Our next featured Tennis Warehouse Playtester is Mark Boone. Mark is a recent addition to the TW playtest team, and you can find him on both shoe and racquet reviews. He is the Quality Control Supervisor here at Tennis Warehouse. Check out his interview below.
Racquet of Choice: Dunlop 4D Aerogel 200
String of Choice: Hybrid of the Babolat RPM Blast 16 / Prince Synthetic Gut Multifilament 16
Shoe of Choice: Babolat Propulse II
Apparel of Choice: Each manufacturer comes out with some great apparel options, but I do have mostly shorts from adidas and Sergio Tacchini, and I usually wear cotton blend shirts instead of the polyester variety. Since I have a good case of hair deforestation, I always wear a hat that is made of a poly blend and is washable.
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I was born into a multi-sport family, and tennis was a primary passion for my dad. Weekends during the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, always involved some mandatory tennis at local courts since I was 5. My brother became a local high school standout, which translated well all way the to the D1 level at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Who inspires you to play tennis?
I am pretty easily inspired. It could be from watching Rafa’s post match interview, after he lost to David Ferrer on clay and made no excuse, or from watching a couple of friends on the indoor court execute a decisive point or game. Without a doubt, though, my Mom, who is almost 80 years young and still plays well, and my dad, who helped support all that tennis requires to improve, are a constant inspiration/reminder that tennis is one of the greatest sports of all time.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
Probably the volley because it was my weakest link. The net is now where I am most comfortable.
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
I love it that it is considered a career. The first racquet I can remember swinging was a wood Garcia and some Jack Kramers. There was the Prince Magnesium that Pat Cash made famous, Prince Original Graphite OS, Becker’s Puma racquets (had to have ’em), Head Radicals galore, and my two favorites so far would be some of the Prestige frames and the Dunlop 4D 200.
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
I would say that if Rafa and Thomas Muster were turned into one guy who was a little slower and not as skilled, I could be that guy. I am a lefty, and even at 44, I try to wear the other guy down or at least het him to ask the question: How much suffering can I stomach before I say “uncle”? I try to hit the lefty forehand cross court, steep and deep, even if it is another lefty I am playing, and an interesting scenario usually develops from it.
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
An evening match I saw a few years ago at Indian Wells, between Nalbandian and Nadal, has to be my overall favorite, period. At that point Nalbandian had never lost to Rafa on a hard court, and he came out firing to win the first set easily, got all the way to 5-2 and had 5 match points on Rafa. Then Nadal marched back to win the second set and beat Nalbandian in the third 6-0. The quality of the first two sets was incredibly high, Rafa’s mentality was stronger than his left arm, and the fact that the match lasted well beyond midnight lent itself to a gladiator-like atmosphere.
Do you have any superstitions before playing a match?
I am not superstitious, but I do drink an excessive amount of water before I play, and I won’t drink coffee before a match either. Nothing like a lucky pair of undergarments or the same grip I played with from childhood.
Do you have pre-match meals you like to eat before a tournament?
I guess it depends on what time the match starts, but I try to keep it to a form of a fresh vegetable, combined with a carbohydrate of some sort. From racing a mountain bike I learned that doing anything out of the ordinary on match day is not a great idea for me.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
I had a match several years ago with a tough, ranked 5.5 player (he made sure I knew this), where it was very windy, and his wife sat behind me the whole time applauding my faults and losses. She even switched sides on the odd games. It felt like I was playing the guy, his wife and the wind. I won in 3 sets, and it is funny because I have colleagues and friends who have had similar run-ins with him on a tennis court, so that one is fun to remember.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened while you were playing tennis?
It has to be notching a friend with a dagger-like volley from close range or getting notched. We have group tennis lessons once per week at TW, and the antics that result from the group are enough to get other players to stop playing to watch the fun.
Have you had any injuries? For how long? How did you deal with them?
I do not want to jinx myself, but I have been lucky to not have any major injury. I did find out the hard way that you do not get to utilize the favorable traits of a poly at a high tension, but you do get to deal with a good amount of arm pain.
What is your favorite part of being a TW playtester?
The combination of levity between the whole crew and competitive nervousness between the playtesters is what good memories are made of. Playtesting all the different frames, strings and tensions also helps me pay it forward to players/ customers looking for a certain racquet configuration or shoe, which is another aspect of my job here.
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with?
It is accurate to say that I love and have benefited greatly from the variety of styles of play that I am afforded to play with here in the review room. However, Granville is the guy I pick for the same reasons as I listed below.
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
None other than Mr. Granville Swope. I cannot seem to get him on the run, but he has turned me into a track star.
What has been your favorite review and why?
It is too early for me to have a favorite since there have only been a few, but when Spencer introduced me as Mark “the Machine” for the New Balance MC 851 shoe review, it caught me off guard and gave me a little ab workout from the chuckles.
Do you have any nicknames from the TW playtest squad?
A lot of my friends refer to me as “Boonimal,” but I admit it is hard not to smile and laugh when I hear something like “the Machine” come from others who are machines themselves.
Please check back next week when we feature a different playtester in another installment of, “Meet the Playtesters.”