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 Sean. Sean can be seen on playtests of all different racquets and shoes. He is a certified Master Racquet Technician and is a supervisor for our Customer Service department. Check out his interview below.
Racquet of Choice: Head Youtek Prestige Pro
String of Choice: Kirschbaum Pro Line II Black
Shoe of Choice: Nike Court Ballistec 2.3
Apparel of Choice: Preferably no shirt in the California sun but more often than not I gravitate towards Nike
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I started getting into tennis as soon as I moved out to California in 7th grade about 12 years ago. My dad got me into tennis after my little league baseball career in Texas ended in failure. I’m also not much of a team sports person so tennis worked out in that regard as well. My theory is if I win I want all the glory and if I lose I want all the blame which is why I much prefer singles over doubles.
Who inspires you to play tennis?
Everyone who I play against inspires me to continue to improve. My competitive nature on the tennis court drives me to constantly want to become a better player and when I don’t play well or are straight up outplayed, it makes me want to come back stronger the next time.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
I love hitting my forehand when I’m on the run and can barely get to the shot. Because my forehand is so wristy, I’m able to come up with some pretty amazing passing shots from that side both down the line and cross court. That look of disbelief on my opponent’s face brings a smile to mine.
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
My first racquet was definitely a Head Titanium Ti.S6 (wonder where I developed a power oriented game). In high school I moved on to using the Wilson Hammer 5.2 frame with the sweet orange paint job. After that my local pro shop hopped on the Babolat band wagon and my coach convinced me to try one out. I ended up with the Babolat Drive Z-Tour which I still have a few frames of to this day. In an effort to replace those racquets I was using a customized Babolat AeroPro Drive for a while until I settled on the Head Youtek Prestige Pro about 6 months ago.
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
It’s too difficult pick just one player that I like to tailor my game after. It’s more of a combination between Michael Chang speed, some Rafa buggy whip forehand, some Fed slice backhand in there, and a serious case of Safin temper.
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
One of my favorite matches off all time to watch on TV was the 2000 U.S. Open final when Safin completely outplayed Sampras to take the title. By far the most incredible match I’ve seen in person was last year at the BNP Paribas Open tournament where Agassi / Sampras / Federer / and Nadal threw down on some epic doubles.
Do you have any superstitions before playing a match?
I actually hate the whole superstitions thing so much that I make a point to break all of the superstitious rules that I can just to prove to myself that they have no bearing on the outcome of the match. I enjoy walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, not knocking on wood, throwing the entire salt shaker forward, and stepping on every line on the court.
Do you have pre-match meals you like to eat before a tournament?
I try to make sure to eat a huge meal the night before I have a match, usually some kind of pasta. Of course now that I think about it, a huge meal of pasta is something I enjoy a couple nights a week, so nothing new there.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
I typically remember the matches in which I become the most angry, at my opponent or myself. I was playing an important doubles match in my high school playoffs and I had gotten on the other team’s case about sketchy line calls. They took offense to this and decided to call a line judge over because he claimed our calls on his big first serve were complete crap. I had a little bit of a Sampras vs. Courier in ’95 flashback and when I get angry I can play some fantastic tennis. I took over and we dominated them for the rest of the match. Definitely a gratifying feeling.
I also got to attend a charity even before the BNP tournament a couple years ago where I got the opportunity to play with some of the pros. I played a few games with Ivan Ljubicic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Shahar Peer, Jensen Murphy and Fernando Verdasco which turned out to be one of the more memorable tennis experiences of my career.
Have you had any injuries? For how long? How did you deal with them?
Unfortunately I’m fairly injury prone when it comes to any activity outside of tennis but I’ve only had one real tennis injury that’s affected my ability to play. A couple years ago I severely sprained my ankle to the point where I needed crutches to walk around normally, not that I actually used the crutches like the doctor recommended. The injury kept me off the tennis court for 6 to 8 weeks which was just about the most frustrating part of the injury.
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with?
I know this is the politian answer to the question but I like hitting with everyone who playtests with me. Tennis is a game where no two players have exactly the same style. The challenge is to make myself such a complete player that I’m able to deal with all sorts of shots and styles.
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
My toughest matchup is definitely against Chris. He uses all of these stupid drop shots that I can get to without problem but then he’s too good around the net for me to win the point without coming up with multiple great shots. Plus, I’m used to getting some free points off my serve and Chris hasn’t missed a return against me in what seems like years. I’m coming for ya Vlogman…
What has been your favorite review and why?
The Yonex V Core 100 S has been one of my favorite playtests to date simply because of how I was playing that day, not necessarily because of the racquet itself. It just happened to be one of those days where I couldn’t miss a shot and every forehand I hit found a line. If you check out the playtest, Brittany and I have some great points.
Do you have any nicknames from the TW playtest squad?
The Hammer, Hemmer Time, Sean “2nd Gear” Hemmer, that guy with the forehand
Please check back next week when we feature another playtester in another installment of, “Meet the Playtesters.”
At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, the action on the stadium courts featured up and coming WTA players. The seeded players were taking advantage of a day off thanks to receiving a bye in the first round.
Other stadium court matches featured a sprinkling of ATP players finishing up the men’s qualifying rounds. The men’s main draw is yet to get underway, with action starting Thursday and the big guns hitting the courts Friday.
With lower ranked players on the stadium courts, the place to be for many fans was out by the practice courts.
Well, Roger Federer was drawing a huge crowd while he practiced with local favorite, Sam Querrey. After the two hit, they played a practice set. Federer did a very Federer-like thing and served an ace to get things going. He held serve at love before forcing Querrey to struggle to hold his first service game.
Federer looked good. His strokes were amazingly relaxed, yet at the same time his energy level was high. There was a constant smile on his face as he bounced on his toes between points, sharing the occasional joke with a member of his entourage.
While in a match Federer looks relaxed, focused and confident, in practice he looks so relaxed he gives off the aura that he might at anytime attempt the impossible and stun the large gathering of fans by hitting the un-hittable shot. The problem for his hitting partner in such a situation, is that Federer is going to make that shot, impossible or not, and all everyone can do is applaud and smile.
Querrey looked like he was having a good time, too. At least until the points started, then he sharpened his focus in order to deal with the Federerness that was unfolding before him.
On the court next to them the ever glamorous, Maria Sharapova was drawing her own large crowd. Working hard in the 80+ degree heat, her practice consisted of hitting, point play and a solid 20 minutes of backhand drills to finish things off.
Just across the walkway, Novak Djokovic was getting in a friendly soccer match with Andy Murray on the extensive grass workout area to the side of the courts — one of the many features the players love about this tournament.
Djokovic and Murray each took to their own individual practices, but other players such as defending BNP Paribas Open champion, Ivan Ljubicic and WTA veteran, Daniela Hantuchova quickly took up residence on the lawn as each went through their own individual warm-ups and workout routines.
With gorgeous weather, the biggest names in tennis on the practice courts and the journeymen and women battling the up and comers on the stadium courts, today was definitely the perfect start to the 2011 BNP Paribas Open.
If you make it out to the tournament this year, be sure to swing by the Tennis Warehouse tent and say hi.