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!

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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!

String Loose! Examining String Tensions at Pro Circuit $25K Winston-Salem Futures

For various reasons I hope to write about in the future, most amateur players string their rackets too tight.

Last year I reported that the average tension for the rackets I strung at the NCAA tournament and the Winston-Salem Futures was 53 pounds, compared to 55.5 pounds for my regular customers in 2015 (who I have worked with to string looser).

Machine at WS Futures

Of course, there is no single “correct” tension for any particular string, racket, or player — or combination thereof.The loosest racket I strung at the 2016 Winston-Salem Futures was 40 pounds (Dennis Nevolo) and the tightest was 28.5 kilos (62.7 pounds) with a 10% prestretch of the monofilament string (Stefan Frljanic).

Still, it is worth noting that the average string tension at the 2016 Winston-Salem Futures was down 2 pounds from last year to 51 pounds! Only 2 players strung in the 60s, while 15 strung in the 40s.

My regular customers are down from 55.5 to 54.2 so far this year, so hopefully my “String Loose” campaign will continue to take hold among recreational players as the loose stringing trend has among professionals.

Stencil at WS Futures

Stringing Report for 2016 Pro Circuit $25K Futures of Winston-Salem

At the 2015 ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures of Winston-Salem last year, I strung rackets for 34 different players. The number increased to 47 different players in the 2016 tournament (out of 83 unique players in the singles and doubles). The total number of rackets I did for the tournament also increased from 112 in 2015 to 139 in 2016.

So, the additional $10K in prize money seemed to make some difference in players’ willingness to pay for on-site stringing (although I heard the numbers for this year’s Tulsa $25K the week following Winston-Salem were lower than the 2015 Winston-Salem Futures).

My 100th racket of the tournament: Reilly Opelka's Wilson

My 100th racket of the tournament: Reilly Opelka’s Wilson

Last year the top stringer was the tournament champion, Matija Pecotic, with 15 rackets. This year’s champion, Sekou Bangoura, only strung 7 rackets.

Top stringers this year were three players tied with 8 rackets each: Jon Ho and Dennis Uspensky, both Wake Forest players who I have tried to teach the importance of racket stringing, and Emil Reinberg of the University of Georgia, who fought his way through qualifying and won two rounds in the main draw for 5 total matches.

Like last year, almost all players (42 of 47) used all monofilament strings, including two who used hybrids of two different monofilaments. Two players used a traditional hybrid of monofilament mains and synthetic gut/multifilament crosses, and one player used natural gut mains and monofilament crosses (something we see much more commonly on the ATP World Tour).

Winston-Salem Futures String Check

As with last year, the three most common string brands were Solinco, Luxilon, and Babolat. Interestingly, their “market shares” were almost exactly the same this year (last year’s share in parentheses):

  1. Solinco – 38% (38%)
  2. Luxilon – 22% (21%)
  3. Babolat – 10% (12%)
  4. Wilson –5.3%
  5. Pacific, Diadem – 4% (6% each)
  6. Tecnifibre – 3% (3%)
  7. MSV, Kirschbaum, L-Tec, Prince – 2%

(Note that 2% = 1 racket)