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By Chris Oddo | Wednesday August 2, 2017

 
Tecnifibre stringers

Long days provide big rewards for the Tecnifibre stringers, and there are special moments to savor along the way.

Photo Source: Tecnifibre

Ever wish you could be alone in a dark room with Roger Federer? Tecnifibre head stringer Stephane Chrzanovski didn’t wish for it, but he did enjoy the experience when it happened to him in 2013 at the Swiss Open in Gstaad.

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Federer and Chrzanovski went on a top-secret mission to a secluded back room, taking a machine with them so that they could string Roger’s racquet in solitude, far away from the public eye. At the time Federer was switching racquets and did not want anybody spying on his string set. The stringer’s room was located in a public space where anybody could have taken pictures of the racquet and strings and posted them on social media.

So they went incognito. Chrzanovski, a fifteen-year veteran of the stringer scene, remembers it all like it was a dream.

“He was switching his racquet. He did not want anyone to see the racquet so he went with the stringer to a different room,” Chrzanovski said. The affable Frenchman says that while Federer waited they went off-topic, chatting about family and life as the Swiss maestro prepared for battle and Stephane worked the machine, a sheen of perspiration now coating his face.

Just another frantic day in the life of a world-beating stringer. Here at the Citi Open, where Tecnifibre is the official stringer, Chrzanovski leads a team of five experienced stringers as they grind through 16-hour days, finishing about 25 racquets each (though he assures me he can do 40 if need be) before heading back to a shared house that the group rents in close proximity to the tournament site.


The days can be long and stressful, but there is an ease amongst the members of the group. Stringing racquets is a rough job but the pain is mollified by the pleasure of serving the finest tennis players that the world has to offer. While we are talking, Alexander Zverev walks in to drop off a few racquets and before he leaves he has taken off his $1 million dollar Richard Mille watch and handed it to one of the stringers who is joking with him before he passes it around for the rest of the group to inspect.

The players are the perks and the strings are the passion.

Strings have evolved at breakneck speed in the last two decades, and they’ve been a primary influencer of the way the modern game is played, but it is good old-fashioned customer service and attention to detail that are the calling card of the team. Argentina’s Guido Pella swings by to pick up a few racquets and Chrzanovski notices him coming. He darts over and picks out his racquets out of a bin full and hands them to Pella, who thanks him and heads out to his evening match.

Service with a smile.

Hang out here for a while and you’ll see the stars of the game come and go. Doubles legend Daniel Nestor is resting in some kind of giant inflated hammock while he waits for his racquets to be strung. We’re told that he likes his racquets at super-low tension—20 pounds in the mains and 18 in the crosses.

Jelena Jankovic is chatting with some friends nearby and Christina McHale is in full gear, pacing about.

We don’t see Kei Nishikori, but if we stayed another hour he’d probably show, because he’s probably the most loyal customer at the stringer’s tent. That’s because the Japanese is notorious for stringing clusters of racquets at different tensions for each match. He can use up to 15-18 racquets in a single match, sending clusters of six at a time during matches at times.

“It’s fairly different for each player,” Tecnifibre’s Promotion and Marketing Manager Alexandre Papineau says. “We have players for instance like Del Potro. He never changes his tension. Pretty much the same all the time like 56,57 pounds. Doesn’t matter if it’s hot or if we’re playing on clay. Then you have guys like Nishikori who change all the time. Even today if it’s just for practice he will bring six racquets and ask for three different tensions.”

Papineau says that it has been interesting to see the players evolve right along with the strings over the decades. He says that the players are slowly starting to move away from loading up a full bed of polyester strings these days. Instead they look for a softer string, generally putting gut or a high-end multifilament in the crosses with a polyester in the mains.

“That’s why we believe that the market has gone way too far pushing polyester and there is a bigger potential now for flexible strings,” he says. “It can be multifilament, natural gut. When you string so many tournaments over the years you can see the evolution. You see at the end of the 90’s and beginning of 2000s, everybody was jumping on the polyester. For the women we probably have 65 or 70 percent of them using hybrids, and the rest using full polyester, and the men I would say it’s not 50/50 but maybe 55 fully polyester, 45 percent multifilament/poly hybrid.”

All these string jobs don’t come cheap, and the players pay for them.

“We charge 22 per racquet, but we don’t see any money here,” Papineau tells us. “We discount that from the prize money.”

Chrzanovski and his team do up to ten tournaments a year for Tecnifibre, including the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the ATP World Tour Finals and several others. The team features experienced stringers who have been hand-picked. Most of them spend the rest of their time running their own shops and were doing so for up to five years before they were considered good enough to join the team.

What makes a good stringer?

“Speed and quality,” says Chrzanovski. “You need to move fast and also know how to interact with the players, because some players are big stars and you need to do the job right. Working long hours for 10 days per tournament is tough, and teamwork is key.”

It can be tougher for some than it is for others—It all depends on the luck of the draw. Each stringer is assigned a list of players whose strings he will work on. That way each player is assured to get the same quality from each job. But things get complicated when all of one stringer’s players are eliminated while other stringers still have a full plate. “They start with a team of players and they keep them for all tournament, sometimes it’s unfair because you can arrive at the end of the tournament and one guy is super busy and another one is just helping to cut the strings and pack the racquet,” Papineau says.

They do their best to avoid complications by trying to predict the future. But as any tennis fan knows, that’s never easy.

“Normally they know each other so you know who should go far in the draw so here you don’t give Nishikori, Del Potro and Monfils to the same guy,” he says. “It can be a nightmare at the end.”

But a nightmare is not enough to deter the Tecnifibre ATP stringers. They endure the long hours and the complications because they enjoy their behind-the-scenes role on the ATP Tour. For them the nightmare is temporary. The dream job? That’s forever.

Tecnifibre is the official stringer of the ATP Tour. To learn more about Tecnifibre products, click here.

 

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