I have strung rackets at the NCAA Division 1 tennis tournament on three previous occasions, in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Each time the tournament was held at the University of Georgia in Athens, so I would drive down two days before the start of the event and leave before the quarterfinals of the team competition were contested. Basically just working 3-4 of the busiest days of the event.
In Athens, I was an unofficial off-site stringer working for the team stringer for another ACC school. That meant I was holed up in a hotel miles from the University of Georgia tennis complex. In the three years I worked the event, I only saw a couple of matches — and had to pay to see those to boot.
This year was very different. I was hired by my friend Dustin Tankersley whose company, MOZI Tennis, won the contract to be the official on-site stringer for the tournament.
The stringing room was in the press box of Baylor University’s softball stadium. It wasn’t an ideal location, since players and coaches didn’t know where to go for stringing, but it had plenty of windows and a nice view, which was a huge improvement over stringing in a hotel room off-site.
From the hallway leading to the press box, we could look out over Baylor’s incredible outdoor tennis complex. We could only partially see matches on court, but we could keep track generally of what was going on court. This was especially important this week because Waco experienced a tremendous amount of rain.
Being on-site was also a particular bonus for me this year because Wake Forest’s men’s team qualified for the Sweet Sixteen, and Noah Rubin, Romain Bogaerts, Skander Mansouri, and Christian Seraphim all competed in the individual tournament. It was easy for me to sneak away from the stringing room to catch the Wake matches, including Noah Rubin’s history run to the men’s singles final.
A final benefit of working for Dustin was the opportunity to work alongside other stringers whose professionalism is unquestionable. Dustin is a member of the Wilson/Luxilon International Stringing Team, and has strung at the U.S. Open, Australian Open, China Open, and other major tournaments. Also on the team were two other Wilson stringing team members, Joe Heydt and Todd Mobley. Joe owns Racket Corner in Omaha, Nebraska, and Todd owns Stadium Tennis in the Atlanta area, is the Captain of the Wilson stringing team, and was the 2009 Tennis Industry Magazine Stringer of the Year.
But enough about me. In my next posts I will review the strings and tensions we saw most commonly in the tournament, and then I will reflect on some lessons to be learned from stringing this sort of tournament.