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!

Noah Rubin of Wake Forest Men’s Tennis Turns Pro – One Year Later

Checking in again from the ITF Pro Circuit / USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series $25K Futures of Winston-Salem. One of the players in last year’s tournament was Noah Rubin.

Rubin was coming off a runner-up finish in the NCAA Division I men’s tennis tournament. He won a round then lost to the 3-seed and eventual finalist Tennys Sandgren 7-5, 6-3. He went home to New York and announced he was turning pro a couple of days later.

Rubin Turns Pro Twitter

As the racket technician for Wake Forest University’s men’s tennis team, a lot of people asked me last year whether I thought Rubin was making a good decision in leaving school to become a professional tennis player after his freshman year.

I told them I didn’t really know, because my expertise is in tennis equipment not the ins-and-outs of professional tennis. But someone more knowledgeable than me said that if Rubin was in the Top 200 of the ATP rankings in a year’s time he would have made a good decision.

Rubin_Challenger_Pic

As it turns out, Rubin won the Charlottesville Challenger that fall and finished the year with an ATP ranking of 340 (up from #591 at the end of 2014).

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He also earned a main draw wild card into the Australian Open and won his first round match over top 20 player Benoit Paire. His current ATP ranking is #166. So, by that measure, he made a good decision.

Rubin ATP Tour

In addition to working with the men’s tennis team, I am also (or, rather, principally) a sociology professor at Wake Forest University. As a faculty member, my goal for every student who enrolls is first for her or him to learn and become a better person, and then to get a job doing something they have a passion for and which makes the world a better place.

By these measures, as far as I can tell from following him on social media, Noah Rubin is succeeding as well. I am happy to have him out in the world representing Wake Forest University and Wake Forest men’s tennis.

Rubin Rodin Museum

Photo of Noah Rubin at the Rodin Museum in France on loan from @noahrubin33 Instagram account

Wake Forest Men’s Tennis – 2016 ACC Champions – A TEAM Accomplishment

Wake Forest University’s men’s tennis team broke the University of Virginia’s 9 year run as ACC champions and claimed their first ACC championship yesterday in Cary, NC. I was privileged to be at the tournament to witness the historic accomplishment. It was the culmination of many years of hard work by a large number of people and proved the old saw that “there is no ‘I’ in team.” Every person associated with the men’s tennis program contributed to this victory.

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First semester Freshman Dennis Uspensky was named the ACC Tournament Most Valuable Player, and rightfully so. Not only did he clinch the deciding match in dramatic fashion, coming back from a break down in the third set to win 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, but he also clinched the deciding point in the semi-final match against Virginia Tech, and won in dominating fashion against Notre Dame in the quarterfinal match which Wake narrowly won 4-3. Oh, and he also played and won in doubles.

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Sophomore Skander Mansouri bears a heavy load playing #1 singles and doubles. In the ACC that means you play a quality opponent every match. Skander had already played and lost to defending NCAA Singles Champion Ryan Shane twice this year, but the third time was a charm as he won in dominating fashion. He also teamed with fellow Sophomore Christian Seraphim in doubles to defeat the #2 team in the country to help clinch the doubles point.

In addition to teaming with Mansouri to win in doubles, Seraphim came back from not serving out his match against Notre Dame in the quarters, and two previous third set losses to Virginia’s #5 player, and a break in the third set in his finals match, to tie the match at 3-all, and allow Uspensky the opportunity to win his decisive court.

Serpahim Mansouri celebration

Senior Romain Bogaerts won his doubles court against Virginia to help Wake Forest take that extremely important point, but more notably came back from 2-5 down in a third set tie-breaker against Notre Dame to clinch that match. Without that win, Wake Forest would not have even been playing in the ACC tournament SEMI-final.

Romo ND Clinch

Senior Jon Ho contributed a vital doubles win against Notre Dame, and was in position to secure the semi-final match against Virginia Tech, up 4-1 in the third set when Uspensky clinched the deciding point. The VT match was possibly Ho’s best match of the year, and so I expect big things from him in the NCAA tourney.

Ho with Trophy

Freshman Petros Chrysochos was first off in singles in the semi-final against Virginia Tech giving the team needed momentum, and teamed with Ho to clinch the doubles point against Notre Dame. Probably not the tournament that he would have wanted for himself, but he had many big wins for the team this year and he doesn’t love the ACC Championship trophy any less.

Petros With Trophy

Senior Captain Anthony Delcore is the team’s official “hype man,” leading the squad in its pre-match ritual.

Delcore with Trophy

Senior Sam Bloom is Wake Forest’s secret weapon – a fourth coach, counselor, and booster, tirelessly working the courts during matches. He is also largely responsible for ensuring that everyone has transportation to practice everyday, which is a bit like herding cats I understand.

Bloomer

As the #7 and #8 singles players, Max Kan (front right below) and Keivon Tabrizi (back middle) have to practice and prepare every day as if they could step into the starting line-up at any moment. And when they don’t get the call to play they become vital supporters of their teammates. Eric Rutledge (left center, backward hat) and Alan Gadjiev (back right) are both redshirting this season, which means alot of work and not much glory, but as they push themselves to improve they also push the team forward. And Gadjiev has the oddest collection of one-liners you will ever hear coming from the stands in a tennis match.

Twitter Mirror

The team has an amazing coaching and support staff who work incredibly hard to help the players realize their potential. This, of course, begins with Head Coach Tony Bresky, who brought to Wake Forest an attitude that anything less than championships would not do.

Assistant Coach Jeremy Feldman works as hard as anyone I know. Whatever program gets him as a head coach some day will be very fortunate. The same is true of Volunteer Assistant Coach Alex Emery, who will be moving onto an assistant coaching position somewhere sooner rather than later.

Bresky and Feldman

Emery

Assistant Athletic Trainer Chris Ina is responsible for keeping the guys in good health, which is none too easy given the increasing rigors of men’s tennis. Ethan Reeve, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, breaks them down and builds them up stronger. The ability of Dennis Uspensky (to take just one example) to play a three tie-break match and play as well at the end as at the beginning is a tribute to Reeve’s and Ina’s hard work.

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Ethan Reeve

Jordan Hawks is director of operations for the program, and runs the tournaments at Wake Forest which provide key opportunities for our players to compete and also brings crucial exposure to the tennis program (shown here with his wife Dawn).

Hawks and Dawn

Every last person counts. Included in the picture below, at center, is Brendan “Gramps” Henry, who due to injuries was never really able to compete for Wake Forest so instead brought always needed maturity and wisdom to the team (hence the nickname).

Seniors with Trophy

Photo credit: Brian Westerholt/Sports on Film

 

I am so happy for everyone named above who has put so much into this season. And also the many people who are unnamed here who helped make this program what it is. You know who you are!

 

 

2015 Year in Review – Big Time Tennis

Our 8th year in business, 2015 was another great year for Big Time Tennis, many thanks to our individual customers, the Wake Forest University men’s and club tennis teams, and opportunities to string at some big tournaments.

Stringer of the Year Plaque

The year started in a very special way, with David being named Tennis Industry Magazine’s “Stringer of the Year” for 2014. To make it even more special, Wake Forest tennis alum David Hopkins accepted the award on David’s behalf.

Hopkins Accepts SOY Plaque

Although we did not match our record number of rackets (reached in 2013), we nearly crossed the 2,000 threshold thanks to steady work form the Wake Forest men’s team (almost 900 rackets) and the opportunity to string some new tournaments:

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

The Wake Forest men had an outstanding year, and I (David) was excited to be a part of it, including spending nearly two rainy weeks in Waco, Texas at Baylor University working on the MOZI Tennis stringing team.

Mozi Tennis

It was fun to work the tournament on site because I could also see Wake Forest play in the Sweet Sixteen (losing to TCU, alas) and Noah Rubin make his run to the men’s singles final.

WF Team at Baylor Stadium

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men's singles finalist

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men’s singles finalist

Almost immediately after getting home from Waco, the ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem began. I had never strung a Pro Circuit event, and I found it very fascinating, posting a number of blogs about it. Of course we treat all players equally in the stringing room, but with only one customer playing in the final, I was able to support Matija Pecotic, who brought home the championship trophy.

Pecotic

Thanks again to MOZI Tennis, I had the chance to string at the ATP World Tour/WTA Tour CitiOpen in Washington, DC. A highlight was having the chance to string one more racket for the Australian stalwart player and Grand Slam Champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt Racket

The Yamane family made a big contribution to the MOZI Tennis stringing team at our home town Winston-Salem Open. We even got to meet “The Magician,” Fabrice Santoro who was there coaching. Tournament stringing can be exhausting and stressful, but it is made much easier when you have a great boss, Dustin Tankersley, and get to work with your loved ones.

WSO 201520150820_112351

A final highlight of the year was having the opportunity to string rackets for all of the members of the Mount Tabor High School Girls Tennis Team. I am thankful that their coach, Taylor McDaniel, appreciates the importance of strings to performance. It is the only part of the racket that is supposed to touch the ball after all!

Mount Tabor Rackets

It’s hard to imagine 2016 being as great as 2015, but we are hoping to have the opportunity to exceed our own expectations.