Friday, December 4, 2020

Do you know when to make an equipment change?

 

 

Options… everywhere you go, there are so many new tennis rackets, new tennis bags and the most stunning looking shoes that we have ever laid our eyes on. Now, the most important equipment changes need to be your racket and your string choice, as they will have the biggest and most immediate impact.

The difficulty for many experienced players is that are afflicted with the ‘RC’ problem; the ole resistance to change dilemma. One of my oldest tennis pro friends in Naples never wanted to give up his Prince Graphite racket because he could not trust anything new.

Years earlier, thousands and thousands of old timers were reluctant to change from their favorite Jack Kramer Autograph wood racket to the new rage – the Prince Classic metal frame. To some degree, it makes perfect sense for talented tennis competitors to scrutinize all of the new technology because they do not want to give up their “feel” and touch of their reliable weapon.

However, as we fast-forward into the new millennium, numerous racket companies have produced so many incredible rackets that literally have transformed the game in the modern era. Tennis enthusiasts will recall that with the advent of so many powerful new “sticks,” there was a genuine concern that the game would be forever ruined; the game changed too much as the power was taking over the entire sport. One of the biggest critics of the modern power-game is tennis legend John McEnroe, who has held onto the belief that the new game does not have much imagination.

He would later explain that with wood rackets, players utilized their deft touch from the baseline and net with drop shots, cleaver lobs and slice approach shots that often befuddled their competition. Frankly, I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. McEnroe as I firmly believe the present state of tennis has developed more athleticism as we view countless players ripping big shots from all areas of the court – most importantly, the change from a north/south game to that of a more athletic east/west view.

In the past, we were taught to hit deep and move in to the net for a winning volley. Now, most tennis players begin many of their patterns with deep balls but toss in tremendous variety as they hit short topspin angles which will quickly exploit the slower-moving player.

Ok, if we choose to make an equipment change, what should we consider? To make the right decision, the player must know what they are exactly looking for: The player is content with their control and would like to seek out a frame with more power and does not like heavier rackets. Or the new performer prefers a ‘stick’ with plenty of power and enjoys a heavy frame for ultimate control. My advice to all curious tennis competitors is to try a minimum of three or four popular frames recommended by their pro.

Moreover, never make a quick verdict; especially if the player wins a big match and wants to rush to their favorite pro shop and buy two new rackets. Make sure to have a balanced decision-throw in a loss or two during competition as one does not want to have unrealistic expectations.

Historically, players took ample time debating which new frame to purchase but left little time to study which new string to put in their new present. Now, I urge all CTA league participants, club championship participants and recreational competitors to begin to experiment with at least five or six different strings.

As I have discussed before in my column, the new hybrid strings like the world-famous Luxilon model enables advanced players incredible advantages as the spin is so rich that balls that appear to travel outside the court amazingly fall in at the last second.  But, there are other strings that offer incredible benefits: Kirschbaum Pro Line II, Tecnifibre Pro Red Code, Wilson Hollow-Core, Wilson NXT, Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour and Luxilon Original.

The two hottest racket companies are Babolat and Wilson. In the Babolat line please demo the following: Aero-Pro Drive, Pure Drive Roddick and the Pure Storm Limited GT. If you are searching in the Wilson family of rackets here are a few to demo: The K Blade, the BLX Surge and the BLX 6.1 Tour and the Cirrus.

The bottom line is do not be afraid of a big racket and string change – your game may improve but no matter what, it is fun to experiment. And one big benefit, trying out new equipment will give your game a big shot in the arm. Last, over the last few years, several shoe companies have been bold with their fashion statements.

Adidas, Nike, Wilson, Prince and others not only make a durable shoe but they also have drastically altered the color of the shoe. It is common to see black, navy blue and red shoes at your tennis club.  Have some fun and dare to buy a shoe that offers solid durability and a shoe color that you have never worn before.  Come on, do it… you just might beat the club champion!

Doug Browne is beginning his 26th year as Director of Tennis at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island. He has been associated with the USPTA for 25 years, and has been playing, talking, and teaching tennis for most of his life.

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