|03-18-2005, 10:43 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2004
Pulling Strings at the Pacific Life Open
In the depths of the Stadium Court, buried deep beneath the grandstand, there is a flurry of activity at the Pacific Life Open. The action in this unknown part of the tournament is as pressure intensive as anything that will be seen on the center court during the two-week event.
Few people, including the players, realize that there are a group of individuals clocking more hours and working harder than anyone else involved in the tournament. In fact, it is the job of Star Stringing, the on site stringing team at the Pacific Life Open, to make sure that nobody has to be concerned with the stringing room.
Star Stringing, the official stringing team of the Pacific Life Open, work long, long hours during the tournament. One of Carlos Moya’s racquets is seen coming off the machine here. David Mindell inspects the stringbed and the quality of his work before moving on to the next racquet.
"When a player comes in and drops off their racquets," says Star Stringing’s David Mindell, "they expect them to be strung right and strung on time. That’s our concern, they shouldn’t have to worry about that."
Getting racquets strung on time and strung right is as much an art as it is a grind. As on the tour, not everyone can cut it at a two-week event such as the Pacific Life Open. The pressure of tournament stringing is high. The hours are long and as Mindell states, "the health of the crew suffers during the event."
Working long hours in a high stress environment with no direct sunlight might not seem like fun, but the mood in the stringing room is surprisingly good. Mindell puts that down to the quality of his crew.
"Everyone here is on his own journey. We all know what we need to get done each day to make the team successful and we all know how much time we need to set aside to get it done."
While each stringer works at their own speed, the team averages about 3-4 racquets each per hour.
"There are guys out there that say they can string fast, but how many of them can string four racquets in an hour, for five hours straight. Casey over here, is stringing 30 racquets a day for two-weeks. Working that hard and those long hours is tough."
Considering that the stress level is high and the workload intensive, it’s not surprising that it takes a certain type of individual to survive the two-weeks. Mindell jokes that just like in the tournament, they start out many, and end with few. To man the crew, Star Stringing brings in proven tournament stringers from around the country. Knowing that a stringer can string well and last for the entire tournament are essential elements in making the team.
A freshly strung racquet for Carlos Moya is seen here. Moya is one of many players who uses the onsite stringing team, Star Stringing, at the Pacific Life Open.
Even though each stringer has his quota of racquets for the day, things can quickly change. For instance, one of the stringers may have set aside enough time in a morning to finish a set number of racquets, but a player or coach might come into the stringing room needing several racquets to be strung quickly before a match. Although there may be four or five guys stringing at the time, players tend to go with one stringer for the entire two weeks, making it impossible to divide up the work.
"We calibrate our machines constantly to ensure they are accurate," says Mindell, "but each stringer will produce a slightly different job."
While the tension on the machine may be set the same, according to Mindell, the style and speed with which a racquet is strung will give it a unique feel. For consistency, the Star Stringing team strings almost every racquet in a "box" pattern. Stringing with a box pattern enables the stringer to string a racquet that would usually require a two-piece stringing, to be strung one piece. Mindell states that the box method also makes for a nice even tension across the racquet.
At the professional level, each player is looking for the slightest edge, and if that means having exactly the same stringer string his or her racquets on the same machine for the entire event, then that is what they will demand. Star Stringing does its best to accommodate such requests, even if it means getting into the stringing room before sun up and not leaving till gone midnight. It’s dedication like that, which pays off for the success of the team and the success of their clients – even if it does mean they emerge from the shadows looking a little pasty when the champion raises the trophy.