Discussion in 'Classic Racquet Talk' started by proracketeer, Mar 1, 2010.
Seemed to be a popular headshape at the time. I always wondered if Kneissl copied the early Voelkl models as well.
No question that Puma's 1985 entry into raquet manufacture (with R & D likely extending back at least a year) was influenced by the other prevailing German brands of the time. Puma's had a "V Engine" shape in the throat, copied from Volkl. They also had an egg-shaped racquet face, borrowed from Kneissl. There was little/no interest in pursuing the American market, like Volkl then, until Becker basically made their choice for them. The pictured racquet is from Volkl's flagship mid-80s "World Cup" series, and appears to be the oversized model of that line (MS 45?).
Looking back on those fateful days, I can't help but wonder what would have happened to Puma if the instantaneous information transfer vehicle known as the internet had been readily available as it is now.
I sold Puma to one of the largest mail-order companies in the US at that time. By the week after Wimbledon, they had sold out of every Puma racket we could get to them. Folks would see Becker on TV, wonder what the heck racket that was, and then look in the back of Tennis Magazine to find the 800 number to call 'some' large mail order company to get info. You couldn't just sit at the computer and get the scoop.
It took a while to get the new Becker Puma models into the pipeline. Of course, folks bought what they could get initially, then Puma developed a model just for Becker. Confused the heck out of customers. And what the heck is a PowerControlSystem? Of course, they violated one of CoachRick's basic racket construction tenets...don't put moving parts in a tennis racket. Oh well, they didn't ask me!
It was a little harder to get the 'latest and greatest' back then. There were only a handful of quality mail-order companies and the pro shops still had a chance to be the first to get something 'hot'. Boy, has that all changed! Good thing we have Tennis Warehouse to take care of us!
Yes Colpo, now that you mention it, I remember the first time I saw Korda play, he was an 'unknown' going up against Becker shortly after Becker's Wimbledon win, and he was using a Puma as well. Seemed he was comfortable with the head shape - his Voelkl's weren't a lot different.
What's often forgotten is that the Puma line was actually built on the shoulders of Vilas as its first major endorser. Naturally, Tiriac was behind that deal for GV, although Vilas was no longer in his prime or Tiriac's #1 guy. Tiriac talked Becker into transitioning to a bigger frame from his GTX Pro, which Boris wielded to a QF finish in the 12/84 Australian. Boris's deal was then up with adidas, so Tiriac got him too into a Puma frame as well (different from GV's choice, though coincidentally Boris used a pj of the cheaper "G. Vilas" Puma model). Boris's career taking off that summer put alot more Pumas in other pros hands too, as the brand became viable, as Boris quickly supplanted GV as Puma's masthead player. Puma did give GV a fitting swan song, the 1986 "Vilas Power," one of the brawniest, best-looking 80s frames out there.
IIRC, the first of those Voelkl that had the 24% midsize head and plastic throat was the venerable "Servo" of the early 80's. The "Servo Soft" and "Servo Soft S" were really big sellers on the German market in the mid-80's. And yes, the head shape, size, and string pattern (down to the shared holes) seemed eerily similar to the later Puma Vilas and Becker models.
I played the Voelkl Worldcup MS24 (the mid version of the frame pictured in the first post above, and their most popular "pro" frame of the day, in the hands of virtually the entire USSR pro contingency, including Andrei Chesnokov) for a very brief period of time. It was a pretty lousy hit. I did get to meet Sylvia Hanika (who used the oversized yellow Worldcup at the time, IIRC) as part of that flirtation. And yes, she did bounce the ball dozens of times before each serve.
Great background info (as usual) from Colpo. I'd like to add that the abovementioned "Vilas Power" still was a "lesser" Puma model with the bulky plastic throatpiece bridge. So it was sort of a swan song/slap in the face. But at the time, poor Guillermo was in hot water as the scapegoat of the Guarantee money scandal that was racing through the ATP.
It's funny, but I'm not sure Puma or Volkl saw it that way or marketed their lines that way. Here in the USA, we see a plastic throat piece and visions of beat up Prince Pros and beginners' tennis parties swirl through our heads. However, Volkl's high-end frames through the later mid-80s featured composite throat pieces! For ex., their yellow World Cup line from '86 all had plastic throats with no attached stigma out there. The 1985 Puma line, pre-Becker fame, was flagshiped by the Black, Blue, and Red Puma plastic-throated models, all of which were "top of the line" and one of which was used by Vilas, at least cosmetically, on tour. certainly, by '86, Vilas was no longer the focus of Puma by a longshot, but they still gave him that beautiful "Power" model. You're right about the guarantees problem GV ran into - GV took a suspension in '83 and upon his return suddenly seemed like an older guy, even though '82 was a career year for him. He did have a brief happy renaissance in '86 - I saw him lose the Forest Hills final that spring to a spry Noah, but we all wanted "Gajermo" to pull out one more from his hat!
I've hit with a Servo Soft S before - handsome white racquet, incredibly flexible, you can almost see the bend! Easily pushed around, but if you're moonballing on slow Hamburg clay, you could do alot worse. And I so agree with you about the MS 24 - I wanted that frame to work for me very, very badly (I mean, c'mon - it's yellow!) but a crappy hit. No feel, club-like, just could not get it to agree with that other piece of reasonably important gear, strings!
Gotta say I do not recall Puma bats for sale in the US pre-Wimbledon '85. There was a mail-order shop in San Diego (not Ray's) then that always stocked crazy European frames that most folks slept on - maybe that was the shop you refer to? Tennis mag profiled Boris as an up and comer that spring pre-Wimbledon and used a photo of Boris at that year's French with his silver/red Puma and red Puma stencil - my reaction then was akin to "what the hell - Puma makes racquets?!?" I bought a Puma G. Vilas that summer in Europe after Becker's win and seeing the entire Puma line back then was like stumbling on a cache of moon rock!
The mail-order house I refer to was located in North Carolina(of all places!) but its name connected with a famous resort island in SOUTH Carolina. Nobody I knew cared at all about Puma sticks until BB's run at Wimbledon. We repped apparel(no shoes for us) and rackets...our 'flagship' was anything with Ralph Sampson's name attached to it(Sampson played basketball for U. of Virginia--located in my territory). Little known story...PUMA supposedly had first shot at signing Michael Jordan...decided they couldn't afford him!
Some of the tennis apparel was quite attractive in the next year or so. Martina(the original) looked pretty good in it as did a number of other players. The Puma designers had great ideas...just couldn't always get the clothing into production fast enough to meet demand--we were always canceling orders mid-season.
Puma decided not to use one of the great tag lines...
"If you're not the PREDATOR, you're the PREY!" I think it snuck(yes, it's a word now) onto a few T-shirts but that's all, IIRC.
Was that shop in SD Steve Furgal's?
Yes, sounds right. I was going to school there at the time and wanted to take a drive out there to see their advertised Volkl T9's, TR's, and Fischer Twin Tecs. I never did take that drive for some reason, but I recall it was maybe just outside the city limits I was familiar with, maybe north or east or northeast of town. I was just a PB rat back then - I knew Cass, Garnet, Mission, Bird Rock, and the local In N Out off the 5!
That Oz Open was the first that I'd ever laid eyes on both Becker and Edberg and they both impressed the hell out of me. I clearly remember Becker just bludgeoning people with that GTX. I think one of the Guliksons could have been a victim and if i remember correctly, he went out to Ben Testerman (?) who exploited his slightly leaning over to the right service motion by hitting consistently up the line to his backhand on the return.
Of course, I could be making all that up - I was only 14 at the time!
It's a World Cup OS 32
OS 32 = 70+32% = 92 = Oversize!
The full line-up of the yellow World Cup models was the monoshaft NS14 and MS25, the MS24, and the OS32. These were the second tier of Voelkl models of the day, below the black "Grand Prix" models, which today are even rarer than the World Cup models.
Interestingly though Beckers actual racquets did not have the moving parts of the PCS system. The PCS was just cosmetic on his actual racquets!
The PCS was only on the retail versions!
It shows how nothing has really changed. For example Nadal and Roddicks actual racquets have never had the "Cortex" above the grip, it is just painted on. Whereas all retail racquets have the "Cortex"!
As well, the suspension handles of many Head models were NOT in the rackets for many pros...they were looking for 'feedback', not damping.
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