Meet the Team That Tennis Pros Pay $40K a Year to String Their Racquets

During matches, Federer changes racquets each time the balls are changed, which happens after the first seven games and then every nine games thereafter. Nine racquets would be more than sufficient to see him through his opening match. The already strung rackets were arranged in a row against a dresser. Each had a small piece of white tape on its throat indicating the day it had been strung and the level of string tension. Federer had texted Yu the night before with his specifications: he had asked for three racquets to be strung at twenty-six kilos (“Roger wants it in kilos, not pounds,” Ferguson explained), five at 26.5, and one at twenty-seven. Spools of racquet string and rolls of grip tape were strewn across the dresser.

Yu, who was dressed in khaki shorts, a light-blue T-shirt, and sandals, was working at one of the four Babolat Star 4 stringing machines that he and Ferguson had brought to New York (they have two other stringers working with them during the Open). Although the Star 4 dates back to the nineteen-eighties and is no longer in production, they continue to use it because it is light and easy to travel with. “Once these break down, we’re retiring,” Yu joked, as he ran a strand of natural-gut string through the top of the racquet head (Federer was using natural gut for the sixteen main strings and polyester for the nineteen cross strings). After Yu finished, he clipped ten tiny plastic string savers into the string bed of each racquet. Federer likes the string savers because they supposedly reduce friction. Yu, who estimates that he has strung racquets more than five thousand times for Federer, is skeptical. “I don’t think it does much,” he said. “But these guys don’t like to change things,” Ferguson added. After punching in the string savers, Yu stencilled a red Wilson logo on each racquet, wrapped them individually in long plastic bags, sealed the bags with blue tape, then stuck a large decal bearing Federer’s logo (a stylized “RF”) on each bag.

— Michael Steinberger in a post for The New Yorker, on Priority 1, the stringing and racquet customization company that is used by tennis pros like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. The players pay $40,000 a year for the service.

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Photo: Edwin Martinez