 50 more test matches, his batting average wouldn’t be in the 80s, or even lower, or that bowlers are perhaps better nowadays than they were?

            “The Big Bertha drivers give you an extra 50 yards. The short irons have more loft and give you more control.”

            Were courses shorter? And what’s to say those older players you using the clubs would have the accuracy of the current players, we just don’t know.

            It’s why this and these debate’s in general are pointless, so many hypothetical opinions where you can’t definitively say one way or the other.

        • January 30th 2011 @ 5:56pm
          amazonfan said | January 30th 2011 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

          Bradman- I don’t think he would average 150, but I do think he would dominate. Why wouldn’t he? You say that the players have gotten better, however why wouldn’t Bradman maintain or increase his brilliance if he was benefitted with all the advantages that today’s players have? It would be interesting to see how Bradman would have fared against Lillee & Marshall, Akram and Khan, McGrath & (especially) Warne. My money would be on Bradman.

          Laver- I think that not only could Laver had competed with Federer and Nadal, but he would have beaten them. The greatest tennis player of all time IMO.

          “What’s to say a mediocre modern day player wouldn’t have dominated in Laver’s day because they are better conditioned and better athletes?”

          That’s unfar. You can’t put a modern-day player in Laver’s day, and still grant them modern advantages. If you want to put Federer or Nadal in Laver’s day, have them be in it without the conditioning and other such advantages.

          In a fair fight, I think many of the best players of the 60’s (Laver, Rosewall, Manuel Santana, Newcombe, Emerson, Ashe) could defeat many of today’s best players, with Laver arguably defeating all and any of them.

      • Editor

        January 30th 2011 @ 9:28am
        Tristan Rayner said | January 30th 2011 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        Hi Vinay, Colin N,

        I reckon where technology is broadly improved and all competitors are able to access new equipment, such as tennis or golf, the competition should be the same. Each should now hit 50 yards further or be able to slice a backhand with more spin.

        However, where one side has been improved and the other at the same level, such as in cricket where Bradman would face bowlers on flat decks with the equivalent of a 4×2 in his arms, that would change things significantly.

        Thought provoking stuff Plas.

    • January 31st 2011 @ 6:47am
      Plasmodium said | January 31st 2011 @ 6:47am | ! Report

      Thanks for the kudos, Vinay and Tristan.

      One does have to wonder about how many more runs batsmen like Bradman could have put on with a better bat in his hands. It might not have mattered so much to guys like Viv Richards who could have hit boundaries with a stump, but to small, slight men like The Don, who hit all those fours with exquisite timing, as well as using a fast bowler’s pace, it surely would have improved things more than somewhat.

      To their credit, several golf associations have reacted to technology by banning the new, improved clubs from pro comps, like the oversized, 500 cc driver with a 10.5 degree loft. Anti-Slice tees are also disallowed as are small adhesive pads that can be applied to a club face to improve a player’s long game out of sight.

      Along with Bradman and Laver missing out on new technology we could include a lot of other famous sports figures. Bobby Jones springs to mind. Bobby won 13 major championships in 20 attemps including the Grand Slam (1930). What kind of miracle shots could he have pulled off had he been playing with modern clubs instead of thin little hickories?

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