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.

2016-ws-futures

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.

wso-team-2016

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

250-tournament-of-the-year

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

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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.

Stringing at Different Levels of Professional Tennis

Following the action at the French Open while stringing at an a $15K ITF Pro Circuit Futures event, as I have noted previously, brings out some interesting contrasts between different levels of professional tennis.

In the best of 5 set matches at the French Open, Stanislas Wawinka and Roger Federer have 10 rackets strung per match. For one match this year, Kei Nishikori reportedly had 9 rackets strung before the match and another 9 rackets strung while he was playing.

Nishikori Rackets French Open

At the ATP World Tour 500 Series Citi Open in Washington, DC that I have worked for the past several years, Nishikori would string 4 rackets for every match, Milos Raonic 6, and Marcos Baghdatis 5, for example. At the ATP World Tour 250 Series Winston-Salem Open, were commonly saw main draw players string 3-4 rackets per match.

WSO 2013 (6)

Although I only have experience stringing at one ITF Pro Circuit Futures event, the contrast to the ATP World Tour is striking. Only 16 of 56 players in the Futures qualifying had racket strung on-site, including just 1 of the 6 seeded players in qualifying. Of 32 players in the main draw, only 20 had rackets strung on-site. Three of 8 seeded players did not have any rackets strung during the tournament, all of whom made the quarterfinals. Consequently, I only strung rackets for 4 of 8 quarterfinalists, 2 of 4 semifinalists, and 1 of the 2 finalists (including the champion, Matija Pecotic!).

FuturesWS2015 Pecotic and Stringer 3

This is not to say that the players who are not stringing on-site are not stringing rackets. Some players I know are traveling with portable stringing machines like the Pro Stringer.

I also know that some players are getting inconsistent tensions stringing for themselves. One coach complained that his player cannot swing out on balls because of the inconsistency of his racket stringing, and the player turned in two rackets after he won a couple of rounds and made some money.

Another player told me he strung his own rackets for practice, but had me string his match rackets. This is a cost effective strategy, but not an optimal choice because you want to practice how you will play.

I also know that in some locations – Nigeria and Egypt, for example – the “official stringers” do not produce consistent results either. Indeed, we have heard players at ATP World Tour events complain about the quality of the stringing at some tournaments they play.

So, I don’t begrudge players who chose not to use my services at the Futures of Winston-Salem. At the same time, I believe those players who had me string rackets for them got what they paid for. I know the tournament champion, who was the top stringer for the week, felt so.

Scenes from the Professional Tennis Futures Tour – ITF Pro Circuit Winston-Salem

Today is the 5th day of the ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures of Winston-Salem, including three days of qualifying. 7 first round singles matches and all 8 first round doubles matches were played yesterday, and 9 first round singles matches and the doubles quarterfinals are scheduled for today.

Having strung at ATP World Tour 500 level (Citi Open in Washington) and 250 level (Winston-Salem Open) events, the contrast with the Futures circuit is striking.

It was interesting this morning to see individuals playing for a few ATP ranking points and a few hundred dollars in the lounge watching Nadal and Djokovic playing in the French Open quarterfinals for hundreds of ranking points and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Scence from Futures of WS

Other notable contrasts:

*Although I am stringing plenty of rackets, there are a number of main draw players — including 4 of 8 seeds — who had no rackets strung for their first round matches. I know a couple of players are traveling with their own portable stringing machines, including one who forgot his cutters so stops in every day to cut the tails on his strings. This contrasts sharply with a Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Jurgen Melzer, and the like who will string 4-6 rackets for every match at Citi Open or Winston-Salem Open.

*ATP World Tour string brand of choice: Luxilon. ITF Pro Circuit Futures string brand of choice: Solinco. This is no doubt due in large part to Solinco’s aggressive efforts to gain a foothold with top junior players and colleges (as noted in my previous post on the NCAA tournament).

*On the ATP World Tour, players have access to player dining on site for lunch and dinner, snacks, and coolers full of bottled water and sports drinks. At this Futures event at least, there is no player dining (unless you count the vending machine) and drinks must be paid for.

*On the ATP World Tour, the official hotel in Washington was the W and in Winston-Salem the Marriott. At this Futures event, the official hotel is the Winston-Salem Hotel and Spa, formerly a Ramada.

*On the ATP World Tour there are hotel shuttles and courtesy vehicles to transport players to and from the airport and hotels. At this Futures event, players have arrived from the airport in taxis, and my wife gave one player a ride to his hotel when she saw him walking down the street carrying his racket bag and recognized him from the stringing room.

Just as I was finishing this post, I was asked by the Tournament Director to serve as the “acting tournament director” because he had to go out to buy lunch for the tournament officials. My only official act as acting tournament director: I sold two Gatorades.

Still, at the end of the day, there is tennis. That it is not on television doesn’t make it any less exciting. To me at least.