If you’re too young to remember players like Vitas Gerulaitis or Brian Gottfried, or aren’t a student of the game, chances are you’ve never heard of Snauwaert. The historic brand was started in 1928 and has a rich heritage that includes 66 Grand Slam titles. Unfortunately, as racquets evolved from wood to metal and graphite, Snauwaert faded in popularity and left the market in 1991. A few years ago, the company became active again in Japan and Belgium, and earlier this year announced a full worldwide relaunch.
However, don’t expect a massive invasion. Rather than compete for limited shelf space at retailers and pro shops, Snauwaert will skip wholesale and appeal directly to the consumer. It’s called Ourserve—a free “white glove” concierge service that connects players with a local Snauwaert ambassador for a personal on-court equipment-fitting session. Just like a tour player working directly with a manufacturer, you run through the entire new lineup of Snauwaert frames with the rep to find the best model for your game. To fill the pivotal role of racquet guru/salesperson, the company is tapping a reliable source.
“We know that the No.1 influencer in terms of purchasing product is the teaching pro,” says Ken Merritt, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Snauwaert. “The consumer trusts them. We’re signing them up as ambassadors and giving them a zip code.”
Players interested in finding an ambassador in their area can search the locator on the Snauwaert website. There are currently more than 60 nationwide with the goal, according to Merritt, of 150 ambassadors by the end of this year, and 300 by 2020. Any interested and qualified teaching pros can apply to join the program at the Ourserve sign-up.
In addition to linking players with brand ambassadors, Ourseve will provide Snauwaert users the opportunity to engage each other in an online community. Comprised of consumers, product designers and brand reps, players can share information and feedback regarding their Snauwaert products.
But even the most attentive service won’t matter if equipment performance and quality falls short of the market heavyweights. The Snauwaert brain trust is comprised of industry veterans with experience at many top brands, including Founder and CEO, Roberto Gazzara, who was a lead engineer at Prince and was instrumental in the O3 and Speedport technologies. Rather than trying to wow with a fancy new innovation, their first round of frames strip off embellishment.
“From a playability standpoint,” says Merritt, “let’s take all the pixie dust out and give people what they actually need to play better tennis.”
Meaning Snauwaertech boils down to refining four main racquet components: frame shape, cross section geometry, grommet construction and string pattern. The six-racquet Grinta line has four models with a 98 square-inch ellipse-shaped head, standard length and a 22 mm constant beam with enlarged 3/9 o'clock areas and longer central cross strings. There are two weights (290g and 315g) and two different string patterns (16x16 and 16x19). There are also two Grinta 100 frames with standard length, variable beam widths and 16x18 string patterns, with their weights (285g and 305g) being the primary difference.
The Grinta models, particularly the heavier ones, are designed for more advanced, all-court players, with the 98 Tour (315g) being my favorite. It’s a solid, dependable performer on par with frames like the Wilson Pro Staff, Head Prestige and Babolat Pure Strike. The 100 models skew more toward the power and spin crowd that favor the likes of the Babolat Pure Aero, Head Radical and Wilson Ultra.
The Vitas line, named after the iconic player, has a Power Pentagon shape—reminiscent of the classic Snauwaert head—with an enlarged string bed in the upper half and at 3/9 o’clock with longer central cross strings and lateral main strings. The construction is intended to create a bigger sweetspot and greater power for more casual players. There are two 100 square-inch models (300g and 280g), each with variable beam width and a 16x19 string pattern, and two 105 square-inch frames (285g and 267g), each with slightly extended length and a 14x19 string pattern.
Besides invoking the name of one of the company’s most recognizable former users, the frames have ribbons at 3 and 9 o’clock on the frame, just as they did in their wooden days, to pay homage to the heritage and craftsmanship of its storied past.
In addition to the racquets, Snauwaert has two polyester strings—White Beam and Black Beam—and one soft multifilament—Sunny Core—that are suggested pairings for their frames. There are also several accessories including replacement and overgrips and a backpack.
All racquets are priced at $195 and are currently available. For further details on the entire line, as well as where to locate an ambassador in your area, check out Snauwaert.com.