Remembering the Day I Thought I Screwed Up Tomas Berdych’s Rackets

As I have said before, the primary responsibility of a professional racket stringer is to accurately and consistently install strings in rackets. If someone asks for 3 rackets strung at 54 pounds and 1 at 55 pounds, you have to ensure that your equipment and technique and achieve that outcome.

One of the consequences of this is your work will only get noticed if something is perceived to be wrong. Rarely is notice taken if you do your job right. When players win, they thank everyone in their “box,” including their dog walker, but never their racket technician. Which is fine because I get paid to do my job right. If someone says thanks that is just gravy. But if I do my job wrong, it will be noticed.

Case in point: At the Winston-Salem Open in 2012, world #7 Tomas Berdych was the #2 seed. By contract with RPNY, his personal stringer Ben Mauguin was on site taking care of his rackets. But because Ben had to leave Winston-Salem to string at the U.S. Open, I took over stringing for Berdych beginning in the semifinal.

Berdych Racket

Ben explained the special stringing pattern Berdych uses on his rackets, which I followed closely and carefully. I was excited to go out to see the fruits of my labor as Berdych played his semifinal against Sam Querrey. Berdych stepped to the line to begin the match and promptly double faulted. My heart sank as he tapped the stringbed with his hand and checked the label we put on the racket to indicate tension and date strung.

My mind started racing. I had screwed up Berdych’s rackets, I thought. He would lose the match because the stringing was not right. I would never work another professional event.

On the next point, Berdych hit an ace. He did not tap the stringbed. He did not give a thumbs up to the strings. He just went on to win the match routinely 6-3, 6-4.

tomas-berdych-082412

I had done my job right. And I lived to string another day.

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