Latest Tennis News
Here’s where you’ll find all the latest racket and string news as it happens throughout the year.
US Open Review
Rafa’s back! If there was any doubt before, there certainly isn’t now as Rafael Nadal hammered his way to a second US Open title with a convincing and comprehensive defeat of World No 1 Novak Djokovic at Flushing Meadows in September. Using his ever present Babolat AeroPro Drive strung with Babolat RPM Blast strings, Rafa was too strong in all departments for Djokovic, who reached three of the four Grand Slam finals this year – Australia, Wimbledon, and the US – but was only successful in Australia.
No matter what event he plays, what surface it’s on, or who he’s facing, Rafa always strings his rackets at 25kg, (55lbs), tension. This is the tension he finds gives him the best combination of power, touch, and feel, whilst enabling him to generate more than 3,000 rpm on his topspin forehand. As usual, Novak used the Head YouTek Graphene Speed Pro 18/20 strung with a hybrid of Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings.
Without a doubt the sensation of the tournament was Stanislas Wawrinka. For so long in the shadow of Roger Federer, “the Swiss No 2” proved that he’s a man to be reckoned with, taking out defending champion and Wimbledon winner Andy Murray to reach the semi-final, before pushing Novak Djokovic to five exhilarating sets. Stan switched from a Head frame to a Yonex racket at the beginning of 2012, and has now really come to terms with how his Yonex VCore Tour 97 plays. He uses the same Babolat RPM Blast string as Rafa, and his powerful, dipping shots were too much for Murray to handle, and very nearly put paid to Djokovic as well.
The other men’s semi-finalist was France’s Richard Gasquet, who made the last four at a Grand Slam event for the first time since Wimbledon 2007. A gruelling five set win over fourth seed David Ferrer in the quarters left Richard a little the worse for wear, and, try as he might, he was unable to make much impact on Nadal. Gasquet uses the Head YouTek Extreme Pro 2.0 racket, strung with Luxilon 4G strings.
Just as Rafa was back on top on the men’s side, so Serena Williams was in total command on the ladies’. Although she dropped a set to Victoria Azarenka in the final after failing to serve the match out at a set and 5-4 up in the second, Serena raised the level of her play to capture the final set 6-1 and take her third US Open, and 17th Grand Slam singles title overall. In an all Wilson racket final Serena used the Wilson Blade 104 strung with Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon 4G crosses, whilst Victoria played the Wilson Juice 100 strung with Luxilon Alu Power strings.
Italy’s Flavia Pennetta rolled back the years to reach the semi-finals, her first singles semi-final in any Grand Slam event, before going down to Azarenka. A lifelong user of Wilson rackets, Flavia played the Wilson Blade 98 16×20, strung with a hybrid of Wilson Natural Gut and Luxilon Alu Power. China’s Li Na was the other semi-finalist, and she managed to salvage three games in the face of a Serena onslaught. Her racket choice was the Babolat Pure Drive GT, strung with a hybrid of Babolat Pro Hurricane mains and Babolat Xcel crosses.
Finally, there was no Men’s Doubles Grand Slam for Bob and Mike Bryan. Already the winners of the Australian, French, and Wimbledon titles in 2013, the brothers failed in their quest to be only the second pair after Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor in 1951 to win all four majors in one year, when they fell in the semi-final to eventual champions Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek.
The wait is finally over! After 77 years of pain and disappointment Britain has another Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion. On 7th July 2013 Andy Murray fulfilled his life’s ambition when, playing virtually flawless tennis, he beat World No 1Novak Djokovic in straight sets to claim the Wimbledon title. Murray used the Head YouTek IG Radical Pro, the racket that took him to his US Open title last September, strung, as then, with Luxilon Alu Power mains and Babolat VS Team crosses. Djokovic played with the Head YouTek Graphene Speed Pro 18/20 racket, strung with a hybrid of Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings.
Both Murray and Djokovic had anxious moments in their semi-finals. Murray was a break down at one-set all against Jerzy Janowicz, who was playing in his first Grand Slam semi, whilst Djokovic was taken the full distance by a man who knows what it’s like to win a Grand Slam, 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. Janowicz used the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT strung with Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour strings. del Potro continues to play the racket he won his US Open title with, the Wilson [K] Factor Six.One 95, which has long since been deleted from Wilson’s catalogue, and strings with Luxilon Alu Power.
Murray’s closest call came in the quarter-final against Fernando Verdasco. In 2009 Verdasco reached No 7 in the world and had a stellar season playing with the Tecnifibre T-Fight 320. At the end of the year he switched to Dunlop rackets and his ranking began to drop. Although he still figures in Dunlop’s advertising campaigns, Verdasco wasn’t using a Dunlop frame at Wimbledon, and neither was he back using a Tecnifibre model. He pushed Murray all the way to a 7-5 final set with a Babolat AeroPro Drive strung with Luxilon Original strings. Will he return to Dunlop, or will there be a mutual parting of the ways as there was with Dunlop and Tomas Berdych in 2010? Time will tell.
The early exits of multiple winners Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal made headlines around the world. Both were beaten by players using Wilson rackets. Sergiy Stakhovsky used the Wilson Pro Staff 95 strung with Signum Pro Plasma HEXtreme Pure strings to take out Federer, whilst Steve Darcis played with the Wilson Six.One 95 to send Rafa on his way home. Roger and Rafa had their usual equipment – the Wilson Pro Staff Six.One Tour BLX strung with Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings for Roger, and the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT strung throughout with Babolat RPM Blast strings for Rafa.
Marion Bartoli may have been a surprise winner of the Ladies’ Singles, but anyone who wins the title without dropping a set certainly can’t be considered a lucky winner. Her victory brought joy to racket manufacturer Prince, as she played with the Prince EXO3 Warrior, strung with Babolat RPM Blast main strings and Babolat VS Team natural gut crosses. Runner up and Serena Williams-slayer Sabine Lisicki used the Yonex VCore Tour 97 racket strung with a hybrid of Yonex’s own Poly Tour Spin, a pentagonally shaped string designed, as its name suggests, to provide players with more spin for the same amount of effort, as her mains. and Prince Natural Gut crosses. Sabine used this combination to great effect, coming up just one win short of the ultimate prize.
Kirsten Filpkens, who didn’t even rank high enough to gain entry to the qualifying event last year, had a dream run to the semi-finals, where she ran into the Bartoli steamroller and was unceremoniously flattened. Kirsten’s choice of gear was the Babolat Pure Drive GT racket with Babolat Pro Hurricane strings. The other beaten semi-finalist, Agnieszka Radwanska, also used a Babolat Pure Drive, but this time it was the Pure Drive Lite with Babolat RPM Blast main strings and Babolat VS Touch natural gut cross strings.
Anoither player using a Babolat racket was Caroline Wozniacki, only in her case it was very much unofficial. Having risen to World No 1 using the Babolat AeroPro Drive Wozniacki signed for Yonex, and has been campaigning their frames for the last couple of years. She’s failed to reach the heights she obtained with the Babolat frame, however, and at Wimbledon she was playing with what was claimed to be an experimental Yonex frame, but was clearly a blacked-out AeroPro Drive…………..
Finally, Bob and Mike Bryan made their own piece of history by winning the Men’s Doubles, and becoming the first men’s doubles pair to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time since frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor in 1951/52. Add to that the fact that they are also the reigning Olympic Men’s Doubles champions, and it’s quite some feat. Bob and Mike both use the Prince EXO3 Rebel 95 strung with a hybrid of Prince Natural Gut mains and Prince Beast XP crosses. Their opponents in the final were Ivan Dodig, who played the Head YouTek IG Radical Pro strung with Luxilon 4G strings, and Marcelo Melo, who used the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT strung with Babolat RPM Blast strings.
The Bryans now go to the US Open at Flushing Meadows in late August to try to become the first players since Steffi Graf in 1988 to achieve a calendar year Grand Slam, and only the second ever men’s doubles pair to win the calendar Grand Slam following the aforementioned Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor who won all for titles in 1951. Incidentally, Sedgman and McGregor also reached all four grand slam finals in 1952, winning in Australia, France, and at Wimbledon before losing in the final in the States, and just missing out on the chance to record a unique two consecutive Grand Slams.
Roland Garros Review
Was there ever any doubt? Rafael Nadal won his eighth Men’s Singles title in early June when he crushed compatriot David Ferrer in straight sets at Stade Roland Garros in Paris. Actually, there was considerable doubt during Rafa’s semi-final against Novak Djokovic, when Serbia’s World No 1 fought to the point of exhaustion and the bitter end before succumbing 9-7 in the final set.
As usual, Champion Nadal played with the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT strung throughout with Babolat RPM Blast strings. Runner up Ferrer used the Prince EXO3 Tour with Luxilon Big Banger Original strings, and Djokovic had the Head YouTek Graphene Speed Pro 18/20 strung with a hybrid of Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings.
With 2013 marking the 30th Anniversary of Yannick Noah winning the singles title, patriotic hopes were high that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could become the first Frenchman to capture the title since Noah, particularly after his stunning defeat of Roger Federer in the quarter-final. Sadly, the semi-final against Ferrer proved to be one match too many, the likeable Frenchman winning only nine games. J-W’s weaponry was the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT French Open, (the same racket as Nadal’s, but finished in special Roland Garros cosmetics), strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough crosses.
On the ladies’ side Serena Williams claimed what is surprisingly only her second Roland Garros singles title, convincingly defeating last year’s winner Maria Sharapova in the final. Serena was in complete command in all her matches, her choice of racket being the Wilson Blade 104 strung with Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon 4G cross strings. Sharapova used the same combination she had used to take the title last year, the Head YouTek IG Instinct racket strung with her by now customary hybrid of Babolat VS Team main strings and Babolat RPM Blast crosses.
This time last year Sara Errani was the talk of the women’s tour, particularly her decision to buy herself out of her contract with Wilson in order to use the Babolat Pure Drive GT racket. She reached last year’s final, and, to show that that had not been a fluke, she went all the way to the semis this year. She again played the Babolat Pure Drive GT, and her string choice was Babolat Pro Hurricane. She may not have made much of an impression against Serena, but she certainly silenced those who believed luck was on her side in 2012. Joining Errani in the other semi-final was Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, using the Wilson Juice 100 strung with Luxilon Alu Power.
In the Men’s Doubles Bob and Mike Bryan claimed their third Grand Slam title in a row, coming back from the brink in a final set tie-break against hometown heroes Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut. Llodra and Mahut led 4-2, and Llodra had a backhand putaway for 5-2 with serve to follow……………. but missed. From 4-3 down the Bryans took four points in a row to take the match, and to set themselves up for a chance to become the first doubles pair since Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor to hold all four Grand Slam doubles titles at the same time way back in 1951/52 – all they need to do is win Wimbledon! Bob and Mike both used the Prince EXO3 Rebel 95 strung with a hybrid of Prince Natural Gut mains and Prince Beast XP crosses.
Davis Cup Quarter-Finals
Two more marathon doubles matches were the main feature of the Davis Cup quarter-finals played at the beginning of April. Although not as long as the longest doubles ever played between the Czech Republic and Switzerland in the first round, both matches were key to the overall outcome of the ties.
Iliya Bozoljac of Serbia was the unlikely hero in the tie which saw 2010 champions Serbia get past the USA in Boise, Idaho. Coming into the match with a doubles world ranking of 1,150, Bozoljac matched and at times outplayed his more illustrious partner Nenad Zimonjic as they inflicted the second consecutive Davis Cup defeat on the world’s No 1 pairing of Bob and Mike Bryan. The Serbs’ 15-13 final set win marked the first time the Bryans had lost two consecutive Davis Cup matches, and it was only their fourth Cup defeat since their first representative match in 2003. This win, combined with Novak Djokovic’s two singles wins, was enough to see Serbia through to their first semi-final since they captured the Cup three years ago.
Bozoljac played with the Wilson Blade 98 racket strung with Luxilon Alu Power strings. Zimonjic used the Head YouTek IG Radical MP with Babolat VS Team main strings and Luxilon Alu Power cosses, whilst the Bryans had their usual Prince EXO3 Rebel 95s, strung with a hybrid of Prince Natural Gut mains and Prince Beast XP crosses.
It was 15-13 final set in Vancouver as well, as Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil edged out Italy’s Fabio Fognini and Daniele Bracciali. Milos Raonic won both his singles to see Canada through to the semi-finals for the first time in history. Fognini’s regular partner, Simone Bolelli was unable to play due to injury. Had he been fit the tight result may have been different. Both Nestor and Pospisil used the Wilson Six.One 95 racket, Nestor’s strung with Wilson Natural Gut mains and Luxilon Alu Power crosses, and Pospisil’s with Luxilon Alu Power mains and Wilson Natural Gut crosses. Fabio Fognini played the Babolat Pure Drive strung with Babolat RPM Blast strings, and Daniele Bracciali the Head YouTek IG Prestige Mid with Luxilon Alu Power strings.
Serbia and Canada will face each other in the semi-finals in September.
The other semi will be between Argentina and defending champions the Czech Republic. The doubles was again the key rubber as Argentina beat France 3-2 in Buenos Aires, with David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos upsetting the odds to beat the established French pairing of Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra in four sets after losing the first. France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his two singles matches, but Gilles Simon, substituting for the injured Richard Gasquet, went down to Juan Monaco on the first day and Carlos Berlocq in the deciding rubber.
The Czech Republic was without injured Tomas Berdych and only had Radek Stepanek available for the doubles in their away tie against Kazakhstan. Lukas Rosol and Jan Hajek proved more than adequate substitutes, winning both singles on the first day, before Rosol won the first of the reverse singles on the final day to secure victory.
Davis Cup 1st Round
The elimination of Spain, the dominant country in Davis Cup in the 21st Century, was the big story in the first round of this year’s event. A Spanish team missing Nadal, Ferrer, and Almagro was unable to resist the Canadians, who reached the quarter-finals of the event for the first time with a 3-2 win in Vancouver.
Milos Raonic won both his singles, from a set down against Albert Ramos in the first match of the tie, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who replaced a very much out of form Marcel Granollers on the final day, to seal Canada’s historic win. Raonic uses the Wilson Blade 98 BLX strung with Luxilon M2 Pro. Ramos, who acquitted himself well against Raonic and beat Frank Dancevic in the final match of the tie, plays with the Babolat Pure Drive strung with Luxilon Original, and Garcia-Lopez uses the Head YouTek IG Prestige, also with Luxilon Original strings.
In Jacksonville the USA seemed to be cruising when they finished the first day 2-0 up against Brazil, but when Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares inflicted only the third ever Davis Cup defeat on Bob and Mike Bryan, (Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra of France in 2008, and Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic in 2005 are the others), things didn’t seem quite so straightforward. When Brazil’s No 1 Thomaz Bellucci beat US No 1 John Isner in the fourth match it was left to Sam Querrey to save American pride with a four set win over Thiago Alves in the final match. Marcelo Melo plays the Babolat AeroPro Drive with Babolat RPM Blast strings, and Bruno Soares the Wilson Six.One 95 BLX strung with Luxilon Alu Power. The Bryans had their usual Prince EXO3 Rebel 95s with Prince Natural Gut/Prince Beast XP strings. Thomaz Bellucci’s racket is the Wilson Steam 96 with Luxilon Alu Power strings, whilst Thiago Alves uses the Babolat AeroPro Drive strung with Babolat RPM Blast. John Isner plays the Prince EXO3 Warrior 100 with Tecnifibre Pro RedCode strings, and Sam Querrey’s choice is the Babolat AeroPro Drive with Luxilon Alu Power.
In Geneva Tomas Berdych & Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic and Stan Wawrinka & Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland contested the second longest match in tennis history, (beaten only by the John Isner v Nicolas Mahut 11 hour 5 minutes epic at Wimbledon in 2010), when they played for 7 hours and 2 minutes before the Czechs triumphed 6–4, 5–7, 6–4, 6–7, 24-22, in what proved to be the pivotal match in a 3-2 win for the Czechs. Berdych used the Head YouTek Graphene Instinct MP with Luxilon Alu Power strings, and Rosol the Wilson Six.One 95 BLX, also with Luxilon Alu Power, whilst Wawrinka played the new Yonex VCore Tour 97 strung with Babolat RPM Blast, and Chiudinelli used the Wilson Blade 98 BLX with unspecified strings.
Serbia’s 3-2 win over Belgium in Charleroi was nowhere near as close as the score suggests, as the Serbs went 3-0 up before substituting both Novak Djokovic and Victor Troicki for the two reverse singles matches. Belgian No 1 David Goffin will rue letting a two sets to love lead over Troicki in the first rubber slip as he lost a third set tie-break and then the next two sets.
Kazakhstan reached the quarter-finals for the second successive year with a 3-1 win over Austria at home in Astana, whilst there were two 5-0 wins as a full strength France cruised past Israel for the loss of only one set in Rouen, and an Argentina without Juan Martin del Potro quelled stronger resistance from Germany in Buenos Aires. These two will face off in the quarter-final in April, with the Argentines having home advantage.
Finally, the closest tie of the round was in Turin, where Fabio Fognini of Italy beat Ian Dodig of Croatia from a set down in the final rubber to secure a 3-2 win for the Italians. Fognini used the Babolat Pure Drive with Babolat RPM Blast strings, and Dodig the Head YouTek IG Radical MP strung with Luxilon Alu Power.
Australian Open Review
For the second consecutive Grand Slam final Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray squared off in the final of the Men’s Singles, and, in a repeat of the 2011 Aussie Open final, Novak Djokovic came out on top to win his third Aussie title in a row, and his fourth overall. Both men played Head rackets and had similar string set ups. Djokovic took the new Head YouTek Graphene Speed Pro 18/20 racket to victory – or did he? –see below – strung with a hybrid of Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings. Murray used the same Head YouTek IG Radical Pro that took him to his US Open title last September, strung, as then, with Luxilon Alu Power mains and Babolat VS Team crosses.
Novak was extremely evasive when asked directly about the new racket in a press conference. When asked whether he was using the new racket, or whether it was the same frame he’s used for the past two years painted to look like the new one he did not give a straight answer. This evasiveness leads a lot of people to believe he’s not using the new Graphene model.
Semi-finalists Roger Federer and David Ferrer played the same combinations they used in 2012. Federer’s racket was the Wilson Pro Staff Six.One Tour BLX, which he strung with Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings, whilst Ferrer used the Prince EXO3 Tour strung with Luxilon Original throughout.
Surprise quarter-finalist Jeremy Chardy of France played with the Head YouTek IG Radical MP strung with Luxilon Alu Power strings, and first time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Nicolas Almagro used the Dunlop Biomimetic Tour 500 strung with Luxilon Original. The only significant professional player under contract to Pro Kennex, Italy’s Andreas Seppi, made the Last 16, playing with the Pro Kennex Kinetic 5G strung with Luxilon Alu Power.
Prince’s well documented financial problems of last year have led them to let go their most charismatic player, Gaël Monfils, who’s now using the Wilson Blade 98 BLX, still strung with the Luxilon Alu Power he was using in his Prince. One player coming back to Prince is Nikolay Davydenko, who, after a few unsuccessful years with Dunlop, was playing with the Prince EXO3 Tour, basically the same racket as the O3 Tour and Ozone Tour rackets he used in his glory days of Top Five rankings and tournament titles. No Prince logo on his strings, however, indicating that he’s not a Prince contract player.
Having had a terrific 2011 playing with the Head Radical MP Bernard Tomic signed with Yonex to use their VCore range of frames in 2012, and the level of his play dipped considerably. This year he was unbeaten coming into the Open, and cruised to the third round before going down to Roger Federer. Tomic carried a Yonex bag, but the blacked out racket he was playing with was unmistakably a Head frame………….
French string manufacturer Tecnifibre has just become the official string and racket provider for the ATP World Tour, and their top endorsee Janko Tipsarevic was using their new light blue coloured Razor Code string in Melbourne, as he has been since the start of the year. It took him into the fourth round, where ill health forced him to retire against Almagro. Having replaced Luxilon as the official string provider expect to see more players with Tecnifibre in their rackets as the year progresses.
This time last year Victoria Azarenka left Head and switched to the Wilson Juice 100 racket, using it to great effect to claim the Melbourne crown. It was more of the same this year, as she used the same combination of Juice 100 and Luxilon Alu Power to retain her title. Runner up for the second time in three years was China’s Li Na, who used the Babolat Pure Drive strung with a hybrid of Babolat Pro Hurricane main strings and Babolat Xcel crosses.
America’s Sloane Stephens was the sensation of the ladies’ event taking down a less than fully fit Serena Williams in the quarter-finals, before bowing to the eventual champion in the semis. Stephens plays with the Head YouTek IG Radical MP racket, and is yet another devotee of Luxilon Alu Power strings. The other losing semi-finalist, Maris Sharapova, was using the new Head YouTek Graphene Instinct MP, strung with her usual combination of Babolat VS Team main strings and Babolat RPM Blast crosses. Maria didn’t have to fend off questions about whether or not it was the new racket or last year’s model made to look like the new one like Novak Djokovic did.
Apart from the Head Graphene saga there was not a lot new on the racket front. As it’s an odd numbered year there were no new rackets from Wilson, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and the rest of the Wilson team playing with the models they used last year, and Juan Martin del Potro still using the [K] Factor Six.One 95 from 2009. Belgians Xavier Malisse and Olivier Rochus continue to play with Prince rackets that have long been deleted from the Prince catalogue – the Diablo for Malisse, and the Triple Threat Graphite for Rochus. Babolat has made minor modifications to its Pure Drive and AeroPro Drive ranges, but the most noticeable change was their new string logo, where the two stripes now only go part way across the strings rather than all the way.
Finally, Bob and Mike Bryan brought a bit of cheer to beleaguered Prince taking their sixth Aussie Open Men’s Doubles title for their thirteenth Grand Slam title overall, one more than John Newcombe and Tony Roche, and an all time record. The Bryans both use the Prince EXO3 Rebel 95, this year strung with a hybrid of Prince Natural Gut mains and Prince Beast XP crosses, as opposed to the all Beast XP stringbed they were campaigning at the start of last year.