“That’s exactly what I need!” Brandon said, after I told him I am picking up racquets with new strings. He plays four times a week and known for an aggressive style with powerful cross-court shots hit with his forehand. Yet, he hadn’t re-strung his racquet in over a year.
I know exactly who he needs to meet. “Let me introduce you to Marjorie, my racquet technician,” I said, then stepped aside.
Brandon handed Marjorie his racquet. Her eyes flew from top to bottom of the entire racquet. She punched the strings with the heel of her palm and listened. She lightly pulled on the strings as she examined their condition, wear pattern, gauge, and brand.
“You’re using a 17-gauge string, does that work for you?”
“I guess so. Sure,” Brandon said.
This was Brandon’s problem. He was passionate about his technique, but not thorough enough to understand how much a carefully selected racquet and strings can enhance his game.
Marjorie asked some routine questions: “How often do you play?” “What level do you play?” “Do you break strings? If so, how often?” “Do you have any arm injuries?” “Have you requested a certain tension? If so, which tension?” “Is there anything you’d like to improve performance-wise?”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Could new strings help?”
The corners of her mouth raise slightly, and she said, “Let’s try.” She winked at me.
“I can’t seem to hit the ball deep enough consistently,” Brandon said. “No matter how hard I swing, the ball lands short.”
“One thing I’ve noticed is that the string you’re using is stiff. We could talk about switching to a more elastic string that will help to get more depth.”
“Sold!” Brandon said.
“That’s one possibility,” she said. “Your returns may be falling short because of the stiff tension, or your racquet may be too heavy, or has too dense of a pattern.”
“Prepare to be amazed,” I whispered to Brandon. “Marjorie’s an MRT, Master Racquet Technician.”
The United States Racquet Stringers Association (USRSA) provides stringing certifications, including MRT, the highest level. Their members study the differences in racquets and strings and how they interact with a player’s game.
“It pains me to see players using frames that are too heavy, too light, wrong head size, or even grip size,” Marjorie said. “Players will spend hundreds of dollars on shoes that fit, then slog through elbow or wrist pain and consider surgery, without restringing their racquet with strings with a soft coating (to absorb vibrations) or a heavier racquet (to vibrate less). Within a few stringing sessions, I can show a client how their equipment can affect power, maneuverability, spin potential and comfort.”
The USRSA website, www.racquettech.com, provides a list of certified stringers.