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Home GearTennis RacquetsRacquet Reviews Can You Play Tennis with a Wooden Racquet?

Can You Play Tennis with a Wooden Racquet?

by Tennisnerd

Can you play tennis with a wooden racquet these days? Well, of course, you can, but is it enjoyable? I brought out my old Bancroft Bjorn Borg to find out…

Wooden tennis racquets went out of fashion in the early 80s. Bjorn Borg was one of the players that clung to his racquet, but then he also retired in 1983. There is a reason wooden racquets went out of fashion. They are simply very difficult to play tennis with. Yes, you can play tennis with a wooden racquet these days, but I wouldn’t recommend it. And here are some reasons why:

  • Wooden racquets are HEAVY. The Bancroft Bjorn Borg I played with for a short while measure 371 on the swing weight machine and was around 400 grams strung. You need to be the hulk to get some racquet head speed on this thing!
  • Wooden racquets are small. The hitting surface of most woodies are around 65 sq inches. This is a bit less than half of most recreational racquets these days. You need to really be on your game to consistently find the center of your racquet with these things.
  • Wooden racquets are low-powered. Wooden racquets are ridiculously flexible and you need to provide most of the power yourself.

It is not easy to play with wooden racquets!

Can You Play Tennis with a Wooden Racquet?

I just did. But despite being a crazy tennis nostalgic and racquet enthusiast it was quite frustrating. If I compare it to playing with the Wilson Pro Staff 85 a few days before, that was a racquet I could really enjoy and play competitively with, not so with a wooden racquet. I haven’t played with a lot of different woodies, but I would be surprised if they were remarkably different considering they all need to be: heavy, small and flexible.

I really like old-school tennis racquets and tennis nostalgia. Playing with the Pro Staff 85 felt great. But I couldn’t manage more than 15 minutes with the wooden racquet before I gave up. As long as I hit with an ultra-flat stroke and a long continental-style swing, I managed to contact the ball properly. Generating any topspin is another story. But I am sure it can be good practice for aspiring players to learn how to find the sweet spot!

That is why I wanted to give the players who competed with wooden racquets a lot of respect and props for being able to play so well with a racquet like this. It definitely requires a lot from the user. So well done to you who mastered the woodies!

Have you played with a wooden tennis racquet recently? Thoughts?

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6 comments

AceyMan September 20, 2019 - 7:07 am

Jonas,

This hits me in the feels. I started tennis in ’80~81. My first good stick was a nice Snauwert that had a thinner, more svelte hoop than the “reference standard” Kramer Pro Staff.

The shaft, neck/yoke, lower and upper hoop were all slimmer; construction appeared to be a different species of wood, more dense and ‘reedy’. Today I’d say it’s a bamboo, in terms of flex and density. Nice brown on brown lacquer finish all over. A lower SW than a Pro Staff, for sure.

So now I find it’s no surprise that I’ll swing around a stick with a 340 SW around and think, “yeah, that’s pretty snappy.” I can *only imagine* what my Kramer or Maxfli (J.Mc’s stick) would measure.

And the little wood heads made string upgrades a huge payoff. I was so upset later on when I got some gut in one of my frames (someone gave me a set or paid me with it, I forget). I strung that up and the sweet spot seemed double in size. The elasticity really enlarged the pocket. Too bad I couldn’t afford gut all the time, I would have rocked it as much as possible.

The midsize alloy frames soon came, and that alone made the sweet spot bigger, which made missing gut not such a big deal. (And, no, I never owned a 110 paddle, what kind of player do you think I am ? )

Cheers,
/Acey

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AceyMan September 21, 2019 - 2:45 am

Errata—(since no edit() method).

‘[…] never owned a ~110 in² paddle’ (racquet), which was the original design size for the OG Prince: natural aluminum one-piece hoop & handle, green FRN yoke.

That big hoop with not-so-big alloy tubing was a recipe for like a 40RA, if the standard were available then.

As I remember, the Prince was just “The Prince” tennis racquet for a good while: they added “110” when they started to make mids, but those came after they started with new materials. Anyone remember the Woodie? (Talk about low RA!).

I had two Pro 90s (all gloss black with gold pinstripe), which was the best I could get after both my Head TXEs wore out. (Now *that* was a sweet frame.)

/Acey

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Hopeless POGer September 25, 2019 - 1:05 am

Hi Tennis Nerd. I’ve been enjoying your blog. I guess that makes me a nerd too.

Question for you. I’ve been playing with a Prince Original Graphite Oversize (4 stripe… 1980s vintage) for the last ~20 years. Things I love about this racket: pretty much everything. Weight, exceptional feel and control, and admittedly — as I have longer, whippy strokes — the margin for error. Unfortunately this racket is getting old and I’ve been unable to find suitable spares. I’ve flirted with a couple of modern rackets but nothing has grabbed me. Any ideas or recommendations?

About me: I’m a USTA 4.5 player in my early 40s. Mostly play singles. Thanks.

– Hopelessly Stuck in the Past

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Tennisnerd September 25, 2019 - 1:22 pm

Hi Chuck,
That is a classic! I would try the newer Prince Phantom racquets such as the Prince Phantom 100P or Prince Phantom 100. I think they should play pretty close!

Cheers / Jonas

PS. If you feel like my advice is really useful, please consider becoming a patron for $2 at patreon.com/tennisnerd and get exclusive content every week. DS.

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Jon October 1, 2019 - 9:42 pm

Nice article. I switched back to wood 3 or 4 years ago after trying one off the wall at the tennis club. So much fun that I bought a dozen of them and now only play with graphite when its wet. I reckon wood lets you feel the ball contact more and awakens your touch. It is awesome for bh slice and touch volleys. I love hitting flat fh’s with them. Harder to hit sweet spot consistently, but after a few months it all seems natural. It suits aggressive play and taking the ball on the rise which generates power without big rhs. The key is getting your weight through the ball. I broke a couple of Kramer autographs but am finding the Laver signature model, Maxply fort and Slazenger challenge, all with new gut strings, are super fun to play with, social or competing. Re-stringing the gut as soon as needed is mandatory. I’m 60 but feel 16 with wood.

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Boris October 17, 2019 - 2:07 pm

I recently acquired a Head Vilas in top notch condition. It has an open heart construction, but is still made of laminated wood, and the headsize is around 68 sq. in. I strung it with natural gut, in order to spare the frame, and went out for a hit with a friend. It’s almost impossible to impart any spin, as the string pattern is so dense, and the flexibility makes it hard to generate any power. It’s also extreley heavy at 380g strung, so one really needs to drive through the ball with perfect form to hit clean. Just for the sake of it, after one set I switched to a Kneissl White Star Masters 10 (same mold as the Adidas Ivan Lendl), which is 75 sq.in. but has a graphite / kevlar layup and weighs about 360g strung. Despite the small head, it felt like a canon compared to the Head. The composite layup makes a world of difference.

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