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RACKETS, STRINGS 05.06.2018

At the Official Racket and Stringing Service,
tension is high

For eight years now, Babolat has provided the racket and stringing service at Roland-Garros. Over three weeks, more than 17 stringers will work around the clock to prepare players’ rackets, at times with intense pressure. A closer look…

It’s real ballet inside the heart of the RG Tennis Club, where Babolat provides the Official Racket and Stringing Service. Like in a beehive, everyone is working on a mission with surgical precision ­– nothing is left to chance. As soon as the racket is brought to the reception desk, important information is collected from the player, or, more often, from the coach or a close associate of the player. “For Rafael Nadal, it is often Carlos Moya who comes. In fact, it depends on the situation. In any case, this support is crucial. It’s about getting the right information for tension and strings,” explains Eric Ferrazzi, manager of the Racket and Stringing Service. For efficiency, everything is computerized. Gone are the notebook and pencil of the 80s. Once the racket is entrusted to the team at reception, the ballet begins. At Roland-Garros, there is an essential stage prior to stringing, where the stringer trades his traditional clamp for a can of compressed air: “One badly-placed piece of clay, and breakage will occur during stringing, so we have to clean the racket. We blow air in the grommets. We wipe it. We basically pamper it.” And then, in a continuous movement, the fairy-like fingers of the professional stringers take over.

At Roland-Garros, it is essential to clean the rackets before stringing. One badly-placed piece of clay, and breakage will occur during stringing.

These string experts are, above all, true enthusiasts ready to stay late into the night to meet the champions’ needs: “Some players always have their racket strung by the same person. For Rafael Nadal, this year, it’s American Josh Newton. Everyone knows that inaccurate tension can change the course of a match. Our goal is to be as precise as possible. When you are doing a standard request, and following the overall flow of orders, the stringing time is around 20 to 25 minutes. The idea is take your time when there is no urgency,” says Eric Ferrazzi. However, this relative calm takes another turn when a player makes an “on court” request. “This is when there is the most tension. Every second counts. The goal is to string a racket in 10 to 12 minutes.” Around 20 minutes including the crazy race from the court to the stringing center, and back to the court: “It’s good to have also have strong legs,” jokes Eric Ferrazzi.

Observing this hive, you get a sense of the seriousness, as well as the pleasure of stringing: “My team is made up of true fans, some of whom have up to 21 years of experience at Roland-Garros. Even though we work hard, we still manage to follow, in our way, the tournament.” Last year, more than 5,000 rackets passed through the hands of this team, using 58 km (36 miles) of string at an average tension of 23.5 kg (52 lbs).

A customization service open to all tournament players

And to bring even better service to players, the French brand has decided to innovate by offering its racket customization service to all players of the tournament. Two members of the team prepare the rackets, and make them identical in terms of weight and balance: “Our customization service works all year for our players under contract; it seemed logical to us to propose this service to everyone during the tournament.” Logical and appreciated.

Open early in the morning, closing late at night, the Racket and Stringing Service moves to the beat of the rush of activity. Ten nationalities make up the team, all speaking the same language: that of strings, knots, and the famous stencil to feature the logos of the brands: “Since the beginning of our collaboration with Roland-Garros, our goal is simple: offer players a Racket and Stringing Service that is the gold standard of all Grand Slam services.”

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