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!
Our next featured Tennis Warehouse Playtester is Chris. Chris has a record of over two hundred playtest reviews on racquets and shoes as well as his always informative weekly Vlogs. He is the Web Editor of Tennis Warehouse. Check out his interview below.
Racquet of Choice: Whatever I grab from the office
String of Choice: Kirschbaum Pro Line Evolution 17 and Volkl Cyclone 16
Shoe of Choice: Nike Zoom Breathe 2K11
Apparel of Choice: I’m a sucker for a stylish polo.
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I played my first tournament when I was 15, made the semi-final and took my first lesson the week after. I played soccer mostly through high school.
Who inspires you to play tennis?
My dad. He used to play on the weekends and I started to tag along for a hit.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
My backhand slice is my favorite shot. The whys are many: It tends to go in more than my other shots, I like to hit drop shots with it, a lot of people don’t like to return slice and I’m equally comfortable going cross court or down the line.
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
I can’t list them all, but here’s my best shot at it. Slazenger Club (wood), Head Graphite Master, Browning Aluminum, Browning VTP (Variable Taper Profile and back to graphite), Dunlop Max 400i (injection molded wonder stick and more buttery than butter itself), Wilson Pro Staff 85 St. Vincent (gave them away to a mate’s younger brother, hindsight has made that an obvious and painful mistake), Head Prestige Pro, Head Prestige Classic 600, Donnay Pro One Mid, Donnay Pro One Oversize (got shipped the wrong headsize so just switched from the mid, ha ha), Head Twintube Radical Oversize (that wrong shipment got me on an oversize kick), Rossignol F250 (back to mids, what flex, what feel! I was in love there for awhile), Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 95, Head Prestige Classic 600 (again!), Yonex MP Tour 1 Mid, Yonex RDX 500 Mid, Babolat Pure Drive Roddick, Volkl Power Bridge 10 Mid and that brings me to now. I know I’m missing some in there.
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
Steffi Graf and it’s not just because we both have great legs! Steffi has a dynamite backhand slice and I can appreciate that.
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
It was really a day of watching tennis seeing the men’s quarters at Wimbledon in 1993 on Centre Court. I was sitting right behind the baseline with my very good friend and doubles partner, and we saw Sampras vs. Agassi with Pete winning in 5 sets. Next match was Becker vs. Stich with Boris winning in 5 sets. It was an exhausting day of watching epic tennis. Several hours were spent in the pub to help us recover from that one.
Do you have pre-match meals you like to eat before a tournament?
I do not have a go-to meal but have made some seriously bad food mistakes before playing. The worst was after a first round doubles win and I went to a diner with my partner. I had the world’s largest portion of biscuits and gravy, and he had an equally large portion of eggs benedict. The food was superb and we tucked in. Needless to say, we couldn’t move afterward and lost to a team we had a good chance of beating. I later found out one of our opponents had told my partner it was a great place to eat. Fill in your own conspiracy theory here.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
It was in the Santa Maria Open in the 5.0 singles semi-final. I was down something like 6-2, 4-2 and thought, what the hell, I’m going out swinging. I hit three return winners to get my first break of the match. Held off several match points at 5-6 and forced a tiebreak. I saved a total of 8 match points in the second set, finally winning the breaker 16-14. I got a great start in the third set going up 3-0. At that point my opponent mentally folded and I closed out the set 6-0. The next day I received a walk over in the final. A bit of an anti-climactic end, but that semi was my best comeback win.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened while you were playing tennis?
I was teaching tennis in England on one of the rare, rare occasions it actually gets foggy there. It was at night and the fog got so bad you couldn’t see the net from the baseline. There were three of us teaching and we sent all of the students home as the conditions were just unplayable. While picking up the loose tennis balls scattered around the courts, one of the other pros smacked a ball in my direction. Not knowing who had hit it at me, I fired off two shots guessing roughly where the other two pros were. That started a full on ball war and the three of us just started smacking balls into the fog trying to hit each other. I could hear the crack of a fiercely struck tennis ball and had know idea if it was heading my direction. We continued to try to take each other’s heads off for about 40 minutes, with two of us eventually pinning the third coach down inside the ball shed at the end of the three courts. Each time we got hit or heard another yell out in pain, it was hilarious. We could rarely see each other and used the sounds of each other’s laughter to zero in on our targets.
Have you had any injuries? For how long? How did you deal with them?
My worst injury came when my triceps tendon pulled a piece of the bone off my elbow – an overuse injury. I played lefty for about six-months while I rehabbed my right arm. I still have issues with it till this day and switch to a two-handed backhand when it starts to get sore. I go right back to hitting one-handed backhands once my arm feels better.
What is your favorite part of being a TW playtester?
We have the best jobs in the building, of that I have no doubt. We get to test products while they are still in development as well as test finished products before they hit the market. I’m pretty confident we have the world’s largest selection of racquets, shoes and string ready to hit at any given time — considering our stock, demo program and all of the racquets we have stockpiled in our private racquet room and strings in our string vault. There are times when we can barely walk across our office because of all of the products we are testing. I’m serious, hurdling boxes is an everyday occurrence for us. All in all, we work hard at what we do and we just have a great time doing it.
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with? How’s this for political correctness?
I like to hit with everyone as it gives me a chance to hit against many varied styles of play. I know, what a cop out!
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
Britt’s laser-like groundstrokes, Gran’s deft volleys, Mark’s ability to get everything back and Spennie’s continued improvement all push me to play well. It’s fun going in to a hit knowing I have to play well to come out ahead.
What has been your favorite review and why?
Not reviews per se, but being a part of the Gotta Want It series has been lots of fun. The fact that I’ve been able to run my mates into the ground all in the guise of getting them better has brought me hours of amusement.
Do you have any nicknames from the TW playtest squad?
Vlogman is the only one I’m aware of, but there are probably a few I’m not aware of. Ignorance is golden, so if you know of any, don’t tell me!
Please check back next week when we feature another playtester in another installment of, “Meet the Playtesters.”