Great 2012, Looking Forward to an Even Better 2013

2012 was another great year for Big Time Tennis, many thanks to our customers and opportunities to string at some big tournaments. For the fourth straight year we increased the total number of rackets strung:

  • 2012: 1,467
  • 2011: 1,265
  • 2010: 1,171
  • 2009:   750
  • 2008:   251

Once again, the Wake Forest University men’s tennis team was the backbone of our business. Just over half of the rackets we strung in 2012 were for the Wake men. We are proud of our affiliation with Wake tennis and happy to do our part to keep the team moving forward, even on a 20 racket night like the one pictured below from the spring season.

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The second largest group of rackets came from three tournaments, two of which we have written about: the NCAA Division I tournament in Athens, Georgia, the combined ATP World Tour and WTA Citi Open in Washington, DC, and our hometown ATP World Tour event, the Winston-Salem Open (motto: Big Time Tennis, Served Southern Style!). We did almost 500 rackets at these three tournaments. Even the junior member of Big Time Tennis had a chance to chip in at the Winston-Salem Open.

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We learn so much stringing in tournament settings, where people’s livelihood’s are dependent on their equipment and nothing less than perfection is acceptable. We have said many times how much we have learned from Jay Lewandowski, owner of Game.Set.Match tennis, who hired us to work at these tournaments. At both the Citi Open and Winston-Salem Open we also benefited from working with Dustin Tankersley, a member of the Wilson stringing team, who is in Australia right now working at the Oz Open. In Winston-Salem, we also enjoyed working alongside RPNY stringer  Benoit Mauguin, who as you can see in the photo below was personally responsible for Andy Roddick’s rackets on tour.

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We try to bring the professional tournament stringing attitude to every racket we string. Although non-Wake Forest and non-tournament rackets are just a fraction of all of the rackets we string in any year, we value those clients very much and appreciate their entrusting their rackets to us. We truly see them as clients rather than just customers.

Having strung nearly 1,500 rackets in 2012, we begin to wonder what our total capacity is annually. But believing there is still room for growth, we have made a significant capital investment recently, adding to our arsenal a new stringing machine, the Wilson Baiardo (pictured below), to go along with our Babolat Star 5.

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Thanks to everyone for a great 2012. Here’s looking forward to an even better 2013!

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Part 5: ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Stringing Reflections

Saturday is Day 11 of stringing for me and the men’s semi-final and women’s final day. Even though there are only a few matches, we are still busy throughout the day because at this point many players will practice earlier in the day, then turn in their rackets for stringing after practice and before their matches. There is also always the possibility of a player sending a racket off court to be strung. Dustin flew back to Dallas this morning and Alan came in to string one racket and spend the rest of the day with his son. So, it was just Jay and myself. I did three rackets for Mardy Fish, three for Sam Querrey, two for Tommy Haas, and two for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for an even 10 rackets.

I had the opportunity to watch most of the Querrey vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov semi-final match and the Pavlyuchenkova vs. Magdalena Rybarikova women’s final, which was a nice break from the stringing room. In the picture below you can see Pavlyuchenkova in the near court and Rybarikova in the far court.

Part 4: ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Stringing Reflections

Reflections from days 8-10 of tournament:

When matches get underway, the possibility of a player sending off an “on court” racket – a racket that a player is requesting be restrung during their match – grows. The player could have broken a string, or sometimes they want to make a tension adjustment, or sometimes they want to have a fresh racket in the event they split sets.

When the racket comes into the stringing room, usually brought by a ball kid or sometimes a coach, the intensity in the room kicks up just a little bit. You want to get the racket re-strung and back out on court as quickly as possible. You can only return the racket to a player on a changeover, so if you don’t get the racket out before the players change sides, it will delay the process for two more games.

15-18 minutes is a good aspirational time to get the racket strung and back to court. In that time we need to cut out the string, pull new string, mount the frame, string the racket, and straighten the strings, then stencil, label, and bag the racket before running it back out to court.

Jay and Dustin are much faster stringers than me, so if an “on court” racket comes in when their machine is open, they do it.  One time this tournament a racket came in from one of the players I had been stringing – Paul-Henri Mathieu – and I had to jump on it. A Wilson frame with an 18×20 string pattern and all poly string. I went as fast as I could comfortably go and got the racket back in a good time. A little adrenaline rush in the middle of the day and I got to see a few points of tennis while I was waiting to hand the racket to a ball boy!

We are now over the peak of stringing, and my numbers will go down every day from here to until the end of the tourney. Specifically:

Day 8: 15 rackets

Day 9: 15

Day 10: 8

Part 3: ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Stringing Reflections

Reflections on days 4-7 of the tournament:

Saturday brought the second round of women’s qualifying and first round of men’s qualifying, so the numbers will be increasing for the next several days. To handle the increase flow, we bought in a fourth stringer, Alan Taylor. As you can see, Alan and I are facing each other for hour after hour so even though we just met we got to know each other pretty well.

Now that we are settled in, the days get more and more similar. We arrive at the site around 8 am and are stringing or on call until the end of the last match. So, for example, on Monday night, Jeremy Chardy defeated Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a match that concluded at 1:30 am. The following night, Sam Querrey and Igor Andreev played until 1:15 am.

Each successive day gets a bit more challenging, with more rackets and less sleep the night before. Hands, back, legs, and feet get more fatigued with each day so it becomes more and more important to sit and stretch whenever possible.

Saturday through Tuesday is the peak of the tournament in terms of numbers of players. My counts were:

Day 4: 19 rackets

Day 5: 23

Day 6: 22

Day 7: 25

Part 2: ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Tennis Tournament Stringing Reflections

Reflections from Thursday, July 26th – Day 2 at tournament:

I am in DC stringing for Jay Lewandowski (in the number 1 position in the picture below) – proprietor of Game.Set.Match Tennis, which has the stringing contract at the Citi Open as well as the ATP Winston-Salem Open where we will be a couple of weeks.  Jay and I got to the site at 8 a.m. today expecting more players to arrive for the men’s and women’s qualifying Friday and Saturday. We were not extremely busy, but the pace of rackets was steady for the two of us. I finished the day having done 10 rackets, knowing full well that each successive day will bring more than the previous. In terms of serious racket flow, the tournament won’t even really start until Sunday.

The third of four members of the stringing team arrived today from Dallas, Dustin Tankersley (in the #2 position in the picture). Dustin is a workhorse with a lot of experience who is a member of the Wilson stringing team that handles the US Open. If Jay is the captain of the team, Dustin is the assistant captain. I ask him a lot of questions while I am stringing. The basic process of installing strings is relatively straightforward, but with the number of different rackets, strings, and stringing patterns we see, questions always arise about how to handle particular situations.

Of the 10 rackets I did today, one was for Paul Henri Mathieu, who got into town early and was preparing for his main draw match on Monday or Tuesday. The rest were for women playing in the qualies tomorrow.