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. …