Athletics Engineered: Sweet Spot Science

We’re here at our varsity tennis center,
to talk about the tennis racket, specifically the sweet spot. In tennis there are sometimes two locations
that are referred to as the sweet spot. The first is the center of percussion, which is
usually on a higher location on the head of the tennis racket.
If you were to hit the ball at that location, the net force, or torque, seen by your hand
would be zero because you have different forces balancing each other out.
The other location is more towards the center of the racket, and that’s what’s called
the node. When you hit the ball with the tennis racket, the tennis racket will vibrate at
a certain frequency. When you hit it at the actual node, the vibrations
would be closer to zero. So that would give you a better feel as you hit the ball, and
also would provide more power behind your hit. When you hit the sweet spot you can really tell that you hit the sweet spot because it
sounds and feels good. You don’t feel a lot of shock in the racket,
whereas if you hit the ball more towards the edge of the racket, you’ll feel a shock
and it won’t feel as penetrating through the court.
I feel like I know when I hit the sweet spot because it seems almost effortless when you
hit the ball. The ball goes super fast. You know, we really never talk about sweet
spot, it’s just more or less, the players you recruit, you know they’re hitting the
ball in that spot 95% of the time or they wouldn’t be here. How do you figure out the exact location, exact area of the sweet spot?
That’s why manufacturers of rackets make the heads bigger in order to increase the
sweet spot. It all has to do with the layout of the racket and where weights are balanced
and where the center of mass of the racket would be.
So bigger rackets have bigger sweet spots. Usually, they tend to be.
The technology now in tennis is everybody’s looking for the secret sauce. Whether it’s
in the string or the racket, everybody’s always looking for a little more pop.
And it goes without saying, if you want to get the maximum pop on the ball that you can,
you’re going to have to hit the ball on the sweet spot.
So Kevin, if you don’t end up on the tour someday, your unique background in engineering
and tennis could lead to a career in racket innovations. Yeah… that’d be pretty sweet.

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