2012 Tennis News Archive

Below you will find stringing news as it happened in 2012, starting with the Australian Open at the foot of the page, right up to the US Open at the top.

US Open Review

At last, the 76 year wait is over!  By beating Novak Djokovic in the final of the US Open on the evening of 10th September 2012, Andrew Murray from Dunblane in Scotland became the first British male since Frederick John Perry in 1936 to lift a Grand Slam singles title.  Co-incidentally, Fred Perry’s last Grand Slam title was also the US title, the US National Championships as it was known in the days before Open tennis.  Perry used a wooden Slazenger racket to win his title, and Head, the company who manufacture Murray’s racket, hadn’t even been founded back then, not that that was any concern to Andy or his legion of followers in 2012.

As with his Olympic victory Andy used the Head YouTek IG Radical Pro strung with a hybrid of Luxilon Alu Power polyester main strings and Babolat VS Team natural gut cross strings.  The switch from Alu Power Rough to standard Alu Power main strings seems to have done wonders for the Scot, who’s clearly playing the best tennis of his life.  Djokovic, who clawed his way back into the match from two sets down, played with his usual Head YouTek IG Speed MP 315 18×20 racket strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings, and Luxilon Alu Power Rough crosses.  As at Wimbledon, both finalists used hybrid natural gut and Luxilon polyester stringing, and also as at Wimbledon one player used the Luxilon in his mains, the other used it in his crosses.  This time around the player with the Luxilon main strings came out on top.

David Ferrer reached another Grand Slam semi-final and took the first set from Djokovic before Novak got used to the almost storm-force winds swirling around Arthur Ashe Stadium, and pulled through in four.  Ferrer played the Prince EXO3 Tour racket strung with Luxilon Big Banger Original throughout, and the other losing semi-finalist, Tomas Berdych also used Luxilon, this time Luxilon Alu Power throughout his Head YouTek IG Instinct.

As at Wimbledon and the Olympics, the Ladies’ title went to Serena Williams, who may not have the World No 1 ranking, but is clearly the best player in the world this year.  Having said that, this time around she came mighty close to losing to the player who does have the World No 1 ranking to her name, Victoria Azarenka, in the final.  Azarenka led 5-3 in the final set and served for the match at 5-4, but Williams took four games in a row to seal her fourth US Open title.  Since changing from an all natural gut stringbed to a hybrid of Wilson Natural Gut mains and Luxilon 4G crosses in her Wilson Blade Team BLX following her French Open defeat, (see Wimbledon review), Serena has been unstoppable, and you can bet that she won’t be going back to all natural gut any time soon.

Beaten finalist Azarenka played the Wilson Juice 100 strung with Luxilon Alu Power throughout, just as she had when taking the Australian Open crown back in January.  The two beaten semi-finalists were the two players who had contested the French Open final in June – Maria Sharapova, who went down in three sets having taken the first against Azarenka, and Sara Errani, who proved that her run to the final at Roland Garros was no fluke, but could only garner three games from a rampant Serena.  Sharapova played the Head YouTek IG Instinct racket strung with her customary hybrid of Babolat VS Team main strings and Babolat RPM Blast crosses, whilst Errani used the Babolat Pure Drive strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut strings throughout.  As mentioned in my French Open Review, Errani’s decision to buy herself out of her previous racket contract was a stroke of inspiration.

 

Wimbledon Review

It was a case of so near yet so far for Andy Murray as he became the first British Men’s Singles finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938 before eventually succumbing to Roger Federer, who wrote his own piece of history by taking his seventh Singles title, equalling the achievement of William Renshaw in the 1880s, and Pete Sampras in the 1990s.  In 1938 Austin had used the Hazells Streamline racket strung with Bow Brand natural gut.  For his part Murray used the Head YouTek IG Radical Pro strung with a hybrid of Luxilon Alu Power polyester main strings and Babolat VS Team natural gut cross strings.  This was a departure from the set up he’s used for the last few years, where he used Luxilon Alu Power Rough as his main string.

As has been the case all this year, Roger Federer played the Wilson Pro Staff Six.One 90 BLX strung with Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings.  The Six.One 90 is an unforgiving racket to play with, but Federer had few problems finding its sweetspot throughout the Championships.  In the semi-finals he put out top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, who, despite playing the same Head YouTek IG Speed MP 315 18×20 racket strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings, and Luxilon Alu Power Rough crosses as he used to win the Australian Open and push Rafa Nadal so hard in the French Open, seemed out of touch and a shadow of the man who had ruled the roost twelve months ago.  For the second year in a row Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made the semis.  He used the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT racket, (finished in the dark red and white Roland Garros colour scheme rather than the standard yellow and white), strung with the same Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings, and Luxilon Alu Power Rough crosses hybrid Djokovic used.

The big upset of the tournament – and one of the biggest upsets ever at Wimbledon – was the second round defeat of French Open champion Rafa Nadal by Lukas Rosol.  Nadal, as always playing the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT strung with Babolat RPM Blast strings, was simply overpowered and blown away by Rosol, who used the Wilson Six.One 95 BLX strung with Luxilon Alu Power throughout.

On the ladies’ side there was no stopping Serena Williams, who powered her way to a fifth Ladies’ Singles title.  Serena turned up the power whenever she needed to, and ended the tournament having served more aces than any other competitor – man or woman.  It was a Wilson Singles double, as Serena used the Wilson Blade Team BLX racket.  Having been a devotee of an all-natural gut stringbed for years, however, Serena played with a hybrid of Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon 4G crosses.  The switch followed her shock first round exit to Virginie Razzano at Roland Garros, where Serena felt she couldn’t get enough control and spin on the ball when she needed to.  Judging by her commanding performance at Wimbledon she’ll probably be sticking with her new hybrid going forward.

Beaten Ladies’ finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, appearing in her first Grand Slam final, used the Babolat Pure Drive Lite racket, and also used hybrid stringing, in her case Babolat RPM Blast main strings and Babolat VS Touch natural gut cross strings.  The losing semi-finalists were Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, who used the Wilson Juice 100 strung with Luxilon Alu Power throughout, and Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who used the Yonex VCore 98D racket with a full stringbed of Tecnifibre Pro RedCode.

 

French Open Review

Rafael Nadal remains the King of Clay after thwarting Novak Djokovic’s attempt to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles at the same time, and claiming an unprecedented seventh title in the final at Roland Garros.  In a rain affected final, Rafa came back from a break down in the fourth set to seal a four set win, and move one title ahead of Bjørn Borg in the French Open record books.  In a rerun of the Australian Open final in January the result may have been different, but both players played the same racket and string combination – Nadal used the Babolat AeroPro Drive strung with Babolat RPM Blast strings, and Djokovic used the Head YouTek IG Speed MP 315 18×20 strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings, and Luxilon Alu Power Rough crosses.

Semi-finalists were Roger Federer, who was unable to repeat last year’s win over Djokovic at the same stage, and David Ferrer, who put out the higher seeded Andy Murray in the quarter-finals.  Federer played the Wilson Pro Staff Six.One 90 BLX strung with Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings, whilst Ferrer was using the Prince EXO3 Tour with Luxilon Original throughout.

Biggest story of the tournament was the emergence of Italy’s Sara Errani on the ladies’ side.  Errani repaid Wilson €30,000 to buy herself out of her racket contract so that she could play with the Babolat Pure Drive, and her improvement has been nothing short of phenomenal.  Errani captured three titles in the run up to Roland Garros, then stormed her way to the final before a nerve-ridden display saw her fall to Maria Sharapova.  Complementing Errani’s Babolat frame were Babolat VS Team natural gut strings.

New champion Sharapova played the Head YouTek IG Instinct racket strung with her by now customary hybrid of Babolat VS Team main strings and Babolat RPM Blast crosses, and her victory completed her career Grand Slam, adding to Wimbledon, (2004), the US Open, (2006), and the Australian Open, (2008).  Sharapova’s three previous Grand Slam wins were all achieved with Prince rackets.

Sam Stosur, the reigning US Open champion, again did well at Roland Garros, reaching the semi-final playing her Babolat Pure Storm with Babolat RPM Blast strings, and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova completed the semi-final line up with her Wilson Tour BLX strung with Luxilon Alu Power strings.

 

Australian Open Revue

The longest final in Grand Slam history was a fitting end to this year’s Australian Open, an event that saw more new player and racket combinations than for a number of years. Some players benefitted, whilst others will either need longer to adapt to their new choice, or will end up regretting the change.

Novak Djokovic again reigned supreme, capturing his fourth Grand Slam title out of the last five, and setting himself up for a shot at becoming the first man to hold all four Slam titles at the same time since Rod Laver in 1969 if he wins at Roland Garros in June. Novak’s racket in Oz was the Head YouTek IG Speed MP 315 with the 18×20 string pattern. His string choice was Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings, and Luxilon Alu Power Rough crosses. Rafa Nadal set an unwanted Open era record of finishing runner up in three consecutive Grand Slam singles finals when he went down after 5 hours and 53 minutes in the final. Rafa used the Babolat AeroPro Drive racket, strung with Babolat RPM Blast strings.

Much was made of Rafa switching to a heavier racket in search of more power and shot penetration. It’s not so much the amount of weight he’s added, which is only three grams, but where he’s added it – at the top of the racket head – that makes the difference. Little if anything was said about the fact that the inside of Djokovic’s racket head was covered in lead tape, making his racket considerably more head-heavy than standard. Exact specs are not available at the moment, but judging by the amount of tape used it was probably in the region of 10 grams.

Wilson fully launched their 2012 range of rackets in Melbourne, with their top endorsee, Roger Federer, using the new Pro Staff Six.One 90 BLX to reach the singles semi-final. This is the latest incarnation of the same racket Roger has used since 2003. Its colour scheme may change, but the specs remain the same. As always, Roger’s string choice was Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Luxilon Alu Power Rough cross strings. The other men’s semi-finalist, Andy Murray, who came so close to upsetting Novak Djokovic, used the Head YouTek IG Radical Pro racket, strung with Luxilon Alu Power Rough main strings and Babolat VS Team natural gut crosses.

Whilst The Big Four men players have all stuck with their regular frames and strings there have been more racket changes and new rackets this year than ever before. On the new rackets front, Babolat had all its Pure Drive contract players – Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Li Na, etc – playing with the new model Pure Drive, featuring ‘an incredible futuristic cosmetic’ – their words, not mine. This is the first real makeover for the Pure Drive since its introduction in 1994, which must be some sort of modern record for longevity of design.

Prince has introduced a new racket in the EXO3 Warrior, which was used by John Isner, Vera Zvonareva, and most of their team who were previously playing with the EXO3 Black. They also have a new version of the EXO3 Rebel 95, which has a brighter yellow finish without the webbing graphics on the outside of the racket shafts, and was being played by the Bryan Brothers in the doubles events. Prince’s top EXO3 Rebel 95 singles player, Gaël Monfils, was playing with the previous model, however. Prince also chose the event to announce that the Bryan Brothers are now playing with the Prince Beast XP string instead of their previous hybrid of Prince Natural Gut and Luxilon TiMo. The Bros went all the way to the final of the Men’s Doubles, but went down to Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek. Paes used the Babolat Pure Drive strung with Babolat VS Team Natural Gut, whilst Stepanek became the first male player to win a Grand Slam event with a Bosworth Custom racket, (the Tour 96), strung with Pacific Tournament Pro natural gut.

Two of the highest profile rackets switchers were Bernard Tomic and Stanislas Wawrinka, who have both left Head and signed with Yonex. Both are using the Yonex VCore 98D, and in Wawrinka’s case he’s now 100% a Yonex man, as he’s wearing Yonex clothing and shoes as well. Tomic fared the better of the two, getting to the last 16 before running into Roger Federer, but at least Wawrinka seemed happier with his new racket than his second round opponent, former finalist Marcos Baghdatis, did with his. Baghdatis has left Tecnifibre and was playing with a completely unmarked light blue coloured frame, but it was far from his liking as he destroyed four of them at a change of ends in the second set. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7kS68T6ptA&ob=av3e Whether it was the frame itself, or the ployester and gut hybrid stringing he was using that’s visible in the clip isn’t known, but he was one unhappy man.

One man who has not changed rackets, even though his supplier’s advertising campaigns say he has, is Juan-Martin del Potro. Wilson has him using their new Juice Pro 96 racket, but in Melbourne he was still playing the Wilson [K] Factor Six.One 95, the same frame he used to win the US Open in 2009. He campaigned this frame last year as well, so he clearly prefers it to anything Wilson has to offer at the moment.

On the ladies’ side the biggest change was Victoria Azarenka leaving Head for Wilson, and playing their new Juice 100. She used it to the best possible effect as, playing with Luxilon Alu Power strings, she captured her first Grand Slam title and the No 1 world ranking in style, completely outplaying Maria Sharapova in the final for the loss of just three games. Sharapova played the Head YouTek IG Instinct she helped launch last year, with a hybrid of Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings and Babolat RPM Blast crosses. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova reached the semi-finals with the new Wilson Tour BLX racket, like Azarenka strung with Luxilon Alu Power. Defending champion Kim Clijsters completed the semi-final line up with her Babolat Pure Drive strung with Babolat VS Touch natural gut. Kim was the only semi-finalist, male or female, to play a 100% natural gut stringbed.

Jelena Jankovic continues to tread the unmarked racket path she has followed since officially parting company with Prince a couple of years ago. In Melbourne she was using an unmarked all black frame, which she carried in an unmarked white racket holdall. She’s also changed clothing supplier, and this year she’s sporting Fila attire.

Finally, Bethanie Mattek-Sands brought Donnay back into the winner’s circle when she won the Mixed Doubles title alongside Horia Tecau using the Donnay Formula racket, a racket she credits with saving her career following serious shoulder problems last summer. The Australian Mixed title might not carry the same weight as the five Wimbledons Bjorn Borg won with Donnay, but it’s a start, and with James Blake playing the Donnay X-Dual Pro things could be looking up for one of the games oldest racket manufacturing names.