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?
Our next featured Tennis Warehouse Playtester is Tiffani. Tiffani can be seen on various playtests of lighter racquets as well as a staple in women’s shoes. She can also be seen every week on her Vlog. Check out her interview below.
Racquet of Choice: In between the Tecnifibre Rebound Pro and Yonex RDS 003 2008 version
String of Choice: Yonex Tour Super 850 for the RDS 003. No favorites yet for the Rebound Pro.
Shoe of Choice: Original Asics Gel Resolution was my favorite. My current favorite shoe is the Nike Zoom Breathe 2K11.
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I started to play tennis at age 15. I had just quit competitive gymnastics after nearly 10 years of being in that sport. I needed something to do. I trained several hours a week for gymnastics. I couldn’t go from four hours of gym practice a day to sitting on my backside. My brother was a competitive tennis player, so it was an easy choice for me. I played varsity singles through high school, winning league team and individual titles. My biggest regret in tennis is not trying to play competitively in college.
Who inspires you to play tennis?
I love the game and play because that drive to be better never stops. Though I don’t look to pros as role models anymore, I do think often about a tennis coach of mine as a teen. He was a cancer survivor who had battled the disease in his late teens and then went on to play tennis at the collegiate level. Then in his 30s, he fell ill one day and died suddenly. I think often about the way he motivated me to play, but I also think about how he lived his life and how he loved tennis. That, too, is an inspiration.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
That’s easy: Down-the-line backhand. I hit a two-handed backhand, and there’s nothing more satisfying than lining up and giving it a whack. I find it especially satisfying if I can hit it behind someone.
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
Ha! I can’t compare my game to any pro, but I wish I had the game of Kim Clijsters. I like to think that I’m pretty quick around the court, and I try to use my quickness for a counterpunching style. I’m not going to blow anything by you, but I will make you work. Plus, Kim is a mom, too. I love that she came back to play professional tennis after having her daughter.
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
It was on TV: Goran Ivanisevic’s 2001 Wimbledon victory over Pat Rafter. I always found him entertaining for his personality (Good Goran, Bad Goran, who is going to show up?) and was amazed by his serving. He had been denied the Wimbledon title before, and it was a fairytale with him being a wildcard in 2001.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
One that comes to mind is a high school match. We were playing our high school rivals. My opponent also played at the same racquet club as I did, so we knew each other well. We played every team twice in our league. The first half of the season I lost to her after going up with an early 3-0 lead in the first set. This time she went up 3-0 early, but I bounced back to take the first set 6-3. I was the final singles match left on court with one of the doubles matches still going on (our format was four single matches, two doubles matches). It was a tight match, but we were leading. The doubles match split sets, and if our team was to win, I needed to win in straight sets. I can’t remember how the second set went until the tie breaker. I did not play well initially and went down set points with the score 1-6. I slapped my thigh, took off my hat and threw it against the back fence. Next thing I remember is heading up to shake hands at the net. Victory! 6-3, 7-6 (8-6). We won league that year, too.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened while you were playing tennis?
Most of the funny things happened away from the courts on the trips we took to tennis tournaments, but there was the time I played a tournament at a small club that backed up to some housing. Someone threw a broken lawn chair over the back fence, and we had to stop play. That was one heck of a reason to call a let.
What is your favorite part of being a TW playtester?
Is there something not to love? Let’s see, I get to play with just about every racquet, wear the latest shoes and use a variety of different strings. I have become much more educated about how the right equipment can be an asset and the wrong equipment a detriment to my game.
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with?
Jason is a good match-up for me. We joined the playtest team around the same time, and I feel like we have improved a lot together. I don’t generate a lot of my own pace, but Jason’s shots are often in my strike zone and I can feed off his power. We have had some long points of running from side to side. He’s also a great sport and always up for a hit.
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
It has to be Troy. I have never played with anyone who hits with so much topspin. His shots generally come up above my shoulder at their peak. I have to really concentrate on taking the ball early. His lefty serve also gives me trouble. And, yes there’s more. Troy’s really quick around the court, and my usual strategies are not very effective against him.
What has been your favorite review and why?
I’ll go with the Yonex RDS 003. All of the playtests are fun, but this was the first playtest where I really just clicked with the racquet being tested. Up until that point, I had liked racquets but not found one I wanted to stock up on. Because I play with so many racquets, the temptation to switch can be strong, but so far I’ve always come back to this one.
Do you have any nicknames from the TW playtest squad?
Yahoo. It all started with the men’s vlog with the poker storyline. I am the dealer for the card game, and he calls me “Yahoo Yamamoto, the fastest server, the fastest dealer, the fastest talker west of Nevada.” He is the mastermind behind it. I’m not sure how he came up with it.
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
I started with the Prince CTS Lightning 110, and I played with that for the first couple of years of playing tennis. I tried the Prince Synergy 28 for about six months and switched back to the Lightning (I still have one!) until I found the Pro Kennex Silver Ace, Heritage edition. I played with the Pro Kennex my last year in high school and then regrettably hung up my sticks for college, when I only played occasionally. I got back into the game post-college with the Babolat Pure Drive Team Plus, the “swirly” cosmetic. I loved it, but I was hitting my forehand late too often, so I went with the standard length Pure Drive. It was Babolat Pure Drive Team, before Cortex, until I started working at TW. I started playtesting, and the first racquet I wanted to switch to was the Tecnifibre TFlash 310 XL — until I found it was not going to be made for the US market. So it was back to the Pure Drive until I playtested the Yonex RDS 003. I still love this racquet and have been playing with it again recently while working on getting back into the game after having my daughter. Before I became a mommy, it was the Dunlop Aerogel 4D 300 Tour for me. I loved the crisp, clean feel and the awesome control. The Tecnifibre Rebound Pro has pulled me away from the RDS 003 again. Love the looks, love the feel and love the blend of power and control.
Please check back next week when we highlight another playtester in another installment of, “Meet the Playtesters.”