Master Racquet Technician RON YU has strung 23 grand slam winning sticks. For the past decade he’s toured the world with Roger Federer. He strung championship racquets for Agassi, Wawrinka, Davenport and Hewitt. Master Racquet Tech RON YU tells us about stringing Roger Federer’s racquets, which technology changes would make the sport more interesting and where he thinks his picture should go in the tennis hall of fame.
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UNDER REVIEW WITH CRAIG SHAPIRO is a Tennis Podcast where insiders from the sport share unique perspectives, inside stories and break down what is happening now in Tennis.
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Good day my friends. This is Under Review, the tennis podcast from an Insider’s perspective. I’m Craig Shapiro and on this show I talk with the most interesting voices in the sport.
As the holidays drown us with cheer the pros are already at it training hard and prepping for Australia. And if the pros aren’t taking a break, neither will we.
We’ve got a great show for you today. Our goal with this podcast is to take you way behind the scenes and as a holiday gift to you all, we wanted to release this episode. It doesn’t get anymore inside than this. A month ago, we were at the ATP finals having breakfast with former world #3 the great Martin Mulligan. We decided to go upstairs where an old friend was hard at work stringing Roger Federer’s racquets. Five feet away, his roommate Glinn was stringing Novak’s sticks. These guys are the unsung heroes of the tour, and I wanted to let them sing a bit.
Known in the twittersphere as Racquetron, Ron Yu spends 25 Weeks a year on the road with Roger. He’s probably the winningest racket technician in the business, and we have a long history together. We used to travel the world stringing rackets and yarning tails, and while I got run out of the business by a shady Italian hit man with a box cutter, Ronny’s still at it. He strung rackets at a 23 grand slams, Agassi, Hewitt, Wawrinka, Davenport, Roger, as well as countless other champions. Ron’s one of the best in the business and we have him here for you today. He’s gonna tell us what it’s like to travel the world with Roger Federer, what’s happening with racket string technology today, and where he thinks his picture should go in the tennis hall of fame.
We’re talking string theory, grips and gut, with the one and only Racquetron, Ron Yu.
C: Well, we’re here, looking out at the London Eye, we’re in room 610 of the Marriott, what’s it called Ron?
R: County Hall.
C: It’s the County Hall Marriott. The sound you hear is the Babolat stringing machine pulling Roger Federer’s strings through his rocket and we’re here with Ron Yu, my old coworker and friend.
R: Ancient history.
C: Twenty years ago, Ron and I met each other — whoa I think longer now, twenty-four years ago. Jesus. Ron, the rackets look beautiful, I’m looking at this grip wrapped — did you wrap that grip?
R: I did.
C: First of all, why don’t you explain to us what it is you guys do.
R: Okay. I work for a company called Priority One, and we’re a racquet service company for players. We do customizing out of the office which is down in Tampa Florida, and then for some players, who want added service — we travel with them to the master series events and the grand slams and take care of stringing, gripping, all the racket work they need.
C: I mean these guys make it sound so lame. My opinion, Ron and this other cat Nate, Ron and Nate are the p. 1 guys — I think these guys should be in the tennis hall of fame. These guys are craftsmen, they do something that no one sees cuz they’re literally doing it in the hotels at these events, but I think Ron should be in the tennis hall of fame, man. He’s in charge of all the rackets and all the grips for players.
R: They probably got some wall space in the bathroom there at the Tennis Hall of Fame. Picture me up there, in the bathroom. That’d be alright.
C: Alright so listen, let’s get in to this. We do a five set format, so it just keeps things moving, it keeps it popping. Our first set, we call it the “Off The Court Report”.
C: So, Ron, what does your year look like each and every year?
R: yeah it’s like groundhog year. Every January, head to Australia for a few weeks, and then back to the States for Indian Wells Miami. And then we go to Madrid, Rome, Paris, over to Wimbledon — you know, it’s the same tournaments every year.
C: And you got married I heard!
R: I got married about — finally got married about — five years ago.
C: And your wife is alright with you going on the road 35 weeks?
R: I’m on the road about 26 weeks now, she’s okay with it, we met each other when I was doing
this. So, she doesn’t know any different with me.
C: Right on. And so now, you get there in advance of the tournament,
R: Yeah a few days before usually, for a few days of practice.
C: Yeah. For our listeners who don’t know this, the rackets that the players use, you know, they’re not exact. You can explain that and what you guys do to make them perfect?
R: Right. Most of these guys have some sort of sponsorship deal with a racket manufacturer, and the manufacturer sends us rackets directly. And they usually don’t have any handles on them. It’s just bare graphite with the cosmetic of the racket. And we will mold a handle on there specific to the player because with manufacturers, rackets only come in four sizes. And a player may want something a little different, and we can mold that shape and sized handle onto the frame, and we finish it with gripping the racket with whatever they want.
C: Give an example of this molding.
R: Like an Andy Murray. We don’t actually customize his racquets anymore, but when we did, he was using head rackets which he still is. Head rackets have a certain shape that’s a little different than a Babolat shape or a Wilson shape, and he wanted to change the shape of his head racquet grip handle to something in between the manufacturer of a Wilson and a Head. So, we were able to make a mold that was what he liked, and we were able to duplicate it every time by molding.
C: I always use the Agassi example. He was a prince player from the beginning, and then he moved to Donnay, and he moved to head, and the dimensions of the grip are different. So you guys, if you put your hand around a Head racket and then a Wilson, they’re different. So basically these guys put the grip that they love onto the racket that they’re contracted to that they play with.
C: So listen, tell us about this racket. Roger, he has different models coming up, but generally it’s the same racket?
R: yeah it’s pretty much it’s the same stick. He’s used that small 90 square inch head size for so long, and then he switched to this 97 which is a much wider beam as well, to give him a little bit bigger sweet spot.
C: so you use these frames more than once?
R: oh yeah. We’ll use the frames for a few tournaments in a row usually.
R: He’s not going through rackets like Andre did.
C: Oh man. Andre, it was like fourteen rackets a tournament, it felt like.
C: And you guys do not do that?
C: That does not happen.
R: No. It’s a very easy schedule with Rog; it’s twelve racquets, and barring some unforeseen situation, he gets them at the exact same times every year. In December, for the start of the training block, and then before the clay season, although there’s not a clay season for him anymore, at least not the last couple years, and then the grass, and the hard court summer, and then the fall.
C: And Ron is just pulling his gut, it’s 17 gauge I’d imagine?
R: 16 gauge.
C: Oh really?
R: yeah. 17 he tried a couple times at Wimbledon — too quick. A little too much speed. Couldn’t control it as much.
C: Interesting. So he plays with all gut.
R: No, he plays —
C: Oh I see.
R: Cross strings, he’ll go with polyester string.
C: He plays with a poly, and in the crosses, and a gut in the main . How many rackets does Roger string?
R: Per match, here, best of three, he’ll usually do eight rackets.
C: In all the same tension?
R: He’ll do a couple different tensions usually. At a slam, he might even go as many as three different tensions.
C: And how many rackets do you do for Rog every year?
R: it’s dropped since the schedule is less than it used to be. One year we did over a thousand stringings, but this year, maybe five to six hundred. Maybe just because of the lessening of the schedule.
R: And he goes through about sixty rackets themselves. Five batches of twelve rackets. He travels with twelve rackets at a time.
C: This is an eighteen by twenty stringing pattern?
R: Sixteen nineteen.
C: Sixteen nineteen.
R:, these, you know, with the polyesters now, polyester is not as susceptible to small tension changes. Like all gut was. Roger, he always strings his cross strings one and a half kilos less than his main strings.
C: Kilo, 2.2 pounds,
R: This racket right here, is 26 and a half kilos in the mains, 25 in the cross.
C: And what is that in pounds?
R: 55. Throughout the course of the year, his low one is gonna be 26 and his high is gonna be around 27. He doesn’t vary much more than a kilo throughout the whole year. He may do different amounts for matches, let’s say there are eight rackets, he’s doing four and four. Four at 26.5 and four at 27. But he doesn’t vary too much at all from 26 to 27 all throughout the year.
C: Alright man, there’s like twelve people in the world who find this as interesting as us, so let’s move on. Maybe we’ll do a special next year about racket tensions for the die-hards.
C: Alright, this is our second set. We call this our “On The Court Report”. Ron is as inside as can be. He’s in the players lounge, he’s in the player hotel, you know, he’s buried in this room stringing for part of the day, but then he’s out there. He’s a pretty observant fellow. How are you feeling about the sport today?
R: Well, right now the sport is in a great position because you have, from a popularity standpoint, you have Roger, Rafa, Novak playing unbelievable tennis still. And then you have these young guys that I feel these guys in the 23 range, I think these guys are really good. And I think in two or three years, you’re gonna see some battles out there. Are you gonna have the personality and rivalries you have right now with these guys I don’t know, but these kids are talented.
C: Do you think that these young guys have the gumption to win these big tournaments?
R: Well, there’s gonna be a vacuum when the top guys, the older guys retire. So somebody’s gotta win the tournaments. There’s still gonna be four slams a year.
C: Wait what’s wrong with Nick Kyrgios? What’s his problem?
R: I don’t know Nick at all.
C: Oh really?
R: No. You know, don’t work with him…
C: What does he do with his rackets?
R: He does on-site stringers.
C: He just does whatever? He’s wildly talented. Try to sign him.
R: He’s unbelievable talented. And I hope that he — now he’s the guy that has the character and the personality to be incredibly popular. He’s incredibly popular now! And he hasn’t achieved his potential tennis-wise, and sky’s the limit for him talent-wise. I think there’s no question about that.
C: Are your sources, are you hearing any interesting stories that we don’t know about that we should know about?
R: No, I just know what I watch, and I just see a lot of good stuff coming. I think this may be the most talented group that I’ve seen in a long time.
C: Yeah you like these guys.
R: There’s like eight, nine of them that I’m like
C: Shapovalov people aren’t even talking about anymore.
R: Shapovalov, Tsitsipas, you know, you got Khachanov…
C: Khachanov, who does his rackets?
R: The on-site stringers.
R: You know it takes a while for them to get to–
C: to figure out that they got a right to check –
R: I always tell people this, I say, I know we help players achieve more when they use us, and also it’s a bit of a luxury as well. So when they’re that young, it’s a bit early for them. Typically we don’t sign a player until they’re pretty – they’ve moved up a bit in the rankings.
C: Sure. Since you’re not really on the court but you are on the side of the court and handling all this business. What are the trends we’re seeing in rackets, the rackets that players play with, and the string that — what’s de rigueur these days? What’s everyone doing?
R: Nobody’s playing all-natural gut anymore.
C: No one?
R: Not that I can think of. Some of the doubles guys, there’s maybe a few left maybe a year or two ago, but I don’t know if there’s anyone left.
C: They all use a polyester.
R: they’re all using at least half polyester. A lot of guys are using a hybrid, half poly half gut, and basically, the poly, it’s funny Craig —
C: The Agassi used to use a Kevlar in the mains and gut in the crosses.
C: Now you guys are putting gut in the mains, and the polyester in the crosses.
R: Yeah. Some guys go the opposite way. Some guys go with the poly mains, it’s just a matter of what they want. A feel issue. But they basically want the poly because it’s a dead string. And these guys are hitting the ball with such power, and they’re so big now, they’ve got to deaden the power of their frames and their strings. Because back in the old days, guys were stringing gut so tight, so the sweet spot becomes so small. And now that they can string the polys looser, the sweet spots has been large.
R: and it gives them a little bit more room for error as well.
C: And I mean all this stuff started I kinda feel like with Roddick.
R: Guga was the first guy with a poly that made a breakthrough.
C: Gustavo Kuerten.
R: And then guys started wondering how he was able to get such spin and is able to maintain so
much control on the ball for long rallys, and then they started moving to the polys.
C: The big banger, there are still people that use that stuff? The kirschbaum, the luxilon,
R: The luxilon is still the big polyester company.
R: Yes. Yeah.
C: Ronie, I’m seeing a lot of Yonex out there right now.
C: What — they’re just making great sticks?
R: They’re making really good sticks, and I think they’re trying – they’re making a big push to get more players. So, they’ve been able to get quite a few new players on their sticks, and they make quality sticks.
C: you know, back when we were doing this, there was the red-head, the head prestige, with that grommet,
R: cap system
C: Yeah the cap grommet, there was the Wilson pro staff; what are the flavors of the tours these
C: Babolat is everywhere.
R: Babolat is everywhere, they bring power to the game. You know? They just get more power out of that Roddick stick, like you were talking about. Light, little head-heavy compared to what the old guys played, totally different idea from 25 years ago when guys were looking for a more heavy racket.
C: you don’t see these guys looking for rackets. What does Jack Sock’s racket weigh?
R: Unstrung, maybe around three twenty? And you’re talking like a lot of the old school guys
were three forty, three fifty unstrung. So it’s quite a big difference.
C: 20 grams is a big difference.
R: 20 grams is a big difference.
C: Andre, I think was around three forty-five, something like that.
R: Yeah, close.
R: I don’t quite remember the number but I think you’re in the neighborhood. I think it was like three forty three for some reason,
C: Yeah something like that. Yeah yeah.
R: But you don’t see that with the younger guys.
C: Who’s the biggest pain in the ass? I remember Francisco Montana back when we were doing
it, that guy would come in, last one in, wreck you’re whole night, right before he played he got…
R: That happens a lot still. We do one tournament a year as the official on site stringer.
C: Where is that?
R: and it’s amazing the players that come in two hours before their match time and give you five
sticks. And they’re shocked when you say “I don’t know if we can get them all, because we got rackets on the machines already”
C: What about, remember Mark Woodford used to have that giant fish string, do you have any interesting things going on?
R: You don’t get too much, you get guys that want to see knots in certain locations, you get guys really particular about where the stencil is placed, but honestly —
C: Who’s that for example? Give us an example.
R: You know like, Daniel Nestor was so particular about how straight he wanted his strings that –
C: Daniel Nestor. You know, Daniel Nestor by the way, he just retired. I mean this guy played
from probably 18 years old till 46.
R: Unbelievable period.
C: Yeah unbelievable career.
C: He was particular — he was a particular cat.
R: Yeah, he was particular on straightening, you know, some guys are very particular about — they want they’re racket strung, the last racket you do at night. Before you go to bed. Which I’m always shocked about, because when we’re an on-site stringing team, that might be the last 5 rackets of a 35 racket day, that stringer — and it’s purely human nature — is gonna try to go so fast through those rackets so that you can go to bed, I don’t know if that’s the right play for a player to ask for.
C: They expect professionalism from these guys.
R: They do, but it’s human nature also means let me just get through these rackets
R: Cuz I wanna go to bed. I think it’s a dangerous game to play.
C: Ronnie’s got — you don’t rush, you take your time —
R: I’m old!
C: You’re not rushing.
R: I’m old now. And what’s good about —
C: You’re a timeless, I mean incredible! 51 years old, you look like you’re 25, man.
R: Yeah. It’s a lot of alcohol. That’s what — it pickles you from the inside, man.
C: This is our third set. We call it, we don’t really have a name for it, but it’s where we talk to generally speaking the player or coach about their career. And first of all, how did you get in to this insanity?
R: I was — I’d never played tennis at all growing up. I mean yeah my dad had some rackets around and I’d hit rocks with them and break the strings or whatever but I never really played until freshman year of college.
R: Georgia Institute of Technology. Some of my friends there played tennis, I never really played, and I got the bug fast. I mean, I started spending all my time at a tennis shop trying to learn a lot about it.
C: Is that Atlanta?
C: So Atlanta, by the way, that’s kind of a tennis hot bed.
R: Oh yeah. They have a league –
C: A very vigorous league.
R: A league. We’re talking back in the early 90s, had almost 100,000 players. And this is not a
USTA league, this is an Atlanta –
C: Like an Atlanta league.
R: Yeah. Alta. Atlanta tennis association.
C: Atlanta’s got a ton of recreational players. They’ve got a great tennis culture.
R: So i was just hanging out at the shop and the owner finally said to me, “Ron you’re here all the time anyway, you might as well make some money. You want a job?” So i started stringing rackets, which was the downfall of my academic career because I dropped out of school after starting to travel to tournaments.
C: Wow! You’re like a player, you quit school to be in tennis.
R: That’s really sad. That’s just depressing. So I started — I was lucky enough that the owner of the shop knew the people that did the tournaments. So I was able to start stringing for Babolat at tournaments fairly quickly after learning how to string.
C: Babolat — I expect all our listeners to know what this is but Babolat is the French company that originally made the natural gut that all the players on the tour played; they called it V.S. Gut. Babolat V. S. Gut. Their main business was making sutures, stitches, and I think they’re out of Leon, France, and they are the industry standard for this natural gut for now and forever They’ve been industry standard. They started making rackets, they started giving players the rackets in exchange for the free gut, and the rackets caught on like hot cakes.
R: Yeah. They really — the last company that really made an inroad as a racket manufacturer. I fully think that it’s because they were able to say also, “IF you play with our rackets, we’ll give you gut.” Because gut’s very expensive. And, it’d be very difficult for a startup racket company to be able to just start like that with rackets only. They don’t have that leverage with the natural gut.
C: Let’s get back to you. So you quit school,
R: Quit school.
C: Your parents must have been crying.
R: Not great. Not fantastic. Korean parents. Mind you. Luckily my brother was very nice. He always said “Well, there’s always one screw up in the family. And you’re the youngest one and everyone else is doing fine, so you were destined to become the screw up.” So, here I am.
C: Parents could not have been ecstatic about you quitting school to string rackets.
R: No. Not their number one choice as a profession.
C: But I mean Ron, now look at you, you’re doing Roger Federer’s rackets. Now how many grand slams have you strung? How many crowns do you have?
R: 22 or 23 maybe?
C: Name em.
R: With Rog, I think it’s 13 with Rog by himself. And then 3 with Andre.
R: Two with Stan Wawrinka.
R: One with Lleyton.
C: Which one with Lleyton?
R: Lleyton was Wimbledon — what was it, 2002? Is that right?
C: Damn Ron, that’s 19.
R: One with Lindsay Davenport.
C: Fantastic – Lindsay.
R: That was 1998 US Open? Maybe?
C: Sounds about right. I’ll have to look that up later.
R: I’m missing somebody. I don’t remember.
C: No c’mon, figure it out —
R: I’m staying like 2 ahead of Rog, because we figured this out one time,
C: Uh huh –
R: I gotta get back to you, I’ll think about it. Oh! Guga 2000, in the French Open, I was still with
C: Jay is this mad man that was one of the original Svengalis of this game. He — that’s a whole
— we gotta save that for another time.
R: That could be a multi-podcast series.
C: Ron and I met — I had answered an ad at a fax machine at a tennis club and I started working for this cat Jay who had Andre. He had Andre, they strung the rackets, they – and at some point, we all became together in this and that’s how it all started really.
C: And I mean, I figured by now you’ve gotta 15, 20 million in the bank. I mean that guy – you should be getting bonuses, for all these wins,
R: But we don’t get docked pay when they lose in the early, either.
C: I mean you figure Roger making 100 million bucks a year, you guys should be getting a million bucks just for him alone.
R: I usually tell people when they say that, I usually tell people, I say, you know ultimately — and I’m not trying to degrade my job or whatever, but it’s still — it’s racket stringing.
C: Well the problem is, you can’t charge one guy a thousand dollars a string job just because it’s Roger Federer, otherwise they’d feel like they’re getting screwed.
R: Racket stringing at the tournament level, on-site stringing, quality’s gotten better over the last
10, 15 years. I will say that. You still don’t get the consistency of same-machine, same-stringer as you go throughout the years.
C: And you, Ronnie, you deal directly with Tony Godsick, you deal directly with the agents, or you don’t even anymore?
R: Usually straight to the player.
C: Straight to the player.
R: When – talk to the player or the coach. I mean obviously, when it gets to the point of a player signing with us, the agent’s usually gonna have a brief conversation with us to make sure what’s going on, but usually we try to talk directly with the player.
C: Yeah. Ron just finished Rog’s racket, it took him about 25 minutes, he’s talking through it, now he’s straightening the strings. He uses his fingers to straighten the strings. You guys think that maybe the strings are straight when you pull them off the machine, that’s not the case. Rog must take a Wilson’s stencil…
R: He does.
C: And the two line gut thing doesn’t happen anymore.
C: That went away.
R: That went away. A lot of the other manufacturers told their players they couldn’t use, if they
were using their racquets, they couldn’t use – when Babolat got into rackets, before when they were just a string company they were okay with it.
C: Yeah. Used to be, Babolat, you’d stripe the two lines. There’s two rackets, here comes the fourth, for Club Fed, he’s playing Kevin Anderson tonight in a, you know, that’s a death match.
R: That is.
C: That’s a Texas death match.
R: For Rog, that’s a make or break.
C: Rog wants to beat him.
R: Well there’s obviously there’s a good chance that if he doesn’t win, he’s not making it to the semis. So.
C: Now, do you ever, the way it used to be with Sampras, you’d have to be standing by the machine waiting for those stinking rackets to come back?
R: No. Rog has only – cuz he only uses rackets for ball change. For the most part. He doesn’t want to serve with a brand new racket, so either one game — if the ball change is coming on his (25:02) serve, he will switch rackets either the game before to receive, or the game after. But he doesn’t break strings. And the last time he sent a racket back to the on site stringers, that i recall, was 2004.
C: Now, what’s your relationship like with him? Do you ever like go get a sandwich, go see a movie?
R: Yeah, you know, he’s got his family now, you know, less time, we’ll still go to dinner on occasion. Especially on the rare times now when his family isn’t travelling, you know.
C: And do you advise him on whether he should go with Uniqlo or Nike..
R: Oh god no.
C: No talk of that stuff?
R: No talking, nothing to do with me,
C: Not even close. He’d never ask you like “Oh, what do you think I should do,” or,
C: Nothing like that.
R: When it comes to rackets, he may ask me about strings and things like that because that’s
my knowledge —
C: Do you guys talk about movies, like –
R: Oh yeah. He’s a big movie watcher.
C: Interesting. That’s great.
R: He enjoys watching — I mean you know, these guys got a lot of downtime as you know.
C: Wow so I’m seeing that you’re putting the leather pads onto this in the throat. They just go in
R: yeah. And they’re basically doing nothing. He just had them ever since his all gut days —
C: It’s just a look.
R: And he still uses them.
C: They’re leather pads down at the grommets in the throat of the racket. Do you guys paint them black or do you just have black leather? You found black leather you use?
R: Yes. We used to paint them, until the revelation came, “Hey, maybe if they make black
leather…” It only took us about 12 years to figure that out, but we finally did.
C: Rog with the jet black racket as clean as can be, the white grip, is there a leather grip
under that, Ronnie?
R: There is.
C: And a lot of the players still have a leather grip with an overgrip, or no?
R: I don’t —
C: A leather grip — you know the talk is that you get a better feel.
R: Correct. You can feel the bevels of the handle better, and it’s gonna absorb sweat more than say a synthetic grip.
C: What’s the most action packed thing that’s ever happened to you stringing rackets?
R: Action packed…
C: Problem, nightmare?
R: Machine getting lost by the airlines and then needing to string some rackets on the first day?
C: That’s another part of this, is these guys travel with these giant cases with their stringing
machine, i mean you’re using a 20-year-old stringing machine by the way.
R: I know. It’s built like a tank. We’re gonna have to switch at some point, obviously because these things are 20 years old, they;ve got no parts being made. So, we’ve purchased a few old machines just to salvage parts.
C: I feel like I’m going back in time here.
R: Yeah this is the thing you were using!
C: I’m getting like sweats, like flashbacks.
R: Hey man, you were the one that taught me how to use these machines if you recall. Because I’d never used a star four before I went to Jay. So you and Jen Cho taught me how to do these.
C: Ah, Jay. Shoutout to Jen Cho.
R: So, you showed me the ropes.
R: Although you also made me string some rackets for you once at Paris.
R: You went and watched an NBA basketball — might have been a final or a playoff game, and you stayed out so late, you woke me up at like 6am —
C: I died.
R: And you said Ron, you gotta string these two rackets for Mark Knowles for me, because I’m wiped.
C: I can’t move.
R: I can’t move. So I got up and strung the rackets. You pulled rank on me that day.
C: Moving in to the fourth set, we call this “The Ten Ball Scramble”.
R: Oh lord.
C: And I’m just gonna sit —
R: Sounds scary.
C: No listen man, it’s word association. I’m gonna say a word, a thing, and you’re gonna tell us
the first thing that comes to mind.
R: Right. This is gonna get me in trouble I bet. Let’s hear it.
C: Roger Federer?
C: Favorite tournament?
C: Favorite court?
R: Center court Wimbledon.
C: Center court Wimbledon, everybody loves —
R: Cmon it’s the cathedral, right?
C: Everybody loves center court Wimbledon. Luxilon!
R: Game changer.
C: Yeah. Yonex?
R: Good quality control.
C: Best racket?
R: Man, that’s a loaded question. Best racket could mean a lot of things, but I gotta go with the original Pro Staff St. Vincent 85 square inch.
C: The St. Vincent Pro Staff, that’s a whole nother story, but
R: Look at the championships that that thing won. Sampras —
C: Sampras, there was a racket that was made and this Wilson plant on this island St. Vincent
and the plant burned down. So there became like an arms race to find these rackets. And that’s
a fact. And Sampras ended up being the last guy to get them, they got their people on the
street to find these rackets all across the land.
R: We still got a stash in the office.
R: Like five or six of them.
C: Amazing. Agassi?
C: yeah he is the best.
C: Racket stringing?
C: Racket customization?
R: More interesting than stringing.
C: Favorite player?
R: Tim Henman.
C: I love Tim Henman too. Favorite beer?
R: Pliny the Elder!
C: Favorite restaurant in London?
R: Purely because I get free meals there because of Tim Henman, I’m gonna go Nobu.
C: Wow! Ronnie on the free Nobu?
R: That also goes back to why he’s the favorite player. See how that works?
C: Moving in to our fifth and final set, we call this our “King of the Court”. If you were the king, how would you do it, given your illustrious background in this whole racket game. DO you think that there’s any interesting place to have regulated technology in an effort to maybe make the game less homogenous? I think one of the big complaints we hear about now is that everyone looks the same on the court, the stroke production etc. What do you think about that?
R: I totally agree. I think that they’ve slowed courts down, they’ve slowed conditions because they wanted points to be more interesting when they had faster courts. Points were over in one or two shots, three shots, they said “no we need longer points,” they slowed the courts down to give the fans that. But then the advent of polyester strings came out, and these guys can now swing full out with polyester strings, keep the ball in play for 10, 20, 30 shots. The way to win matches is a fitness thing now almost, not necessarily a shot-making.
C: So you agree that there’s a problem?
R: I think so. And I think that tennis was a little behind the times. They didn’t realize what polyester strings could to the game and the way the game, you know, there’s no more serve-and-volley. And every now and again you see a guy serve and volley, Mischa Zverev can serve and volley, but c’mon you’re not gonna win consistently anymore —
C: You can’t.
R: That way. No chance.
C: A good first volley gets punished.
R: Right. So to use an analogy, golf was good about quickly when they see a big advantage occurring, because of technology, they would stop that. Square grooves on pitching wedges, you could spin the ball more.
C: Yeah well they —
R: Very quick, after about a year or so they were like “Let’s investigate this –”
C: They just —
R: Belly putter. You cannot use a belly putter in PGA tour.
C: And by the way, that’s a perfect example.
R: You know, and that’s the problem with tennis now, they’ve let polyester strings go for so long,
it’s almost like Pandora’s box, it’s out of the box now and you can’t push it back in the box, it’s too late. And I’m all for these slower courts for longer points, that’s fine i understand the reason behind it, but when you add that with the polyester strings now, you’ve got a real problem in that players know “I’m gonna stay on the baseline, and it’s gonna be just a war of attrition.”
C: Exactly. And the only guy that’s got any interesting variety is your guy.
R: Yeah, you know, Novak can get a little aggressive at times but he’ll play the cat and mouse game for a while, and he can turn it. You know, Rafa is a different beast. He wants to stay on the baseline, but his game is still punishing. But, most guys now, there’s not a lot of variance. IF you’re in the top row of the US Open, and you see two guys, they’re playing the same game for the most part.
C: You can’t tell those apart, who’s who.
R: And I think that lends itself to less interesting match ups.
C: Ron Yu, everybody, this was a really fun catch up, and thank you very much.
R: Thanks, Craig.
C: typically, we say you are released, but we’re in your hotel room, so we are indeed released.
R: You may escape.
C: Thank you.
R: Any time you want to talk, I’m available.
C: So while we have your attention, we want to ring in the new year with a gift for our fans. We’re giving away two VIP packages to the Invesco series upcoming event January 26th at the Newport Beach Tennis Club featuring Andy Roddick, Tommy Haas, Mardy Fish, and James Blake. These events are awesome. You can practice with these guys in the morning and go watch them play, it’s a great event. Send us an email, tweet, instagram or facebook post, and we’ll automatically enter you to win. Info@underreviewtennis.com is our email, @urwithcs is our twitter handle, and underreviewtennis is our instagram and facebook. Good luck and please tell your friends. Big thank you to Ron Yu and also to Glinn Roberts who was quietly stringing Novak’s racket throughout the whole interview. I want to thank Priority One Rackets, you can learn what they do at p1tennis.com – that’s p1tennis.com. I’d like to tennis hall of fame in advance for reserving that wall for Ron. Thank you to everyone for listening and spreading the word, and if you haven’t already, please take a moment to subscribe, rate and review us. iTunes, Spotify, and everywhere else you get your podcasts. Our Producer is Scott Tuft and our music is by Bryan Senti. Jason Binnick did our mix, Martino Muligano bought us our breakfast, we’ll be back soon with more of the most interesting voices in the sport. Till then, I’m Craig Shapiro, and you are released.