Does Size Matter?

fishOne of our Naples tennis buddies came to the court with a HUGE (137 square inch) Big Bubba racquet; and was challenged by another who said the legal limit was 135 square inches. Who is right?

The Rule?
I could not find anything in Friend at Court, but according to a 2010 article (which pre-dates the Big Bubba) at tennis.com talking about The Weed racquet …

We’re happy to report that after looking into it, there are no illegal racquets being manufactured today, at least by the dozen or so reputable brands. Even the Weed you mentioned is legal, even though its humongous 135-square-inch face is about 25 percent larger than today’s norm.

Actually, the Weed is well under the limit imposed by the ITF rule. Head sizes could legally be stretched all the way up to 178 square inches, about the size of a baby elephant’s head. To achieve a racquet head that size, all the main strings would have to measure 15.5 inches and the entire set of cross strings would have to be 11.5 inches. The result would make it in the shape of a perfect rectangle, like the late Bo Diddley’s “mean machine” electric guitar on steroids.

Another problem is the ITF could ban such a racquet after a company has spent big bucks in r&d, production and marketing, because the sport’s governing body doesn’t investigate suspect racquets until after they’re in the marketplace. Dennis O’Reilly, owner of the small Columbus, Ohio, company that makes the Weed, says he’s made prototypes of models with up to 150-square-inch hitting areas, “but I’m afraid to put them out there for fear the ITF could change the rules on head size and knock me out of business.”

Anyone know a rule?

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6 thoughts on “Does Size Matter?

  1. b. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 73.7 cm (29.0 inches) in overall length, including the handle. The frame of the racket shall not exceed 31.7 cm (12.5 inches) in overall width. The hitting surface shall not exceed 39.4 cm (15.5 inches) in overall length, and 29.2 cm (11.5 inches) in overall width.

    Bill, another article i found used that same math (i think) to come to the conclusion that the maximum surface could be 178 SQUARE INCHES!! Yes? thanks. george

  2. George I have been questioned more than once about the size of my Big Bubba. Hard to imagine a major manufacturer (Weed or Gamma) would market an illegal racket. My understanding is that there is no square inch limit but a limit on the frame width and height that results in significantly more than the 137 sq inches of a Big Bubba. Note the racket length is 29 inches which fits with Bill’s numbers above.

    Ted, that appears to be the case. Strange, but true. thanks, george

  3. George, I am no mathematician, but I don’t think you can just multiply the permitted hitting surface length and width and come up with a square inch number that applies to an OVAL surface, like a tennis racquet. The method of multiplying length by width to determine square inches that you used would apply to a RECTANGLE, but that is not what a tennis racquet looks like. An oval is an ellipsoid, and the formula for calculating its area is actually quite complex. See the following link which will cause your eyes to cross: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsoid#Surface_area.

    Because of this mathematical complexity, I suspect this is the reason why the tennis dimension rule that Bill cited does not state a maximum allowable hitting area in square inches. Instead, it simply says the hitting area length shall not exceed 15.5 inches and the width shall not exceed 11.5 inches. Using the complex ellipsoid calculation described above, this square inch number is undoubtedly something less than 178 square inches, but I don’t know exactly what it is. An engineer or mathematician could probably make these calculations, but not you or I. I assume the reason why the manufacturers tell the public the size of their racquets in square inches, instead of describing them in conformity with the rule, has to do almost entirely with marketing. As with the limits on the size of drivers and other clubs in golf, the manufacturers probably believe a purchaser would not question the legality of the size of the frame, instead assuming that if it is being sold then it probably complies.

    Therefore, if people owning Big Bubba (or Weed or Gamma) racquets are getting challenged on this by opponents (or tournament officials), I suggest the simple response would be to take a ruler and measure the length and width of the hitting area on the challenged racquet to prove that it is compliant with the rule. So long as the hitting area length does not exceed 15.5 inches and the width does not exceed 11.5 inches, there should be no complaint because that is exactly how the rule is phrased. You don’t even need to know the actual area of the hitting surface to make that proof.

    Marty, here is what another tennis.com expert wrote on that very point: “Actually, the Weed is well under the limit imposed by the ITF rule. Head sizes could legally be stretched all the way up to 178 square inches, about the size of a baby elephant’s head. To achieve a racquet head that size, all the main strings would have to measure 15.5 inches and the entire set of cross strings would have to be 11.5 inches. The result would make it in the shape of a perfect rectangle, like the late Bo Diddley’s “mean machine” electric guitar on steroids.” Thanks, george

  4. A racquet face is an oval, or ellipse. The approximate area of an ellipse is Pi*A*B where A and B is half the length of each axis. So using the ITF maximum length (15.5 in) and width (11.5 in) numbers, we get 15.5/2 x 11.5/2 x 3.1416 = 140 sq in.

    Jack, yea, we all know that formula! 🙂 So it looks then that 140 sq is the max. Thanks, george

  5. Hey George,

    Thanks to Wendall Walker …. just seen your website ….. very nice and much information. Thank You.

    Seen some of the comments – racquet size …. however it is not always the size and the length that has to be legal ….. it is also the power and the way the strings are strung in the racquet. Do you remember the Head S-7? well, 15 years ago I was kicked out of a tournament 55+ with this racquet. They measured the size… it was fine – however the strings were strung down to the handle like a violin. I was kicked out of play with another racquet …….. had only 2 S-7 Head ……. Went home and called Head in NJ and yes – they had several complaints. They sent me 2 S-8 Head to replace the S-7 and I am still playing with the S-8 Head today. Head never put the S-8 on the market. The S-8 was the closest racquet in performance to S-7 according to the MFG.
    I have to look for new racquets soon S-8 are getting old and much used. What kind???? …more later, Prost

    John, WOW! thanks, george

  6. I think Matt Seeberger used the Big Bubba in the US Open this year. I think he was a former D3 player who won the open national playoffs to get a wildcard slot in dubs.

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