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)

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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 Report for ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures of Winston-Salem

At the ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures of Winston-Salem last week, I strung rackets for 34 different players.

33 players used all monofilament strings, including one who used a hybrid of two different monofilaments (Luxilon 4G S mains and Luxilon Alu Power crosses). One player used a traditional hybrid of Luxilon Alu Power mains and Wilson Sensation crosses.

Here are the brands of string we saw in our stringing room:

  1. Solinco – 38%
  2. Luxilon – 21%
  3. Babolat – 12%
  4. Yonex – 9%
  5. Pacific, Genesis – 6%
  6. Dunlop, Head, Tecnifibre – 3%

(Note that 3% = 1 racket.)

Solinco

As I noted in my post on stringing at the NCAA tournament recently, the plurality of players using Solinco string is evidence of their success in connecting with junior and college players, and those connections seem to be percolating up to the lower levels of professional tennis now (which see a large number of junior and college players involved).

On the ATP World Tour, Luxilon is still the dominant string, but we do see more Solinco string there, too.

More in later posts on racket brands and tensions.

Stringing Report from 2015 NCAA Division 1 Tennis Championships

As noted previously (here and here), I recently spent 2 weeks as one of the official on-site stringers for the NCAA tennis tournament at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Although we had some competition from off-site stringers who aggressively solicited business away from us, the four members of the MOZI Tennis team still strung several hundred rackets. This included the women’s doubles champions from Alabama, and the men’s singles, women’s singles, and men’s doubles finalists (from Wake Forest, Stanford, and Texas).

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men's singles finalist

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men’s singles finalist

I personally worked on rackets for 49 different players from 27 teams. This included 18 women from 12 teams and 31 men from 15 teams. Although this is not a random sample of all players in the tournament, it is a fairly diverse group of players.

For these 49 rackets, the string tensions I observed were:

  • Overall: 43 pounds to 63 pounds
  • Men: 43 pounds to 59 pounds
  • Women: 46 pounds to 63 pounds
  • Overall average: 53.3 pounds
  • Men’s average: 52.25 pounds
  • Women’s average: 55.2 pounds

I find it interesting that even though men can generate more power on their own than women, women tend to string tighter than men. Part of this may be due to women generally using more open string patterns than men, but it is also the case that each player develops their own feeling for the optimal string tension for their particular racket and game. To wit: the highest recorded tension in our stringing room was 69 pound mains and 68 pound crosses.

Head Speed with RPM

Almost all of the players, men and women, used all polyester monofilament strings – 44 of 49 players. 4 players used hybrid stringing (monofilament mains and synthetic gut/multifilament crosses), and 1 player used all multifilament string.

A few string brands were most common:

  1. Luxilon – 31%
  2. Solinco – 20%
  3. Babolat – 16%
  4. Pacific – 12%
  5. Wilson – 6%
  6. Prince, Tecnifibre – 4%
  7. Head, Kirschbaum, Pros Pro – 2%

Pacific was overrepresented because I strung all of the rackets for Wake Forest men’s tennis team which has an agreement with Pacific.

NCAA Rackets

Racket brands are even more concentrated than string brands:

  1. Babolat – 41%
  2. Wilson – 29%
  3. Head – 24%
  4. Dunlop, Prince, Tecnifibre – 2%

An amazing 94% of players used one of three brands.

The Pre-Packaged Poly-Poly Hybrid

Courtesy of Head and the United States Racquet Stringers Association (USRSA), I received a sample pack of a new string from Head recently. Actually, Head Gravity is not a “new” string, per se, but a new combination of strings, which is what caught my attention. It is a pre-packaged “hybrid” that contains 22 feet of a 1.25mm (17 gauge) triangular co-polyester monofilament and 18 feet of a 1.20mm (18 gauge) traditional round co-polyester monofilament. (As the string lengths suggest, the triangular poly is designed for the mains and the round poly for the crosses — on only a few of the rackets I string could I do all of the mains with only 18 feet of string.) By the way,Head Gravity is reviewed in the February 2015 issue of Tennis Industry Magazine.

Head Gravity

What caught my attention is that Head Gravity is a “poly-poly” hybrid. As I note on my “additional string information” page, hybrid stringing capitalizes on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of different types of string. Typically, a hybrid string job will use a polyester monofilament on the main strings for firmness and durability, and a synthetic gut, multifilament, or natural gut on the cross strings for power and feel. These mains and crosses can also be reversed, though, for a different effect. Roger Federer and some others, for example, do use natural gut on the main strings and a monofilament on the cross strings for more feel and power — and obviously the reduced durability of a such a set-up is not an issue for Federer.

The fact that not all polyester monofilament strings are made the same makes the “poly-poly hybrid” a good option for those who want the durability of a monofilament string but a bit more “pop.” For example, with Wake Forest’s men’s tennis team, we have taken advantage of the range of Pacific’s monofilaments to provide the players with optimal poly-poly combinations. Pacific’s Poly Power Pro is one of the softest monofilaments we have found (stiffness rating of 222 according to the USRSA), and we hybrid it with Pacific’s stiffer Poly Force (294 stiffness) and X Cite (271 stiffness) strings.  Poly Power ProBecause Poly Power Pro is a monofilament, we can use it as a main string for better feel and power without sacrificing much in the way of durability. This has been a popular option for players using rackets with 18 mains and 20 crosses (a tight string pattern), with 17 gauge Pacific Poly Force in the crosses. Poly Power Pro also makes a nice compliment in the cross strings when using Pacific X Cite in the mains.

When someone says “hybrid,” I do still think of someone who combines a monofilament string with a synthetic gun, multifilament, or gut, but Head’s Gravity reminds us that as monofilament technologies evolve, we should all consider the poly-poly hybrid as an option.