We are back!
I have a special blog on the newest member of our TW Playtesting Team, Michelle Heidbrink! Michelle played college tennis at the University of New Mexico and followed that up with an Assistant Coaching position there. Michelle is currently an Assistant Web Editor here at Tennis Warehouse. She has just started playtesting racquets, strings, and shoes so keep an eye out for her on reviews. You can find her first video appearance in our LoveMatch video. Check out her interview below.
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis when I was 5. My parents had just bought a weekend condo in Palm Springs and decided to take up tennis, so they got an hour lesson with the local pro, they took the first 30 minutes, while I got the second half of the lesson. The rest is history! I started tournaments at age 8 and have loved it ever since!
Who inspires you to play tennis?
Honestly, whenever I meet players who are passionate about the sport, no matter their level, they inspire me to play and help me realize how lucky I have been to spend a life in tennis. I’m so grateful that I’ve had such a supportive family and home base of people who have helped me and encouraged me to follow my tennis dreams and allowed me to dream big. It also warms my heart when people I have met along the way come back and tell me that they remember exactly what I told them on the court or that I inspired them in one way or another.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
I love wailing on returns! Give me some second serves to smack and I’m in heaven. Specifically a forehand return on the ad side that I can take up the line is one of my favorite shots to go for (and in doubles, I love a target, so watchout!).
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
When I was little I used various Pro Staff’s because Steffi Graf was my favorite player. I switched to the Prince Precision Equipe Longbody when I was around 14. In college I used the first version of the Babolat Pure Drive. After college I used the Wilson NCode NPro Open X. And now I’m back to the Babolat Pure Drive. Always on the lookout for something that I love as much as the Pure Drive!
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
Growing up in Southern California and working with some of the same pro’s that Davenport worked with, I was often compared to Lindsay.
Today I tell people I play like Petra Kvitova, except I’m right handed. But like her, I like to hit a big ball, go for my shots, and am not always the highest percentage player. I’ve also been told I have Kvitova’s and Azarenka’s “tennis hair.”
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
I’ve seen so many amazing matches! The most fun I’ve had watching a match was at the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells a few years back when Dolgopolov and Malisse were playing doubles together. My sister and I caught all of their matches all the way to the finals and for their final match we made signs that said “Team Ponytail.” We planted ourselves in their corner and cheered them on the whole time. They loved it, the crowd loved it, and I guess the cameras loved it too! The matched aired live on Tennis Channel and both my sister and I were getting texts from friends all over the country that were watching the match that saw us and our sign!
Do you have any superstitions before playing a match?
Oh, I have a bunch. I try and take five to ten minutes before a match to listen to my music, focus in on being positive, and find my zone. I’m very meticulous about packing my bag. I’m that person who is prepared for anything at a tournament, if you need it, I probably have it in my bag! I also have to have something on my right wrist, not sure when that started or where it came from, but it’s usually a bracelet or hairband. And then on court I have several rituals and things I say to myself – different things for when I’m about to return, serve, and on changeovers. It helps me reset my head and play in the now.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
I’m going to refrain from sharing the losses that haunt me to this day! But probably the most memorable moment for me would be when my team won the Mountain West Conference in 2004. We had a magical year with a record of 20-5, ranked in the top 25, and still to this day are the only team in the history of our school to win the Women’s Conference Title!
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened while you were playing tennis?
At the expense of my college doubles partner, I still find this story funny. We were an undefeated team and were used to practice against new combinations of teams within our team. One day we were playing a challenge match and my partner was at the net, a ball came high and through the middle of the court, she let it go, so I took the ball as a swinging backhand out of the air and whomped it right into the back of her head. Through all the laughing I’m pretty sure there were also tears of pain. Once she collected herself and got back on the court, she went back to serve, let go of the racquet after she made contact on the serve and it literally snapped in half. After that my coach sent her home in hopes of saving her from any other potential mishaps.
Have you had any injuries? For how long? How did you deal with them?
My first big injury was my junior winter of college. I had been playing the best tennis of my career and ended up tearing a ligament in my right wrist. After being told I needed to have surgery and take months off, I decided to rehab like crazy and skip surgery. I did all kinds of treatments, ice, heat, laser, etc. I took two solid weeks off and was back on the court ready to go for my spring season! I also suffered a slap tear in my right shoulder my senior year, but again, avoided surgery and played through it. Most recently, I tore my calf while training off court in November. It was horrible because I couldn’t even walk, let alone run or get on the court. I took a couple weeks to ice and rehab, listened to my body, and got super creative with my training and workouts!
What is your favorite part of being a TW playtester?
I am ecstatic whenever I get to spend time hitting on the court plus I love being up on the latest trends and technology in tennis, so being a playtester literally is a dream come true for me! And anytime I get to try new things to find what complements my game is awesome!
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with?
Andy and Mark. They both are super consistent and hustle for every ball. With Mark, I know I can work on all parts of my game because every ball comes back. And with Andy I can hit big and be super competitive. Britt and I are working on our doubles to take on all of the guys!
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
I haven’t had the chance to hit with him yet (only had him as my doubles partner), but Chris and his notorious drop shots may become my arch nemesis! I also seem to struggle against Troy as he often outsmarts me with his lefty game and I struggle to find my rhythm against him.
What has been your favorite review and why?
Right now I’m on a bunch of string and shoe tests that I’m enjoying! Strings have made such a difference in the game over the year that I’m really excited to experiment with different technologies in the poly world. Also, being a typical female, I love shoes, so playtesting those are fun always! I also challenge my fellow playtesters daily to find me a racquet that I will love as much as my Babolat Pure Drive…they’re getting closer!
Thanks for reading this installment of Meet the Playtesters! I will be back the next time we add another TW Playtester to the team.