Biomechanics is a holistic field of applied science dedicated to optimizing equipment and training in various sports. The biomechanics of tennis involves the physics of how racquets and balls have evolved in design. It also concerns the proper mechanical movements needed to optimize an athlete's performance and safety, from serve to volley.
Some of the most basic principles of physics are cornerstone considerations for the biomechanics of tennis. These include velocity, acceleration, aerodynamics, force and displacement. When the current racket was designed by Howard Head in the 1960s, he used this information to replace the standard wooden racket with one made of aluminum and a larger head. This change resulted in faster play and a bigger "sweet spot" on the racket face.
The biomechanics of tennis involves an interdisciplinary approach, from anatomy and engineering to orthopedics and even anthropology. The goal is to identify the safest and most effective movements needed for optimum performance in each component of the game. Often, biomechanics experts do in-depth analyses of the best professional players in order to isolate the particular actions that produce the best results.
For each type of movement that coaches teach on the tennis court, biomechanical data is available to show how those lessons are correct. For instance, during a forehand volley, the best results have been achieved when players position themselves as squarely to the net as possible in a so-called open stance, step lightly into the swing, flick the wrist and not the entire arm, and follow completely through after impact. A fluidity of motion has been found to be one of the most effective ways to produce the most speed and best placement of the ball.
The biomechanics of tennis delves into the proper ways in which the serve, forehand, backhand and volley should be achieved. This includes the proper grip for each stroke, how the elbows and hands should be placed, and where the head of the racket should be in relation to the feet. Such biomechanics even delves into the best places to make contact with the ball and where the eyes should be focused at all times — either on the ball itself or beyond it, where the player intends to place the ball.
Just because the biomechanics of tennis attempts to identify the proper ways to play the game does not mean it completely standardizes play. By virtue of coaching differences, physical size restraints, and other factors, players could exhibit success using a variety of different techniques. For instance, former tennis pro John McEnroe bucked biomechanical trends in serving by often facing almost completely away from the net and bending his knees deeply during his toss. This resulted in a hard-to-predict serve that also may have been bad on his back.