What many coaches fail to realize is that if they invested into consulting with an expert racket technician then the players they are working with would make improvements literally by modifying their rackets.

Working with elite tennis players is fascinating.  There are so many areas that contribute to how a player performs on court.  Many will debate what the major contributors that enable a player to execute within millimeters of the side line off a full blooded groundstroke, precise touch on a drop volley, extra spin on an out wide serve or slice backhand that lands and spins inside out.  Some will say it’s a player’s feel, efficient footwork and set up to the ball, early ball recognition, fast reaction speed, experience or technical proficiency.  

A coach will spend hours upon hours trying to work on a player’s movement, technique, psychology and tactical awareness to improve a player. Which then translates into success (improving a players ranking, winning junior titles, winning pro events).  What many coaches fail to realize is that if they invested into consulting with an expert racket technician then the players they are working with would make improvements literally by modifying their rackets.  

A coach will spend hours upon hours trying to work on a player’s movement, technique, psychology and tactical awareness to improve a player

As a professional player myself for many years I tried to leave no stone unturned and that included modifying, tinkering, trialing different rackets, as well as strings.

As a professional player myself for many years I tried to leave no stone unturned and that included modifying, tinkering, trialing different rackets, as well as strings.  

I remember reading an article about this racket guru who used to string Andre Agassi’s racket and was meticulous with balance points/swing weight/string tension.  It wasn’t just Agassi many of the other players were up skilling themselves in regards to equipment. 

It was about this time that I was ranked outside Top 150 and then thru some trial and error I found a racket that I loved.  This also correlated to me finding a fantastic training facility in Florida as well as a new coach and it was less than 12 months later I was ranked inside the Top 50.  Again one might argue that it had to do with the fact that I was fitter, more astute about my own game and and opponents, that I had confidence but I know that equipment had a large role to play.  

Now I have a coaching hat on and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best female players in Australia.  Some players I have tried to make suggestions to about changing equipment and this information has been well received, others did not want to make changes, and there were a few like Casey Dellacqua and Anastasia Rodionova that are meticulous about their frames/strings etc. (both having their frames customized that each one is the same).  

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 Nicole Pratt at Junior Fed Cup with former 5th Dimension Athlete Isabelle Wallace.

Nicole Pratt at Junior Fed Cup with former 5th Dimension Athlete Isabelle Wallace.

Just recently I decided that Storm Sanders a player that I have been working with over the last 12 months needed to have her rackets modified.  It’s a long story but Storm was forced to go to a more flexible and lighter racket due to a humeral bone stress.  The racket change was necessary but there were many times for no apparent reason that she would hit off center and the ball would not respond to the target area.  Yes I tried everything, modify the technique, improve footwork, cues as simple as watch the ball, trust your swing.  

Since there were so many off center hits, and I was questioning whether Storm even knew where her racket head was, I needed to consult with an expert about contact points on the racket.  Firstly I called Rod Groom (an engineer by trade but an absolute tennis nut when it comes to equipment), he is renowned around the work for his expertise and funnily enough lives across the Bass straight in Burnie.  After a conversation with Rod I am convinced we can make some adjustments to her racket to make the racket more stable when she hits off center, that maybe by adjusting the balance points she will infact hit more balls out of the center.  I figured we have nothing to lose so off goes a racket in the post to Rod in Burnie.  

I remember reading an article about this racket guru who used to string Andre Agassi’s racket and was meticulous with balance points/swing weight/string tension.

Rod tests the rackets and my suspicions are confirmed that Storm hits the ball all over the racket face.  He says that for sure he can help out and that he can modify the racket to enable more solid off center hits and weight it up that she will get more on the ball.  So the racket comes back across the straight and I let Storm test it out.  It was clear to me after the first ball hit (literally because of the sound off the racket) that this was a step in the right direction.  Storm was hitting harder, faster, with more spin and depth instantly.  Only problem was after 20 minutes she said her arm was about to fall off, as the racket was now too heavy.  Back on the phone to the guru he said strip back some of the weight in the head and even it’s a little heavy for her now she will get used it and it will aid in her overall development with a slightly heavier racket.  I stripped back the weight that had been put on about 3 and 9 o’clock on the racket  face making sure that the nice crisp sound and Storm’s new improved feel remained intact.  

After the 2013 Australian Open Storm and I headed down to Burnie to the $25,000 Women’s Pro Circuit Event.  This time instead of sending one racket to Rod I tell Storm to bring all of her rackets and I guarantee her that she will leave Tasmania will everyone of her rackets exactly the same.  Rod worked his magic in a few days and after Storm lost in last round of qualifying of Burnie we headed to Launceston for the next 25K.  Not only did Storm qualify she won the tournament.  Moving her ranking outside of WTA 600 to currently WTA 410.  Everyone was asking me what happened, what made the difference, that is amazing she beat several players inside Top 200 and did not drop a set the entire tournament.  My answer pure and simple,

  • MODIFIED HER EQUIPMENT.

Posted on October 4, 2012 .