Scientists are studying the slipping and sliding technique of modern fast-paced tennis games, and say it could lead to better surfaces and footwear. Matthew Stock reports.
Scientists are studying the slipping and sliding technique of modern fast-paced tennis games, and say it could lead to better surfaces and footwear. Matthew Stock reports. Once mainly seen on clay courts, sliding is now used by most top tennis players to keep up in the fast-paced modern game. British engineers are partnering with the International Tennis Federation to measure this technique. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DANIEL URA, PHD STUDENT IN DEPARTMENT OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING AT UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD, SAYING: "The speed of the game has increased a lot because the players are serving faster than years before; it could be because of the materials of the rackets or could be the strings as well. But I think it's a necessity of the players to reach the ball faster." A testing rig mechanically replicates the friction between player, shoe, and surface. The eventual plan is to shrink this system into a portable hand-held device to measure the friction of any tennis court and allow players and coaches to adjust their game plan. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. MATT CARRÉ, READER IN MECHANCIAL ENGINEERING AT UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD, SAYING: "In order to do that we need to understand a number of parameters including; how the shoe changes, how the properties of the shoe affect that interaction, how the properties of the tennis courts affect that, and also other factors like temperature and the actual players loading themselves, so how they slide or move around on the courts." As well as regulating playing surfaces, it could help manufacturers design footwear to maximise a player's ability to control their sliding. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DANIEL URA, PHD STUDENT IN DEPARTMENT OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING AT UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD, SAYING: "I think it will become more like a Formula 1 race probably, when depending on the weather conditions or depending - in this case - on the surface conditions, I think the shoes are going to play an important role during a match. So I think that's probably the future of the shoes, they're going to start to customise them according to the surface properties probably." Their next step is to collect data on professional courts around the world. This could lead to a 'sliding scale' that grades surfaces.....and prevents elite tennis players' careers from hitting the skids.