The T.A. Davis Imperial

Contributions by Rich Janes, Racquet Designer - Engineer

This racquet was invented by TA Davis. He made several beautiful frames, although I must say that the Davis was the one that "had an acquired taste". The eastern US claycourters seemed to like the Davis "Imperial" quite a bit. I thought that the "BlackStreak" was the most beautiful of all, personally, and cheaper than the Imperial to boot. The first racquet I ever played with was a borrowed Davis Hi-point. This was the cheap beginners racquet, although it still retained the good wood of the top of the line. No far east beginners racquet here. The only problem with the Davis racquets was that they used rotary cut birch as the main wood strip for the frames. This rotary cutting cut the tree much like someone eating an ear of corn, or someone unrolling a carpet. This twisted the wood fibers and weakened them quite a bit. All other companies used quarter-sawn wood, usually secondary growth white ash for its springiness as well as its light weight. (They use ash for baseball bats). The only good player I saw play with these racquets was Ron Holmberg, from Brooklyn, and Auburn U. He was truly a great player, who never got into good shape. He had the smoothest and biggest strokes I have ever seen. He beat all the greats at one time or another, including Laver and Emerson, usually early in a tournament, before he tired out due to his physical conditioning. The ads for the davis racquets in the front of every World Tennis magazine really got to me. They touted that the sculptured shaft allowed the racquets to bend at the shaft and "return to propel the ball out of the strings" for additional power. Actually, this sculptured shaft gave the racquet the greatest backward bend in history, and so gave the ball maximum spin due to max dwell time on the strings. (There is always a change in dwell time when the racquet changes stiffness. The stiffer the frame, the lower the spin along with the shorter dwell time.) In other words, when you hit the ball with a Davis Imperial, you felt the shudder, you felt the quivver, and then the ball took off. You had good control, good spin, and low power as a resultant. (I think that Ron Holmberg got the benefit of using extremely heavy frames, which would behave more like the other brands.) TA Davis was marketed by Victor Sports out of Chicago. They also sold Victor Imperial gut. If the truth be told, I saw so many crack in half in the shaft when in the hands of hard hitters, that I knew that one would not last me very long. (I wasn't good, but I sure could hit hard.)