Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship. With that in mind, here is the first of what I hope to be a regular segment at The Pro Shop: the mailbag. If you’re interested in sending questions, comments, or flattering compliments hit the contact link at the top of the page and send me your mail. I won’t be able to respond to everyone, but your feedback is greatly appreciated.
On to the mailbag…
Buying a new racquet has gotten as confusing as shopping for toothpaste. It used to be you would just choose between Crest and Colgate. Anyway, I still buy regular, good old Crest, but it's harder to find on the shelves now because of all the other choices. Suppose I'm an intermediate player (an intermediate, intermediate player) and I want to buy the tennis racquet equivalent of regular Crest. What would I buy?
What? Not interested in having your pearly whites glisten? This is without a doubt the question I get asked most frequently, minus the Crest analogy. And it’s the one for which I have the fewest answers. To me, suggesting a racquet to someone is comparable to setting up a friend on a blind date. You may have some idea as to what he’s looking for (hair color, height, grip size), but there’s no accounting for compatibility. A racquet that is a magic wand in my hands, may feel more like a shovel to you. Saying you’re the definition of an intermediate player still leaves too much open to interpretation, even if you’re just after a meat-and-potatoes type racquet.
Besides, don’t be so quick to discard some of the newer models. Yes, there’s a lot of marketing jargon to sift through, but there are some quality sticks available. I suggest finding a shop with a wide selection of demos, start with some frames at the approximate weight and head size you prefer and work from there. I have yet to find a better method for finding a new racquet than good old trial-and-error.
Speaking of Crest, remember this? Certainly motivated my dental care.
A friend of mine says he has not restrung his racquet in two years. He plays year-round at least two days a week for several hours each day. His favorite shot is a vicious forehand slice. He insists there is no need to replace his strings until they break. Is it time for him to restring?
TENNIS’ learned scribe Pete Bodo is of a similar mind. He doesn’t think the average player can honestly tell the difference if a racquet loses a few pounds of tension. He also believes you can string a racquet with a couple of heavy rocks, pliers, fishing wire and gardening gloves. So take his input with a boulder of salt.
If your friend plays that often and hasn’t broken a string in over two years, I’m going to question the viciousness of that slice forehand. Still, the short answer is yes, it’s time for a restringing. Can he still play effectively with his old string job? Sure. But the reason players get their strings replaced before they break isn’t to emulate the pros, or to be extravagant. It’s to maintain a level of consistency. If you’re use to playing with your strings at a certain tension, you may have to adjust your strokes as that tension drops over time. Then, if you do finally break a string, or get the racquet restrung, the increased tension causes more stroke turmoil. That’s why the pros who can afford it have their racquets freshly strung for each match and practice. Although that is the definition of extravagant.
I have 3 boys, ages 5, 7 and 9. They are mad keen on tennis. I want to protect their growth as they play exclusively on hard courts. What shoes are best for them, in terms of protection? Should they wear supports to protect against injuries in the future?
Hard to pass up a question with the phrase “mad keen” in it. It’s pretty early in their tennis careers to be worrying about the health of your boys knees and ankles. They’re still very light in weight and made primarily of rubber, so unless you’re Mike Agassi and they’re putting in several hours a day it’s unlikely they’re ripe for ligament or tendon damage. But if they take a real shine to the game, and are going to be doing all of their playing on hard courts, it’s not a bad idea to wear shoes with a high level of cushioning (protects knees from the pounding) and lateral support (keeps the ankles from twisting).
I’m not a big believer is using braces or supports as a preventive measure. If anything it may serve to weaken the area. As your boys develop physically, I think they’re better off strengthening the parts of their bodies they use in tennis through weight training and other exercises. It’s also never too early to ingrain good habits such as stretching before and after playing. Keeping loose and limber is always wise in the fight against injury.
Will the brands like Prince, Wilson and Babolat ever start selling racquets directly to consumers from their own site? Is this a conflict of interest with TW (Tennis Warehouse) or retail partners? Just curious because I would think that if you bought directly from Prince for example, you would know you were getting an authentic Prince frame. Other brands in other industries do it...Will tennis companies?
West Coast Backhander
This was a comment/question that was posted in response to my last blog entry about the racquet counterfeit story and purchasing frames over the internet. I thought it raised an interesting point, so I posed it to a marketing executive at Wilson. His response: at the moment they’re content with relying on the 3500 or so authorized dealers around the U.S. to get their products into consumers’ hands. Direct buying is not something they’re currently working on.
Still, you’ve got to believe this is a concept tennis manufacturers will eventually entertain. Most, if not all, already have websites in place. All that’s needed is the capability of taking orders and a small customer service staff (preferably someplace domestic). As the reader mentions, brands in other industries have no problem with this. You can buy a pair of Shox directly from Niketown.com or search for it at a retail outlet. The difference is when you buy direct from the company, you generally pay a premium. And that’s how the racquet companies would smooth things over with their dealers. You can go straight to the source and pay full-price, or you can search around to find it at a discount.
What was the racquet/string combination that Davydenko was using at the Miami Sony Ericsson tournament?
According to Prince, Nikolay was swinging the Prince Ozone Pro Tour with PolyStar Energy 17 gauge strings. In his post-match press conference after beating Andy Roddick for the first time in his career (now 1-5), Davydenko credited his surge in play after Indian Wells to switching from the standard Ozone Tour to the Pro model (Here’s our review). The big differences between the two are the Pro has more weight and a dense string pattern (18x20). It’s unclear whether Davydenko experimented with the weight of his frame, but he admitted that he moved from the open pattern (16x18) of his previous racquet to a dense string job. Many players, including Davydenko, find increased control by playing with additional strings.
As for the PolyStar strings, I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure. All I know is it’s a Germany company and as the name indicates it’s in the polyester family. The buzz is it’s designed to be softer and more powerful than competitors in that string category.
It’s pretty unusual for a professional to make such an important equipment switch in the middle of the season. Guess in Davydenko’s case, the “gamble” paid off.
Thank you, thank you…