July 2007 Volume 35 Number 7 $5.

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Contents

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INDUSTRY NEWS 7 Sign up to participate in the new
Court Activity Monitor

7 7 8 8 8 SPECIAL SECTION 18 Selling Tennis Balls
Bulk purchases, consumer promotions, and new packaging all help to give your customers what they need.

Martina Navratilova headlines USTA Tennis Teachers Conference Lee Tennis to host indoor clay court conference Prince says it’s poised to break $100 million in sales Penn offers chance to win Chrysler Sebring Dunlop expands its line of Aerogel racquets Lever 2000 launches huge grassroots promotion Head introduces new MicroGel Radical line Aussie Open to get new court surface for 2008 USPTA schedules 2007 World Conference on Tennis Prince adds three new Ozone frames PTR Development Weekend set for September Head Radical promotion offers chance to hit with Agassi

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20 Ball Testing
In our exclusive tests, we follow the bouncing ball from the lab to the court.

26 How a Tennis Ball is Made
A tour through the Penn factory in Phoenix, where 330,000 tennis balls roll out every day.

FEATURES 30 Court Appeal
The latest tennis apparel features something for every player.

35 Ball Machine Selector
Our exclusive guide will help you find the right ball machine for your business.

DEPARTMENTS 4 Our Serve 42 String Playtest: Head Sonic Pro 17

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Ask the Experts Tips and Techniques Your Serve, by Kevin Theos
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Our Serve
Keep Your Business Rolling
(Incorporating Racquet Tech and Tennis Industry)

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hen it comes to tennis balls, some dealers just don’t get it. They treat the product almost with a kind of contempt. True, you may not be making a huge percentage of your income selling tennis balls, but the product is critical to your business—in so many ways.

Publishers David Bone Jeff Williams Editor-in-Chief Crawford Lindsey Editorial Director Peter Francesconi Associate Editor Greg Raven Design/Art Director Kristine Thom Contributing Editors Cynthia Cantrell Rod Cross Kristen Daley Joe Dinoffer Liza Horan James Martin Chris Nicholson Bob Patterson Cynthia Sherman RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY Corporate Offices 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084 Phone: 760-536-1177 Fax: 760-536-1171 Email: RSI@racquetTECH.com Website: www.racquetTECH.com Office Hours: Mon.-Fri.,8 a.m.-5 p.m. Pacific Time Advertising Director John Hanna 770-650-1102, x.125 hanna@knowatlanta.com Apparel Advertising Cynthia Sherman 203-263-5243 cstennisindustry@earthlink.net
Racquet Sports Industry (USPS 347-8300. ISSN 01915851) is published 10 times per year: monthly January through August and combined issues in September/October and November/December by Tennis Industry and USRSA, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084. Periodicals postage paid at Hurley, NY 12443 and additional mailing offices. July 2007, Volume 35, Number 7 © 2007 by USRSA and Tennis Industry. All rights reserved. Racquet Sports Industry, RSI and logo are trademarks of USRSA. Printed in the U.S.A. Phone advertising: 770-650-1102 x 125. Phone circulation and editorial: 760-536-1177. Yearly subscriptions $25 in the U.S., $40 elsewhere. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Racquet Sports Industry, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084.

I was talking recently to Jason Collins, Wilson’s global business director for tennis balls, and he said something that made me think about what selling balls means to a tennis business—or rather, should mean to a business. “We encourage our dealers not to fall into thinking, ‘It’s just a tennis ball,’” said Collins. He went on to note that not only are there differences among brands, but within a brand, the different balls offered are all designed to help players find the right product for the courts they’re going to play on. That, fundamentally, is why you need to pay attention to the kind of tennis balls you stock for your shop. If you offer the wrong type of ball to your customers, or don’t stock a variety that allows them to choose the right product for their game, they’ll simply look elsewhere. And, as you probably know, players frequently complain about the balls they use—probably because they weren’t able to find the ideal ball for the courts and conditions. But marketing tennis balls goes well beyond simply selling cans in your shop. It’s a pretty safe bet that tennis balls will bring people into your shop more times than any other product. (In the U.S., as Collins mentioned to me, the expectation is that players will pretty much open a new can of tennis balls for each match or day out on the courts. In Europe, the attitude is a bit different— they play more matches with the same can of balls.) This means that if you stock the right tennis balls in your shop, customer traffic will increase, and you’ll have more opportunities to sell customers more products. In this issue, we have stories about the all-important tennis ball, including some tips on how to sell them (page 18) and our firstever test of tennis balls (page 20), in which we put 26 different kinds of balls from eight manufacturers through their paces, both in the lab and on the court. And we take a tour of the Penn ball manufacturing plant in Phoenix (page 26). Tennis balls may command a small price from consumers, but punc they pack a powerful punch for your business.

P F i Peter Francesconi Editorial Director
RSI is the official magazine of the USRSA, TIA,and ASBA

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INDUSTRY NEWS
INFORMATION TO HELP YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS

Martina Navratilova Headlines USTA Tennis Teachers Conference
Hundreds of tennis coaches, instructors, and professionals will again gather in New York City on the eve of the US Open to network, share knowledge, and watch some of the best tennis in the world as the USTA hosts the 37th annual Tennis Teachers Conference Aug. 25 to 28 at the Grand Hyatt New York. This year’s theme, “Working Smart, Working Together,” promotes the idea of presenting the latest techniques and technologies to teachers and coaches. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova will be the keynote speaker at the opening session, sharing the greatest moments in her career and discussing coaching techniques and the importance of fitness and nutrition. Other top speakers include Tom Gullikson, former U.S. Davis Cup captain, Olympic coach and personal coach to Jennifer Capriati; Bruce Elliott, internationally renowned Australian bio-mechanist; and Wayne Bryan, national clinician and father of top U.S. men’s doubles team Mike and Bob Bryan. USTA programs, such as Jr. Team Tennis and the Schools program, will be featured along with the newest initiative, Project 36/60. TTC sessions cover coaching skills, strategy and tactics, tennis techniques, health sciences, and the tennis business. Events are held both at the Grand Hyatt and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Anyone who has an interest in coaching or teaching tennis is welcome to attend. For more information or to register, visit www.usta.com/ttc, call 914696-7004 or e-mail ttc@usta.com.

Sign Up to Participate In New ‘Court Activity Monitor’
he TIA, USTA, PTR, and USPTA are backing a new system to keep tabs on the amount of tennis being played at the grassroots level in the U.S. The new “Court Activity Monitor” will provide a monthly count of tennis activity, but to be as accurate as possible, it requires some simple, no-cost steps from tennis facilities, which stand to gain in benefits for their participation in this survey. “Providing input from each facility takes only a few moments,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “All data provided is confidential, and there is no fee required. Plus, for participating in the Grassroots Monitor, facilities will realize a host of benefits.” To participate, go to www.GrowingTennis.com/public and enter your facility details. You will see an instant report on the level of tennis activity in your area. When you register your facility, you’ll: Q Automatically be entered in a drawing to win one of five $200 gift certificate at the end of the year. Q Receive a quarterly summary of grassroots tennis activity in your area from the TIA. Q Qualify for a discounted rate on TennisConnect, an online business system designed for tennis facilities that provides an e-calendar, online court scheduling, an email marketing system to promote your programs, and much more. As a bonus, facilities that register for the Court Activity Monitor can link to www.GrowingTennis.com and enter additional details about their website to get a free listing on the tennis industry’s major online databases. The free exposure will help players find your facility and can increase your business. “When you sign up now, you’ll be contributing toward the further development of grassroots tennis in the U.S.,” says de Boer.

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Lee Tennis to Host Indoor Clay Court Conference
ee Tennis, the manufacturer of Har-Tru, will host its Fourth Annual Conference on Indoor Clay Courts on Aug. 27 and 28 in Syosset, N.Y. The purpose of the conference is to bring together leading experts on indoor clay courts to discuss the construction and maintenance of clay in an indoor environment. The event, held at Sportime Syosset, is designed for anyone managing, maintaining, or considering installing indoor clay courts. Lee Tennis will share new findings on the causes of indoor surface compaction and what techniques are being used to alleviate it. Additionally, there will be a discussion of ClayTech, a new clay court surface from Lee that the company says is ideal for indoor facilities. The conference will consist of presentations, panel discussions and on-court demonstrations. Attendees will tour several indoor facilities and participate in Q&A sessions with the facility managers and maintenance personnel. For more information, contact Pat Hanssen at 877-4HARTRU or phanssen@luckstone.com, or visit the indoor forum at www.leetennis.com/indoorforum.

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Prince Poised to Break $100 Million in Sales
rince Sports Inc. says it is looking to break $100 million in sales by the end of its fiscal year, which would be the first time in 10 years the company has reached that mark. “The first quarter of 2007 was extremely positive for Prince, not only compared to our competitors, but also in the company’s recent history,” says George Napier, CEO of Prince Sports. “We have come out of the gates strong and are heading in the direction of a banner year, with our sights clearly focused on breaking the $100 million sales mark. Without question, our extended team of dedicated retail partners, suppliers, coaches, and athletes, all of whom bleed green and are doing so much to support us, deserve the biggest ‘thank you.’” Global sales for Prince were up 12 percent in Q1, led by the company’s European region (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), which surged up 52 percent versus the same period last year. The U.S was also strong, registering 11 percent growth. Prince says the global growth was led by a solid performance in the company’s racquet category, due in large part to the extension of its line of O3 products. In January, Prince launched its new O3 Speedport racquets, a build on its original O3 technology. In addition, Prince’s footwear division contributed as its new M Series line expanded its distribution base. And a successful introduction of a new Synthetic Gut Multifilament string fueled additional growth, says the company. In a statement in mid-May, Prince says its dollar share in performance racquets in the specialty channel, as reported by SMS/TIA, hit 26.7 percent, the 31st consecutive month in which Prince's share has been higher than the corresponding month in the prior year. Prince also reported having three of the top four, and four of the top eight, best-selling racquets on a year-to-date basis—including the No. 1 best selling racquet in the sport, the O3 White. The company says that in the two years since it launched the O-tech platform, close to 100 touring pros have switched to O3 technology.

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Penn Offers Chance to Win Chrysler Sebring
or a limited time this summer, specially marked four-packs of Penn Championship and Pro Penn tennis balls will include a chance to win a 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible and other prizes from Head/Penn. Also included in the pack is a digital carabiner sports watch. Chrysler and Penn partnered through their mutual sponsorship of USTA’s League Tennis program—the largest grassroots league program in the country with more than 600,000 tennis players. Chrysler is the presenting sponsor of the program while Penn serves as the official ball. “By offering the instant gratification of the sports watch as well as a chance to win a 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible, we are able to provide our retail partners and consumers with an incredible value in these special packs of tennis balls,” says Jennifer Parker, business manager for Penn Tennis Balls. Special pack graphics and insert cards alert consumers to the promotion. The “prize decoder” drives consumers to a website where they can see if they have won the Chrysler Sebring Convertible or other Head/Penn tennis products.

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Dunlop Expands Aerogel Line
unlop is expanding its line of Aerogel racquets with the introduction of two new models: the Aerogel 7Hundred and 9Hundred. The new racquets feature Vibrocore comfort technology, which significantly reduces frame vibration, says Dunlop. The racquets are constructed using a sleeve made from thermal plastic resin and a silicon core that greatly diminishes shock waves at ball impact, according to the company, resulting in a comfortable racquet that reduces the risk of tennis elbow. Dunlop says that Aerogel, a substance used by NASA scientists and nicknamed “Frozen Smoke” for its lightness and hologram-like transparency, is the lightest solid on earth, with a strength 4,000 times its own weight. Currently three of the ATP’s Top 12 players are playing with Aerogel frames: Tommy Robredo, Tomas Berdych, and Tommy Haas. The Aerogel 7Hundred is a lightweight, oversize frame that Dunlop says is ideal for players seeking a blend of Aerogel power and control. The Aerogel 9Hundred is the most 7Hundred powerful racquet in the line and is ideal for players lookAerogel ing for extreme power without sacrificing comfort, says 9Hundred the company. For more information, visit www.dunlopsports.com.

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‘Yoga for Tennis’ DVD
Health and fitness industry veteran Rick Devereux combines two of his passions, tennis and yoga, in a new DVD, “Yoga and Yoga Stretches for Tennis.” As a tennis player, tennis coach, and yoga teacher, Devereux is fully aware of what yoga can do for a player’s tennis game, both the mental and physical sides. His new DVD, which has a brief introduction by Bud Collins, is for tennis players of all ages and ability levels. Chapters cover loosening up; attending to tennis trouble spots; yoga routines for flexibility, balance, and strength; cool down, and more. It’s available from www.coacheschoice.com.

Lever 2000 Launches Grassroots Promotions
ever 2000, the lead sponsor of the US Open Series, will conduct one of the largest tennis promotions in history, intended to challenge Americans of all ages to “raise the game” on physical fitness, says the USTA. The promotion includes a free tennis lesson offer on more than 2 million specially-marked packages of Lever 2000 Bar Soap through September 2007 and an on-line reality webisode series featuring four amateur teams competing on US Open Center Court. Tennis fans can receive a free tennis lesson by purchasing a six- or eight-bar pack of Lever 2000. Lessons can be redeemed at participating tennis facilities across the country; locations can be found at www.USTA.com/ Lever2000. Lever 2000 is also producing an online tennis reality show that started filming in mid-May at several US Open Series sites as well as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the US Open. The show will feature a competition between four mixed-doubles teams, selected from a national pool of tennis enthusiasts, who will participate in a series of events designed to test and improve their tennis skills. Tennis stars Mary Joe Fernandez and Murphy Jensen will serve as motivators and coaches for the competitors, and Patrick McEnroe will make a guest appearance in the finale in New York. The winning team will be presented with a VIP US Open Experience. To view the webisodes, log on to www.USTA.com/Lever2000 throughout the summer.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Head Introduces MicroGel Radical Line
ead has launched its new Tour Series racquet line, the MicroGel Radical, featuring new MicroGel technology that Head says will offer aggressive, competitive players with a solid feel and tremendous spin properties. The MicroGel Radical line includes the MicroGel Radical Pro, Radical MP, and Radical OS. Suggested retail price for each is $200. The line also includes new Radical bags in orange, black, and white. MicroGel Technology combines a new space-age material with a stiff and strong carbon composite. MicroGel is a silica-based, semi-elastic solid with a honeycomb-like structure, and the lowest density of any known solid, says Head. When combined with carbon composite fibers in the racquet head, MicroGel deforms and compresses upon ball impact, uniformly absorbing and distributing the impact load around the entire frame, according to the company. “MicroGel gives the Radical amazing response qualities,” says Kevin Kempin, vice president of sales and marketing for Head/Penn. “Fans of the original versions of the racquet will be wowed by the feel of this one.” For more information, visit www.head.com.

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Prince Offers New 5000 Stringing Machine

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rince’s new 5000 stringing machine offers many top features for professional stringers. The “high-speed quad” four-point mounting system locks the frame in place quickly, easily, and securely. The “Silencer” tension head has a unique electro-mechanical design and microchip processing to provide accuracy, speed, and quiet operation, says the company. With the “Versa Clamp” system, stringers can decide on gravity-based or pushbutton release, and the “Quick Click” clamp bases lock at the flip of a lever. The unit adjusts for height, and it has a detachable pedestal so it can sit on a table top. It also comes with a drawer-style tool tray. And the liquid-crystal screen tilts up to 15 degrees for easy viewing. For more information, visit www.princesports.com.

New Surface for 2008 Australian Open
he court surface at the 2008 Australian Open will no longer be Rebound Ace, Tennis Australia officials announced in May. Reports indicate that the Aussie Open will use Plexicushion, an acrylic composition manufactured by U.S.-based California Products Corp. Tournament Director Craig Tiley says the speed of the courts would continue to play in the medium to medium-fast range, and the courts would be firmer and would also have lower heat retention to reduce the chances of the event's extreme heat policy being invoked. He said the new surface would also have more consistent pace and bounce. Rebound Ace, which is an Australian product, has been the court surface at the Aussie Open for 20 years. Some in Australia voiced concern that the Australian Open would now become a “second-rate” US Open, since the Plexicushion surface is manufactured by the same parent company that makes the DecoTurf surface used at the US Open.
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SHORT SETS
Just before the French Open, pro player James Blake went back to Dunlop Sports Group. He’ll play with a Dunlop Aerogel racquet. Blake was with Prince for the last 18 months, and helped that company develop new frames. The director-general of the French Tennis Federation says that he is optimistic that Roland Garros could have a retractable roof over a nearly 15,000-seat court within four years. Jean-Francois Vilotte told the Associated Press that negotiations with the Paris city council have been positive. He said construction could start in 2008 at an estimated cost of $234 million. The U.S. will meet Russia July 14-15 in a Fed Cup semifinal match, to be played at the Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vt. The USTA will build a 3,000-seat venue next to the existing indoor tennis facility at Topnotch. For tickets for the

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two-day, best-of-five match series, call 888“On Court with USPTA,” the cable TV show 334-USTA (8782). Tickets will be sold as a two- produced by the USPTA, received the Award of Disday series with prices ranging from $35 to tinction in the Videographer Awards 2007 compe$250, with VIP packages available. tition. The award-winning episode “Tennis—In the Balance,” which aired on The Tennis Channel, won Lee Tennis, the maker of Har-Tru, launched in the category of TV programs/sports. “On Court” its first national TV partnership with the Tennis is a 20-minute instructional show featuring USPTAChannel’s coverage of the French Open in May certified pros as guest instructors. and June. Lee endorsed live in-match features, custom vignettes, and billboards. “We’re excitUSTA Members who upgrade to a five-year ed about this opportunity to educate, inform, membership will receive one year free, plus a US and inspire…to demonstrate our commitment Open Sports Bag. Call 800-990-8782 and use code to the clay-court community,” says John Wel- 2678 for this offer, which is available while supplies born, Lee’s director of business development. last and valid until Dec. 31.

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The fall version of the USPTA Texas Southwest Tennis Buying Show will be Aug. 24-25 at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, near DFW airport. For information on buying a booth, call Jenny Gray at 903-5613014 or e-mail gray.jenny@hotmail.com. Hotel rates are $99 per night for USPTA members, vendors and buyers. To get the special room rate, call 800-243-3105 and mention USPTA Texas.

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The USTA Tennis & Education Foundation awarded $288,160 to 17 programs throughout the country during its Spring grant cycle. Grants ranged in size from $7,660 to $50,000. The USTA announced that the 2008 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships will move to the River Oaks Country Club in Houston. The event has been held for the last seven years at Houston’s Westside Tennis Club.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

NGI Sports Offers Eco-Friendly Courts
ennis courts are going “green.” And we’re not just talking about the color. For the past nine years, NGI Sports of Chattanooga, Tenn., has been applying “environmentally sensitive” methods for manufacturing and installing tennis courts, using recycled and sustainable materials. The company, a division of River City Athletics LLC, provides surfacing systems that replace the use of solvent and petroleum-based materials and employ alternative “green” materials instead. For instance, NGI says that its Nova’ProBounce—a cushioned, all-weather surface system— replaces environmentally unfriendly solvent and petroleum-based asphalt pavements. The production process for ProBounce, says the company, doesn’t employ high volumes of fossil fuels or release hazardous gases, such as carbon dioxide. Also, no heavy equipment is required for the installation, further reducing the dependence on fossil fuels. ProBounce is constructed using cold-applied, water-based resin coatings and natural aggregates. The patented pavement also utilizes a urethane waterproofing, says NGI, which is made from 60 to 70 percent recycled and sustainable natural materials by weight. Components of the coating are based on polymers extracted from soybean oil, a renewable resource. And NGI says it is a stronger material than traditional latex backing that requires extreme heat in the production-curing process. NGI surfaces are “divorced slipsheets”—free-floating above the surface—and can be installed directly over cracked existing asphalt and concrete courts. The existing surface does not need to be removed, and the deteriorating pavement can be recycled, says the company. The surfaces can also be used in new construction and installed directly over a crushed rock base. For more information, contact NGI Sports at 800-835-0033 or info@ngisports.com, or visit www.ngisports.com.

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USRSA MEMBER CLASSIFIEDS
FOR SALE: Tennis and Health Club. Four indoor tennis courts, racquetball, Nautilus, free weights, six outdoor courts with clubhouse and garage. 423-341-3484 visit web site at www.toddsmith.usptapro.com FOR SALE: (3) Fischer Magnetic Tour 100 sq. in. All in new condition, all strung at 60 lb. with different strings. Grip #3—All have the plastic grip. Sell for $120 ea. with shipping. Please call Jim Wahl 678-762-1466 home, 404-539-3347 cell. FOR SALE: 1 Prince SpeedPort Red Racquet—New condition, grip #3—$199.00 with shipping. Strung with Ashaway 18ga. hybrid. Please call Jim Wahl 678-762-1466 home, 404-539-3347 cell.

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• Tim Beyer,

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formerly with the USPTA and Wilson Sporting Goods, has joined Lee Tennis of Charlottesville, Va., as a new markets sales associate. Beyer’s efforts will center on creating Har-Tru and ClayTech playing experiences for players in non-traditional clay-court markets such as northern and southern California and Arizona. The addition of Beyer is a result of Lee Tennis’ commitment to advancing the clay-court experience nationally by further educating and engaging pros, club owners, and players about the benefits of clay tennis surfaces.

No. 1 USTA Boys’ 18 player, Jordan Rux of Kerrville, Texas, has signed an apparel contract with Bälle de Mätch.

• The International Rescue Committee
today announced that Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, the No. 7 tennis player in the world, will promote the IRC and the cause of refugees by wearing an IRC-logo patch at select matches and events through the summer. Ljubicic, who led Croatia to victory in the Davis Cup in 2005, was himself a refugee in 1992 as a 13-year-old when he and his family fled the city of Banja Luka, now in Bosnia, during the Balkan civil war, living for months as refugees in Slovenia and Croatia.

• World TeamTennis CEO and Commissioner Ilana Kloss was named the “Sports Business Woman of the Year” by the James H. Warsaw Sports Marketing Center in the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. Kloss was honored for her significant contribution to the advancement of women in sports at a luncheon at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Ore. • Don Paitrick, head tennis director at the University of Mary Washington's new University Tennis Centre, was honored with the NIRSA/USTA National Professional Tennis Ace Award at the 2007 NIRSA (National Intramural-Recreational Sport Association) Annual Conference and Recreational Sports Exposition held in Minneapolis in April. The award honors an individual who has been implementing a NIRSA-endorsed USTA Tennis On Campus program. • Bruce Fendell is the new vice president of U.S. sales for Fila. Fendell will focus on rebuilding Fila’s footwear and apparel distribution in specialty and sporting goods trade channels, as well as in tennis and golf specialty accounts. • USPTA pro Kevin Brandalik is the new
director of high performance at the Five Seasons Sport Club in Cincinnati. Brandalik has been coaching high-performance players for 19 years and was named the 2005-06 USPTA/Midwest Junior Coach of the Year.

• Jack Huczek, a member of Head’s pro staff, won his eighth International Racquetball Tour tournament title of the season recently by capturing the Allentown (Pa.) Open. With the win, Huczek retained his No. 1 IRT World Ranking. He plays with a Head Metallix racquetball racquet. • USPTA pro Ken Obermeier is the new tennis
superintendent for the City of Palm Coast, Fla.

• Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams have signed on to play in the WTT Pro League presented by Advanta, which begins July 5. Sharapova, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, will play for the Newport Beach Breakers and former World No. 1 Williams will play for the St. Louis Aces. The Pro League regular season is July 5 through July 25. • Pam Shriver, Darlene Hard, Gertrude
“Gussy”Moran, Charlie Pasarell, Dennis Ralston, and the late Ted Schroeder will be inducted into the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame on July 13 at the Four Seasons Hotel—Beverly Hills. For details concerning the black tie gala, call 310-2083838, ext. 252.

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Head ‘Radical’ Promo Offers Chance to Hit with Agassi
ow radical can the game of tennis get? Head is asking tennis fans around the world to weigh in with a new “How Radical Are You?” promotion that coincides with the launch of the new MicroGel Radical racquet. Head wants fans to submit one- to twominute videos showing how their tennis game has “evolved into an individual, spontaneous, and adventurous sport.” Participants will compete for a chance to win an afternoon on the court with Andre Agassi. Fans can submit their videos on www.head.com through July 8. In addition to court time with Agassi, the Grand Prize winner will receive round-trip airfare for two and a two-night stay in Las Vegas. The runner up will receive a new MicroGel Radical racquet signed by Agassi. The MicroGel Radical line will hit shelves in July 2007 and feature three racquets, the MicroGel Radical OS, the MicroGel Radical MP and the MicroGel Radical Pro.

USPTA Schedules World Conference
he USPTA’s World Conference on Tennis will be Sept. 17 to 22 at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Fla. The conference, which typically attracts about 1,500 tennis professionals, industry leaders and representatives, manufacturers, wholesalers, and media, will have more than 40 general sessions, seminars, and specialty courses. Also during the conference, USPTA hosts its International Tennis Championships, board and executive committee meetings, nighttime parties, industry meetings, a tennis-only buying show, silent auction, awards presentation, and more. Details about the conference, including registration information, will be available soon at www.uspta.com or by calling 800877-8248. The Tennis Buying Show will be Sept. 20 during the World Conference. Booth space is still available. Manufacturers are encouraged to submit booth registrations early to guarantee space. To obtain booth reservation forms, visit www.uspta.com and click on the World Conference link. Exhibitors include marketers and wholesalers of hard and soft goods, video-analysis and pro shop software, teaching aids, court surfacing and lighting, awards, backboards, educational materials, nutrition bars and vitamins, and more. In addition, the USPTA Silent Auction, which benefits the USPTA Foundation, will be held during the Buying Show. Anyone interested in donating an item for the auction can visit www.uspta.com and click on the World Conference link to obtain a donation form, or call John Dettor at 713-978-7782.

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PTR Development Weekend Slated
he PTR will hold its annual Professional Development Weekend from Sept. 13 to 16 at PTR Headquarters on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Mike Barrell, a world-renowned expert on teaching tennis to children, will conduct a “Growing Kids, Growing the Game” workshop. Sports psychologists Dr. Bryce Young and Linda LeClaire will present a course on “Mental Game Mastery,” as well as conduct “Mental Match Play.” PTR Directors Iñaki Balzola and Jack Waite, are offering a new course, “Teaching Advanced Stroke Production,” and in Stan Oley’s workshop, “Teaching Today's Modern Game with a Ball Machine,” one participant will win a Playmate ball mower, valued at $450. For information or to register, visit Quick Links at www.ptrtennis.org.

Prince Adds New Ozone Frames
rince introduces three new frames to its lineup: the Ozone One, Ozone Four, and Ozone Seven. The Ozone line features Prince’s new Carbon Wave Matrix Construction. The racquets also have a re-engineered hitting zone that Prince says will add extra strength and stability for a larger, more consistent sweetspot. Ozone One Prince says the 118-square-inch, 9-ounce Ozone One is for players looking for lightweight power and a larger hitting zone. The head-heavy racquet has a 16 x 19 string pattern. The oversize (110-square-inch) Ozone Four is for players seeing an enhanced sweetspot, says the company. The evenly-balanced frame weighs in Ozone Four at 9.7 ounces and has a 16 x 19 string pattern. Prince describes the 105-square-inch Ozone Seven as having the ultimate blend of power and control for players across all levels. The head-light frame is 10.1 ounces and has a 16 x 18 pattern. All three frames carry a suggested retail price of $190. For a limited time, with the purchase of Ozone Seven any Ozone racquet, Prince is offering a free triple bag and a four-pack of balls (valued at $29.99), at participating outlets. For more information, visit www.princesports.com.

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TENNIS BALLS

SELLING TENNIS BALLS
Bulk purchases, consumer promotions, and new packaging all help to give your customers what they need.
BY MITCH RUSTAD
times—more tennis players are buying tennis balls in bulk. “The landscape of tennis balls has changed a lot over the last five years,” says Jennifer Parker, business manager of Head/Penn Racquet Sports in Phoenix, who notes that a rising number of consumers are buying the 4-can shrink-wrapped packages. “People are just finding it easier and more convenient to buy them in packs,” especially when shopping the bigbox outlets, says Parker. “Our pro specialty stores still tend to sell more single can units, because they are easier for them to stock.” “There have been a lot more of the 4-, 6-, and 8- packs at retail,” says Jason Collins, Wilson’s global business director for tennis balls. “But 4-packs have been the most common. There’s a little more perceived value.” Specialty retailers such as Chris Gaudreau, the owner and president of Racquet Koop in New Haven, Conn., however, have also noticed the “buy in bulk” trend and encourage customers to go beyond the single-can purchase. “I’m finding a huge pattern in consumers buying balls by the case,” says Gaudreau, who won’t display or visually promote cases of balls on the sales floor, but makes sure his customers know they’re available. “If I see someone grabbing 12 cans of balls, I’ll just suggest that they buy a case, and they usually do it. You can’t play tennis without balls, so it’s a matter of convenience, because I charge the same price,” says Gaudreau, who will even offer customers a “mixed” case of balls, for both clay and hard courts. Specialty retailer Kim Cashman, owner of the Advantage Yours tennis shop in Clearwater, Fla., has also noticed tennis

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ou might call them the Rodney Dangerfield of tennis products. They’re swatted mercilessly by tennis pros and tennis hacks. Their lifespan can be a matter of hours. And even their material worth is abysmal—one can is cheaper than almost anything made by the barista at your local Starbucks. We’re talking, of course, about tennis balls. These fuzzy fellows may be low on the tennis totem pole in some ways, but they’re as essential to the game as a racquet, net, and white lines. In fact, the health of the whole industry is often linked to the sale of tennis balls—if sales are up, that’s proof that more players must be hitting the courts, more often. The Tennis Industry Association reports that 2007 first-quarter tennis ball shipments are up 8.4 percent in dollars and 8.7 percent in units compared to last year, which is welcome news for manufacturers and retailers alike. Tennis balls certainly lack the industry buzz of the latest racquet or string technology introductions—has any tennis product changed less in the last 25 years?—but they remain a staple and barometer for the industry. Here’s a closer look at the current state of tennis balls, and where this product category may be bouncing in the months to come.

Trend Watch: Buying in Bulk
Consumers may still be able to buy a can of balls for pretty much the same price they paid some 20 years ago, but industry insiders have noticed at least one significant shift in recent

18 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

consumers bulking up. “We have found that offering the 4pack of balls has increased our tennis ball business,” she says.

Promotions That Sell: Big & Small
Some major ball manufacturers are looking to elaborate promotions to keep ball sales healthy. This spring, Penn rolled out a major promotion featuring a corporate sponsor (Chrysler) giveaway with an immediate gratification, high-end incentive (one can includes a sports watch), which follows on the heels of other mainstream promotions such as putting codes for free music downloads in 4-pack cans of premium balls. “It adds value to what a lot of people consider a commodity purchase,” says Parker. “And these promotions give retailers a way to sell through their ball inventory more quickly.” Other ball manufacturers use higher end products to promote their ball brand. “We’re new to the product, so we’re planning to leverage our status in racquets in our summer promotions,” says Jay Simmons, Prince’s senior category director of tennis balls and recreational racquets. In July, Prince launches a new racquet, and with each purchase, customers get a 4-pack of Prince balls and a racquet bag. “It’s a way to stimulate trial for our product and give added value with purchase,” says Simmons. “Then you have everything you need to go straight to the court and play.” Prince will turn to national print ads and in-store counter cards to get the word out, he says. Currently, Wilson is offering a visor with a 4-pack purchase, says Collins. “It’s generally a good incentive to buy,” he adds. Wilson has future promotions planned, says Collins, that take advantage of Wilson’s “official ball” status at the US Open, Australian Open, NCAAs, Davis and Fed Cups, and more. Tennis club managers like Ken DeHart of San Jose Racquet and Swim in San Jose, Calif., promote tennis ball sales by offering freebies within the club, one way to gain a unique edge over the competition. Says DeHart: “Build a display pyramid about 4 to 5 feet high featuring a "ball of the month" and members who purchase get their name immediately entered for a free tennis clinic or free hour on the ball machine at the end of the month.” Cashman opts for manufacturer-supplied “ball tower displays” but suggests displaying it near the register, not near the front door. “You want to have the customers walk by as many products as possible before reaching the balls,” she says. “They just might see something else that they can’t live without.”

“The manufacturers make so many different kinds of balls now that people get so confused because they don’t know the difference,” says Vince Chiarelli, owner of String Along with Vince, in Largo, Fla. “What I have to do is make my customers understand the quality of balls is different.” One manufacturer says he hasn’t seen that much of a shift in overall options—the changes are more on the can than in the can. “When it comes to producing tennis balls, the only thing you can really change is the core compound or the felt, and everything has to pass specifications, so there isn’t much to tinker with,” says Simmons. “The things you can change are more in the packaging. “In the last 20 years or more, there’s always been the varying felt types for specific court surfaces, and two-, three-, or four-ball cans, and different packs,” says Simmons. “Another change has been a shift to bulk packaging.” To limit potential confusion, however, many specialty retailers simply refuse to carry lower-end balls, leaving the larger list of options to big-box outlets. But like most products, the ultimate decision to purchase isn’t in the hands of retailers or manufacturers. “There’s a number of reasons why people choose one ball over another,” says Parker. “Whether it’s American-made is meaningful to some, or others might like an ATP logo on the can, so who knows what makes them tick? There isn’t one ball that fits all tennis players, and that’s why there’s such a big selection out there.”

The Never-Changing Product
While racquet and string technologies have changed dramatically over the last 30 years, basically the same balls have been bouncing off your racquet for just as long. Despite all the dressed-up packaging, multiple logos, etc., there’s a limit to what manufacturers can do to “improve” a tennis ball, says Parker. “Coming up with new ball technologies always poses a little bit of a challenge,” says Parker. “It’s heavily regulated and all need to fall within the same general level of playability, so our challenges are to come up with new technologies within the limits imposed upon the industry by the ITF and USTA.” “My feeling is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says Wilson’s Collins. However, that doesn’t mean the packaging can’t change—for the better. Wilson has come out with ball cans containing 25 percent post-consumer recycled material, Collins says, which will help reduce the amount of new plastic needed. “The tennis ball package is one of the most difficult items to produce,” Collins says. “It’s pressure sensitive and heat sensitive. Any small changes have to be tested long before we go to market. We’ve been working on the new recycled packaging for 16 months.” In the meantime, consumers (and retailers for that matter) can count on continuing to buy balls without much damage to their wallets. “Tennis balls are viewed by consumers as a disposable commodity,” says Simmons, “so they’re willing to pay a certain amount, but very reluctant to pay more. That’s why the cost has stayed the same for so long.” Q
July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

Options, options, options!
While price points and general technology haven’t changed much over the years, the variety of options on many retail shelves can confuse even a seasoned tennis player. The options can be mind-boggling—the “levels” of balls are tagged with names like “Pro,” “Championship,” “Recreational,” “Practice,” “Extra Duty,” “Regular Duty,” “Pressureless,” or merely branded with a variety of logos, such as the “official” ball for each Grand Slam.

19

BALL
TENNIS BALLS
BY ROD CROSS AND CRAWFORD LINDSEY
arious tennis ball types are designed differently, manufactured differently, and perform differently. We set out to measure these differences using 26 different kinds of balls from eight manufacturers. We tested only one can from each manufacturer. Was that can representative of all cans? Who knows? Would balls from 100 cans test the same relative to each other? Again, who knows? Were some balls fresh from the factory and others months old? What we do know is that our sample was probably just as good as any player's "sample" when he goes to the store. Chances are that we got an average slice of reality, but we warn against making any absolute generalizations about specific ball types based on this limited data. What you can take away from the data are commonalities about the universe of balls. And these are interesting indeed. All balls must meet ITF regulations in order to be approved for tournament play. Balls are subjected to strict testing procedures to determine whether they fall into the approved range of specifications for any given property of the ball. These tests include weight, size, rebound, and deformation. The acceptable ranges for the standard type 2 (medium speed) ball are as follows: ITF Specifications Mass: 56-59.4 grams Size: 2.575-2.700 inches (6.541-6.858 cm) Bounce: 53-58 inches (135-147 cm)

TESTING:
WE FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL FROM THE LAB TO THE COURT

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Forward deformation: 0.220-0.290 inches (0.559-0.737 cm) Return deformation: 0.315-0.425 inches (0.800-1.080 cm) Together, these properties will determine how the ball bounces and feels on your racquet. We performed the ITF tests plus a durability test. After the durability test, we put the used balls through the same tests again. The durability test involved firing each ball 30 times at high speed and oblique angle onto a cutout slab of hardcourt. The ball hit the fence and was returned to the ball machine via one bounce on the tennis court. In this way, we were able to measure new and used ball mass, diameter, bounce, and deformation. One caveat is necessary. Although we performed all the ITF tests, they were not performed at the required temperature of 68 degrees F. An air-conditioning glitch necessitated that tests were performed at 73 degrees F. So the tests were not valid “pass/fail” tests, but they were accurate indications of the difference between balls. In any case, balls bounce a lot higher on a hot day than they do on a cold day, so a complete performance test should really be done at several different temperatures. Due to time constraints, we did complete “usedball” tests on only one ball from each can. We did “new-ball” tests on all three balls in each can.

20 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

Mass and Mass Loss
The range of all masses was between 54.66 and 59.04 grams. Three balls were below ITF specifications. The average mass of all three balls per can ranged from 55.25 to 58.90 grams. The weight variance for all three balls within a can ranged from .04 to .58 grams. After durability testing, balls lost between .34 and .94 grams. The photo shows a ball next to .22 grams of fuzz. Some balls lost four to five times that much fuzz!

A ball loses mass by losing some of its cloth cover (see opening photo with ball fuzz accumulating around the court slab, ball machine, and side of the court). We subjected each ball to a rapid wear test by firing it 30 times at high speed from a ball machine (which created and removed fuzz each time) onto a hardcourt slab. The slab itself acted like sandpaper in creating and removing fuzz. The result was roughly equivalent to 20 games of tennis on a hardcourt (depending on the surface roughness of the court and the speed at which players hit the ball).

Diameter
The ITF approval is only a pass/fail test and does not measure the actual diameters. For the test, the ball in all orientations must be small enough to slip through the large hole and too large to drop through the small hole (see photo). We additionally measured the diameter of the largest of three perpendicular axes. Using a smooth vise, we measured the width of the vise gap that allowed the ball to drop when aligned along its widest axis. (Most balls were not absolutely round.) The interesting observation is that the ball changes shape a little bit each time it is squashed, or in other words, after each hit. This was especially obvious after removing balls from the compression tester, but this is a slow compression (not like racquet impact) and the rubber has time to deform more. Diameter variance within a can for all three balls ranged from 0.01 to 1.27 mm.

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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Diameter is measured after balls have been compressed three times on three axes. All balls complied with the ITF diameter specifications.

Balls change shape very slightly when they are hit or bounce very hard. One hit might round out a ball or flatten it in the same direction in which it is already asymmetrical. So the ball on the far right might be on the far left next time we measure the same balls. The lesson of the graph is to show the range in which this change of shape can happen.

Bounce
Under our test conditions of 73 degrees, balls dropped from 100 inches onto a granite surface bounced between 52.93 and 58.43 inches. The ITF requirements are for a bounce between 53 and 58 inches at 69 degrees. Surprisingly, most balls bounced higher after the durability test than before—some more than 1.5% higher.

22 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

We can speculate that the higher bounce of most of the used balls has to do with the removal of fluff. The rubber core on its own bounces higher than the core+ball cloth combination. A bounce on a carpet is lower than on a hard surface because of energy loss in the carpet. Similarly, adding cloth to the ball will increase energy loss.

Stiffness (deformation)
Standard ITF deformation (i.e., compression) tests were performed on all new balls. This involved (1) compressing each ball three times by 1 inch along all three axes to make sure the ball was round before testing it, (2) compressing the ball with a load of 18 pounds to measure the “forward deformation,” (3) increasing the load until the ball compressed 1 inch, and (4) decreasing the load back to 18 pounds to measure the “return deformation.” These steps were repeated for all three axes and the averages of each measurement were calculated. These are static (not dynamic) stiffness tests. Consequently, it does not necessarily follow that a statically measured softer or stiffer ball will also be relatively softer or stiffer on racquet impact or that it

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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Stiffness (deformation) continued...
will bounce higher or lower when it bounces off the court. In some respects, step 3 is more important than steps 2 or 4. Surprisingly, there is no ITF rule about the force required to compress a ball by 1 inch. A ball hit firmly compresses by around 1 inch. The compressions at steps 2 and 4 are only about 0.25 to 0.4 inch, which is about the same compression as a player achieves by squeezing the ball by hand. The ITF legislated “forward/return” deformation data is meaningless to most people, so we converted it to a simple stiffness calculation in terms of pounds necessary to compress the ball 1 inch. Stiffness variance within a can for all three balls ranged from 0 to 10.53 lb/in with an average variance for all balls and brands of 2.63 lb/in.

Players sometimes complain that balls are either too soft or too hard. The official rules of tennis include specific guidelines about ball stiffness. A player can test a new or old ball by squeezing it by hand. The test here involved compressing the ball by 1 inch in a materials testing machine.

A used ball is generally softer than a new ball since ball stiffness depends on the wall thickness and the amount of air inside the ball. The rubber is about 3 mm thick and the cover is also about 3 mm thick. If the cloth cover wears down to say 2 mm thickness, the ball will become softer. The ball will also become softer if some of the compressed air leaks out (but this doesn't happen with pressureless balls).

24 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

After a pressurized ball is removed from its can, air gradually leaks out over time. The results here show the resulting decrease in ball stiffness over a 5 month period for balls sitting unused in the can with the lid on. Players can feel this effect simply by squeezing an old ball by hand. Two of the pressureless balls became stiffer over the 5 month period, indicating that the rubber became stiffer with age. This is a well known characteristic of rubber. The change in stiffness over time depends on the type of rubber compound. The rubber in the pressurized balls may also have become stiffer, but the overall stiffness of the ball lessened due to loss of air pressure.

Summary
Some very interesting and surprising observations arise from the results of these tests. Some of these are: Q Balls may bounce higher after use. Q Balls become softer with use. Q Balls lose up to a gram even after minimal use (if 30 bounces and throws by a ball machine count as minimal). Q Each ball in a can is different in weight, diameter, and bounce. Q Each can from the same manufacturer can be different. Q Balls bounce differently on different axes. Q Balls are not round. Q Balls change shape during play. Q Balls bounce up to 5 inches different between brands. Q Some balls/cans off the shelf may not be legal. Q Bounce depends on days out of the can, use, and temperature. Q Fuzz happens early in ball wear and then sheared off (this process might have been exaggerated with the ball machine). So, differences abound. Seemingly, no two tennis balls, like no two fingerprints, are the same. No one can actually prove that. So far, all 40 million fingerprints held by the FBI are different, but the next one might well be an identical copy of number 12,583,912. Similarly, no one can prove that all tennis balls are different. So far, all 26 balls we tested were different, but it is possible that we might find two balls one day that are the same. Q

Regular and Extra Duty Balls
What is the difference? Regular duty felt is composed of a combination of slightly more wool than nylon fibers woven onto a cotton backing. As a rule, regular duty balls are designed for soft surfaces such as grass, carpet, and clay. These balls have a tighter weave, shorter nap, and thus play a little livelier and quicker due to less air friction and drag. The tighter weave is more clay, dirt, and moisture resistant; indoors, it leaves less fluff cleanup on the court and it inhibits fluffing due to static electricity. Extra duty balls are designed for hard surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, and other outdoor hardcourts. Extra duty felt has a higher nylon content, resulting in a looser weave. Nylon does not weave as tightly as wool because it is a much smoother fiber. This causes the nylon to move around and fluff. A fluffy ball moves a bit slower through the air. Nylon is more resistant to abrasion than wool, but on an abrasive, hardcourt surface the fluff tends to be cut off as it forms. Thus, if you use a regular duty ball on a hard court, it will fluff because the wool is not good against abrasion. It will also sheer more quickly. If you use an extra duty ball on grass or clay, it will pick up dirt in the loose weave and become heavier. If the ball does get fluffed up (from both the court and a lot of spin shots), it will tend to stay fluffy because there is not as much abrasion to shear it off. So if you use the wrong ball for the surface, you get either a prematurely bald ball or a poorly performing hairy one. As a rule of thumb, a ball felt for your dog to chase in the back yard might be 100 percent unwoven Dacron or acrylic. An inexpensive mass merchandise ball might have a felt that is 15 percent wool, and a performance ball will be woven with about 5060 percent wool, with extra duty types having more nylon.

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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THE BALL GAME
TENNIS BALLS

HOW A TENNIS BALL IS MADE

BY CRAWFORD LINDSEY

There’s nothing like opening up a new can of tennis balls. The “pssshhht” as you pop the top, that new tennis ball smell, the distinct texture of the felt, the firm feel of the pressurized ball—then the tingle of excitement you feel as you drop the ball for that first hit. How does all that get packed into those clear plastic cans? We went to the Penn factory in Phoenix to find out. Penn Racquet Sports manufactures 330,000 tennis balls a day. Here’s how they do it.

Step One
Penn Racquet Sports

A top-grade natural rubber compound is mixed with 11 chemical ingredients.

Step Two
Penn Racquet Sports

The mixture is perfectly smoothed out and extruded into pellets, each made precisely the same weight.

26 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

Step Three
The pellets are placed into a mold and formed into hemispheres.

Step Four
Penn Racquet Sports

The edges are then buffed to extremely fine tolerances, then coated with a natural rubber adhesive.

Step Five
Penn Racquet Sports

The halves are then placed in another mold for the second cure process, which fuses them into complete ball centers.

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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Step Six
During this process, a controlled degree of pressure (equivalent to twice the Earth’s atmosphere) is sealed into the centers. These pressurized ball centers are then abraded to better retain the adhesive and grip the cover when applied .
Penn Racquet Sports Penn Racquet Sports

Step Seven
The cover for Penn balls is made of a blend of nylon, wool, and cotton felt, pretensioned to prevent shrinkage in production as well as in play.

Step Eight
The process of bonding the covers involves a unique mechanical process exclusive to Penn.

Step Nine
Penn Racquet Sports

A third cure assures a solid bond between cover and center.

28 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

Step Ten
The balls are steamfluffed to raise the nap, thus ensuring that they react better to the court surface and racquet.

End of the Line
Once the balls are made, cans are filled, labelled, boxed and shipped.

The finished balls are tested for uniformity of bounce and deformation, durability of the cover, as well as flight, impact, wear and resistance characteristics to ensure that every ball precisely meets the International Tennis Federation’s specifications in the Rules of Tennis.

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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FOCUS ON FASHION

COURT APPEAL
The latest tennis apparel features something for every player.
BY CYNTHIA SHERMAN

ACE COLLECTIONS
Ace Collections is a year-old company making a big splash out of Canada. They combine classic styles with smart white coordinates trimmed in signature “Ace” plaids of red, blue, green, or yellow. Ace Diva is a youthful and fitted poly-spandex line, sporting a 13-inch skirt length and features go-with bags and accessories. The Ace Classic line is geared to 35- to 65-year-olds and fabricated of a high-quality Supplex, which is more forgiving and flattering. The skirt in the Classic line is 14 inches long and the Ace plaid trim runs up the side of the skirts and dresses. www.ace-collections.com; 416-932-3308

TAIL
Tail combines functional, breathable fabrics with dynamic color blocking of bright marina blues and yellows; and graphic prints in coordinating pieces in pink, whites, grays, and black. Black is also featured with canary yellow, white, and silver accents in clothing that moves well on and off the court in box-pleats, Alines, and flirty flouncy skirts and matching tops. www.tailinc.com; 305-638-2650

30 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

LBH
LBH/Lily’s/Wimbledon combines fashion and function in all their lines. Lily’s clothing is elegant with a more forgiving fit in contemporary looks. The decidedly feminine Bella Donna group’s graphic black and white print tops in “tactel poly-spandex” combine with solid-black flouncy skirts. LBH, geared toward the 35-plus crowd, has a contemporary feel and transcends court wear to active lifestyle wear. The Wimbledon line focuses on the classic looks of the ’70s updated in stylish combos of white, jacquard, and plaids with colorful trims. www.lbhgroup.com; 310-768-0300

FILA
The Fila US Open Collection features traditionalretro red, white, and blue updated in contemporary looks and linear patterns in youthful feminine silhouettes. Poly-spandex dresses, skirts, and tops highlight this collection and will be prominently featured at the Grand Slam event. www.fila.com; 800-845-FILA

BOLLE
Blue is Bolle’s theme for its “Planet Blue” group, slated for September delivery. Comprised of skirts, skorts, shorts, and a stylish mix of go-with tops, the line shows off medium blue and white pieces, mixed with trims and color blocks of black, yellow, and blue. Classy blue and white pinstripes are a highlight of this fashionable court-savvy group. www.bolletenniswear.com; 888-977-7272

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BÄLLE DE MÄTCH
Bälle de Mätch goes after the junior fashion category in a big way with funky shorts, tank tops, and hoodies. A trendy red hooded sweatshirt pairs up nicely with green shorts and popular mix-and-match pinks and reds are featured in tank tops and shorts. This “tweener” category ships in December. www.balledematch.com; 949-574-7305

PRINCE
Apparel will be a huge focus for Prince. For the fall, the trendy, youthful “Tour” line in shades of pink, rose, and gray sports skirts and tank tops with mesh for breathability in poly-lycra-spandex blends. The accompanying men’s “Tour” collection goes retro with zip-front shirts and shorts in gray, red, and white for a striking fashion statement. www.princetennis.com; 800-2-TENNIS

LEJAY
Lejay’s “Opposites Attract” collection features a new take on the very “in” blackand-white combo. A splash of geometric and animal prints creates an abstract yet sophisticated look. Trendy details like rhinestones accent this stylish theme group. Delivery scheduled for Aug 15. www.lejay.com; 800-932-7535

IN-BETWEEN
Last fall, In-Between Sportwear introduced plus sizes and fills a much-needed niche in this fashion group. They feature mix-and-match skirts, performance shorts, tops, leggings, and undergarments in sizes 2-24. White, black, navy, and red combine with lime and coral in pieces that go from on-court to off. In-Between’s Courtshorties line is a staple in active “innerwear.”

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WWW.STUDI

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BALL MACHINE SELECTOR
2007 GUIDE TO BALL MACHINES

nvesting in a ball machine is kind of like putting money in a highyield fund. The initial amount you may need to pony up may be a stretch for you, but you know in the end you’ll come out ahead. A ball machine should be a key component of your business. It’s a versatile piece of equipment and can be used during lessons and clinics, to rent out to individuals or groups who want to work on their own, as a new member perk, and much more. Many players like the idea of going off on a court by themselves to hone their strokes with a ball machine—which frees up your pros to work on other courts. Our 2007 Guide to Ball Machines has all the information you need to help you find the right machine for your business. The Ball Machine Selector on page 36 charts all the machines available today and the features they offer. Keep in mind that with ball machines, there are a lot of things that you can change about the unit at the time of purchase, or later. In our chart, we’ve listed the specs and prices of the most basic model of each machine. Then, if options are offered, we’ve listed the additional cost of adding that feature.

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

35

Brand

Model

PriceWar- Dimensions (Storage (MSRP
2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 12 12 36 36 24 24 24 24 19 35 35 35 35 35 35 35 x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x 12 12 13 13 16 16 16 16 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Economy Ball Bucket 202 $469 Ball Bucket 201 $549 www.lobsterinc.c Hybrid 301 $689 om Tournament 401 $789 800-526-4041 Elite Freedom $799 Elite Model 1 $1,049 Elite Model 2 $1,299 Elite Model 3 $1,549

Lobster

27 50 20 31 50 28 2150 31 1 2150 32 1 1950 30 1 1950 42 1 1950 44 1 1950 44 1 2500 2 3800 2 3800 3 3800 3 3800 3 3800 3 3800 3 3800 3 55 85 85 85 85 85 110 110

Playmate

Portable

www.playmateten ACE SMASH nis DEUCE machines.com GENIE 800-776-6770 GENIE PC GRAND SLAM GRAND SLAM PC
I-SAM Model 1 I-SAM Model 2 www.MasterSport SAM Professional s.com X 800-837-1002 SAM Professional X SAM Sport Robot Opti SAM Coach -

$1,695 $3,495 $4,395 $5,495 $5,995 $7,995 $7,495 $8,995

SAM

$549 1 19 x 17.5 x 18 250 $749 1 19 x 17.5 x 18 250 Model $849 119.5 x 16 Portable 1 4,6,10,11 Model $1,429 119.5 x 16 Portable 4 4,6,10,11 $2,099 3 35 x 25 x 5050 2 $2,499 3 35 x 25 x 5050 2

29 X 2 - 7 60 34 X 2 - 7 60 x 21.5 300 48 X x 21.5 300 87 87 X X 48 X

mizers
Boomer $14,450 138.5 x 31 x 21.5 300124 X 1.0 - 1000 X 1 X X

Silent Part ner Sports Attack Sports Tutor

Ultra Lite Sport Pro 7

$599 $949 $1,199

1 22 1 22 1 22

x 18 x 18 x 18

x 1400 2 x 1400 2 x 1400 2

35 46 48

Ace Attack

$5,499

1

34

x 53

200 150 X

www.sportstutor. Tennis Twist $199 1 10 x 11 x23 28 11 com Tennis Tutor ProLite - $549 1 12 x 19.5 x 18 20 Basic 125 800-448-8867 1 12 x 19.5 x 18 22 125 Tennis Tutor ProLite $649 Tennis Tutor $989 1 12 x 19.5 x 20 42 150 Tennis Tutor - Plus $1,199 1 20 x 19.5 x 20 46 150 Tennis Tutor - Plus Player $1,549 Model 1 20 x 19.5 x X 4,9 Tennis Tower $1,195 1 44 x 23 x 2225 60 2 Super Coach Shot Maker - Standard $2,900 238.5 x 31 x 21.5 96 300 www.tennismachi Shot Maker - Deluxe $4,000*OtherOptional 31 x 21.5 96 238.5 Accessories 300 5 x ne.com 1 - Spin adaptor $50
2 - Fast charger $99 3 - 3-Hour rapid recharger $219.70

36 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

standards $111 6 - 110/220 Volt AC converter $99 7 - Additional removable battery $40 8 - Extra heavy duty battery $25

s) Spi ni g W n n heel Propu li n so A i Press r ure Propu li n so Feedi g I n nt rv e al ( ec s onds) T op Speed ( PH ) M El vat on e i C on t l - E ro l ct ni e ro c El vat on e i C on t l - M ro anual A bl t Fe e o ed Lobs A bl t F e o eed T opspi n& A bl t F e o eed Si espi d n
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 3, 3, 3, 3, 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 6, 12 5 5 6, 12 5 5 6, 12 0 7 6, 12 0 7 - 10 70 - 12 80 - 12 80 - 12 80 10 80 10 95 10 95 10 95 10 95 10 95 10120 10120 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X $50 $50 $50 $50 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 2 - 13 70 2 - 13 X 70 X X X X X X X 1.5 - 885 1.5 - 885 X X X 1.0 - 15 95 1.0 - 15 95 1.0 - 15 95 X X X X X X X X X 1.5 - 1210 1 X X X X 5 X 1.5 X 1.5 X 1.5 X 1.5 20 15046 X 15 X 10 60 X X 10 60 X X 12 85 X X 12 85 X X X 1.5 - 12 85 X X $200 X X X X international X 1.5 - 885 X X 1 - 6 95 X X 1 - 6 95 Built-in transformer X for
power

2007 GUIDE TO BALL MACHINES

PROPULSION

Bal C apac l iy t

W ei ht (b g l

X X X X X X X X 3 3 7 7 7 8 7 8

X X

X X X $299 2

X X X X $200 4 X $200 4 X

X

N o O sci lat on l i O scil t o la i n R andom O scil t o la i n Program m abl e N um ber of Shot s i Pron N o. of Pr ogram s t hat C an A dj st b u a l D e ept h W i hi t n A dj st b u a l S e pi W n i hi t n ProA dj st b u a l H e ei ht g W ih ti n A dj st b u a l I e nt rva e lW i ti hn I t ract v ne i e Feed C on t ol r R u n s on Bat ery o t r Pow er R u n s on Pow er C o rd O nl y R u n s on Bat ery O t nl y Bat ery A t m p/H ou r Bat ery L t i e I di a f n c tr o Bat ery S t w apabii lt y Sm art C h arger com es St nSm art C h a arger ava iabl as l e R em ot C e on t o r l - St andard R em ot C e on t o r l- O pt i nal o R em ot C e on t o r l - C or d R em ot C e on t o r l- W i rel ss e R em ot C e on t o r l of O s cil la R em ot C e on t o r l of Pro gram Servi g T n ow er - S t ndard a Servi g T n ow er - O pt onal i C over St ndard a C over O pt onal i A ccessor y I cl des n u W heel f s or Por ta O t er O p h t onal A c i cessori s e *
X X X X X X X 8.5 X X 18 X X 18 X X 18 X X X X X X X X X $99 X X 7.5 X $99 X X 15 $99 X X 2 X X $99 X X X X 15 X 15 15 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X $70 $70 $70 $70 $199 $199 $199 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X $49 $49 $49 $49 $49 $49 $49 $49 $85 $85 $85 $85 $85 $85 $85 $85 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 6,8,11 6,12 X X 12,13 12,13 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 3 6 X X X X X X X ∞ ∞ X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X $4,395 $4,395 $4,395 $4,395 $4,395 $4,395 $4,395 X X X X X $99 X X X X X X X X X X X X X 301000 X X X X X X X X X X $3,895X X 15 X 7.5 X X X 15 X X $249 $80 X 15 X X X X X X X X $40 X 7 $40 X 7 $40 X X 4 X $300 X X $200 X X X $50 X $50 $50 X $50 X X $200 4 X X X X power
6
D Cells

OSCILLATION

POWER

REMOTE CONTROL

MISC.

9 9 18 18

X X X X $50 X 18

X X X

$70 $70 $200 $200

X X X X X X X $200

$35 $35 $35 X $35 X X X X X X X X X

9 4,9 $35 4

X $300 4 X X 3 X - X 6 battery X 9 Ext.

$200 $200

X pack $130, ext. AC supply $125, - Feeds balls from 30 13 smart charger upgrade $40 14 - Can deliver any type of ball, (topspin, underspin, flat, lob) to any place 10 - Lob enhancer $20 court, in any sequence 11 - Water-resistant cloth storage cover $49 15 - Plays games, rates shots, uses a camera, talks to players,- cordless head 12 - Ships via FedEx Ground phone system ($500 or $50/mo), July 2007 RACQUET wireless printer for analysis ($2000 or $100/mo) SPORTS INDUSTRY

X X X X X above X ground

37

2007 GUIDE TO BALL MACHINES

DISCLAIMERS
Specific Features

Keep in mind that whenever you try to develop a chart like this, it is necessary to create some pretty broad, non-detailed features. For example, when we mark that a machine offers random oscillation, it means that the machine can be set to shoot balls to different locations on the court in a random pattern. However, this does not indicate how many different places the machine can shoot the ball. Some machines will just shoot the balls randomly between as few as 2 locations at the same depth, while other machines might be able to shoot the ball virtually anywhere on the court at different heights and speeds.

FEATURES
Brand & Contact Info

There really is no easy way to measure the durability of a ball machine. The only true test of durability is to use the machine for years and see how it holds up. We assume you don’t want to wait that long to see the rest of this information. So, we don’t have a category for durability. However, you can learn more about how long the machines last by talking to the manufacturers and asking for references from people they have sold machines to. Just like we recommend when buying stringing machines, don’t just buy a ball machine based on price. If you buy an inexpensive machine that isn’t designed for the type and amount of use you will be asking of it, it can end up costing you a lot more money down the road than a machine that cost more at first, but was designed for what you have in mind.

Durability

Make sure you have confidence in the durability of the machine and the customer service of the company to help you when you have problems. You should feel comfortable that the company has a system in place to fix anything that might go wrong with your machine. In some cases, they may have local service reps to come fix it at your facility, while in other cases they should offer a way to ship all or part of the machine back to the manufacturer for repairs. So, you probably won’t want to buy a machine strictly based on what you read in this chart. Rather, this chart should help you to narrow the universe of machines by eliminating the machines that don’t offer features you really want. Then, when you have narrowed your choices, you can do more research by visiting the websites or calling the phone numbers listed for each company.

As always, when investing in a piece of equipment as expensive as a ball machine, we recommend that you look for an opportunity to try the machine before you buy it. Ask the manufacturers for ideas about how you can try their machines. In some cases they may be able to send you a sample to try, in other cases they may have sold one to someone near you. So, now that you know what we’re trying to do, let’s talk about what all the features listed across the top of the chart mean.

Lobster Elite

Demo Before You Buy

The name of the manufacturer and how to get in touch with them. You can contact them to get more information or to order the machine that looks best to you. There are eight manufacturers making machines under nine brand names.

The specific model of machine. However, These are the measurements of the remember that many of the machines offer machines for storage or transport. In several different options. In some cases, when other words, some machines will be you buy different options, the name of the machine considerably bigger than these meaPlaymate Genie Deuce may change slightly. But, in each case, the available surements when you are using them options for each machine list the price of adding that option. because you add a ball holder. We list the smaller measurements because the size of a machine really only matters when you are trying to fit it on a shelf or in the trunk of a Manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Prices range from car. $199 to $14,450.

Model

How long the manufacturer guarantees the machine against defects. However, keep in mind that many of the manufacturers do offer extended warranties. See the specific manufacturer for more information and costs of extended warranties.

Warranty

Dimensions

Price

38 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

PROPULSION
Spinning Wheel Propulsion

This indicates how many balls you can put in the machine at a time. However, several of the manufacturers indicated that their machines can actually hold more balls than they have listed if you stack the balls higher than the sides of the machine. There are machines that hold as few as 28 balls and as many as 300 balls. But keep in mind that some machine manufacturers tell us that most people don’t come close to filling their

Ball Capacity

machines. Who wants to carry and pick up 200 or more balls?

This is an indication of how much the basic machine weighs without balls in it. So, if you add options or balls, the weight will increase. We list the weight without balls because this is probably how you will transport the machine to the court.

Weight

An “X” in this column indicates that the machine uses two spinning wheels to feed the ball to you. In almost every case the spinning wheels are stacked vertically with just enough space between them for a ball to squeeze through. So, the faster the wheels are spinning, the faster the balls will be propelled.

Elevation Control Elevation Control

Electronic — An “X” in this column indicates that the machine can change the height of the shot by pushing a button or turning a knob.

An “X” in this column indicates that the machine shoots the ball through a tube like a cannon. The amount of air pressure determines the speed and depth of the shot.

Air Pressure Propulsion Feeding Intervals Top Speed

Manual — An “X” in this column indicates that the machine can shoot balls at different heights, but you have to physically aim a shooting arm or tilt the machine in some way to do so.

SAM Millennium

An “X” in this column indicates that the manufacturer tells us the machine is capable of feeding lobs to allow you to practice your overheads.

Able to Feed Lobs

This column indicates how often the machine can feed balls. Most machines offer a range of intervals. Smaller intervals make for a harder workout, while higher intervals allow more time for preparation and watching your results.

Almost every machine offers the ability to adjust the speed at which the ball is shot from the machine. They all are capable of feeding a very slow ball for shots shorter in the court and for weaker players. So, we just list the fastest speed that each manufacturer says the machine will shoot the ball. However, most of the time, most players don’t need the ball speed maxed out because the players they play with don’t hit that hard.

An “X” in this column means that the machine uses spinning wheels to propel the balls and you can make one wheel spin faster than the other to put spin on the top or bottom of the ball. If you see a price in this column, it means that the machine is capable of putting spin on the ball, but you must purchase an extra option to do so.

Able to Feed Topspin & Underspin

OSCILLATION
Machines with an “X” in this column are not capable of feeding the ball in more than one direction. So, if you want to practice forehands you have to point the machine toward your forehand and vice-versa for backhands. However, you cannot practice forehands and backhands at the same time unless you’re willing to use a little extra footwork.

An “X” in this column indicates that the machine has spinning wheels that don’t just touch the ball on top and bottom. The wheels that are on the sides of the balls can be spun faster than the others to put spin on the sides of the ball. This is mainly helpful for simulating serves.

Able to Feed Sidespin

No Oscillation

These machines are capable of feeding balls randomly to different locations on the court to simulate real play. However, as we explained before, you need to do a little more inquiring to find out just how randomly the machine can shoot balls. Some machines can choose randomly between two positions, while others can shoot balls virtually anywhere on the court.

Oscillation – Random

Robot Optimizers Boomer

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

39

2007 GUIDE TO BALL MACHINES

Oscillation – Programmable

OSCILLATION CONT.

plicated drills because they allow you to vary the amount of topspin or underspin from one shot to the next.

This column indicates how many different shots you can program before the machine repeats its program. So, machines that have a higher number in this column offer you the opportunity to create a more complicated drill for yourself or your students.

# of Shots in Program

This is another feature that requires a closer look. Machines in this column have a control panel that allows you to shoot balls in a pattern that you determine. But look to the next few columns to see how complicated a program you can give it.

Adjustable Height within Program

These machines allow you to vary the height of the balls during the program. So, you can practice against a ball that comes high over the net followed by another ball that is fed low over the net.

Number of Programs That Can Be Stored

These machines allow you to vary the time between ball feeds during the program. This way you can tell the machine to feed you a lob and wait long enough for you to hit the overhead before feeding the next ball. Or you can program a longer time between balls you will be hitting from the baseline than balls you will be hitting from the net.

Adjustable Interval within Program

These machines offer the opportunity to create even more complicated drills because they allow you to feed one ball deep in the court followed by another ball that is shorter in the court.

Adjustable Depth within Program Adjustable Spin within Program

If you see a number in this column, it indicates that the machine can store programs you design for use at another time, and how many programs it can store in its memory.

Silent Partner Pro

The Boomer from Robot Optimizers features a video camera, a powerful computer, and can even talk to a player. These features allow a player to play a game against Boomer, where Boomer is the opponent, umpire, ball-boy, cheerleader, and wiseguy (it even trash talks). The camera is used to rate each shot a player hits from 1 to 9 based on speed, depth, and width. In game mode the machine varies its feeds based on the quality of the shot from the player. In drill mode, it says the score of each ball and even tells the player if the shot is out.

Interactive Feed Control

An “X” in this column means that you can power the machine with a battery or a power cord plugged into an electrical outlet.

Runs on Battery or Power Cord Runs on Power Cord Only Runs on Battery Only Battery Amp/Hour

POWER

Again, these machines offer more com-

Machines in this column require an electrical outlet for power.

the battery can deliver in 1 hour. One manufacturer described amp/hours as being like a car’s gas tank. More amp/hours is like a bigger gas tank, meaning that the machine can run longer on a charge. We are publishing this number instead of the machine’s battery life. We felt publishing this number for each machine helps reduce any discrepancies in the battery life that is indicated by each of the manufacturers.

These machines can only be powered by a rechargeable battery.

These machines have some sort of indicator to let you know how much Sports Attack Ace Attack battery life is left. Once again, some of these indicators are more informaThis is an indication of how much “juice there is in the bat- tive than others. Talk with the manufacturer for a more teries.” It is a measure of the number of amps of electricity detailed description of how it works.

Battery Life Indicator

40 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

Battery Swapability

All battery-operated machines come with a charger to recharge the batteries as they wear down. But, machines with an “X” in this column come with a smart charger included in the listed price. A smart charger is designed to recharge your battery until it is fully charged. Then, when your battery is fully

Smart Charger comes Standard

An “X” in this column means that the machine allows you to take out a battery that is almost out of juice and replace it with a fresh battery. However, keep in mind that to do this you will have to purchase a spare battery.

charged, it reduces the voltage that it feeds to the battery to just enough to keep it fully charged. A regular charger would keep feeding excess electricity to your battery after it is fully charged until the charger is unplugged. This excess electricity can degrade your battery and ultimately shorten your battery’s lifespan. But, a smart charger allows you to keep your charger plugged in without damaging your battery.

Remote Control Available as Option

Remote Control – Cord

Remote Control – Wireless

these machines are not actually attached to the machine. So, you can take them wherever you want as long as the signal is strong Tennis Tutor Pro Lite enough to reach the machine. These machines do not come with a remote, but you can buy one. Look at the next several columns to find out what the remote controls and whether it is wireless. These remotes are actually able to turn the oscillation feature of the machine off and on in addition to being able to The remote controls that are available for these machines start or stop the balls from feeding. are actually wired to the machine, making them a little less portable. However, some of them do allow you to control more of the settings on the machine. These remotes allow you to control the program settings. So, you don’t have to go back to the machine to change the order of shots. The remote controls that are available for

REMOTE CONTROL

Machines with a dollar amount in this column come with a standard charger included in the listed price. But, for the extra fee listed in this column, you can get a smart charger (as described in the previous feature) instead.

Smart Charger available as Option

Remote Control of Oscillation

Remote Control of Program Settings

These machines come with a cover included in the price listed.

Cover Comes Standard

MISCELLANEOUS

Cover Available as an Option

Machines with an “X” in this column have wheels attached to them to make the machine easier to move around.

Includes Wheels for Portability

This column indicates whether the manufacturer makes an optional cover available and how much it costs.

This column lists any other optional accessories that are available for each machine and how much each accessory costs. It also lists any special features that we did not create columns for.

Other Optional Accessories

Super Coach

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

41

string

PLAYTEST

Head Sonic Pro 17
Sonic Pro is a new polyester string from Head, the first polyester string it has added to its Control line-up. According to Head, Sonic Pro is a uniquely processed co-polymer polyester with extra combinations of resins and fibers. Head tells us that it designed Sonic Pro to be soft enough to give today’s modern, aggressive players the feel and control they want with the durability they need.
Sonic Pro is available in 17 in white only. It is priced from $13 for sets of 40 feet, and $180 for 660-foot reels. For more information or to order, contact Head at 800-289-7366, or visit www.head.com. Be sure to read the conclusion for more information about getting a free set to try for yourself. pulling crosses. Sonic Pro feels as if it has a very light coating of lubricant, which also facilitates stringing. No playtester broke his sample during stringing, 14 reported problems with coil memory, four reported problems tying knots, and none reported friction burn. EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings) Number of testers who said it was: much easier 0 somewhat easier 2 about as easy 16 not quite as easy 18 not nearly as easy 2

ON THE COURT
Of the 112 published string playtest reports to date, Head Sonic Pro rated in the top 20 in five of our nine categories: 6th overall for Resistance to Movement, 9th overall in Power, 11th overall in Tension Retention, 13th overall in Durability, and 18th overall in Spin potential. Our playtest team also rated Sonic Pro well above average in a sixth category: Control. These ratings are good enough to put Sonic Pro in the top 20 of our published string playtest reports. One playtester broke the sample, after two hours of play.

IN THE LAB
The coil measured 40 feet. The diameter measured 1.22-1.26 mm prior to stringing, and 1.19-1.22 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 73 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 x 18 pattern) on a constant-pull machine. After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 64 RDC units, representing a 12 percent tension loss. Our control string, Prince Synthetic Gut Original Gold 16, measured 78 RDC units immediately after stringing and 71 RDC units after 24 hours, representing a 9 percent tension loss. Sonic Pro added 16 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame. The string was tested for five weeks by 38 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.0 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. Average number of hours playtested was 23.9. During stringing, Sonic Pro is similar to other polyesters in terms of stiffness and coil memory. It does have a smooth surface, which is very nice for weaving and

OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often) Number of testers who said it was: much better 0 somewhat better 7 about as playable 8 not quite as playable 18 not nearly as playable 4

OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge) Number of testers who said it was: much better 0 somewhat better 20 about as durable 16 not quite as durable 1 not nearly as durable 0

CONCLUSION
Head Sonic Pro does indeed seem to be best suited for big hitters, given its resistance to movement and durability. Players who prefer thinner strings will appreciate the fact that Sonic Pro’s durability comes not from its gauge but from its construction. Finally, its power level, as noted by our playtesters, might even provide an edge over other poly strings. If you think that Head Sonic Pro might be for you, fill out the coupon to get a free set to try. —Greg Raven Q

RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best) Playability Durability Power Control Comfort Touch/Feel Spin Potential Holding Tension Resistance to Movement 3.3 4.2 3.6 3.5 3.1 2.8 3.4 3.6 4.0

42 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

TESTERS

This string has no learning curve. It's very predictable. I never have to worry about tweaking my swing path, head speed or angle of attack. Full swings can be executed without fear of hitting long, and counter punches tend to find their mark. The control and spin inspire confident tennis. 5.5 male all-court player using Head i.Tour MP strung at 62 pounds CP (Polyester/Nylon 16)

TALK

This string feels extremely solid at impact. Sound mechanics are rewarded with a refreshing amount of pop. Given the resistance to movement, spin control is a constant. This is definitely a string I would stock and use. 4.5 male all-court player using Prince O3 Speedport Red strung at 70 pounds CP (Polyester 16L)

cerns, but it’s too stiff for me. 4.5 male all-court player using Babolat Aeropro Drive strung at 57 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire Professional 17) This comfortable polyester has uniquely controllable power. It seems to hit a very heavy ball without requiring a massive, energy draining swing. Polyester fans looking for some pop are advised to check this out. 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 5.0 Stretch MP strung at 54/52 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger Timo 18)

This is a fun string to use. A full swing is rewarded with tons of spin and control. The comfort is unbelievable. If you have any worries about getting into polyester, start here. 3.5 male all-court player using Dunlop 200G 95 (Muscle Weave) strung at 60 pounds LO (Nylon 17)

This polyester has remarkable softness and comfort. It is on par with the best polyesters on the market. The playability makes it a good fit for a wide range of stroke styles and ability levels. It performs like a fancy multifilament, but with twice the durability. I’m sold. 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Head i.S2 MP strung at 55 pounds CP (Wilson Natural 15L)

Excellent control and great bite. More power than I expected. This string’s spin potential allowed me to achieve safer net clearance. The ball rotation is out of this world. 5.0 male all-court player using Prince Original Graphite OS strung at 56 pounds LO (Head RIP Control 17)

This string is quite stiff and boardy. Comfort, touch and feel are not up to my multifilament standards. The tension maintenance and lack of string movement are impressive. This is a good string for big hitters with durability con-

While the string starts out stiff, it breaks in quickly and becomes quite comfortable. The tension maintenance and resistance to movement are top notch. The high level of control gives it a userfriendly predictability, making nearly every shot easy to execute. 4.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson Hyper Hammer 2.3 Stretch OS strung at 62 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 17)

For the rest of the tester comments, USRSA members can visit www.racquetsportsindustry.com.

HEAD has generously offered to send a free set of the Sonic Pro 17 to the first 500 USRSA members who request it. Just cut out (or copy) this coupon and mail it to: USRSA, Attn: Head Sonic Pro 17 String Offer, 330 Main Street, Vista, CA 92084 or fax to 760-536-1171, or email the info below to stringsample@racquettech.com Offer expires 15 July 07 Offer only available to USRSA members in the US.

FREE PLAYTEST STRING PROGRAM

Name: USRSA Member number: Phone: Email:
If you print your email clearly, we will notify you when your sample will be sent.

July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

43

ask
Q

the EXPERTS

Your Equipment Hotline
DOUBLE-BRIDGE RACQUET MOUNTING
I HAVE A RACQUET TO STRING that I'm not sure how to mount. The racquet is a Wilson Hyper Hammer 2.6 Overdrive with Rollers. I have a six-point stringer that would allow me to set the contact point either on the inner bridge or the bridge closest to the grip. Intuitively, I feel the bridge closest to the grip (which looks strongest) is the place to set the post because it is taking the tension for six strings whereas the inner bridge is merely touching the strings with rubber inserts. But I'm not experienced in this area and would like an expert opinion. YOU CAN MOUNT THIS RACQUET either way. On some machines, there's only enough room between the towers to use the "inner" bridge. However, if your machine can accommodate the extra length, use the "outer" bridge (nearer the butt of the racquet), which is clearly built to withstand the stress. There is a complete Service Review of this frame — including mounting procedures on many different machines — on page 26 of the July 2000 issue of RacquetTECH magazine.

MISSING DIGEST LISTING?

Q

A

A STRINGING CUSTOMER OF MINE gave me a racquet to string that he purchased during a recent visit to Japan. It was strung there, but incorrectly. After cutting out the string I referred to my Stringers Digest. Though the racquet was listed, the listing didn't match the racquet I had. Could the book be wrong, or could this racquet be made to different specs for the Japanese market? Could this racquet be mislabeled? MANUFACTURERS DO SOMETIMES make slightly different versions for

A

different markets, and very rarely you might find a mislabeled racquet. However in this case, the listing in the Digest didn’t match your customer’s racquet because we went to press before we learned the stringing instructions, so we only showed the known (at that time) variant of that frame. Once we confirmed the stringing instructions for the new version, we made it available on-line for USRSA members at www.usrsa.com. The Digest on-line also has many older racquets that no longer appear in the semi-annual books we send out. USRSA members who find themselves facing a new racquet that is neither in the printed Digest nor in the Digest Online are invited to call technical support at 760-536-1177. Our contacts with the various manufacturers are often able to provide the stringing instructions, even before the frame has been released to the public.

44 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

CHEWED-UP TURNTABLE

Q

OUR SHOP RECENTLY purchased A brand new constant-pull stringing machine, one of the better models from a leading manufacturer. It has all the bells and whistles, and an aluminum turntable. After a couple of months of use, the underside of the turntable, where the clamp bases ride, has gotten pretty chewed up, to the point where it is difficult to slide the base clamps when they are loose. I’ve tried filing off some of the chewed-up aluminum that sticks out into the slots in the top of the turntable, but it doesn’t seem to help much. How can we restore the smooth operation of our base clamps? THE SITUATION YOU DESCRIBE IS not normal, as the clamping surface should not gall or deform as you describe it. Even if smoothing the roughened slot surface makes the situation better, you are filing off metal that should be part of the clamping surface. Sooner or later you’ll have to adjust the clamps to compensate for that missing material. Once enough material has worn away, you will not be able to adjust the clamps properly. Because you purchased you machine new from a reputable manufacturer, you should contact the manufacturer immediately about a replacement turntable.

machine has an effective turntable brake, and you can operate it quickly and easily, your stringing time will probably be lower using the brake. If, on the other hand, your machine has no turntable brake, or it doesn’t work well or easily, the tool is invaluable. USRSA members who need a boomerang tool can contact customer support at 760-5361177 to have one sent free of charge. —Greg Raven Q
We welcome your questions. Please send them to Racquet Sports Industry, 330 Main St., Vista, CA, 92084; fax: 760536-1171; email: greg@racquettech.com.

A

BOOMERANG TOOL

Q A

I UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS a tool that helps in stringing the Prince O3 racquets. Does it work? If so, where can I find one? YOU ARE REFERRING TO THE “boomerang” tool. It’s used to preserve string alignment through the top four O-Ports when stringing the crosses. Prince used to bundle one of these with each O3 racquet, but many stringers simply used the turntable brake instead of the tool. If your stringing
July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

45

Readers’ Know-How in Action
SHALLOW BUMPERGUARDS
Regarding Jeremy Plumley’s February 2006 tip on the shallow bumpers on the Head i.Radical and Ti Radical, it turns out that the deep, well-made bumpers from the Liquidmetal Radical are interchangeable with the older bumperguards. 5 sets of Prince Tour 16 to: Bob Tuttle, MRT, Baldwin, NY door, and pry the tape loose with a small screwdriver. Wilson Pro Staff 6 Racquet Bag to: Steve Huff, Mechanicsville, VA

tips

and TECHNIQUES

GETTING STARTED AS A STRINGER
inches long, and fold each section into a "V" shape, sticky side in, but not closed. Slide the lead tape down around the divider, so that if your racquet is standing handle up, the lead tape will be hanging down over the divider. Use a screwdriver to press the lead tape against the divider wall. I've added a little over an ounce on a racquet this way before, stacking layers of lead tape, and it has never come loose. If you want to make sure it stays put, dab some rubber cement around the edges where the tape meets the divider. Then, reattach the trap door. It's also easy to undo. Remove the trap I have found that a good way for a beginning stringer to gain experience is to volunteer to string the store demo and recycled "grassroots" racquets, such as those that will be donated to youth programs. The store owner is often so busy stringing racquets for paying customers that he is happy to have someone else do the ones that "don't pay." In my association with a shop, I have gained knowledge of how to string a wide range of "classic" frames as well as demos of the latest models. Soon the owner might trust you with more important jobs, like stringing his own racquets!

HANDLE WEIGHTING
When you need to add weight to the handle, some racquets make it much easier, via a trap door that can be removed separately from the butt cap. All it takes is a small screwdriver to pry it out. Once you get the trap door off, if you see a piece of graphite dividing the inside of the handle in half, with two hollow chambers on either side, you’re in business. You'll also see the ends of the butt cap staples, but they're easy to work around. Cut your lead tape into sections about 6

46 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007

5 sets of Head FXP Power 16 and Hydrosorb Grips and Xtremesoft Overgrips to: Scot McMillan (age 12), Salisbury, CT

QUICK BOX PATTERN
I know there are more exotic box pattern stringing techniques out there, but the one I use comes from RSI Stringer of the Year Bob Patterson. • Leave the last short side main unstrung and tie off at the head. • With the long side main, leave off the outside main and instead weave the first cross at the top, then the last short side main, then the bottom cross, then the last long side main. • Install the rest of the crosses. Just remember, when installing that bottom cross during the “boxing,” if there is an odd number of crosses, the top and bottom weaves are the same. If there is an even number of crosses, the top and bottom weaves are opposite. 5 sets of Dunlop M-Fil Tour to: David Pavlich, MRT, Mandeville, LA Editor’s note: Typically, stringers use the box pattern technique to (among other things) avoid blocked holes, minimize the amount of string outside of the frame, or both. This technique doesn’t meet either of these goals, but it does allow you to do one-piece stringing on a racquet where you’d otherwise have to do two-piece stringing to start the crosses at the head. Don’t forget that using an around-the-world or box pattern technique on Head racquets that specify two-piece stringing will void your warranty.

crushing of bubbling. There’s no danger of damaging your string job. They come in a set that also includes diagonal cutters and needle-nose pliers. The regular price is under $10, but sometimes they’re on sale for half price. 5 sets of Babolat Xcel Premium 16 to: Glenn Brewer, Marietta, GA —Greg Raven Q
Tips and Techniques submitted since 2000 by USRSA members, and appearing in this column, have all been gathered into a single volume of the Stringer’s Digest—Racquet Service Techniques which is a benefit of USRSA membership. Submit tips to: Greg Raven, USRSA, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92804; or email greg@racquettech.com.

PERFECT NIPPERS
I’ve been stringing for almost 40 years, and have the tool collection to prove it, but Tim Sullivan of Laserfibre recommended my new favorite tool to me: The end nippers from Sears (item 45698). He calls them grommet nippers, but they do a lot more than that. In the closed position they push out undamaged grommets without scratching the inside of the racquet. Flared or cracked grommets are easily snipped clean down to the frame, still with no marring. But that’s not all. These nippers cut string bands, tie off knots, and make perfect plastic awls on any type string without
July 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

47

Your Serve
Recruit Volunteer Leaders
A Tennis Service Rep says bringing in more volunteers will unleash a giant sales force for the sport and vastly increase participation.
BY KEVIN THEOS

R

ecreational tennis participation is on the rise. We see that not just through the player research that the TIA and USTA does, but also through leading industry indicators such as ball and racquet sales. This is great news for all of us in the tennis business. But what if we could find a way to increase tennis participation that would dwarf the increases we’ve seen in recent years! The solution may be easier than you think. Some of my Tennis Service Representative colleagues and I believe that we can greatly increase tennis participation by actively recruiting more volunteer leaders to help organize, administer, and sell tennis programs, especially on our public tennis courts. Our tennis sales force consists of individuals who earn their living from tennis programs—such as tennis pros—as well as volunteers who love tennis and just want to share our sport with others. While teaching pros do a fabulous job of promoting tennis, most teach at private clubs, not public courts, because private facilities appear to provide greater income and stability. Unfortunately, this leaves the 70 percent of people who play tennis on public courts without the opportunity to benefit from the organizational services of a tennis teaching professional. Moreover, even where pros are available, they understandably tend to focus on programs that are the most profitable. Pros have relatively little time to devote to programs that generate less revenue, but that might increase participation, such as USTA Junior Team Tennis. Volunteer organizers compliment the work of tennis teaching pros because they can operate programs that are not particularly profitable for a teaching pro. Volunteers also can stimulate play on our public courts—where most individuals first experience tennis. Relatively few public courts, however, are ever likely to generate sufficient revenue by themselves to sustain a tennis professional. Examples of volunteer organizers are

everywhere. In fact, you probably know of a volunteer in your area who has done an outstanding job of organizing adult and/or junior play. We are fortunate to have the involvement of many such individuals. But imagine what we could accomplish if we could motivate many, many more people to become such exceptional volunteers. The USTA already assists volunteer leaders in a number of ways. The USTA trains volunteers in how to teach tennis through its Recreational Coach Workshops, and it provides training on a broad spectrum of other topics at its annual Community Tennis Development Workshop. Andrew Feldman, who is the USTA Volunteer Development Manager, is also an outstanding resource for volunteers. More recently, the USTA has begun providing advocacy training to volunteers who wish to access resources in their communities to support the construction of new and/or expanded tennis facilities. These resources benefit existing volunteer leaders greatly. In addition, some of my TSR colleagues and I are crafting an approach toward recruiting far more community tennis leaders than we currently have. During the last few months, we have been surveying volunteer leaders in order to learn how their volunteer commitment evolved. The preliminary answers that we have received indicate that virtually all of our top volunteers began after being asked to get involved. We don’t know how committed a particular individual will eventually become. But, perhaps, by more frequently inviting people to volunteer, we not only will accomplish more, but we will give ourselves greater odds of developing community tennis leaders. Observing volunteer effectiveness in other youth sports as well as within tennis indicates that tennis would benefit from having more volunteer organizers. By

actively recruiting greater numbers of volunteer leaders and guiding them toward available resources, we will multiply the number of people in and the effectiveness of our tennis sales force. Given the chance, volunteer leaders can augment the work of our teaching pros by promoting programs that pros cannot afford to promote, especially on our public tennis courts. Think again of a specific exceptional tennis volunteer. By vastly increasing the number of similar volunteers, we can reach toward our staggering potential for tennis participation, and encourage more people to have the audacity to think, as I do, that tennis can one day be the most popular participation sport in the country. All you have to do is ask. Q

Kevin Theos is the USTA Southern Section Tennis Service Representative for Alabama. He is a USPTA pro with more than 15 years teaching experience and is the former executive director of the Birmingham Area Tennis Association. He may be reached at theos@sta.usta.com.
We welcome your opinions. Please email comments to rsi@racquetTECH.com or fax them to 760-536-1171.

48 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY July 2007