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
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).
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):
- Solinco – 38% (38%)
- Luxilon – 22% (21%)
- Babolat – 10% (12%)
- Wilson –5.3%
- Pacific, Diadem – 4% (6% each)
- Tecnifibre – 3% (3%)
- MSV, Kirschbaum, L-Tec, Prince – 2%
(Note that 2% = 1 racket)
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).
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:
- Wilson – 45%
- Babolat – 34%
- Head and Yonex – 6% each
- Prince – 4%
- 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.
Three racket companies dominate competitive tennis: Babolat, Head, and Wilson. Together these three brands accounted for 81% of all the rackets I strung at the ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem recently.
By comparison, at the NCAA tournament they accounted for 94% of all the rackets I strung.
At the Futures of Winston-Salem, t he racket brands broke down as follows:
- Babolat – 33%
- Head and Wilson – 24%
- Yonex – 9%
- Gamma, Prince, Tecnifibre – 3%
The biggest surprise of the bunch was the Gamma RZR Bubba, a 137 square inch, sub-10 ounce racket used by Matt Seeberger, who won the Futures of Winston-Salem doubles championship with Julio Peralta.
In case you didn’t know, Seeberger also won two NCAA team titles, 3 NCAA singles titles, and 3 NCAA doubles titles playing for the D3 University of California – Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.
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
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.
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:
- Luxilon – 31%
- Solinco – 20%
- Babolat – 16%
- Pacific – 12%
- Wilson – 6%
- Prince, Tecnifibre – 4%
- 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.
Racket brands are even more concentrated than string brands:
- Babolat – 41%
- Wilson – 29%
- Head – 24%
- Dunlop, Prince, Tecnifibre – 2%
An amazing 94% of players used one of three brands.
My previous post on why a professional should match your rackets was one of my more popular posts. So, here is Part 2.
Just so no one thinks that there was something unique about the Head rackets we looked at last time, here are four rackets from a racket package delivered from Wilson. Rather than showing the different swingweights as I did before, check out the static weight of these four Six-One 95s.
The lightest of the four is 328.3 and the heaviest is 336.6 grams — a difference of 8.3 grams. As noted before, this is surely within the manufacturing tolerance for a mass produced item like a tennis racket.
But to maximize your tennis game, you should consider having a professional match your rackets so that the only variable in your tennis game is you.