For many years the level of global scientific research into tennis-related topics has been limited in relation to other sports of comparative size. Since the establishment of the ITF Technical Centre in 1997, the profile of tennis science and technology has been raised through the encouragement of research in the areas of tennis equipment, tennis facilities and the way in which the tennis player is affected by developments in these areas.
The first laboratory was temporarily situated in Wandsworth, London, until the ITF relocated to its current premises in Roehampton in 1998. The first Manager of the Technical Centre was Andrew Coe, who undertook this role from its inception to 2001. In December 2001, Dr Stuart Miller was appointed as his successor.
Through forging close working relationships with sports scientists and engineers, as well as Research & Development experts within the tennis industry, the ITF has become the centre of excellence for all tennis science research.
Located at the International Tennis Federation headquarters in London, the ITF Technical Centre is the world’s most advanced tennis-specific research facility. Over a million dollars worth of equipment allow staff to research all of the technical aspects of tennis, and its operational procedures are certified by the International Standards Organization.
The Technical Centre was converted from two squash courts, and is divided into three distinct areas:
- A ball-testing laboratory, which is climate-controlled to maintain the atmospheric conditions at a constant level (20°C, 60% relative humidity) to ensure that all testing takes place under the same conditions.
- A sound-proofed wind tunnel room. The wind tunnel generates 105 dB when running at full speed, about the same as a symphony concert!
- A general test area containing racket-, surface- and shoe-testing equipment.
The ITF Technical Centre has a global remit with respect to tennis equipment and it's work is guided by the Technical Commission. Comprised of experts from around the world, the Commission also includes representatives from the Men's and Women's Professional Tours, and has responsibility for protecting the nature of the game by monitoring developments in equipment manufacture and ensures that the technical specifications are adhered to.
As custodian of the Rules of Tennis, the ITF has the sometimes difficult task of judging whether innovations in tennis equipment may bring about a benefit to those who play, or whether such developments constitute a threat to the nature of the game.
To this end, the Commission maintains close contact with equipment and facility manufacturers, academic institutes with expertise in sports technology, and other parties with interests in the future of the game so that the Rules of Tennis (as they relate to equipment) are administered on the basis of the best and most up-to-date information.
Racket technology – The Commission determines how far modern technology will allow rackets to develop and to predict how this might affect the way tennis is played, both at the professional level and for the millions of players who play tennis for recreation.
Tennis ball technology – The Commission studies the way in which the ball interacts with the different types of court surface on which tennis is played world-wide. Balls supplied by all major international manufacturers are regularly tested to ensure that standards are maintained.
Court surface testing - Underpinned by its publication 'ITF Guide to Test Methods for Tennis Court Surfaces', the Technical Commission monitors the performance characteristics of court surfaces and develops test methods by which they can be measured.
Members and Observers of the ITF Technical Commission are currently:
Stuart Smith – Chairman (GBR) Member of ITF Board of Directors and former President of the Lawn Tennis Association of Great Britain
Professor Steve Haake – Member (GBR) Head of Sports Engineering, Sheffield Hallam University
Fabien Boudet – Member (FRA) Head of Facilities, French Tennis Federation
Professor Karl Hedrick – Member (USA) Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of California Berkeley and Chairman of USTA Technical Committee
Jean Nachand – Observer WTA Senior Vice President, Competition and On-Site Operations
Lars Graff - Observer ATP
Peggy Beard - Observer (USA) Member, USTA Technical Committee
The Commission is administered by ITF staff, and supplemented by research consultants:
Dr. Stuart Miller – Executive Director, Science & Technical
Janet Page – ITF Science & Technical Administrator
Jamie Capel-Davies - ITF Manager, Science & Technical
Robert Haines – ITF Research Consultant