In 1989 I never thought that I would one day be invited to string at Grand Slam events. The road to professional status as a racket stringer was not an overnite reality. Learning to string at Industry Hills Tennis Center (a swim and tennis club in southern California ) on a gamma manual crank machine and setting up a business picking racquetball rackets at a health club doesn't sound all that glamourous but it set the stage for experiences that would come my way 8 years later and it was a good part time business while in college.
I was fortunate to learn from two great stringers early on in my career and the fact that they did things the correct way and didn't take any shortcuts and the fact that they still are stringing and have a business 20 some years later is a testament to their know how and persistence (thats a run on sentence...). Although I turned away several opportunities to string full time on tour years later, I still was able to learn from many great stringers on my journey to the Australian Open. I was fortunate to have started my own retail tennis business, be a manufacterers representative, have numerous stringing gigs, teach others to string and ultimately be able to string at various WTA / ATP events. The journey allowed me to meet many great players, coaches and tennis freaks and have a stringing tips website that provides valuable stringing information to all level of stringers.
Attending the "SuperShow" (The Annual sporting goods trade show ) in 1995 was a great way to see what the tennis industry was all about. It was a stretch to pay for a way to Atlanta and attend a 3 day event when our tennis shop some 2000 miles away was only 3 months old. It turned out to be the best opportunity to learn about other store owners, stringers and industry professionals. This would also be the place I became a certified stringer by the USRSA (United Racquet Stringers Association). At this time it was considered the CRT (certified racquet stringer), but later changed to MRT (master racquet technician). This certiifcation is more for demonstrating to your retail customers that you have a certain level of stringing proficiency, but it really won't get you too far for stringing for professional level players.
Many stringers ask me how to become a professional stringer and I usually say that it takes a lot of practice stringing and a little luck. Stringing under pressure at a tournament is much different than stringing a practice racket for a player at your club or shop. If you screw up a racket for a pro at a tournament you will definitely hear about it, if you screw up stringing at your club or shop most likely you won't hear about and probably won't see that player in your shop again.
String a racket from the throat up, get the tension off by 2 lbs, use the wrong string from the hybrid setup, screw up the stencil, put the tie off knot in the wrong area, have the buttcap upside down and you just FAILED! These are some of the pressures along with having the ability to string consistently for a period of 12 to 15 hours + without messing up. It doesn't sound all that fun anymore? but for those of us who live tennis, love the sport it is the thing we love.
More to come soon..