Another Difference Between the ATP World Tour and ITF Pro Circuit

ITF Pro Circuit Stringing Room Interaction

Player: I have 2 rackets for stringing.

Stringer: Great, when do you need them?

Player: Can I get 1 by tomorrow?

ATP World Tour Stringing Room Interaction

Player: I have 2 rackets for stringing.

Stringer: Great, when do you need them?

Player: I am head to practice now. Can you bring them out to court?

Panda Bag WSO 2012

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

ITF Pro Circuit / USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series Winston-Salem Futures

Racket stringing, even in a tournament situation, is a lot like the movie “Ground Hog Day” (where Bill Murray gets trapped in a reality in which every day he wakes up and repeats the previous day).

Take racket in, cut strings out, mount frame, set tension, install strings, stencil . . . repeat . . . repeat . . . repeat . . . 10 or 20 or 30 or N times.

USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series

This week I am back stringing at the ITF Pro Circuit USA F18 Futures of Winston-Salem, which has been upgraded from a $15K to a $25K event as part of the USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series.

Last year was the first time I strung a futures level tournament, so I wrote quite a few blog posts about the experience.

I especially enjoyed working for and getting to know last year’s winner Matija Pecotic, in no small part because he appreciates the importance of what good stringing brings to the competitive table. I was happy to see that he rode the success he had in Winston-Salem to a career high ATP World Tour ranking of #206 near the end of 2015.

Pecotic

I’m not sure (yet) who will be this year’s Matija Pecotic, but I do have some observations about the stringing so far.

Of the 52 players in the first round of qualifying, only 15 had rackets strung on-site (less than 30%). However, of those 15 players, 11 won their matches (a .773 winning percentage).

Of the 4 who lost, 2 lost to players who also had their rackets strung. So, ignoring those 4, of 11 the players who had rackets strung on site and played guys who did not have rackets strung, 9 won their first round qualifying matches – a .818 winning percentage.

Of course, correlation does not equal causation. Did they play better because they had their rackets strung for the match, or do they have their rackets strung because they are better players? I don’t have data to answer that, and I’m not sure any professional tennis player would want to be part of a controlled experiment to find out.

But I do know what people for whom money is not an issue do to maximize their performance: they play matches with freshly strung rackets.

I understand the economics of tennis don’t permit every player to use professional stringing services every day. I have been on the paying end of junior tennis and am still recovering from it (I don’t string rackets for fun). And I wrote about the tough economic realities of a $15K futures event last year.

But the cliché “penny wise, pound foolish” exists for a reason. The only part of a tennis player’s equipment that is supposed to touch the ball is the strings.

Matija Pecotic – Inaugural ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures of Winston-Salem Singles Champion

Congratulations to Matija Pecotic, who defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-3 in the singles final of the Inaugural ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures of Winston-Salem at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex on Sunday, June 7, 2015.

FuturesWS2015 Singles Champion Trophy 2

FuturesWS2015 (73)

FuturesWS2015 (72)

FuturesWS2015 (71)

FuturesWS2015 Game Set Match Thanks 2

FuturesWS2015 (54)

FuturesWS2015 (24)

FuturesWS2015 (26)

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FuturesWS2015 (55)

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.