A Look Into Rafas Top Spin


Image credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images    

The New Physics of Tennis

In the French Open final this June, many thought that 6-foot-4-inch Robin Soderling would overpower Rafael Nadal, just as he had Roger Federer in the quarter­finals. On serve at 2–1 in the second set, he hit a sharp, low slice crosscourt to Nadal’s service line—the type of shot that has been unattackable, too low and close to the net to return aggressively: hit it just a bit too hard, and it floats long.
But Nadal took three strides into the court and ripped a short-hopped forehand crosscourt from the service line. The speed of his racket put the ball on a trajectory to the back fence, but his high-tech copolyester strings bent it down inside Soderling’s own service line for an untouchable winner. Soderling dropped his head in disbelief as commentator John McEnroe prefaced the television replay: “Take a look at this ball right here!”

Video: Joshua Speckman demonstrates how new technology is warping the tennis world.

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