The Qatar Tennis Federation (QTF) hosts 6 ITF Futures events every year and 2 junior ITF events.
The senior events are run over two, three week periods. The first series is run early in the year, March/April time and the second series takes place in November/December.
This year I was one of the stringers at the second series, my first professional gig, and I learned a lot from it.
Here's a few interesting facts from the events:
- Wilsons' Blade 98 range and Heads' Prestige range were the most used rackets.
- Luxilon Alu Power 130/16 was the most used string
- The most used string gauge was 130/16
- Tensions used ranged from 18 kilos to 27 kilos.
This series of events attracted players from all over the world, which was enjoyable as it provided an insight into how other nationalities value stringing.
A lot of the players stayed for either two or three weeks. This would help them out a lot financially as they would be able to eliminate travel costs for this couple of weeks, which no doubt builds up over the course of the year.
The good thing for us, the stringers, is that it lets you become familiar with each player and what their preferences and expectations are from you.
A player who is tuned into the importance of stringing will ask for/do the following:
- Ask for the same machine for all his stringing jobs (consistency of tension)
- Ask for the same stringer (consistency of work)
- Look at changing tensions during the week (morning or night match, different temperatures)
- Ask for the rackets strung the night before or the day of the match.
- Have a racket or two strung at different tensions to give them various options during a match.
I have to admit it was surprising how few requests we received for any of the above. It would make you wonder, even at professional level, do players pay enough attention to their strings.
Here's the interesting thing though, out of the 4 finalists (there was 6 finalists but seen as 2 players made the finals on 2 of the weeks, I say 4 finalists) 3 of them were the ones who paid most attention to their stringing. They were the ones who made the various requests.
Is this a coincidence? I don't think so!
From a personal point of view I had some new experiences too.
One player wanted his knots to be done in the same holes all the time, probably a superstition. That was no problem, just meant you had to watch where you started.
I also got to string with Natural Gut for the first time. Not a big deal to a lot of stringers, but coming from Ireland where our weather isn't conducive to natural gut, it was an interesting experience. I have read about stringing with gut a few times and that it requires extra attention in how it's handled and how it's fed through the stringbed.
More often than not it would be used as the crosses in a hybrid stringing pattern, this time however it was to be used as the mains. This made the handling side of it easier but it did mean when weaving the cross strings you would have to be more careful so as to prevent notching the string.
Thankfully all went well and I ended up doing quite a few more over the course of the 3 weeks.
My most interesting job of the few weeks was very similar to the natural gut one above, ie. gut in the mains and polyester in the crosses. The pattern was 16 x 19, here's where it got interesting though. This player wanted 14 of the mains done using gut and the outer 2 mains done using polyester, all the polyester (crosses and mains) had to be part of the same string.
I'm not sure what was the reason for this, so I asked a stringers group that I am part of. This group contains Grand Slam stringers, some of which are in Australia currently as part of the Australian Open Stringing Team.
No one could come up with a beneficial reason as to why you would string this way. Some of the suggestions were, to save cost on stringing (you could get 3 sets of mains out of a 12m set instead of the normal 2), possibly stringbed stiffness (this would need to be checked), cosmetic was another suggestion and finally to make him feel important :). Unless the stringbed stiffness turns out to be the case (which I will test and get back to you about) it does look as though it has no real benefit to his game.
So all in all I had a very enjoyable few weeks and look forward to my next tournament, wherever that might be!