ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Tennis Tournament Stringing Reflections

Qualifying for the women’s tournament began on Friday, so we packed up three Babolat Star 5 stringing machines and left Durham, North Carolina Wednesday morning to arrive in the stringing afternoon to get the room cleaned and organized, and to get the machines set up. I strung 4 rackets that afternoon for women playing in the qualifying, but this was really more of a travel, planning, and organizing day.

As you can see in this picture, we use Babolat Star 5 stringing machines. They are electronic, linear constant pull machines. Mine is the one furthest in the back. By Saturday, we will add a fourth machine to the mix. At the start, we use a tension meter to make sure every machine is pulling to the reference tension, and we also try to string the same racket on different machines to make sure the rackets come off the machines the same.

Last year Game.Set.Match Tennis strung over 600 rackets just at the ATP Legg Mason Tennis Classic. There is some uncertainty about how many rackets we will do this year, because the draw has been reduced from 48 to 32 players, and some of the bigger names and more frequent stringers from last year are in London for the Olympics. People like Bagdhatis, Davydenko, Stepanek, Monfils, Isner, and the Bryan Brothers. Adding 32 women to the mix for the WTA Tour event will probably not offset the loss.

Stringing Reflections from ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open, Washington, DC

For the men, the draw this year is not quite as strong as last year (when it was known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic) because of the scheduling conflict with the Olympic Games in London. Still, there is a lot of money at stake ($252,600 for the winner, and $7,300 for first round losers), as well as a lot of ranking points. So, the last direct acceptance into the main draw of 32 players was Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, ranked inside the top 100 in the world. 13th ranked American Mardy Fish is the top seed and Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov (#17) is the 2 seed.

For the women, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a top 30 player, is the top seed. Notable Americans in the tournament are the #3 seed Sloane Stephens, #4 seed Vania King, #7 seed Coco Vandeweghe, and Melanie Oudin. The lowest ranked direct acceptance into the main draw was world #134 Erika Sema of Japan. 13 of the 28 direct acceptances – nearly half of the draw – are from what we used to call “Eastern Bloc” countries like Russia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. That is, there are a lot of “ova” names in the women’s draw.

Being in the stringing room you get to see some of the rigors of professional tennis. For example, American Michael Russell is a Top 100 player on the tour. He made it to the quarterfinals of the ATP tournament in Los Angeles the week prior to the CitiOpen. Walking the grounds in DC I came across a TV showing his match on Friday night against Marinko Matosevic. He lost that match, but as the top seed in the qualifiers in DC he needed to play here on Saturday afternoon. CitiOpen tournament organizers gave him the latest time slot on Saturday – “not before 3:00pm” – but he still had to take a red eye flight from LA to DC and was turning in rackets to us for stringing by 1pm. He won Saturday and again on Sunday to claim one of the 4 qualifying slots in the main draw only to draw #4 seed Tommy Haas. Sometimes the “luck of the draw” is good and sometimes it is bad. Two of the other qualifiers drew a wild card into the tournament (someone not ranked high enough to get in directly) and the lowest ranked man directly accepted into the tournament. Still, by winning his match on Sunday Russell earned first round money of $7,300 rather than qualifying finalist money of $820.

Not everyone was so lucky. Marius Copil of Romania – ranked 217 in the world – arrive in DC 3 slots out of getting into the qualifying draw. Often individuals will sign up for a tournament and have to withdraw before officially signing in on site. So, Copil had some rackets strung and practiced while trying to see if he would get into the qualifying. As it came to seem like he would not get into the tournament, he had to decide whether or not to fly across the continent to Vancouver, Canada to play the lower level tournament there. In the end, he decided to take his chances on DC and when he did not get into the qualifying he packed up and headed off to the next place – without having played a match and taking with him no prize money or ranking points.

Just back from ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open in Washington, DC

I just returned from 12 days in Washington, DC where I was working as part of the Game.Set.Match Tennis stringing team at the Citi Open. The event is a combined WTA and ATP tournament. For the women it is an International level event with $220,000 in total prize money, and for the men it is a 500 level event (second highest to the “Master’s Series” 1000 level events) with $1.05 million in prize money.

As soon as Alexandr Dolgopolov closed out his three shot victory over Tommy Haas in the rain delayed final, we broke down the last stringing machine, packed up, and headed back to North Carolina. I left the site just after 10:00pm and arrive in Winston-Salem at 4:30am.

Because stringing the tournament is so time-consuming, I am only able to post some blog entries about it after the fact. I hope you find them interesting.



Stringing at NCAA Division I Championships

Greetings from the Country Inn and Suites, Athens, Georgia where I am part of the Game.Set.Match Tennis stringing team for the NCAA Division I Championships. There are 32 teams competing here (16 men’s 16 women’s) and right now we are stringing for 10 of them.

On the men’s side, we have lined up Virginia (1), USC (5), Baylor (7), and Duke (16), and have a couple more prospects. On the women’s side, Baylor (1), North Carolina (2), Clemson (9), Duke (10), Miami (11), and Florida State (15).

I arrived around noon on Wednesday the 19th. Jay Lewandowski (owner of Game.Set.Match) and Ken Kigongo already had their Babolat Star 5s up and running.

I got mine out of the car and by the time I got it set up the rackets were flooding in, notably with 18 rackets from Virginia (15 Babolat Pure Drives or Pure Drive Roddicks!).

As Jay was running around picking up rackets, Ken and I were grinding away at our machines. By the time we wrapped up at 11:30pm, I had strung 21 rackets (see stringing log below).

In terms of string, of my 20 rackets, only 4 were hybrids and only one had no polyester string in it (female player from UNC). So, 3/4 of the rackets were all-poly. By far the most popular string was Luxilon Big Banger Alu 125. Pacific Poly Force and Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour also were strong, and we saw a little bit of Solinco (showing that their hard work cultivating college customers is paying off some).

In terms of rackets, Babolat was the dominant racket in our stringing room. We saw many Pure Drives, Pure Drive Roddicks, and Pure Drive + in both the regular and Roddick versions. Many European players seem to favor Head frames — in our case Radicals and Extremes (surprisingly did not see any Prestiges). We did a few Princes, but they have clearly lost market share compared to 20 years ago. For someone who deals in smaller market share brands, I was happy to see a smattering of smaller companies like Yonex and Tecnifibre.

In terms of tensions, mid- to high-50s was the norm, with some players pushing into the low 60s. No one strung in the low 50s much less the 40s. The lowest tension I strung was one Pure Drive Roddick + with Luxilon Alu at 54#. The tightest racket I strung by far was a Prince Tour Diablo with all Pacific Poly Force Xtreme at 68#. My arm hurts just looking at it.

At the end of the day, I was able to look back with satisfaction at the fruits of my labor.

My day 1 stringing log:

UVa Men-

  • Babolat Pure Drive Roddick, Pacific Poly Force Xtreme/Pacific Power Line @ 59#
  • Tecnifibre T-Fight 320, Luxilon BB Alu/Pacific Power Line @ 56#
  • Babolat Pure Drive, Luxilon BB Alu @ 56#
  • Babolat Pure Drive Roddick +, Luxilon BB Alu @ 56#
  • Babolat Pure Drive Roddick +, Luxilon BB Alu @ 54#
  • Head YouTek Radical MP, Luxilon BB Original @ 61#
  • Head YouTek Radical MP, Luxilon BB Original @ 61#
  • Babolat Pure Drive Roddick +, Luxilon BB Alu @ 55#
  • Babolat Pure Drive Roddick +, Luxilon BB Alu @ 55#

Baylor Men –

  • Head Liquidmetal Radical MP, Luxilon BB Alu @ 27kg/26kg
  • Head Microgel Radical MP, Pacific Poly Force Xtreme @ 59#
  • Head Microgel Extreme Pro, Pacific Poly Force Xtreme @ 26kg/25kg
  • Prince Tour Diablo, Pacific Poly Force Xtreme @ 68#
  • Prince Tour Diablo, Pacific Poly Force Xtreme @ 68#
  • Tecnifibre T-Fight 295, Solinco Tour Bite @ 59#
  • Tecnifibre T-Fight 295, Solinco Tour Bite @ 59#

Misc. Women –

  • Yonex RQiS 2 Tour, Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour @ 58# (Miami)
  • Prince 03 Speedport Black LB, Babolat Pro Hurricane/VS Touch @ 65# (Duke)
  • Prince 03 Speedport Black LB, Babolat Pro Hurricane/VS Touch @ 65# (Duke)
  • Wilson [K]Six-Two, Wilson NXT Max @ 55# (UNC)
  • Head Microgel Extreme Pro, Solinco Tour Bite 17g @ 56# (Baylor)