What a Racket, Pete; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge
QUESTION When Pete Sampras dominated men's tennis, you would often hear people complain that it was partly because the technology was so advanced. Is it true, however, that he used the same racket throughout his career?
IN HIS professional career from 1988 to 2002, during which he secured 14 grand slam titles, Pete Sampras used the Wilson Pro Staff Original 6.0, a racket first produced in 1983.
Originally manufactured in Chicago, Illinois, and St Vincent & The Grenadines, the Pro Staff was Wilson's answer to the Prince Original Graphite and the Dunlop 200G Max. It quickly became one of the tour's most popular rackets, also winning grand slams for Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Chris Evert and Mary Pierce.
Its unique characteristic was a frame composition of 80 per cent graphite and 20 per cent kevlar. The high percentage of graphite allowed for a 'softer' feel, while the kevlar provided extra strength to the frame. The graphite was braided, rather than spliced together, as in modern rackets, which made the frame more stable, but heavier. Sampras preferred a heavy racket which suited his flat hitting.
The 6.0 came in four head sizes; 85, 95, 110 and 125 square inches. Sampras used the small-headed 85, which was extremely heavy (357g) with an exceptionally low 75lb string tension for extra feel.
For the amateur player, this small, heavy, weak racket would be almost impossible to hit with. Despite this, the extraordinary Sampras could smack down serves of more than 130 mph with pinpoint accuracy and the low string tension gave him a wonderful touch when it came to volleying the ball at the net.
Though all his rackets were factory standard models from the Grenadines, Sampras had a personal stringer, Nate Ferguson, who accompanied him on his tennis travels. He would string all Sampras's rackets by hand, using Babolat natural gut with minor modifications, depending on conditions.
The only part of the racket which was completely customised was the handle. Ferguson would hand treat and wrap the leather himself, depending on the player's specification.
Iain Finch, Edinburgh.
QUESTION Why do film critics describe unworthy films as 'turkeys'?
THIS term was originally used by U.S. theatre critics to describe a bad play. In the late 19th century, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was the busiest season for the opening of new plays, just as it is now for films. This scramble for the tourist trade produced disappointments akin to the tedium of the turkey served for dinner between the two holidays, and so they were called turkeys.
Maureen Gray, Harrogate, N. Yorks.
QUESTION What is the biological purpose or function of grief?
IN EVOLUTIONARY terms, grief has a number of useful adaptations: the first is a preventative function. As your relatives contain your genes, your goal is to keep them alive so the genes can be spread. The knowledge that you will experience grief if you were to lose one is motivation to prevent their death.
An example is a mother, knowing she'd feel grief were one of her children to be run over by a car, forbidding them to play in the road.
Grief is obviously an inherited state. The mother does not actually need to lose a child to feel the grief, she instinctively understands it.
This is probably why nursing mothers discuss common scare stories such as children choking on grapes and children who've not been secured properly in car seats, so they can experience this grief in a harmless way.
Grief also shows us who our allies are. Those friends and family who respond positively when we are at our most helpless are good allies, best suited to help our own chances of survival.
Finally, humans are generally part of distinct social, religious and cultural groups.
One thing these have in common is that they all give priority to the bereaved. The rituals surrounding funerals and dealing with mourning all contribute to a reaffirmation of the society's beliefs and strengthen that society and its survival chances.
Diane Newton, Cambridge.
QUESTION Back in the Fifties, newspapers carried adverts for the Adana printing press. The makers claimed it could launch a successful business. Did anyone buy one and become a success?
FURTHER to earlier answers, in the early Fifties I worked at a leading aircraft manufacturer in the London area, in the technical publications department -- writing and illustrating handbooks for its products.
Three of us also had Adana hand printing machines (I still have two 8x5s here).
Our employer allowed us time off to visit Farnborough Air Show, but weekday 'trade' tickets were very hard to come by. As soon as the official tickets became available, one would be conveniently 'borrowed' and rushed to Church Street, Twickenham.
Matching typefaces were then purchased, letter by letter, and soon duplicate tickets were being printed in two colours and numbered. Occa-sionally we would manually draw in propellers or add the odd circle using a bow compass.
The result was that most of us enjoyed the trade show every year.
We were surprised that the management didn't query how our department all went to Farnborough, while the much larger drawing office had to struggle to obtain official tickets.
Jim Waldron, J W Studies, Wargrave, Berks.
QUESTION If Oerlikon cannon were used by Messerschmitt and later fitted to the Spitfire, was neutral Switzerland supplying both sides during World War II? If so, how were the cannons delivered?
FURTHER to the earlier answer, Switzerland did supply a few guns directly to the combatants, but profited a lot more from licensing.
The gun fitted to the Messerschmitt (and many other Luftwaffe aircraft) was the MG FF which started life in World War I as the Becker Cannon, a German design used in small numbers towards the end of the war.
The rights to this were sold in 1919 to a Swiss company which was subsequently bought by Oerlikon, which started to develop the design. But Oerlikon in turn later sold a licence to a German company, Ikaria Werke, which further developed the design into the MG FF.
The 20mm cannon which armed the Spitfire was a version of the French Hispano-Suiza HS404: an Oerlikon-based design was never used operationally by the RAF. However -- mainly at the urging of Lord Louis Mountbatten -- the Oerlikon design was adopted by the Royal Navy as an anti-aircraft gun.
The Oerlikon used advanced primer ignition, where the round is fired while the bolt is still travelling forward to chamber the round: this meant that most of the recoil is absorbed in stopping the bolt, resulting in a comparatively light gun mounting.
As a result, Oerlikon mounts could literally be bolted to the decks of ships in large numbers without reinforcement, a quick answer to the need to defend against dive-bombers.
Alan Findlay, Braintree, Essex.
QUESTIONS Q: What will happen to local landmark Winter Hill TV transmitter near Bolton, Lancs, when we switch to digital TV?
Carol Owen, Chorley, Lancs. Q: Did the Big Bang actually make a noise?
B. Watson, Tynemouth, N. Shields. Q: What was the story behind the Kirkintilloch Tragedy?
Angela Moorehouse, London NW3.
Is there a question to which you have always wanted to know the answer? Or do you know the answer to a question raised here? Send your questions and answers to: Charles Legge, Answers To Correspondents, Scottish Daily Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6DB. You can also fax them to 0141 331 4739 or you can email them to email@example.com. A selection will be published but we are not able to enter into individual correspondence.
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Lonservice: Pete Sampras with his much-travelled tennis racket…
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Publication information: Article title: What a Racket, Pete; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: July 1, 2009. Page number: 54. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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