Tennis Racquets - Function, Form & Fashion

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“Why do you collect tennis racquets?” a colleague asked, who admitted she didn’t have a collector’s bone in her body,“what is the attraction?”

Stamps, coins, swizzle sticks, rocks, antique (electric) fans, electric jugs, tennis racquets… There is, I believe, a bower bird in all of us (some people just won’t admit it!). But what is collecting? The search, the discovery, the haggle, something unique, special, and… the story! Collecting is exciting, challenging and a fun activity for the family. The collection is special, interesting, historical and… boring, perhaps? But in the end the best part is telling the story of how a racquet (or a picture etc) was found – relating the collecting process. Reliving the search, the discovery and the victory.

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At first it was a novelty. Old wooden racquets in a world of high tech graphite and titanium.

Grampians (Victoria), long (lost) weekend, late 1995. Found an old wooden tennis racquet in an antique/collectables shop for $50. Guessed it must be late 1940s because we had never seen one before.

Sydney, early 1997. South Dowling Street antique market. Very old and distressed Spalding (Greenwood) with wooden handle (no leather grip) for $40. Is this how they used to be made?  Had to ask the parents!

How the technology of racquet construction had changed!

Dimboola (Victoria), one year later – Spalding Fred Stolle, in rather ordinary condition but hey, only $5, and we got a tricycle too!

Soon after, a Yonex aluminium from a Salvation Army store in Torquay for $3 (after being prepared to pay $5 but the storekeeper’s son had no idea of a price, but then, nor did we, but you must haggle!).

The rot had set in. Now we just had to get a “full set”, whatever that was, so we could show how the technology had changed over the years.  That objective has been almost met, with racquets obtained from overseas and Australia.  I say "almost" because it really is "Unfinished Business".

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What is the collection all about? Some collectors just want lots of very old racquets, others collect photo decal racquets. There are plenty of such examples overseas – 400, 600, 1000 racquets! The original intent of this collection is still valid – to show how the technology has changed. To this has been added a focus on preservation and documentation, particularly in relation to Australian racquets.

I am often asked "what is your favourite racquet?" which is impossible to answer, as they are all special in some way.  Some, however, are just beautiful to hold - it is hard to go past a Dunlop Maxply, and the Spalding Top-Flite Mary K. Browne is so light and perfectly balanced; others have beautiful and elaborate decals (like the Draper & Maynard Dalmation); some are of unique construction (like the Hazell Streamline, which only had a short life); others are milestones in racquet technology (Wilson T2000, Dunlop Max200G); some are just very old - it is something special to hold a racquet that is 120 years old.  All special and all worth preserving.

And then there is the special find like a Slazenger Demon which had literally been wrapped in cotton wool in a box for around 60 years. What a story it must have to tell.

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And so the collecting goes on...

Adrian Keats, Newtown, Victoria, Australia


This site and all photographs are Copyright © AJ Keats. All rights reserved.

Version 2    April 2013