Spotlight on stringing
By Dave Bone
I just returned from an exciting event at The Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas — the Wilson World Stringing Championships. I served as referee for the competition, which was essentially a speed-stringing contest using head-to-head competition (not just a clock) to eliminate competitors. The final was covered live on The Tennis Channel on March 4.
Scott Schneider of Las Vegas was the winner, posting a tournament-best time of 11 minutes, 14 seconds in the final against Matthew Fairbanks of Atlanta. While some stringers may think that’s not such a fast time, Schneider had plenty of speedbumps to contend with. First, the frame used was not a 12 or 14 main quickie; it was a Wilson nSix-One 95 with a 16×18 pattern. Second, the string was not a nice, easy solid-core 17-gauge synthetic; it was a soft multifilament 16-gauge Wilson Reaction, which made blocked holes and tie-off holes extra challenges. Third, the timed competition included mounting the frame, opening the string pack, taking measurements, stringing the frame, trimming knot tails, and dismounting the frame.
When you factor in all of that — and the added pressure of other competitors, screaming fans, and TV cameras — the winning time truly is impressive. So much so that Wilson hopes to have Guinness declare it a world record. As the winner, Schneider received more than $10,000 in cash and prizes — the biggest fee I’ve ever heard someone paid for stringing a racquet.
But the string competition isn’t what I’m most excited about. It is the spotlight that shined on racquet stringing and will continue to shine on it going forward. Many fans who came for the tennis stopped to watch the stringing contest and really got excited about it. Also, parts of the competition and all of the final were broadcast on The Tennis Channel. And not only that, but The Tennis Channel is developing a TV show about stringing, with this competition as the backdrop, and hosted by Luke Jensen. I can’t think of anything that has ever put stringing in the minds of so many people. It’s possible that we all could see an increase in the stringing business as a result of this kind of publicity.
Steve Bellamy, the founder and president of The Tennis Channel and principal driver behind the Tennis Channel Open, came up with the idea of a stringing competition. Wilson and the USRSA got involved just a few weeks before the competition. We both were a little hesitant about supporting a contest that promoted speed because we all understand that speed does not equate to quality in stringing. But Bellamy convinced us that the publicity the competition would give to stringing would be invaluable, and he couldn’t have been more on the money.
At the USRSA, our mission is to promote and improve the quality of racquet service throughout the industry. And Wilson has made a huge push over the last year to get more involved in the business of strings and stringing. As the title sponsor, Wilson is already talking about ways to make the competition bigger and better. After a successful 2006 event, and now with a whole year to promote next year’s contest, look for this competition to grow and become even more exciting.
See all articles by Dave Bone
About the Author
Dave Bone is the CEO of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, and co-publisher of Racquet Sports Industry magazine.