Latest Tennis News
Here’s where you’ll find all the latest racket and string news as it happens throughout the year.
Roland Garros Review
Could Rafa make it ten? Could Nole stop Rafa and take his Roland Garros title? These were the questions on everybody’s lips at the start of this year’s event, but, in the end, it was Stan The Man who stood at the top of the pile as the 2015 French Open drew to a close.
Stan Wawrinka, the Australian Open champion of 2014, upset the apple cart with a display of power tennis that brushed aside World No 1 and hot favourite Novak Djokovic on a scorching day in Paris on 7th June. Djokovic had slain the seemingly unbeatable-in-Paris nine times winner Rafa Nadal in straight sets in the quarter-final, then survived a bit of a wobble to take out Andy Murray in five sets over two days in the semis, but, after taking the first set of the final he couldn’t contain Stan’s fearless, ferocious hitting in the final. His dream of a Roland Garros title to complete his set of Grand Slam titles will have to wait another year, and his hopes of achieving the first calendar year Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969 crashed at the second hurdle.
Stan used the same combination of racket and string that he used to win in Australia last year, the Yonex VCore Tour G strung with Babolat RPM Blast. For his part, Novak played with the Head Graphene XT Speed Pro strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings – the same set up he used to win in Oz this year.
The two semi-finalists were the already mentioned Andy Murray, and hometown hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray used his Head Graphene Radical Pro strung with Luxilon Alu Power main strings and Babolat VS Touch cross strings to good effect throughout the tournament, taking out another hometown favourite Jeremy Chardy in four high quality sets in the Last 16 and David Ferrer in four in the quarters before taking Novak all the way in the semis.
This time last year Tsonga was being used as the face to promote Babolat’s then new Pure Strike racket. Unfortunately, Jo couldn’t get on with the frame, and he’s now gone back to using the Babolat AeroPro Drive with which he’s enjoyed so much success in the past. Strung with Babolat VS Team mains and Luxilon Alu Power Rough crosses, Jo survived a monumental tussle with Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals and pushed the eventual winner hard in the first three sets of their semi-final before fading away in the fourth on what was the hottest day of the event this year.
Australian Open Report
The Men’s final was between the same two protagonists as in 2011 and 2013, and, for the third time, Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray to claim his fifth Australian Open singles title. Playing with the latest version of his regular Head racket – the Head Graphene XT Speed Pro – strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings, Djokovic got the better of fellow Head user Murray, who used the Head Graphene Radical Pro strung with Luxilon Alu Power main strings and Babolat VS Touch cross strings.
In the semi-finals Novak put out defending champion Stan Wawrinka, whilst Andy recovered from a set down to put out Tomas Berdych in a bad tempered four setter. Stan used the same racket and string combination he’d used to take the title last year, the Yonex VCore Tour G strung with Babolat RPM Blast, whilst Tomas played with the new Head Graphene XT Instinct strung with his usual Luxilon Alu Power string.
There was less of a racket merry go round this year than normal, most of the top players sticking with the same manufacturer as last year. Tecnifibre has two new signings for 2015, Jeremy Chardy from Head and Donald Young from Prince. Chardy uses the Tecnifibre T-Fight 305 with Luxilon Alu Power strings, and Young played with the T-Fight 315 strung with the same bright green Solinco prototype string he was using in 2014.
Nick Kyrgios was the sensation of the men’s event, playing with the Yonex Ezone Ai 98 strung with Yonex’ own Poly Tour Pro string, and going all the way to the quarter-finals before running into Murray. Yonex also has Borna Coric, the youngest player in the Top 100, on its books, and Borna was playing with the new VCore Tour F racket, also strung with Poly Tour, in Melbourne.
This time last year Roger Federer was using a blacked out Wilson frame that eventually emerged as the Pro Staff RF97 Autograph. This year it was Grigor Dimitrov playing with a blacked out Wilson frame. Rumours circulated that it was one of the new Wilson Burn range of rackets due for launch in February, but there were also rumours that it wasn’t actually a Wilson frame, and that Grigor and Wilson may be parting ways sometime this year. Time will tell.
Rafael Nadal was surprisingly beaten by Tomas Berdych, Berdych’s first win over Rafa since their bad tempered meeting in Madrid in 2005, but the main talking point surrounding Rafa was that he was using the ‘PLAY’ version on his regular Babolat AeroPro Drive racket.
The Babolat AeroPro Drive PLAY racket looks like a regular racket on the outside, but there are sensors integrated into the handle that provide players with access to information on a range of issues: power, impact locator, type and number of strokes – forehand, backhand, serve, overhead smash, etc – and type of stroke played – topspin, slice, sidespin. Babolat’s challenge was to integrate sensors in the handle without changing the playability or the feel of the racket. The design seamlessly integrates two buttons and a USB port inside the butt cap without changing the performance of the racket. Two other Babolat rackets are shown on the Babolat website as being available with the PLAY feature – the Babolat Pure Drive PLAY, and, rather confusingly, the Babolat PLAY Pure Drive. It’s not clear what the difference between these two rackets is.
Whether Rafa and his team actually review the information supplies by the PLAY system or use it in conjunction with video recordings of his matches is not known, but the exposure the system is receiving thanks to Rafa playing with it is priceless.
On the ladies’ side Serena Williams maintained her stranglehold over Maria Sharapova with a straightforward win in the final. Sharapova hasn’t got the better of Williams since the 2004 Wimbledon final, and must be wondering if she ever will again. Serena used the latest incarnation of the Wilson Blade 104, which is basically the same as the 2014 model except for green cosmetics, strung with a hybrid of Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon 4G cross strings. Maria played the Head Graphene XT Instinct, strung with a hybrid of Babolat VS Team main strings and Babolat RPM Blast crosses.