Re: Rackets Of Today Vs Rackets Of The 80's?
My personal anecdote:
I first played with wood and metal frame rackets and didn't care much for it, but in retrospect, that was because the equipment was truly subpar and improperly cared for. Some of the metal rackets we used at school were bent and probably had never been restrung.
When graphite and graphite composite rackets became readily available, tennis became much more fun for me. Of course, this was possibly because I was older and more coordinated and I was playing with my own racket and not something from school or from a family member's garage.
Then, in the course of adult life and other hobbies, I went about eight years without swinging a racket. One day last year, from almost out of nowhere, one of my neighbors asked me if I could help her out because she was just getting into tennis and she was having trouble with several areas. I told her it had been such a long time since I hit that I didn't even know where my racket was, and I probably sucked just as bad as she did. She told me she had two rackets in her car, ready to go, and any pointers would be appreciated, so off we went.
When we got to the court, and I saw her rackets, I had to laugh and say, "Well, there's your problem." One was the $40 Wilson from off the hanger at Walmart, the other was the $20 Wilson from off the hanger at Walmart. Both with "original" string jobs. She asked if they were really that bad, and I told her they were if she was playing against people using $280 rackets and getting them restrung on schedule.
Nonetheless, we began to hit. I chose the $20 Wilson, because then I could always blame the racket. I told her I would need probably 20 to 30 minutes just to find anything close to a swing. After three shots I was hitting balls with high-kicking topspin like Sabatini. I never hit like that before in my life. So I tried to figure out where it was coming from. After a while, it dawned on me that it was the racket and strings -- even this low-end of low-end frame with an off-the-shelf string job was producing topspin that I could never have dreamed of in the 80s and 90s.
We rallied for a little bit, and then it also dawned on me that, while this particular set of rackets was great at generating topspin by default, it takes something else to hit a winner with them. Which makes perfect sense, because those rackets are designed for people who are rank beginners or are not even sure if they want to be rank beginners, so it is quite easy to sustain a rally: very few balls into the net, very few pop flies over the fence, not easy to get it past the other person if he/she has fairly decent mobility. Just the opposite of what it was like learning with the old wood and metal frames. Nor do I have any doubt that today's high-end competitive frames and strings are just as designed to produce power and accuracy and spin.
The next time we went out to hit, I brought my old racket, a Wilson Sting. That Sabatini topspin was gone, and my regular flatter strokes were back. And my neighbor was quite annoyed. The classic amateur play of deep to the ad corner, followed by deep to the deuce corner, followed by hard and flat and angled to the outside corner of the ad service box still works like a charm. "That was too low and passed by me too quick!" she said. "The people you're playing against aren't trying to just keep a rally going!" I said.
FWIW, as an adult I once did the wood racket experiment and was surprised that I could give the ball more of a ride with it than I expected, although it was not as forgiving to shots not hit on the (small) sweet spot as 80s/90s graphite and nothing like today's frames/strings. Your contact point has to be pretty precise with wood.