Bag Check: USTA National Clay Court 12s

What rackets, strings, and tensions are some of the best 12 and under tennis players in the United States using? Stringing at the USTA National Clay Courts 12s at Hanes Park has given me some insights. Through 3 days of stringing, here is what we saw in terms of rackets. (More on strings and string tensions in the coming days.)

The most commonly used racket brands at this tournament are:

Babolat –32.3% of players stringing with us

Wilson –32.3%

Head –17.6%

Prince –6.0%

Tecnifibre – 6.0%

Yonex –6.0%

Brands not seen in the stringing room include Dunlop, Volkl, Donnay, Solinco, and Pacific.

Most popular racket models are the Babolat AeroPro Drive (including the lighter “Team” version), Wilson BLX 6.1, and the Head YouTek Speed. This is not at all surprising as these are the models endorsed by Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic, respectively.

The millions in endorsement dollars paid by these racket companies translate rather directly into racket choices by junior players. Of course, junior sponsorships help, and to be sure Babolat, Wilson, and Head are among the most liberal in doling out free and reduced price equipment. But many (most?) of the kids playing at this tournament could get full or partial sponsorship from any of these companies, so their choices are instructive.

One of the most interesting developments I notice in the decades since I was a junior tennis player is the decline of Prince among competitive juniors. Only 6% of players we strung rackets for used Prince. In the 1980s, if memory serves correctly, all of the cool kids played Prince. Now it seems to be more of a racket for recreational players and country clubbers.

I was happy to see a few players using Tecnifibre and Yonex, both of which make fine equipment. Compared to the Babolats and Wilsons of the tennis world, I suppose both of these companies must be content to be niche players. At 6% of the market each at this tournament, that may be right where they want to be.

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