Next up is our most experienced Tennis Warehouse playtester, Granville! Gran is the Hard Goods Buyer at Tennis Warehouse. You can find him on racquet reviews and men’s shoe reviews. Check out his interview below.
Racquet of Choice: Currently under review
String of Choice: Natural Gut
Shoe of Choice: Asics Gel Resolution 4
Apparel of Choice: Cotton
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I started playing back in New Jersey as a kid hitting against a backboard at my swim club. I then joined the 12-year-old club team and started playing some matches.
Who inspires you to play tennis?
Watching any athlete in any sport inspires me. In tennis, going way back, Rod Laver, Björn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker all the way up to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would be on the short list.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
Serve for quick and easy points when effective. I can set up a winner volley or open up the court for a different attack.
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
Wood: Spalding Davis Cup & World Open, Dunlop Fort, Wilson Kramer
Fiberglass: Yamaha YFG-30 (Oreo)
Metal: Yonex Gold OPS
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
Probably John McEnroe as I enjoy singles and doubles as well as enjoy good hands at the net.
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
My favorite matches are Björn Borg vs John McEnroe in the Wimbledon finals in 1980 and 1981, Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick – where Andy won more games in the match but lost to Federer in 5 (16-14 in the fifth) and of course Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal in 2008 at Wimbledon in a 5-setter in near darkness.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
My first national grass court tourney (Santa Barbara 30s singles). I was playing against a cheater (No. 7 seed). After taking so much of his BS, I got a linesman (Mr. Zinc, director of tennis at the club) who watched my match from that point forward. I was on the first court so plenty of people were gathering. I had won the first set and was struggling to hold at 3-3 in the second, despite more bad calls and gaming (like rewrapping his overgrip at 30-all to delay), I get to 40-30 and the guy rips a winner down the line – it was 12 inches inside the court. I dived for it, landing next to my chair – call it out and sit down. 4-3. I looked at the umpire – (who was also tired of this guy cheating) confirms the ball landed out.
The dude goes ballistic! He refuses to change sides on the court so I go stand next to him at the baseline to receive his serve. I’m bouncing, stretching to keep warm right next to the guy. … Some hecklers from the stands start shouting at him. He then leaves the court to chase the heckler – never returned. I looked at the director, still sitting on the court… “Game, Set, Match!”
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened while you were playing tennis?
It was here at Tennis Warehouse, I was feeding Jason some tennis balls for a video shoot from the net. Jason was to hit a serve then I would feed him the next balls and move him around the court that way. His first serve is hit VERY solid and right at ME! Pegs my inner thigh where it took 100% of the momentum, sticks there on my thigh for an extra moment and drops to my feet – as I drop to the court. Fortunately – it missed more sensitive areas by about two inches. I had a round purple bruise on my inner thigh for six weeks. Jason still won’t come to the net when we play! (side note: Jason still feels really bad!)
Have you had any injuries? For how long? How did you deal with them?
First injury was in Junior College in a team challenge match (against JT) where I went for a wide groundstroke and my back muscles seized and I blacked out. Woke up looking at my coach and JT standing over me as I lay there.
Worst injury bar none was Plantar Fasciitis – limping for months, finally took about 11 months to heal. Latest is tennis elbow, still recovering – rest, rest, rest…
What is your favorite part of being a TW playtester?
Not only seeing the latest and greatest product but playing with it all. Also not a bad way to spend time … playing tennis.
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with?
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
None of them!
What has been your favorite review and why?
Please check back next week when we highlight another playtester in our next installment of “Meet the Playtesters.”
Going back to the 70’s, usually the first thing I think is Disco, man! Polyester, terrycloth, and bell bottoms, baby! When I think of tennis in the 70’s I think of long hair, corralled with a terrycloth headbands, wristbands, tight polos, and short-shorts. Along with all of that, were the sweet track jackets some of the top players wore. Names like Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas, and John McEnroe come to mind.
Fila has gone retro with a few of their track jackets, bringing back a couple of classics:
Nike, a trailblazer in sports fashion, outfits Rafa and Roger with these stylish threads:
Fred Perry continues to offer a classic look with their track jackets,
while the ever fashionable Lacoste keeps pace as well.
On the rare occasion I get the TV to myself at my house, I sometimes like to throw in a classic match DVD and watch tennis from the 1970s and ’80s.
On one such rare occasion, I was watching my copy of Borg vs. Gerulaitis, the Wimbledon 1977 semi-final, and I noticed Vitas Gerulaitis using a short, off pace slice backhand down the line. Being Wimbledon, Gerulaitis was following it into the net, forcing Bjorn Borg to dig out a tough forehand. Gerulaitis would then volley the ball cross court to Borg’s backhand corner. Often, his volley would go for a clean winner or force an error from Borg. In the early stages of the match, to win the point Borg had to come up with something spectacular. Being Borg, he did, of course, come up with a solution. Hey, you don’t win five straight Wimbledon Championships without figuring out a way past the volleyer.
Anywho, it was the slice backhand down the line that was setting up this play so well for Gerulaitis. If this one particular play gave Borg all kinds of issues, what would it do to my fellow TW playtesters? There was only one way to find out and I started to work this shot into my repertoire.
The short, off pace slice down the line has been serving me well for the last few months. Unlike the Gerulaitis vs. Borg match-up, I’m not playing on grass so I don’t always follow this shot to the net.
When staying at the baseline, I’ve found this short slice shot to really open up my opponent’s backhand corner. By bringing them in short, I can follow up with a deep ball to the backhand and force them to hit off the back foot. If I can hit that shot strong enough, I’ve found I can often draw and error then and there to win the point. If not, I usually get a short ball back, which I can attack and follow to the net.
I’ve found that if my opponent tries to approach the net after I’ve hit the short slice to the forehand, he/she has to dig the ball up and over the net, giving me ample opportunity to attack the approach shot with a passing shot or a lob.
Like Gerulaitis, I will follow this shot to the net as well. Most of the time my opponents will try to pass me down the line, allowing me to volley the ball cross court for a winner or to force an error. Because my opponent has to hit the ball up, rarely is the passing shot really tough to handle.
When it comes to the short slice backhand down the line, so far so good. I use this shot here and there during point play and have found it to be a very reliable tactic. When an opponent is really giving me trouble, I will let my demon side take over for a bit and hit two short backhand slices down the line in a row. However, I usually reserve such deviousness for when I’m feeling particularly mean.
Of course, there is a solution to this play. If you can’t figure it out like Borg did, then you’ll have to watch the match and see how he did it. We sell the Borg vs. Gerulaitis 1977 Wimbledon semi-final DVD for $12.99, and in my opinion it’s worth every penny. What a great match between two legendary players and what a great way to pick up a new tactic.