The Pro Shop

Friday Mailbag: Speedy Stringers, The Long Lost Kneissl and More

Friday, March 26, 2010 /by

TENNIS.com gear editor Bill Gray and his technical advisors will answer your equipment questions every Friday. Click here to send one of your own.

Britton 3 Before we get to your questions, here’s a big pro-shop salute to a racquet stringer with magic fingers, and an ATP rookie who's landed an endorsement deal worth clucking about.

Let’s start with a member of our TENNIS.com family, play-tester Vasily Guryanov (see photo below). With the dexterity of a piano virtuoso, Vasily is a stringer by trade who works at Chicago’s Midtown Tennis Club. He’s parlayed his victory at a national speed-stringing contest into a trip to this week’s Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, where he will try out for a spot with the elite team that services the pros at the U.S. Open. His winning time to string a racquet: just under 14 minutes, about half the average it takes to string up a frame. Hang 'em high in Miami, Vasily, and we hope to see you in Flushing come this August.

And kudos to Devin Britton of Mississippi (at right). The 19-year-old former NCAA champ, currently ranked No. 1,278 in the world, is one of the new faces of KFC’s national advertising campaign for a new line of chicken filets. The filets are packaged in individual sleeves to help on-the-go eaters to “get a grip"--which apparently means keeping them from greasing up the steering wheel.

All Devin has to do is smile for the camera while clutching his Tecnifibre T-fight 320 VO2 Max racquet, which will have KFC’s “get a grip” slogan emblazoned on the handle (see photo at right). Tennis pros rarely score endorsement contracts beyond the endemic racquet and shoe deals. Devin will be featured on KFC’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and his image will be email-blasted to 3 million KFC loyalists. Why Devin? “We like him because he is young, a proven winner and a guy who makes his living by ‘getting a grip’ on his game,” clucks KFC’s Rick Maynard. “We’re thrilled to work with him.”

And for another piece of good news on the endorsement front, read on:

Hey Bill. Looks like you blew it. After you reported that Nikolay Davydenko won’t give up his old “magic racquet” that Prince wasn’t paying him to use, I see he just signed an endorsement deal with Dunlop. But since he’s so attached to the Prince, will they just paint over it?
—Brian

Indeed, it appears that after all the years of vowing that he’d rather fight than switch, Nikolay has succumbed to the lure of play-for-pay. But a mere paint job won’t work in this case, Brian: the telltale sign would be the distinctive and highly visible O-Port holes around the hoop of his Prince Ozone (a great technology that’s largely responsible for the “magic”). Dunlop admits it has its work cut out for it if it wants to provide Nikolay the touch and feel he’s grown accustomed to. The manufacturer has him playtesting a few of its 2011 prototypes, and hopes to have him in one by the French or Wimbledon, his current wrist injury willing. But moments after Dunlop announced the happy news on its website, Prince fired off a statement saying it had Davydenko “under formal contract” for an “exclusive racquet and racquet bag deal in 2010.” Could a fight be brewing over the little Russian who nobody wanted to shell out the bucks to?
 
I am a 63-year-old 3.0 player who just recently move to 3.5. I have been playing with a Sledge Hammer 3.8 forever. I keep asking my pro for advice on finding a modern racquet I can transition to. Not getting any help. Can you advise? I have over the past few years developed a forehand slice and have a natural backhand slice, have a good bit of power on volleys and overheads and hit a lot of junk balls and lobs.
—Diane

If you want to stay in Wilson line, try the new BLX Khamsin Five – it has a similar weight and head-heavy balance that you liked in the old Sledge, along with an open string pattern for generating spin, says TENNIS.com racquet advisor Bruce Levine. He also suggests playtesting Babolat’s “Y” series that comes in a variety of different head sizes. He adds that going from the triangular of the shape of the Sledge to the teardrop shape of the Khamsin and Y should be an easy transition for you.

Vasiliy Guryanov Photo I keep reading about the wonders of polyester strings for more spin, but they go dead pretty quickly and need more frequent stringing than I would like to pay for. I’m looking for a string that can keep its feel and really grip the ball to generate the kind of spin I’ve built my game around. Are there other spin-friendly strings that might be a little easier on the wallet?
—Brett

String advisor Bob Patterson says you can’t beat poly for producing spin, but you can come close with a thin 18-gauge synthetic. Gamma and Prince each has a string with the durability of a lot of thicker 17-gaugers. Synthetics are not only easier on the wallet, but also a whole lot easier on your hitting arm. 

I'm a player in my late 30s who is trying to get back into the game after a multi-year hiatus. As a kid in the 1980s, I was a HUGE fan of the Kneissl White Star Master's frame that Ivan Lendl used for a while. What happened to the Kneissl? They are NOWHERE to be found! Any word on their resurgence, and can you make any modern frame recommendations that would steer in the same direction of heavier, stiffer, and smaller racquet face? Or am I just swimming upstream here?
—Gregory

Bad news, Gregory. Kneissl, like its most famous user, Thomas Muster, has retired from the game. But Levine says perk up and try the Head YOUTEK Prestige Mid, the Dunlop 200 Aerogel 4D Tour or the Volkl Powerbridge 10. All have similar weights, balances and stiffness to the defunct White Star.

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