RIP, Chuck HakanssonMatt Steverson
I have struggled writing this post for some time now, but friendship demands it. My good friend and fellow stringer Chuck Hakansson left us on March 25, 2023, at the age of 68.
Chuck was a coach before he was a stringer and, in 1974, made a stringer at his club an offer it appears he couldn’t refuse: “I’ll buy you lunch if you show me how to string.” From there, a monster was created.
After his “break-in period” figuring out the basics, Chuck went on to have an illustrious career, working at many major events including six Grand Slams, and becoming an influential member of the industry. He was a large part of the Georgia tennis scene, working for Georgia Tech for almost 20 years, the Atlanta Open ATP tournament for more years than I can remember, and serving thousands of players through his affiliations with Lifetime Fitness and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
I met Chuck at the IART Symposium in Orlando and we immediately became friends, staying in touch over the next 15 years and working tournaments together, notably World Team Tennis at the Greenbriar in 2020. Despite the nasty COVID protocols we managed to get hundreds of racquets strung and have a great time besides.
(Note: as you might surmise, it’s always a great week for a guy when Eugenie Bouchard appears. She was quite nice and hung out with us more than once while we were working and, on one occasion, after she left, Chuck and I gave each other that “you should be ashamed of yourself and so should I” look before returning to work.
I was also privileged to work with Chuck at the Eddie Herr International at IMG Academy in 2019, and he had the machine right by the entrance to the stringing area, which automatically made him our “concierge”, meaning he got to answer all the not always smart nor patient questions the players and parents had. He fell right into the role and handled it with aplomb (much better than yours truly would have, I’m sure).
In recognition of his service, Chuck was awarded the title of RSI Stringer of the Year in 2013, and Ron Yu of Priority One dubbed him the “Godfather of Stringing” in praise of his knowledge and experience.
Chuck’s last job was at a tournament in Georgia, where he had a stroke while stringing. As I was told, his first words upon waking up in the hospital were “Did anyone finish that racquet?” If you know him, you realize how totally Chuck that was.
He suffered from complications after the stroke, with first his right, then his left, side refusing to work properly. A GoFundMe was set up to help with his medical bills, and he appreciated how many of his fellow stringers and IART family helped with contributions. Alas, in the end, it was all too much for him and he succumbed to his ailments. My friend left behind a legacy of good work, and good causes, and left an indelible mark on our business. Many stringers got their start or advanced their careers through his recommendations, advice, and encouragement, and I consider myself among them.
Thanks for the post, Matt. I last spoke to Chuck when he called me about the World Team Tennis event at the Greenbriar in 2020. As a courtesy, he phoned to ask if I was putting together a team since the tournament was sort of in my backyard. I said no and he asked if I’d like to join him as part of the team. Covid-19 was pretty rampant then and I felt it was best to play it safe and stay home. If it wasn’t for that I would have loved to have had that experience with you all.
Here’s a nice video of an interview with Chuck that was done by the TW staff at the Atlanta tournament.