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Old 01-26-2013, 10:31 PM   #42
Sanglier
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Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 170
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One more post about these MatchMates before I shut up, as I have not come across this information in the forum archive or anywhere else.

It has been mentioned before on these boards that the Dunlop Black Max Plus is quite similar to the MatchMate, in that both are 28"+ sticks. What I did not know until just recently is that the resemblance between these racquets is far from superficial or coincidental. In fact, the Black Max Plus and the early MatchMate Graphite are exactly the same racquet underneath the paint:




I learned of this through the man who sold me nearly all of his remaining MatchMates, along with a Black Max Plus. He has been playing competitively since the '70s, and was contracted to Dunlop at one point (maybe Coachrick would remember him and can confirm this?). He had a two-handed forehand at that time, and wanted a longer stick to accommodate his unusual needs. He was in the process of signing with MatchMate, which had secured the mold for the Graphite from a Taiwanese vendor. However, before his contract with Dunlop expired, he was obligated to play under Dunlop colors. As a result, the MatchMate Graphite was first introduced to the world dressed up as the Dunlop Black Max Plus (anyone who has handled one of these can attest to the fact that its build quality is not very 'Dunlop-like'). Once our player's Dunlop contract expired, the very same racquet was given a new paint job, and the MM Graphite was properly born.

The Black Max Plus and early MM Graphite have a super skinny sub-16 mm box beam, along with a bi-concave bridge. Indeed, they are such a close match with the Tony Trabert Big Bubba dimensionally (just 1" shorter than the latter in the grip area, with a slightly different beam cross section and hole pattern) that I suspect they are either direct descendants of the TTBB, or at least brothers from a different mother.

Subsequent versions of the MM Graphite became bigger-boned and had a flat bottomed bridge, undoubtedly as a result of an on-going effort to address the fragility issue. In total, I have come across no less than 5 variants of the MM Graphite based on structural features alone. I can only guess as to what the chronological order of their introduction was, but the very last model is almost certainly the beefiest variant, which also happens to be nearly a centimeter shorter than the earlier models. It has a teal accent stripe in lieu of the earlier grass-green one, so it's quite easy to tell apart from the rest even from a distance. Interestingly, this very last model of the MM Graphite restored the neutral balance and swing weight of the second bumperless model, which were altered when the bumper was first introduced. However, several hairline fractures at the top of this frame suggest that despite the reinforcements incorporated into the updated design, it too, never quite conquered the fragility demon.




Anyway, I am a sucker for startup stories. The Golden Age of tennis racquet startups had probably come to a close a good while ago (if giants like Prince can file for Chapter 11, one has to be clinically deranged to jump into this line of business today); I just hope that these tales will not be lost or forgotten before someone somewhere has had a chance to write them down...
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