Eddie Herr International 2021Matt Steverson
I was recently part of the stringing team at the prestigious Eddie Herr International junior event at the IMG Academy (previously Bollitieri Academy) in Bradenton, Florida. We had a great team comprised of myself, Paul Yamane, Stockton Morris, and IMG stalwarts Austin Lee and Tom Parry. I was there for the first 5 days of the event, and the team worked the remaining 9 days without me (I’m not sure how much I was missed, but I loved being able to contribute).
During my time, I strung about 125 racquets, with the final 2 days being my busiest, doing 30 and 32 respectively. My first day, Wednesday November 24, was pretty quiet with only 16 racquets strung, and we were all surprised as to how easy it was. Thanksgiving Day was busier, as 25 racquets crossed my machine and the courts were quite busy with qualifying matches until early afternoon before play ended for the holiday. My Thanksgiving dinner of an Italian sub, Cheetos and beer from 7-11 put me to sleep fat, happy and rested.
20 racquets the next day (when play was stopped at noon for some crazy reason) laid the groundwork for the arrival of the boy’s 18 players on Saturday, and the beginning of heavier work.
Even though I “only” did 30 that day, it was very smooth as worked just seemed to flow without swarms of frames, only a steady stream of racquets (although these kids drop 3-5 at a time, compared to 1-2 for the younger ones). We finished before midnight and got a good night’s rest for Sunday’s surge, which brought me 32 racquets (I believe Paul did well over 40), and my farewell to my friends around 10:30pm, and falling asleep in my bed in Orlando around 1am.
We had a pretty wide variety of racquets and strings, and some of the “old faithfuls” weren’t so prominent, as I didn’t see a single set of ALU Power until Friday (but the 18s put it back up toward the top of the list later). We did see quite a bit of Yonex Poly Tour Pro, Rev, Strike and Fire, along with Luxilon 4G and ALU Power Rough, with Babolat RPM Rough making it into a surprising number of racquets, along with Solinco Hyper G and Babolat RPM Blast. Most of the players used 1.30 or 1.25mm diameter strings, although 1.20 made a strong increase this year.
Yonex Ezone and Vcore racquets were very prominent, especially with the girls (note to self: become a Yonex dealer), along with Wilson Blades, Babolat Pure Drive, Pure Strike and Pure Aero, Head Radicals and Speeds (and just a couple of the new Prestige models). We had a couple of players using the new Solinco racquets (which aren’t bad, BTW), a couple of kids still using Prince, one Pacific racquet (that I saw), and Tecnifibre had a surprising number of players, signifying their rise in the racquet market.
I was pleased to see we upped our stringing fee by $5 to $25 this year, especially since we had such a strong team (between the 5 of us, I figure we’ve done every major event in the world, and are probably one of the best teams a tournament like this could expect). Tom Parry really went to bat for us, as the entire $5 increase went to us, giving us $15 per frame (plus room and board), making this a fairly well-paying gig (I made more here than in many big tour events I’ve done). I only heard 2 people complain about the price, which is par for the course no matter what you charge. We had only one complaint about our work, which was quickly shot down.
As most of us have realized, the Head Gravity racquets are quite flexible, especially in the head, and can present a stringing problem if you don’t secure them well in the machine. Without a solid fit in the frame supports (and a little “pre-stretching”) you can compress the hoop and it will come out a little round (and short). Well, I got one of them (these things always seem to happen to me), and the father came back complaining that it was “wrong”, because it “didn’t look like his other ones”.
Tom was quick on the draw, pulling a measuring tape out of his pocket (note to self: get one. It’s cool) and verifying I had not made a mistake, as the racquet was exactly 27″ long. In fact, he told the dad that his son’s other racquets needed to be redone before the stress on them caused damage. I didn’t get to hear how this wound up as I left soon afterward, but Tom was, once again, a solid, decisive and knowledgeable team leader.
There are quite a few perks to doing one of these events (food is plentiful and good, you get employee pricing on hoodies, shirts, etc.), but it’s also great to spend time with other professional stringers (who are also your friends), see a few pros (Petr Korda, Nicole Melichar and Nathalie Tauziat to drop 3 names), and see if, once again, you can produce consistent, quality work under tournament stress. I think I succeeded again, even at my advanced age. Maybe I’ll get asked back again next year.