JAK'S NEW ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best
The Backup Racket in Your Bag
Some less experienced, less evolved club players don't even have one. They go into battle with one stick only. And for them that might be adequate. Others, more experienced, recognizing that they could possibly break a string, have witnessed players who, without a backup, have to borrow an unfamiliar racket to complete their match. Others, with a backup, might discover an off string tension in their number one, or a worn slippery grip, smartly have a second racket in their bag.
But, unfortunately, too often it's not the same frame as their number one. Different head size, strings, dated string tension, even different grip sizes and shapes are often the norm.
What results is a completely different playability, a predictable loss of confidence, and sub-par tentative play.
Crap shoot city.
More serious club players carry two (2) identical sticks, which they meticulously maintain with frequent overgrip changing, and periodic restringing to keep them fresh and responsive to their game. Remember the common wisdom on the stringing subject – restring as many times per year as you play on average per week… minimally.
Personally, I typically restring every 25-30 hours of court time, which is about one week for me, for the same relative reason tour pros – initiated by Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl in the 80s - switch to a freshly strung racket after every new ball change (after 7 games at the match's start to include the warm-up, and then every 9 games after that) in order to maintain the very same feel for the ball on contact all match long, and to eliminate unwanted stroke altering necessities.
It's not unusual for those pros that you see on the Tennis Channel, or at a live tournament venue if you're lucky, to have as many as six (6) rackets, or more, that they carry on court restrung and regripped every day.
That's, of course, a bar too high for the average club player, even the best ones. Overkill at the club level. I get that. But, if you have progressed to the point where you do have 2 rackets, do make them the same exact model in order to not miss a beat if you do break a string, or to just refresh things up a bit when needed.
So, if you do currently bag two rackets, but they are not identical in every way – Note: Some players do choose slightly different string tensions in those same rackets… one a little tighter for extra control, one a bit softer for slightly more power (generally about a 2 pound difference) – look for a fellow player wielding your non-identical 2nd and make them an offer to purchase it they cannot refuse. Then put those funds toward a back-up that's a duplicate of your mainstay.
If you're not a very frequent stringer like myself, it's effective to rotate their usage. This is after having them strung at the same time in order to keep that consistent feel going forward to their next restringing, and not derail your otherwise usual ball striking mechanics.
Good tools are important in any endeavor, especially in a sport like tennis where seemingly small issues can make a big difference in your performance.
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