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Industry News

USTA Creates US Open National Playoffs

The USTA is launching the US Open National Playoffs, which will provide the opportunity for all players 14 years of age and older to earn a wild card into the 2010 US Open Qualifying Tournament.

The US Open National Playoffs begins with 16 sectional qualifying tournaments held throughout the country from April through June. The men’s and women’s champions from each of the sectional qualifying tournaments advance to the US Open National Playoffs–Men’s and Women’s Championships, which will be held in conjunction with Olympus US Open Series tournaments this summer.

US Open National Playoffs

“The US Open National Playoffs makes the US Open ‘open,’ where one woman and one man will earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament and a chance to advance to the main draw,” says Lucy Garvin, USTA chairman of the board and president. “The fact that the Playoffs are supported by qualifying tournaments run by our sections makes this even more unique, extending the reach of the US Open across the country.”

Players, who must be USTA members, will compete in sectional qualifying tournaments hosted by 16 of the 17 USTA Sections nationwide. The entry fee for each of the sectional qualifying tournaments is $125. Each sectional event is limited to 256 players, and players won’t be seeded. Participants can be of any playing level.

“While professionals are eligible, we expect the draws to be filled with top junior players, collegians, teaching professionals and even recreational players,” says Jim Curley, chief professional tournaments officer & US Open tournament director. Olympic skier Bode Miller, who won the 1996 Maine state singles tennis title, says he’ll compete in one of the sectional qualifiers.

For information schedules, visit

Prince’s Lightspeed Shoe Debuts at Australian Open

Prince’s Lightspeed footwear debuted at the Australian Open this year. The shoes are designed to be lower, lighter and faster, says the company, keeping a player’s center of gravity low for enhance balance, agility and responsiveness.

Prince Lightspeed shoes

“We broke away from the mold of conventional tennis-shoe design to give players a lightweight, ultra-responsive match-day shoe,” says Jerome Jackson, gobal product manager for footwear at Prince.

A key feature in Lightspeed is its Propulsion Plate — a lightweight chassis built to transfer energy from the heel to the forefoot, resulting in quicker reaction time, better acceleration, and a sense of being “on the balls of your feet,” says Prince. The shoes also feature an ultra-low profile midsole, giving players a much lower platform for stability, as well as Prince’s Shock Eraser Pro heel insert for impact protection.

Lightspeed is available in the Rebel LS for men ($110 suggested retail) and the Poise LS for women ($105). Lightspeed replaces the O-Series as the new flagship model in Prince’s “All-Court” series. For more information, visit

Beach Tennis To Use Paddles

Beach Tennis USA has adopted the use of the paddle, currently used in international competition, as the official equipment for regulation tournament play. BTUSA, which formerly promoted the use of standard, regulation tennis racquets for use at its events, says the move to paddles was primarily to facilitate the unification of international beach tennis associations throughout Europe, South America, and Asia.

Beach Tennis paddles

“By converting to the paddle, Beach Tennis USA will be able to work more closely with our international partners to grow the sport, both on the pro and recreational levels,” says Marc Altheim, BTUSA’s founder and commissioner.

Altheim says he believes the paddle will help introduce the sport to more “non-tennis” players, allowing for beach tennis to become a more mainstream common activity for casual beachgoers.

To further its efforts in unifying the sport on a global level, BTUSA also will adopt the international court dimensions of 8 × 8 meters, and a net height of 170 cm (5 feet, 6 inches).

Ashaway Racket Strings Celebrates 185th Birthday

In a ceremony held in December at the company’s historic mill headquarters on the Ashawog River in tiny Ashaway, R.I., Ashaway Racket Strings parent company, Ashaway Line & Twine, celebrated an anniversary few companies reach: their 185th birthday.


Started in 1824 by Captain Lester Crandall, and still run by the sixth and seventh generations of his descendents, Ashaway Line and Twine is the oldest family-owned business in the state and one of the oldest in the U.S., and it is the only remaining racquet string manufacturer in the U.S.

“We are very proud of our tradition,” says Steve Crandall, Ashaway v.p. of sales and marketing. “But being ‘venerable’ doesn’t win you any points in the marketplace. We still work very hard to produce innovative, leading-edge products at competitive prices.”

A commercial fisherman himself, founder Capt. Crandall started out hand-twisting linen fishing lines during the off-season. Subsequent generations have made products as diverse as parachute cord, harness twine for Jacquard looms, and whipping cord for golf club heads. During World War II, U.S. airmen unlucky enough to be downed at sea used an Ashaway-made Emergency Fishing Kit.

Ashaway introduced the first commercial product made from Du Pont’s Nylon — Ashaway Nylon Bait Casting Line — in 1939, and began manufacturing racquet strings in 1949. Ashaway was also the first to manufacture racquet strings made from Du Pont’s bulletproof Kevlar fiber, and is currently developing new lines of tennis, squash and racquetball strings based on recent advances in another space-age material, Zyex.

USTA Names Community Tennis Award Winners

The USTA honored eight winners of its annual Community Tennis Development Awards at the annual USTA Community Tennis Development Workshop held Jan. 22 to 24 in San Diego. More than 600 community tennis leaders attended the workshop.

‘Hit for Haiti’ Earthquake Relief

On Sunday, January 17, the world’s best tennis players paused in their preparations for the Australian Open to raise funds to support Haitian earthquake relief efforts in a mixed-doubles exhibition called “Hit for Haiti.” Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Kim Clijsters, Novak Djokovic, Sam Stosur, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt took part in the event, which raised $184,700. Proceeds from the event, along with significant donations by the ATP World Tour, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, ITF, Grand Slam Committee and Tennis Australia, will exceed $500,000.

Babolat Aero Line Debuts Down Under

Babolat’s new Aero line of racquets debuted at the Australian Open, with Rafael Nadal, Caroline Wozniacki and new Team Babolat member Jo-Wilfried Tsonga playing with the Aeropro Drive, while Dinara Safina used the Aero Storm.

The new racquets use GT (Graphite Tungsten) technology, which combines braided carbon fibers and tungsten filaments throughout the frame. Babolat says this strengthens the frame to reduce torque and provide more precision.

The frames also feature the Cortex System, between the handle and string bed, to filter vibrations that interfere with ball feel, says the company. The Aero design simulates the aerodynamics of an airplane wing to minimize drag through the air for a faster swing.

The Aeropro Drive is for baseline heavy-hitters looking for power and spin (suggested retail of $189). The Aeropro Team ($185) is for baseliners looking for more maneuverability with power and spin. The Aeropro Lite ($179) is for women and high-level juniors looking for an extremely lightweight racquet with spin.

The Aero Storm ($185) is for well-rounded players with a full swing looking for control. The Aero Storm Tour ($185) is designed for well-rounded players with a full swing looking for extra control. There are also two junior frames, the Aeropro Drive Junior ($104) and Nadal Junior ($24.95)

Babolat Aero frames

Aero Storm, Aeropro Lite, Aeropro Drive

Prince Updates Frames With EXO3

Prince has updated its Black and White series of frames with the new EXO3 Black and EXO3 White. The EXO3 technology features visible “holes” along the frame, which Prince says enhances speed, stability and feel on court.

The EXO3 Black (suggested retail $199) features EnergyChannel, a sculpted groove and inlayed insert around the frame for a crisper feel with more feedback for players who are most interested in control. The EXO3 White ($179) features EnergyBridge, a compressed carbon insert that suspends the string bed from the frame for a cushioned feel, for players who want a maximum sweetspot in a more power-oriented, comfortable frame, says the company. Prince also introduced the EXO3 Black Team ($179), for players looking for a slightly lighter, more maneuverable version of the EXO3 Black.

Prince ATP and WTA tour pros, including Maria Sharapova, switched to the new racquet for the recent Australian Open. Sharapova played with the EXO3 Black. Visit for more.

Prince EXO3 frames

EXO3 Black, EXO3 White, EXO3 Black Team

Head Launches YouTek Prestige Series

Head has updated the Prestige series with its new YouTek technology. YouTek incorporates something Head calls “d3o,” a “smart material that the company says changes behavior under dynamic loading or impact.

YouTek, says Roger Petersman, Head’s senior business manager of tennis racquets, “can actually sense the needs of the tennis player during different shots to perfectly match your game.”

Located in the shaft of the racquet, d3o reacts to the needs of a player within nanoseconds, says the company, providing a softer touch and better feel on slow-speed impacts, like slices and drop shots, and increases stiffness necessary to create power on high-speed impacts, such as serves and passing shots. The Prestige series includes:

HEAD Youtek frames

YOUTEK Prestige Mid, YOUTEK Prestige MP, YOUTEK Prestige Pro

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HEAD Announces Promotions

In addition to the recent promotion of Kevin Kempin to CEO of Head USA, the company has announced more promotions in its move to strengthen the organization.

Greg Mason, a 10-year veteran of the racquet sports industry, has been promoted to vice president of sales and marketing for Racquet Sports. In addition, Roger Petersman has been promoted to senior category manager for tennis racquets. Mike Hymer is the new business manager for footwear.

USPTA Offers Tech Tools Map

The USPTA has developed a “Technology Tools” map that lists online resources in one place. The map, with hyperlinks, shows what’s available to help teaching pros do their job more efficiently, says the organization.

The hyperlinks take users to different sites, most of which showcase members-only benefits and require teaching pros to enter their last name and USPTA member number. There are nearly 30 different instructional tools providing resources. Go to and click on the USPTA “Technology Tools” button.

Wilson Offers New Seminar for GSS Symposium

Ron Rocchi, principal designer for Racquet Sports and team leader for the Wilson Tour Services Stringing Team, will lead a new training seminar, “Stringing Patterns & Techniques” for the 2010 GSS Racquet Stringers Symposium in October.

Ron Rocchi

The seminar will have a maximum 3 to 1 student-teacher ratio with each student working on their own Wilson Baiardo stringing machine. The four-hour session will be offered six times over the course of the three-day symposium, with a focus on various stringing patterns, techniques, knots, and professional tips. Joining Rocchi will be MRT Grant Morgan, a veteran of the pro tour stringing circuit who has served as personal stringer for Andy Roddick, as well as being a U.S. Davis Cup stringer.

“Ron and Wilson have been a tremendous asset to the GSS symposium, supporting us from the beginning,” says Tim Strawn, GSS founder. “We have several other new additions and changes to the 2010 event that I think will make this the best symposium yet.”

The GSS Symposium will be Oct. 9-13 in Orlando, Fla. For details, visit

USPTA Sets National Tourney Schedule

The USPTA’s 2010 National Surface Championship Series kicks off with the $5,000 USPTA Indoor Championships April 23-25, held at Lakeville Lifetime Fitness in Lakeville, Minn.

The tournaments, open to Professional-level USPTA members in good standing, offer participants the chance to earn prize money and ranking points. “The 2010 surface championship series and International Championships feature more than $55,000, making it the largest prize-money circuit exclusively for tennis-teaching professionals,” says Chuck Gill, USPTA national vice president and chairman of the Tournament Committee.

For info, contact 800-USPTA-4U, or USPTA pros can log into the “members only” section of Other events on the series schedule include:

Short Sets

Wheelchair Tennis Programs Receive $34,000 in USTA Grants

More than $34,000 in USTA Wheelchair Program grants has been awarded to 23 wheelchair tennis programs across the country for the second consecutive year. Grants were awarded to local organizations that promote and develop the growth of wheelchair tennis and use the sport of tennis to build stronger, healthier communities.

Grant amounts were based on each program’s existing budget and the future programmatic needs of the organization. Recipients can use the award to meet the USTA’s grant initiatives including coaching, court time, equipment, recruitment and events (tournaments, camps, etc.).

Additional USTA Wheelchair Tennis Grant opportunities will be announced in 2010. Organizations that are interested in starting a wheelchair tennis program or would like more information about wheelchair tennis can email

USTA Serves Awards Nearly $1 Million in Grants

USTA Serves, the philanthropic and charitable entity of the USTA, announced that under its “Aces for Kids” umbrella, it has awarded 24 year-end grants, for a total of $297,325. The number of program grants awarded in 2009 was 37, for a total amount of $549,325. Combined with scholarship awards, USTA Serves distributed nearly $1 million in 2009.

USTA Serves awards grants to programs that successfully combine tennis and education and help children pursue their goals and highest dreams by succeeding in school and becoming responsible citizens.

Aces for Kids is a national initiative of USTA Serves. It strives to promote healthy lifestyles by combating childhood/adult obesity by providing disadvantaged, at-risk children the opportunity to learn to play tennis and improve their academic skills in a structured format. At Aces for Kids program sites, children ages 5 to 18 learn about healthy nutrition and lifestyles, responsible citizenship, study skills, and computer literacy; interact with a mentor and other students; attend college preparatory sessions; and learn to play tennis in a team format.

New MRTs

Congratulations to the following USRSA members for achieving Master Racquet Technician certification.

Adam Stepp, New Albany, OH

Adam Hunter, Smithtown, NY


Semifinals Set for Showdown Event in NYC

The pairings for the two semifinal matches of the upcoming “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” have been set for the March 1 event at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Serena Williams, the 2010 Australian Open champion, inaugural BNP Paribas Showdown defending champion and the current World No. 1, will face Kim Clijsters, who captivated the tennis world after winning the 2009 US Open title only two years after retiring from the sport. The matchup will mark the first time the two players will face each other since the semifinals of the 2009 US Open.

The other semifinal will feature 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and seven-time Grand Slam singles champ Venus Williams.

Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster and online at The event will be broadcast on MSG Network and ESPN2 (check for times) and online at ESPN360.

The BNP Paribas Showdown is the featured element of the Tennis Night in America promotion, which aims to grow youth participation in tennis through youth registration events, where youngsters around the country can begin signing up for spring and summer tennis programs.

Also during the BNP Paribas Showdown, the winner of the industry’s “Racket Up, America!” promotion, Christine Smith of Hurst, Texas, will serve to try to win $1 million.

Upcoming Industry Schedule

For the numerous certification workshops available, visit and

By the numbers

Tennis Racquet Performance at Specialty Stores

January-December, 2009 vs. 2008

  2008 2009 Change
Units 795,118 724,225 -9%
Dollars 110,539,000 100,664,000 -9%
Price $139.02 $139.00 0%

Top-Selling Racquets at Specialty Stores

By year-to-date dollars, January-December 2009(average selling price)


  1. Babolat Aero Pro Drive Cortex (MP)
  2. Babolat Pure Drive GT (MP)
  3. Babolat Pure Drive Cortex (MP)
  4. Wilson K Blade (MP)
  5. Prince EXO3 Red (OS)

“Hot New Racquets”

(Introduced in the past 12 months)

  1. Babolat Pure Drive GT (MP)
  2. Prince EXO3 Red (OS)
  3. Babolat Pure Drive Roddick GT (MP)
  4. Prince EXO3 Silver (OS)
  5. Wilson K Three.FX (OS)

Top-Selling Tennis Shoes at Specialty Stores

By year-to-date dollars, January-December 2009 (average selling price)

  1. Adidas Barricade V
  2. Nike Air Breathe Free 2
  3. Prince T22
  4. Adidas Barricade II
  5. Nike Air Breathe Cage II

Top-Selling Tennis Strings at Specialty Stores

By year-to-date dollars, January-December 2009

  1. Prince Synthetic Gut Duraflex
  2. Wilson NXT
  3. Wilson Sensation
  4. Prince Lightning XX
  5. Luxilon Alu Power

(Source: TIA/Sports Marketing Surveys)



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