I don’t know about you guys, but I am ready for tennis season to be back in full force! I am counting down the days until the Australian Open! But until then, let’s discuss some player/coach relationships as it seems like lately there has been an influx of new relationships being formed.
It’s not new to see former pros on the coaching end of things, but it seems like lately, all of our favorite players from the past have made their way back to the circuit via coaching. Brad Gilbert has worked with the best of them — everyone from Agassi, Roddick, Andy Murray to Nishikori and even Sam Querrey. Some of those relationships blossomed in chemistry, and some were duds. In 2013, we saw Sharapova hire, and quickly fire, Jimmy Connors — but let’s be honest, there wasn’t enough room on the court for those two superstars. Then there was Martina Hingis’ stint in coaching Anastasia Pavlyuchnkova…until Martina realized how much she missed the limelight and competition.
So, who do we have paired up in 2014?
Let’s take a second to introduce you to our newest weekly blog. Each week we will randomly select a Tennis Warehouse playtester and conduct an interview along with a short clip of his/her playing style. While we already have a Playtester page that tells about each playtester’s favorite racquets, strings, shoe, etc., this blog will go into a more detailed look at each playtester’s tennis career as well as give some insider info on being a TW playtester.
First up, we have Jason Huang. Jason is the social media mastermind of our Facebook page and Twitter account. You can see him on many racquet and shoe reviews in addition to a couple of surprise cameo appearances in a Liquidation Vlog.
Racquet of Choice: Boris Becker Delta Core London (customized)
String of Choice: Polyfibre TCS 16L
Shoe of Choice: Asics Gel Resolution 3
Apparel of Choice: Tennis Warehouse gear of course!
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I started playing in junior high when my dad would take my sister and me to the courts. But I didn’t really get more serious about it until high school when I joined the tennis team. Made varsity doubles my freshman and sophomore years and varsity singles the last 2 years. Yea, we weren’t very good.
Who inspires you to play tennis?
Anyone better than me. Whether I’m watching tennis on TV or at the TW court, when I see players play and hit the shots that I can’t hit, it makes me want to play and practice more. What really inspires me is the idea of continuing to better myself on the court.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
High backhand down the line or reactionary volleys. Oh, sorry, it says “favorite,” not “despised.” My favorite shot to hit on a consistent basis would be my forehand down the line. But the shot that I love, but don’t hit often, is the drop shot. There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing your opponent running as hard as they can to a ball only to watch it double bounce before they can get to it. I think it’s probably due to the fact that it has happened to me so many times (thanks, Chris).
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
I first started with a Wilson Sledge Hammer 2.3 or something like that. It had a fan sting pattern and a beam width of a 2×4. In high school I used a Wilson Hammer 5.0. Then I found the Radical family. I’ve owned the iRadical, Flexpoint Radical and Microgel Radical. Then I went onto the Wilson KFactor KBlade Tour for a year before I found the younger, sexier Head Youtek Speed Pro. After a 6 month stint, I then moved on to the Volkl Powerbridge 9 (customized) for another year. I was pretty happy with my relationship with the 9 ’til the Boris Becker Delta Core London came out. After one hit with it, I dropped the 9 like a bad habit. And here I am today. Sure, that might seem like a lot of racquets, but wait ’til you see Spencer’s list.
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
Well, in my mind, I’d say my game is similar to Rafael Nadal, but slightly better and faster. But then reality kicks in, and I get sad. I think my game is probably most similar to James Blake. It was more apparent when I had a one-handed backhand, but I think the style is still the same. Try to hit big forehands, run around the backhand if possible, and only come up to net to shake hands. Yup, sounds about right.
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
I have two. The first one was when I was in high school. Pete Sampras vs. Alex Corretja at the 1996 US Open Quarterfinals. All I really remember is Pete puking his guts out in the 5th set tie-break, stepping up to the line and dumping a slow first serve like he had nothing left then blasting a huge 2nd serve ace out of nowhere. And the other was much more recent. The 2008 Nadal vs Federer Wimbledon final. So much has already been said about it, just give it a quick Google search. That was the best tennis match I have ever watched. Ever.
Do you have any superstitions before playing a match?
No. Superstitions are for the weak.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
This hurts me to recall, but it was my loss last year at the Santa Maria Open. It was the first round, and I was up against the #1 seed. Mind you, this was my first tournament in 9 years, so I was nervous. The match started, and we traded breaks back and forth, next thing I know, I won the first set 7-6. Second set starts, and I get a break early. Fast forward a bit, I’m serving at 5-4, 40-30. Yes, I had match point. I walked up to the baseline, bounced the ball three times and told myself to just get it in. It didn’t have to be a big serve, just spin it in. First serve, just long. OK, no biggie, got one more serve. Bottom of the net. It wasn’t even close. I just double faulted on match point! I ended up losing that game, and losing that set in another tie breaker. Then it was all downhill from there. My lower back was starting to hurt; actually, everything started to hurt. Third set started with me serving, I held serve, 1-0. 15 minutes later, I lost 6-1. It was a 3 and a half hour match that left me both mentally and physically exhausted. And to make matters worse, it was video taped for the world to see.
Have you had any injuries? For how long? How did you deal with them?
Yea, it’s called my entire right arm. In high school it was tennis elbow. And since working at TW, I’ve had golfers elbow, wrist pain and shoulder pain. But nothing that was serious enough to keep me off the court for more than a week. I just need lots of ibuprofen, Kinesio Tape, compression sleeves, cold packs and Icy Hot.
What is your favorite part of being a TW playtester?
Well, there are many perks of being a playtester. But my favorite part is, obviously, getting to try out all the tennis gear. But not only that, I generally get to try out all the new tennis gear BEFORE 99.9% of people even have a chance to look at it. Makes me feel special. I need to feel special from time to time.
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with?
For this particular question, I like to associate “favorite” along with “challenging.” Because I am a glutton for pain. Being one of the more, how you say, “suckier” testers on the team, almost everyone I hit with is fun and challenging. I love hitting with Brittany and Carol because they literally blow me off the court with their shots, so it’s fun just trying to keep up with them. I love playing against Mark Boone because that man is a wall! We’d rally and have 20-30 ball rallies where, at the end of it, we’re both gasping for air. Each playtester presents a unique set of challenges, and I like that. I know, I know, how very PC of me. Just call me Switzerland.
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
OK, well, this goes back to the question above. Most of the playtesters give me more than I can handle but if I had to choose just one, it’d have to be Brittany. Typically, my strength is hitting my heavy forehand deep and high to my opponent’s backhand. It usually results in a weak, short return where I can hit another forehand. Well, with Brittany, her favorite shot is a high backhand that she takes early, and pelts down the line. What a jerk.
What has been your favorite review and why?
Even though it was for Aprils Fools, it has got to be the Junior Racquet Review. It was hilarious watching us try to play out points with 19-25 inch racquets. Trust me, it’s much harder than we make it look. Remember, we’re professionals. That, and the power of editing.
Do you have any nicknames from the TW playtest squad?
Who made you ask this question? Chris? Spencer? I see what you’re trying to accomplish here. I have two. One is The Forehand, because I like to rip my forehand. Simple. The other is, no, was, Wheels. Let’s just say I wasn’t the fastest and quickest person getting to shots. But that was back in the day! I like to think that I’ve made strides (pun intended) in my footwork speed and anticipation.
Please check back next week when we highlight another playtester in another installment of, “Meet the Playtesters.”