Going Out on Top

Nostradamus

A year ago, in May 2017, after Wake Forest’s men’s tennis team lost too early in the NCAA tournament, I concocted a plan. The plan was to string for the team for a 10th and final year, win a National Championship on our home courts at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex, and go out on top.

I only told my wife, Sandy, and a couple of friends of my plan. When Wake Forest won the team title, the reality of my impending retirement set in.

My son, Paul, who has been deeply involved with the stringing business from the start, actually strung most of the Wake Forest rackets during the tournament (as he had during the season). But I wanted to make sure the last rackets I strung for the team were memorable.

Petros Chrysochos and Borna Gojo gave me the perfect memory when they made the Men’s Singles final. The last four rackets I strung as the head stringer for Wake Forest Men’s Tennis were two for finalist Gojo and two for NCAA Men’s Singles Champion Chrysochos.

NCAAs with Pete and Goj

Delivering Gojo and Chrysochos their rackets for the NCAA Singles final, my last four rackets as head stringer for Wake Forest Men’s Tennis.

I couldn’t have scripted my exit any better. 10 years and several thousand rackets leading up to the NCAA National Championship as a team, capped off with my very last racket: Petros Chrysochos’s racket #13, the racket he used to win the NCAA singles title.

Last Racket for Pete

Last racket on the machine: Petros Chrysochos’s championship-winning #13.

I’m happy to be able to leave the responsibility of head stringer to Paul. The team is in good hands.

WSJ Story Picture

Photo credit: Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal

And I will be around to customize and consult, and to cheer for whoever is playing Court 6 for the Deacs, as long as I have my day job.

#bigtime #GoDeacs

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2018 NCAA D1 National Champions – Wake Forest University Men’s Tennis

10 years ago, All-American tennis player Cory Parr (WFU ’09) facilitated Big Time Tennis becoming the official stringers for Wake Forest University’s men’s tennis team.

Except when they were on the road, my son Paul, my wife Sandy, and I have strung every racket for the team since then. Through Tuesday, May 22, 2018, the racket total was 8,555.

No one associated with the day-to-day operations of the tennis team has been with the program longer than Paul, Sandy, and I. So, we were as proud as anyone to be able to hold the NCAA Division 1 National Championship trophy last Tuesday night.

Of course, we were just one part of a complex operation that makes winning championships possible – coaches, trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, SIDs, and others.

But most importantly, the players. This team is composed of such a diverse set of personalities, I often refer to it as the team from the “Island of Misfit Toys.” A Croatian Oak, a Magician, a Dancer, a Veteran, a German Engineered Man of Steel, and others.

An amazing part of the experience was seeing how many Wake Forest University tennis alumni returned for the final. Many of them got on planes Tuesday morning to be at the match. Every player — those who attended and the many who could not — played a part in the building of the program to its current status.

Photo Credit: Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film

As an observer of the team, I have been impressed at how they handled being ranked #1 in the country the entire year, and winning every major title possible: ITA National Indoors, ACC regular season, ACC tournament, and NCAAs.

Photo Credit: Dan Wallace/Wake Forest University

Wake Forest’s tennis program has not always been well-funded. In our 7th year stringing for the team we were paid the same as in our 1st year; our first raise was in our 8th year. The feeling that something special was happening with the program made it easier to stay on despite being more underpaid with every passing year.

During the lean years and continuing through this championship, Pacific has been a consistent sponsor of the Demon Deacons on court. The “X” you see on the rackets is a visual representation of that support.

X Rules the Court!

Preliminary Data on String at ITF Pro Circuit Wake Forest Futures

The final numbers won’t be in for a while, but I was organizing my string reels for the ITF Pro Circuit Wake Forest Futures at Wake Forest University (USA F17) and thought I would provide this preliminary string check photo.

From left to right: Luxilon reels, Solinco reels, and all other reels (Head, Kirschbaum, Toalson).

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2017 ITF Pro Circuit Wake Forest Futures at Wake Forest University

The USA F19 Futures, the first of two back-to-back $25,000 ITF Pro Circuit Futures tournaments, is being held at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex this week. As with the previous two years, we are providing the stringing. And already some notable differences are emerging.

The stringing so far is down considerably. Last year we did 22 rackets on site Friday, in advance of the first round of qualifying, and held over 9 rackets to be strung Saturday morning ahead of play. So, 31 total rackets before the first round of qualifying. This year I did only 14 rackets Friday with none held over, and 3 rackets came in Saturday morning for matches. So, 17 total rackets.

2016 Day 2: I strung another 22 rackets. 2017 Day 2: 10 rackets.

So, through the first two days in 2016 our total was 53 rackets. Our two day total for 2017 is just 24 rackets.

In 2016, 15 of 52 players in the first round qualifying had rackets strung on site (29%). This year, a smaller number in a larger draw (13 of 64) had rackets strung for the first round (20%).

The success rates of those who had rackets strung this year is not what it was last year either. In 2016, 11 of the 15 guys who strung for the first round of qualifying won (73%). Only two players who had rackets strung for their matches lost to someone who did not have a racket strung on site.

In 2017, the record of the 13 players who had rackets strung on site for their first matches was 7 wins and 6 losses (54% success rate).

Of course, these are only two data points and even then they only tell part of the story. Players can have their rackets professionally strung at home or off-site, of course. But as someone who believes that stringing matters, I like to see what the data (even if incomplete) show.

One additional variable this year is an increase in our charge for stringing. For the first two years of the tournament, we charged $16 a racket, which I thought was more than fair for the quality of service we provided. Especially hearing players complain about the poor quality of stringing at other Futures events where they were being charged for $20 a racket. In respect of our own time and effort and the quality provided, we went to $20 this year. Once the main draw players arrive, we’ll see how elastic stringing prices are. I hope we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot economically!

2016 Big Time Tennis Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that 2016 was the 9th year in business for this hobby-gone-mad, and between racket stringing and customization our busiest year ever.

Thanks largely to our work for the Wake Forest men’s tennis team and professional tournament stringing, we crossed the 2,000 racket threshold for the second time and for the first time since 2013:

  • 2016: 2,095
  • 2015: 1,974
  • 2014: 1,759
  • 2013: 2,149
  • 2012: 1,467
  • 2011: 1,265
  • 2010: 1,171
  • 2009:   750
  • 2008:   251

All told, we’ve strung nearly 13,000 rackets since 2008, in our spare time, which is hard to fathom.

Highlights of the year begin and end with the Wake Forest men winning their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship. So much hard work by so many people went into that championship and we are so proud to have played a part.

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We also did the stringing again for the ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem, which was upgraded to a $25K event for 2016.

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And the ATP World Tour/WTA Tour Citi Open in Washington DC.

tecnifibre-citi-open-2016

Last, we always enjoy working as the part of the MOZI Tennis stringing team at our hometown ATP World Tour Winston-Salem Open. 2016 was special because we were given the responsibility of managing the stringing service.

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We learned recently that the Winston-Salem Open was voted by ATP Tour players as 250 Tournament of the Year!

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In my 2015 Year in Review, I concluded by saying it was hard to imagine 2016 being as great as 2015, but I do believe we were able to exceed our own expectations. I won’t make any predictions or promises for 2017, but just say CHEERS! to a great year.

cheers