Here's an article for everyone. I found it interesting since there's often talk around here if players just get their old rackets painted to look like new models. Enjoy.
Federer pulls the strings in racket design
By Mark Hodgkinson
Last Updated: 1:53am GMT 21/03/2007
Luddites will not be pleased to hear about Roger Federer the scientist. While most tennis players take little more than a passing interest in racket technology and development, leaving it to the manufacturers, Federer was involved at every stage in the production of his new weapon, including testing an extraordinary number of prototypes along the way, 87 in all.
Mission control: Roger Federer tested 87 prototypes
So Federer's new racket is very much his baby. Never before has a tennis player collaborated with a racket company like this. "A racket is very personal," Federer said of his Wilson K-Factor, which took some two years, and millions of pounds, to create, starting at the 2005 Australian Open when he let it be known he required greater control and feel off the strings without losing anything in his shots. "I'm a bit crazy about what I have in my hand, because that has a lot to do with how the points will be played."
Federer was quite the science geek, according to Antoine Ballon, Wilson's global head of marketing for performance rackets. "It's unheard of for a player to be as closely involved as Roger was. Most players aren't that bothered, and they just say to you, 'Do whatever you want, just don't change too much'.
"But Roger paid attention to every single detail, and wanted to be involved with everything. It was that attention to detail, and him wanting to feel totally comfortable with the racket, which showed me why he is world No 1. It was incredible really," Ballon said.
Federer's family has a science background, as his parents met through both being employees of a pharmaceutical company in Basle, and you can imagine the world No 1 in safety specs and exchanging his Wimbledon whites for laboratory whites. He did not go that far. But he almost did.
"Roger is probably the only tennis player who would be prepared to work closely with us like this," Ballon said.
"To be the best you have to look closely at the details," said Federer, who has a title to defend at the Sony Ericsson Open, which is regularly referred to as the most prestigious event after the four grand slams, and which starts here in Miami, Florida, tomorrow.
"I've been working closely with Wilson, and they bring me the best technology so I can perform as well as I can on the court. It's so interesting. Wilson always come up with innovations. Control is an important part of my game. The racket feels great. It's a great innovation. The game has changed.
"My strength is to be able to control my opponents, and control the points, playing them as I want them to be played. I think I'm very good at playing both defence and attack, and for that you need great control."
The K-Factor racket, which Wilson regard as a substantial leap forward in racket science, has only just been officially launched, although Federer used it at a tournament for the first time at January's Australian Open when he eased to the title without dropping a set all fortnight.
While some commentators lament the fact that racket technology has allowed players to strike the ball with more power than ever before, and that the average men's tennis match now contains more violence than a Quentin Tarantino box-set, it was an increase in control that Federer demanded from his new equipment. So it was significant that Federer committed a tiny number of unforced errors at Melbourne Park.
It all began with the conversations Federer had with Wilson in Australia two seasons ago. Towards the end of that 2005 season, Federer tried out some prototypes for the first time. "But Roger wasn't quite happy with them at first," Ballon said.
"He said that he was getting more control, but that he was also losing something as well. But it was to be expected that he wasn't happy from the start. It was fascinating for me to get such great feedback from a player.
"Most players don't say much, but what Roger said to me was very precise, telling me what happened when he hit particular shots on different parts of the racket. He was a great guy to deal with. Roger put a huge number of hours into this."
And it was not just the performance of the racket which concerned Federer, a man who likes everything to be just so, as he also became the first tennis player to personally oversee the design and colours used in the racket. That the K-Factor is red and white is only because Federer gave his say-so - Federer, a tennis player, a scientist and a designer. No wonder everyone else has such difficulties trying to keep up with him.
"This was the first time we had worked with a tennis player on the colour scheme," Ballon said. "We originally showed Roger 42 different drawings of colour schemes, and then at Wimbledon last year, I met with him in his rented house there and we looked at 15 prototype rackets with their colours.
"We spent three hours looking at the rackets that day, and eventually he chose one in the autumn of last year after another meeting in Switzerland."
Cosmetics concern Federer. "Players are very superstitious about their racket and they need to feel comfortable with it, even down to how it looks," Ballon said. "The prototypes he tested for performance were black. But then came the cosmetic side. If he didn't like the design of the racket, if he didn't really love the racket, then he wouldn't want to switch."
But it is the performance of the racket which plainly matters most to Federer. He is no mad scientist, the Swiss.