Hello and welcome to the third issue of Tennis inbox. In case you missed it, on Tuesday we published an interview with doubles specialist Nathaniel Lammons. Lammons spoke to Tennis inbox about finding a balance between touring and coaching to make ends meet, how the pandemic has affected players, and abuse from gamblers.
This week we look at Noah Rubin’s Behind the Racquet, learn a little about potential live tennis coming our way, and see how much Novak Djokovic’s racquet really weighs. Read on to find out more.
Players reveal their struggles on Behind the Racquet
If you’re a tennis lover and also have an Instagram account, then you might already know what Behind the Racquet is. If not, it’s a place where players share personal, intimate stories about their mental and emotional challenges, often to do with—or caused by—their professional pursuit of tennis. Started by Noah Rubin (career-high ranking ATP #125) after a string of disappointing losses in March 2018, the page aims to highlight the toll professional tennis takes on athletes in our sport. The posts are especially endearing because they show the vulnerable, human sides of our favorite players laid bare.
The Instagram page today has nearly 33,000 followers and has featured personal stories from Michael Chang, Dinara Safina, James Blake, and more. It has also received coverage in the New York Times.
More live tennis!
As we speculated in Ti Issue #1, live tennis is slowly returning around the world with regional tournaments, exhibitions, and competitions.
The Adria Tour
Novak Djokovic is organizing the Adria Tour, which features Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, and Grigor Dimitrov as its top players (other than Djokovic, who himself will also compete.)
Women’s UTR Pro Match Series
UTR held a round-robin series featuring Alison Riske (WTA #19), Amanda Anisimova (WTA #28), Danielle Collins (WTA #51), and Ajla Tomljanović (WTA #56). Played on the same court as the men’s event before, the series was ultimately canceled due to ongoing rain. Danielle Collins and Ajla Tomljanović were to play one another to decide who would go on to face Alison Riske in the finals.
Could the 2020 US Open go ahead?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a press release on Friday 22nd May on a plan to allow international athletes the ability to enter the United States for sporting reasons. The release states:
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf signed an order that exempts certain foreign professional athletes who compete in professional sporting events organized by certain leagues, including their essential staff and their dependents, from proclamations barring their entry into the U.S.
DHS notes that it will work with a list of sporting organizations to “identify specific athletes, essential staff, team and league leadership, spouses, and dependents covered by this exemption.” The WTA and the ATP are named in the press release, meaning that there’s a chance that the USTA will actually host the 2020 US Open.
Naomi Osaka is the highest-paid women’s athlete in the world
On the back of a stellar 18 months on tour, and a decision to represent Japan at the now-postponed 2020 Summer Olympics, Naomi Osaka has become the highest-paid women’s athlete—surpassing Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Osaka made more than $37 million in earnings in the past 12 months—more than any other female athlete in history. According to Kurt Badenhausen in Forbes:
The decision [to play for Japan] made her an even hotter commodity for Olympic sponsors, like Procter & Gamble, All Nippon Airways and Nissin, which signed endorsement deals with Osaka to use her around marketing for the Games.
2020 Hall of Fame Ceremony postponed
Goran Ivanišević and Conchita Martínez will have to wait one more year to be enshrined into tennis’ Hall of Fame. Ivanišević and Martínez each won a Grand Slam title, Ivanišević in 2001 and Martínez in 1994. The ceremony, which takes place every year in Newport, Rhode Island has been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Novak Djokovic’s real racquet specs in 2016
Gear nerds will already know that professionals rarely—if ever—play with the racquets that they ‘endorse’. In fact, we plan to cover this phenomenon in the next few months with an in-depth article. If you’re curious to see what Djokovic’s actual specs are on his frame, YouTuber Tennis Spin has a video comparing one of the frames Djokovic won the 2016 Australian Open with to a 2020 Head Speed Pro that is available to the general public. In general, pros’ racquets are heftier and heavily customized with lead tape and sometimes silicon. Djokovic’s is no different.
The racquet that Djokovic uses today is supposedly different from the one he used in 2016, but the comparison by Tennis Spin provides a general insight into the types of frames used by professionals.
If you already know what Static Weight and Swingweight are, you can skip the below definitions, which are provided by Tennis Warehouse University, and head straight down to see the differences.
Static [w]eight is the resistance to movement in a straight line. Lifting is an example. The racquet resists (does not move) your lifting efforts until you pull with a force equal to its weight.
Swingweight is the resistance to movement in a circle. Circular motion (as in most stages of a tennis swing) occurs around a center or rotation, let’s say the butt end of the handle. When you apply equal forces to the handles of two racquets with different swingweights, the racquet with the higher swingweight will accelerate less and rotate less quickly around the center of the circle. The lower swingweight racquet will accelerate more quickly. In other words, higher swingweight means less maneuverability, and lower swingweight means more.
2020 Head Graphene 360+Speed Pro specs (with two overgrips and a shock absorber)
Static Weight: 342.5 grams
Swingweight: 333 grams
Novak’s actual specs
Static Weight: 358.5 grams
Swingweight: 369 grams
Unsurprisingly, Djokovic’s Static Weight and Swingweight for his frame far exceed that of the model available to the public.