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Do you know how Ivan Lendl strung his racquets during his playing days? I’d be curious to know some details about his set-up.—Tom G.
According to the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association’s pro equipment logs, Ivan Lendl competed with several types of natural gut thoughout the 1980s and into the early ‘90s. At various events in ’83, stringer Warren Bosworth reports that Lendl, swinging an Adidas Lendl Autograph, played U.S. Gut 16. By the ’85 U.S. Open, the USRSA says, Lendl had moved on to Bow Brand 16, in an Adidas GTX Pro. And throughout most of the ’91 season, he strung up Babolat VS Natural 17, installed in a Mizuno IL F302Z.
But what stands out most, perusing the USRSA’s logs, is how tight Lendl strung his sticks—more, how consistently tight. In 1983 and 1985 seasons, stringers logged the Czech’s reference tension at 72 pounds; at Roland Garros and U.S. Open ’91, Lendl tweaked his poundage slightly…to 72.5 lbs.
Granted, a tension of ~72 lbs. is tight, but, given natural gut’s elastic nature, it’s not preposterously so. (Maybe Lendl, having learned the game with wood, was looking to decrease the power of his more modern Adidas and Mizuno frames?) But this apparent consistency, it definitely seems in keeping with what Steve Tignor calls, in his book High Strung, “vintage Lendl thoroughness.” Whose spirit, Tignor writes, was best exemplified by the Czech’s preparations for the U.S. Open. I’ll leave you with the story.
Tignor: “[Lendl] would have his own backyard court laid down by the same crew who resurfaced the courts at the National Tennis Center. Each year, he would have the old court torn up and a new one put in to the Open’s exact specifications. ‘I would have them come up the day after they did the courts at Flushing,’ Lendl says, ‘so they would remember how they made it. Even the slightest change in the amount of sand in the surface mis will change the way it plays. If you get that crew up there a week later they would make it completely differently.’ Ivan Lendl, the professional’s professional, would leave nothing to chance when it came to the U.S. Open. He would reach the final a record eight times.”