On Location: Farmer’s Classic @ UCLA

The Tennis Warehouse tent

This week I’m blogging from the TW retail tent at the Farmer’s Classic pro tennis tournament in Los Angeles. Be sure to stop by and see us if you head to the tournament. At the TW tent you can score some great deals and meet our friendly and knowledgeable staff.

A staple event of the LA sports calendar, the tournament is now in its 84th year. This ATP event is now known as the Farmer’s Classic, but it has gone through more name changes than Sean “Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Puffy, Diddy,” Combs. Formerly known as the Countrywide Classic, Mercedes-Benz Cup, Pacific Southwest Championships and the LA Open, the Farmer’s Classic is an ATP 250 event.

One would think or assume that because this tournament is on the lowest tier of the ATP events, it would not attract big named players. Up for grabs is a mere 250 ranking points; Rafael Nadal probably has more loose ranking points lost between his couch cushions at home. But the list of past winners reads like a Hall of Fame ballot. Names include: Jack Kramer, Fred Perry, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi. Not too shabby wouldn’t you say?

Taking place at the intimate setting of the UCLA Tennis Center, this tournament allows fans to get up close and personal with the players. There isn’t a bad seat in the main stadium and the lonely practice court lies adjacent to the food court. You could grab a burger and go sit at a table 2 feet away from the practicing players and have yourself a nice $50 lunch, but with a priceless view.

This year, the top players include: Andy Murray, Sam Querrey, Ernests Gulbis and Feliciano Lopez. As good as the other players may be, there is no doubt that this tournament is Andy Murray’s to lose. The dark horse would have to be James Blake. James Blake?! Ok, I guess I mean dark, dark, dark horse. This is more of a pick from the heart than it is from the brain, I know. But if he could find a way to play points like this, then he’s got a legitimate shot.

James Blake ripping a forehand

The Farmer’s Classic might be small on the venue and light on the ranking points, but it’s big on being fan friendly and heavy on the level of tennis. I’ve been at this event for the past couple years and have seen some high quality matches and points. As the official retailer for the tournament, Tennis Warehouse will be here for at least the next couple years, and hopefully, so will I. So come on by and say hi to the TW crew at our tent, get yourself a ridiculously overpriced burger, and watch some of the world’s best tennis players duke it out.

TW Crew with Feliciano Lopez

Have any of you made it out to LA for the tournament? What have been some of your experiences?

Jason “J Hua, The Forehand, J” Huang

String Review: Isospeed Professional 17

Isospeed’s Professional 17 gauge string is advertised to be the closest match to natural gut on the market for synthetic gut string.  Along with Isospeed’s reputation among my peers as an excellent string manufacturer, I figured the Professional 17 would definitely be worth a try.

The Isospeed Power Ribbon technology is specifically designed to mimick the composition of a natural gut string, and by combining it with their tradition of pre-stretching the filaments in the string, it also maintains tension and aids in the durability of the string.

I strung up my set of Professional 17 in my racquet at 60 lbs, increasing my desired tension which is normally between 56-58 lbs when stringing with a polyester.  When stringing, it felt fairly similar to an average synthetic gut, but with a little more of a “wirey” feel (slightly stiffer and rougher).  But overall a fairly easy string to install.

With the first strike of the ball I was able to notice the comfort and playability of the Professional 17.  The ball pocketed well and exploded off the string bed, provided great power and spin potential.  The Power Ribbon technology gave the string a nice texture to it, which made it very responsive and provided me with excellent feel.  As is the case with most synthetic gut strings, the Professional 17 was very soft and arm-friendly.  However, it varied from other synthetic gut strings in that I was able to have a lot more touch and feel with it because of how responsive the string bed was.  Every ball felt as though it was on the strings forever, which is a nice feeling!  The only downside was its durability, as it only lasted me for a couple hours of hard play.  However, this is pretty on par, if not a little better, than most synthetic guts that I’ve tried.

The Professional 17 string was probably my favorite synthetic gut string I have played with, perhaps along with the Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex.  However, compared to the Prince Syn Gut, the Isospeed provided me with more touch and better feel, and also added durability making it, in my opinion, a slightly nicer string.  At $10.99 a set, it is a little pricey, but the excellent feel that it provides along with the added durability definitely makes the Isospeed Professional 17 worth a try!

Andy

The Wizard of Boz

What do I know about Warren Bosworth? Before 2006, nothing.

Since I started my employment at Tennis Warehouse, I had heard a little bit about him and subsequently read some things. I’d read that he began customizing racquets for tennis pros in 1972. That he worked with racquet manufacturers to help design better racquets for better players. In the process, he realized that racquets rarely came close to the specs they usually had printed on the frame. By no means could he make a player more talented, but what he could do was make sure their talent had the best utilization of consistency with their racquets.

Before his pioneering of racquet customization, when players needed a new racquet or string job, most times the new offering’s specs would be slightly different than the previous, and thus, have to adjust their game to fit the racquet. With Mr. Bosworth, there no longer was a need for the player to adjust their game to the next racquet because the racquet would play identically to the previous.

Each player has different strengths and weaknesses. Mr. Bosworth tinkered with the racquets until they best fit the needs of the player, maximizing their performance and improving consistency, not to mention boosting confidence.

Warren Bosworth with son Jay

Warren Bosworth with son Jay. Photo credit: Bosworth International.

I was fortunate enough to meet Warren Bosworth back in December of 2006. As an employee of Tennis Warehouse, I attended an ITA convention in Miami. Our President and Director of Marketing attended as well and also had a meeting to see Mr. Bosworth at Bosworth International in Boca Raton.  He asked me if I’d like to join him. Knowing just a little bit about Bosworth International, as well as having that day free, I accepted his invitation without hesitation. Who am I to pass up an opportunity to not only meet a legend, but get to see the inner workings of a racquet customization shop for the best of the best in tennis? The man who worked with names such as Lendl, Connors, Edberg, Navratilova, Courier, Krickstein, etc.? No way I’d pass that up.

No, this is not the part of the story where I’m going to lie or embellish and tell you that Mr. Bosworth took me under his wing and he and I became good friends, because we didn’t. Heck, I couldn’t say for sure that he’d have even remembered who I was, had I seen him again. What I will tell you is that he was extremely nice and hospitable to someone (me), that was only along for the ride. The couple of hours I spent at his facility and the limited conversation I did get to have with him, I’ll always remember. Not because of his reputation or his renown, but because of the link he had with the greatest players in the world and how they relied on him. I not only got to see the racquets in the shop, but was allowed to visit back rooms that warehoused frames upon frames of great players from the past. What a treat. It was compelling to see many of them in various stages of customization. The intricacies involved blew my mind. The most minor of adjustments that a player like me would never notice were significant difference makers to elite tennis players. I mean, come on, how many people get to see such things! I couldn’t help but revisit my childhood years as I wandered by so many players’ racquets.

Nostalgia can be a powerful thing. The players that counted on him for the precision of their racquets were players that I tried to emulate when I was young. Not in a serious manner, mind you, but in a flattering, “I want to play like you, because you’re the best” kind of way. “You came to net and I hit at you, because that’s what Lendl did to McEnroe.” Or, “Did you see the ‘Edberg volley’ I just hit?”. Or, “Was that an open stance inside out forehand for a winner?”, “Yeah, that’s my Jim Courier”. Did these shots look a lot like the pros they were supposed to look like? In reality, not even close. But they were perfect imitations in my mind. And that’s what it was all about. Being in the shoes of the best in the world, one shot at a time. Just like them.

Thank you Mr. Bosworth. Thank you for allowing me to take that wonderful trip, back to some great childhood memories.
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Rest in Peace.

Spencer, TW