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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Bag Check: $25K Pro Circuit Winston-Salem Futures

At last year’s $15k Winston-Salem Futures, three racket companies dominated among the players. Together, Babolat, Head, and Wilson accounted for 81% of all the rackets I strung (recall not all players in the tournament strung with me).

WS Futures Rackets

At this year’s tournament, I saw much the same in the stringing room in terms of overall market share by the big 3, but a different ranking within them:

  1. Wilson – 45%
  2. Babolat – 34%
  3. Head and Yonex – 6% each
  4. Prince – 4%
  5. Tecnifibre and Pro Kennex – 2% each (i.e., one racket)

Babolat remained steady at 1/3 of rackets (same as last year), but Wilson overtook Babolat as the #1 racket, riding the success of the Blade.

I am really surprised to see Head not making more inroads with Djokovic and Murray as key endorsers and the Prestige being a classic player’s frame, but perhaps the overabundance of American players in the tournament (and paucity of Europeans) explains Head’s low numbers.

It’s good to see more male players using Yonex. I used to sell Yonex rackets and they were far superior to the big 3 in my opinion. The rise of Wawrinka and Kyrigos to replace Hewitt and Nalbandian is good for the company.

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.

Qualifying Starting at the Futures of Winston-Salem

The USA F16A Futures of the ITF Pro Circuit begins today at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem. The 64 player qualifying draw did not fill, so basically everyone who entered the tournament and signed in on site got in. Consequently, there is a range of players in the qualies from top-seeded Hunter Harrington (ATP ranking #1196), who just graduated from Clemson where he played #1 singles, to some young local junior players. This should make for some interesting competition.

I was interested to see some of the players who withdrew from the tournament. The name Michael Shabaz stood out. A Wimbledon Junior doubles and two time NCAA Division 1 doubles champion at the University of Virginia, Shabaz is currently ranked #1082 on the ATP Tour. He has won 1 main draw match in 7 Futures events in 2015. Also, Greg Ouellette, a five time All-American at the University of Florida (class of 2008), who was as high as #269 in the world at the end of 2011, is currently outside the top 800.

Tecnifibres

On the stringing side, yesterday was a pretty good day. I started stringing just before 2pm and finished up just before 10pm, stringing 20 rackets during that time, including the 4 Tecnifibre T-Fight 320s with Tecnifibre Red Code pictured above. I also held over 4 rackets to string this morning.

Never having strung at a professional event at this level, I do not know what to expect in terms of racket flow. I thought I might get some pre-match rackets this morning, but not so far. Perhaps those who win their first round matches today will turn in later today for tomorrow. Here’s hoping for a long night. Stay tuned.

Official Stringer for the 2015 Winston-Salem ITF Pro Circuit Futures Tournament

Even though I just got back from two weeks stringing at the NCAA tournament, I am excited to start working again as the official stringer for an ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures event being held at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem.

ITF Pro Circuit

A 64 draw qualifying tournament will be held on May 30-31, with the 32 player main draw beginning play on June 1. There will also be a 16 team doubles tournament.

There are some 600 tournaments across 77 countries on the ITF Pro Circuit, which is the entry level of professional tennis. The same week the USA F16A Futures is held in Winston-Salem, other ITF Futures tournaments will be held in China, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Georgia, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, and Turkey.

Players in ITF Pro Circuit events earn ATP ranking points, so these events provide an opportunity for players to build up their rankings so they can jump to ATP Challenger level events and eventually the ATP World Tour. A player who wins one round in a 32 draw $15K ITF Men’s Circuit event earns 1 ATP ranking point. Two rounds = 3 points, three rounds = 8 points, 4 rounds = 15 points, and the winner receives 27 points. By comparison, at the Winston-Salem Open (ATP World Tour 250 level event), a first round winner receives 20 ranking points (more than all but the winner of a $15K futures) and the winner receives 250 points.

chi-tennis-novak-djokovic-destroys-stanislas-wawrinka-at-atp-world-tour-20141112

Even so, these small number of points available on the ITF Men’s Circuit can make a big difference in the life of an aspiring professional. As of May 25, 2015, #1 Novak Djokovic has over 13,000 ranking points, #50 Jerzy Janowicz has 940, and #100 Marinko Matosevic has 526. Even winning a Futures even would make little difference to these players.

But consider #844 ranked Noah Rubin, who just completed his freshman year playing for Wake Forest and was recently the NCAA men’s singles finalist. He has 20 ATP ranking points. Making the semi-finals of the Winston-Salem Futures would nearly double his points and increase his ranking to by over 150 places. Winning the tournament could push him into the top 600 in the world.

As of this writing, Rubin is the 13th highest ranked player accepted into the tournament. The highest ranked acceptance is Kevin King ranked #318. A 2012 mechanical engineering graduate and two time All-American at Georgia Tech, King’s year end ranking has increased from 1,433 in 2012 to 506 in 2013 to 372 in 2014, when he won back-to-back Futures events in Mexico.

Kevin King

King is followed by former Virginia Cavelier Sanam Singh at #361, former Tennessee Volunteers Rynne Williams (#374) and Tennys Sandgren (#377), and former Kentucky Wildcat and NCAA finalist Eric Quigley at #396. The lowest ranked direct acceptance was #1091 Christopher Marquis of India.

The qualifying draw for the Winston-Salem Futures is twice as big as the main draw, giving players who do not have ATP rankings an opportunity to earn ranking points. Some names of unranked players that stood out to me on the qualifying acceptance list were Wake Forest’s Jon Ho and Maksim Kan, Northwestern’s Strong Kirchheimer, and top North Carolina juniors Anudeep Kodali and Nick Stachowiak.

Since these players are grinding it out for a few points and a few hundred dollars, I will be interesting to see how much stringing I do for players who may fall between having their stringing paid for by their parents or colleges and making enough money on tour to string as much as they would like.

Other information about this ITF Pro Circuit event and one next week at the University of Virginia, from the USTA:

The tournaments, which will create more opportunities for professional match experience on American college campuses, are being privately funded and will not be a part of the USTA Pro Circuit. As the national governing body for tennis in the U.S., the USTA applied for and secured their official tournament sanction from the International Tennis Federation.

“Having opportunities to play professionally, at all levels, is important to tennis in the United States,” said USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe. “It’s exciting that Virginia and Wake Forest are taking the initiative to stage and host these events, and we certainly hope American players take advantage of these opportunities.”

And from Wake Forest Men’s Tennis Head Coach Tony Bresky:

I’m excited to announce the addition of a $15,000 Men’s Pro Futures Event to our home facility,” Wake Forest men’s tennis coach Tony Bresky said. “We already have a great event in the Winston-Salem Open and to be able to add another professional tournament gives our players more opportunity to compete at the highest level and further development. For our guys, their focus is set on being able to play professionally after college and to be able to compete in pro events while still in school on our home courts is a great advantage.