What Racquets Do the Pros Use?
A world-class customizer says the majority of racquets used by tour pros aren’t much different from what’s in your shop.
As a stringer working on the pro tours, I often get asked about the equipment the pro players use. “What racquet is he really using?” The answer is usually surprising to most people. The majority of racquets being used by the pros are not much different from those used by you and me, or the ones for sale in your shops. The common exception is that almost all of those used by the pros have been customized to meet their specific needs.
How complex these customizations are varies from player to player. Almost all have their racquets adjusted to a specific swing weight and overall weight. All the racquets in their bag are matched to these specs, so that there is no change when they switch to a new stick in the middle of a match. Some will go beyond the simple customization and have custom-molded handles, but most players are using the standard factory handles just like on the racquets in your shops. Occasionally we will see a length that is different from that available on that same model in your shop.
If you follow the pro game closely you may have heard the “conspiracy theorists” discussing all the “paint job” racquets that the players are using. If you believe these reports, then the racquets that the pros use are nothing like the ones available to the playing public. The speculation is that they are specially created racquets that are like the ones available at retail in appearance only — that these special racquets simply bear the cosmetics of a popular racquet but are nothing like the real thing.
In reality, that is not usually the case at all. Don’t get me wrong; there are exceptions. But, for the most part, the conspiracy theorists are off the mark by quite a bit.
In my experience, the “paint jobs” are usually an older model of the same racquet. Pro players are very reluctant to change, especially if they have something that is working for them. For this reason, if their manufacturer introduces a new technology and a new model of their stick, they may opt to stay with old faithful. Rarely have I seen a racquet whose appearance (shape, size, etc.) looks nothing like the cosmetic appearance it bears. It does happen, but it is very, very rare.
Is the practice of making a racquet in a special length or disguising an older racquet to look like a new model a deceitful ploy by the manufacturer? I will let you be the judge, but if so, then all are guilty on occasion. Keep in mind that almost all the pros playing in the top tier of the game get their racquets free and many get paid endorsement fees that often reach the seven-figure mark. In short, the companies invest a lot of money in endorsements to drive consumers to their brand and in turn through your doors to buy the newest, latest and greatest. Would it make sense for them to keep old cosmetics on their endorsed pros racquets when that particular racquet is no longer available in the marketplace?
How are the racquets customized? That depends on the player, the racquet and what the player requires. Some companies have in-house customizations where models are tweaked to the player’s own specs of weight, balance and swing weight. There are companies that specialize in customization and offer their services to the pros, such as Priority One of Tampa, Fla., and RPNY in New York. These companies offer a variety of customizations and services to touring professionals including traveling with players to provide stringing and gripping services at tournaments.
Most players are content with racquets that are matched to their specs — weight, balance and swing weight. Others also need special shaped and sized handles. These customizing companies work with the player and their racquet manufacturer to make sure that the player has exactly what he or she needs. The customizer receives racquets from the manufacturer and prepares them specifically for their clients, and often holds racquets in reserve. If a player should need new racquets while at a tournament, the customizer has them ready to ship.
So the next time your customer asks for the same racquet that a top player is using, you can provide them with that model with a clear conscience!
See all articles by Bob Patterson
About the Author
Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005. He is Special Projects Manager for Tennis Industry magazine.