Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tennis Porn

The latest issue of Tennis magazine is out with a little feature on the 10 most influential racquets of all time. If you've ever followed the sport, you can probably guess five of them off the top of your head. But buried in the entry on the Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85 is this fascinating nugget:

Pete Sampras didn't merely play with the Pro Staff 6.0 85; he insisted on playing with those produced in a former Maidenform undergarment factory on the [Caribbean island of St. Vincent] (early Pro Staffs were made in Wilson's Chicago factory and later ones in China). When the St. Vincent factory closed in 1990, he stockpiled a bunch of the frames and got more from Wilson when he ran out. The St. Vincent Pro Staffs had a slightly wider beam due to older manufacturing techniques. According to Sampras' stringer, Nate Ferguson, the St. Vincent racquets are also slightly stiffer than those made elsewhere.


This sort of thing always amazes me. There's a story about Bill Bradley going to the opening of a YMCA or some such (maybe from A Sense of Where You Are?). Bradley was to dedicate the basketball court by taking a free throw. He missed the first free throw, clanging the ball off the rim. He took another one, with the same result. He grumbled that the rim was an inch off. Someone measured it and sure enough, it was.

I think we mortals often underestimate how different it is, as a simple physical proposition, to encounter the world as a professional athlete. It's not just what you can do--it's that you can actually see and feel things that normal people can't.

PS: Why wasn't the Wilson Profile included in the Tennis list? It totally revolutionized raquet design, even though it was more cricket bat than raquet.

3 comments:

Seth C. said...

Hey JVL...

I always liked this one on Raymond Berry:

On his first day as the Cowboys' receivers coach, the meticulous Raymond Berry demonstrated how to run a sideline route to rookies. Berry made his usual precise numbers of steps, cut toward the sideline and landed -- 1 foot out of bounds.


"The field is too narrow, Tom," he announced to Coach Landry.

"No, Raymond," Landry said, "we've been out here forever."

This was the sixth year the Cowboys had practiced on the same field without complaint, yet Berry instinctively found it out of line.

"Either the hashmarks aren't right or the field is too narrow," the former Baltimore Colts star receiver insisted. Landry shrugged, called for a tape measure, and field dimensions were plotted to the exact inch.

Berry's sense of precision was validated. The field was 11 inches too narrow.

Anonymous said...

Above is Seth Clearwater from the Twilight series.

Seth C said...

No...different Seth C...