May 02, 2007

The Advanced Tennis Reasearch Project: Saw this mentioned in an old article about Federer*: "People often speak of a "heavy ball." It is not a technical term. Recently, however, John Yandell, a tennis teacher in San Francisco, came up with a way to quantify heaviness. Yandell runs the Advanced Tennis Research Project, an outfit that uses high-speed film to analyze the strokes of the world's top players. ATRP has been able to measure the spin on a ball in terms of revolutions per minute. . . . Velocity plus spin equals weight. The heaviest ball Yandell and his team have ever recorded was a forehand that Federer hit at Indian Wells in 2004: 4,400 rpm, 80 miles an hour. Thwock." *that shamelessly takes its title from John McPhee's classic.

posted by Uncle Toby to tennis at 01:43 PM - 7 comments

I'd love to extrapolate this to baseball. I watch guys like Halladay pitch and the ball just looks heavier coming out of his hand. It looks like it hurts to hit it - and I've heard the reference to "heavy fastball" or "heavy slider" a million times. Matasuzaka looks like he throws heavy, too. Ditto Pedro. C.C. Sabathia throws heavy, eats heavy, walks heavy - Dude is Hev-vee.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:20 PM on May 02

Interesting concept. Thanks Uncle Toby. Not to derail the thread, but to Weedy's point about baseball -- Felix Hernandez is another one whose stuff is regularly characterized as "heavy." In baseball, I think heavy pitches tend to be harder to loft for whatever reason. This would seem to be borne out by Felix's best performance of the season, the shut-out of Boston in the game against Matsusaka, where he recorded 17 ground outs to only 4 flyouts. Those are some pretty sick numbers for someone who is not really your prototypical ground ball pitcher (e.g., a sinkerballer ala Derek Lowe).

posted by holden at 11:24 AM on May 03

I've never thought of spin as making a ball "heavy", but it sure does make it a lot harder to hit and drive where/how you want it to go.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:57 AM on May 03

Here's an article that talks more about the heavy ball and what pitchers throw the heaviest. It's a little dated (2004) but current enough. Since hybrid playing surfaces are being discussed around here, I would love to see something set up wherein Federer hit tennis balls in the direction of a catcher and major league hitters would have to try to hit them. I bet Federer would shut down a lot of big leaguers.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 12:05 PM on May 03

Since hybrid playing surfaces are being discussed around here, I would love to see something set up wherein Federer hit tennis balls in the direction of a catcher and major league hitters would have to try to hit them. I bet Federer would shut down a lot of big leaguers. If the proposal allows use of the service box as the strike zone, the 130 - 150 mph fastballs are hard for tennis pros to hit with a tennis racket, let alone a baseball bat. And with current technology they don't need an ump guessing if they were strikes or balls.

posted by 1959Giants at 01:19 PM on May 03

It surprises me that Federer hits such a heavy ball, his shots always looked somewhat flat (trajectory-wise) to me. I would have thought Nadal or even Gasquet would have hit a significantly heavier ball from the folks I have seen in person. I've never thought of spin as making a ball "heavy", but it sure does make it a lot harder to hit and drive where/how you want it to go. I played at the college level (abroad) and when I played some real dirtballers in France and Italy, they hit with so much topspin, it could damn near take the racquet out of your hands. Very unpleasant to play against people that can impart that much spin. I can only imagine what it's like at the Tour level.

posted by psmealey at 03:30 PM on May 05

It surprises me that Federer hits such a heavy ball, his shots always looked somewhat flat (trajectory-wise) to me. Maybe backspin rather than topspin? I'll have to watch more closely during the French.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 04:28 PM on May 05

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