Tennis Magazine’s 2010 Racquet Guide. PLUS What You Need to Know About Pro Sticks.
Tennis Magazine's April issue contains the publication's 2010 Racquet Guide, a great overview of all of the new racquets and technology on the market. You can also find an online guide on the Tennis.com site.
The issue also features racquet customizer Nate Ferguson of Priority One, based in Tampa Florida. He is the go-to guy for players such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and many more who spend big bucks on customizing. Cool stuff.
The customizing article, however, prompts me to point out a fact that MANY tennis experts have relayed to me but is not obvious to the tennis playing public; high-level professional tennis players don't play with the racquets consumers can buy, they play with versions of them, every one customized.
The golf industry is similar. Robert Sauerhaft, Managing Editor/Equipment at GOLF Magazine says that "Recreational golfers know that, for the most part, they're playing similar technology with different specs." You cannot buy the equipment Tiger Woods uses.
Recreational tennis players should know the same. Jean-Christophe Verborg, Global Sports Marketing Manager for Babolat comments that "Pro players are key ambassadors for our products and our brand so it's essential they use our products…Players under the Babolat international contract use a 'normal' Babolat racket, same as the rackets sold all over the world, produced in the same factories, under the same process. Yet, because our Pro players are more expert and more sensitive than 'club players' we offer an exclusive and qualitative 'customization' service to them. This service enables [players] to customize their racket with the precise weight, balance and inertia they want."
Laura Lualhati, Communications Manager at Wilson confirms that Wilson sponsored pros play with versions of the models they endorse but also make modifications/customizations based upon their needs at this very high level of the game. "While we do cater to our athletes to a certain extent, they are more often a part of the process of creating the rackets from the very beginning" says Lualhati. Modifications that the pros make are often built into next generation racquets at Wilson.
I suspect most other racquet manufacturers do the same. Some did not respond.
That said, this site will continue to discuss racquets in relation to the pros using them but the prospective buyer should pay attention to specs and buy into new racquet technology at their level. If a racquet is rated for a 5.0 player as example, a 3.5 player might look for the version (similar cosmetic) rated closer to their level of play. It IS possible to get the Fed, Nadal or Williams vibe and cutting edge tech at a level that will grow game.
Hey you can also customize a bit yourself too. Customizers do serve the general playing public as well as the pros. But, if you insist on using the EXACT version a pro is using try asking Ferguson (or Roman Prokes). Not sure they'll do it for you but you can ask.
Related article: New year, new racquet. Tips on choosing a new racquet.