Tying The Knot
Last week we interviewed professional racquet stringer Julian Li about his experience working with Priority One during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. It’s a private company that worked off-site handling the stringing services for about a dozen clients. This week we’re getting the in-house perspective.
Kin Roseborough is the head stringer and a teaching pro/coach year-round at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island in Charleston, SC. Kin ran the stringing operations at the Family Circle Cup, the WTA event held at the facility, earlier this month. The other stringers for the event came in from out of town; one worked at the Australian Open and the Sony Open earlier in the year, while the other went on to string at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston the following week.
The group strung for 78 players including: Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Sara Errani, Sabine Lisicki, Sloane Stephens, Sam Stosur, Eugenie Bouchard, Venus Williams, Maria Kirilenko, Daniela Hantuchova, and the eventual champion, Andrea Petkovic.
We asked Kin for some inside info about his experience stringing at the event.
How many people/stringers did you have working on-site during the tournament?
KIN ROSEBOROUGH: We had two stringers for the day before qualifying matches began at the Family Circle Cup, three for qualifying and the first three days of main draw play, then down to two again from the round of 16 through the finals.
What was a typical day like?
KR: We would arrive by 7 a.m. to string racquets players had requested be done in the morning for that day's matches; also to be available for players who had an early-morning practice and needed to pick up racquets strung the night before. Late morning and early afternoon the stringing is sporadic. Then things pick up again as players drop frames off after their matches. Many players want their racquets done the night before. We remain on-site until the final night match is completed, in case a player needs a racquet strung while they are on court or needs to drop off after their match for the next day.
What did you see in terms of string preference?
KR: Not surprisingly, the most used string was Luxilon Big Banger—either ALU Power, ALU Power rough, Timo or Original. Second was RPM Blast, used by most of the Babolat players. More than 25 percent of the players used a hybrid of natural gut and poly, most frequently gut mains and poly crosses, though a few players did poly in the mains. The others were full poly, with the exception of one player using full gut.
Do the players or their coaches ever seek advice about strings or tension? Or are they pretty set in their ways?
KR: They know what they like. As players arrived from the Sony Open, they would ask us if others who had come in earlier were going up or down in tension from Miami.
From your experience, are the female pros just as discerning about their equipment as the men?
KR: The biggest difference between the WTA and the ATP is the number of racquets they string for a match. While a couple of the players at the Family Circle Cup may have 4-7 done like the men, most string 1 or 2 frames a day, with an occasional player doing three.
Did you notice any racquet trends among the players?
KR: Nothing significant. Only one player was using a "spin" patterned frame. We did see a few frames that were marked 16x18, which is what the retail version is, but the pro's racquet was actually 18x20. This is not too unusual at tour events.
Any odd stringing requests?
KR: Nothing too unusual. One player requested 31kg (68.3lbs) which was our highest tension, but it was in a Steam 105S. We did have a player tell us not to stencil the logo on her racquets; when she came to pick them up, she asked to use our supplies and do it herself.
What are the best and worst parts of stringing at a professional tournament?
KR: The best part is certainly the relationships: The teamwork with other stringers, the contacts with the tour coaches, and the interaction with the players—the large majority of whom are a pleasure to work with. The worst part is the long days—in my case, 11 consecutive day working 12-17 hours a day.