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Tennis players are human, too, and Novak Djokovic’s real racquet specs from 2016—Ti #3
The mental and emotional toll of the pro tour. Live tennis springs back. Naomi Osaka made $37.4 million over the last 12 months. And Novak's real racquet specs.
28 May, 2020

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 accountthen 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.

View this post on Instagram

“The story of my attack is unfortunately not great, but how I came back is what I want people to know. It was obviously not something I expected to deal with and made me feel empty inside for a while. The attacker took my love, tennis, away from me. I didn’t want to just come back, I wanted to come back and play at the highest level. It was like a challenge for me. Mentally, it helped having resounding support from everyone in my life and others I didn’t know. I had lots of messages and emails, I had fellow tennis players, even tournaments, who filmed videos wishing me a good recovery, which helped me get through everything. It was heart warming to see all the faces smiling as I made my way back to my first tournament. Some players didn’t know how to act towards me at first, but there was a feeling of comfort to see all of them again. I truly missed the competition of being on the court. As a tennis player you have to deal with many tough aspects such as being on the road for long periods, the ups and downs on court. I knew I missed the sport when none of that mattered and I was just begging to have the chance to play and win, that was what I needed. I didn't really know how I was going to feel when I stepped on the court for the first time again at Roland Garros in 2017. I didn’t know how I would react and I was thinking maybe I would cry. I thought I would be filled with tears, but my overriding emotion was pure happiness. I, unfortunately, had some scary flashbacks during the match, but most of my thoughts were of tennis, which I was proud of. I do have to admit that I cried after the match and I heard that the girls were crying watching me win in the locker room too. I have a different perspective on life and see things a little differently now, but that competitiveness to win every time I step on court hasn’t left me. I always want to improve and I work for that winning feeling. I have to remind myself, win or lose, I am thankful to be there playing, which I could have lost in that moment a couple years ago.”

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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.

View this post on Instagram

“There was always a little bit of a fight between my father and my mother. My mother wanted me to study more, which is why I was in school while playing tennis until I was 18. In Russia most professional athletes are done studying around 12 years old. It might have been the reason I wasn’t as good as my friends for some time, but I have no regrets. There were many tough times before the help from the federation and sponsors, when there wasn’t enough money. There were matches where I lost and all I was thinking about was the extra 100 dollars I could’ve made. The toughest period for me was the switch from juniors to pros. I ended at 13 in the world in junior tennis. I started to quickly understand, after playing futures, just how difficult it would be to get from 700 to 300 in the world. You needed to save as much money as possible while trying to win five or six futures as quickly as possible. At the time I was lost, didn’t know how to do that because there were so many other players trying to do the same thing. I remember talking to Bublik, playing a future thirty minutes away from where I lived in France. I was around 700 in the world and asked him, ‘How do you even become 300, it seems impossible?’ To this day he remembers that line and will joke when he sees me, ‘Come on, how did we become 300?!’ Even after reaching the top 100 for the first time, I knew deep down I wasn’t professional. When I was on court I would give 100%, but off the court I wouldn’t do the right things. I would go to bed late, play hours of PlayStation and just not worry about the small things. From 70 to top 5 in the world was the jump where I really decided to dedicate everything to tennis. I wanted to finally find my limits. I know people say there are none, but I want to test myself and find mine. That was the moment for me. I remember before that major jump where I would play one long match and I would lose the next day just because I couldn’t move. If you talk to anyone from juniors they would say I was one of the players in the worst shape, sometimes cramping after only thirty minutes…” Swipe 👉 pictures to continue reading @medwed33 story!

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Read Rubin’s profile in ESPN.
Visit Behind the Racquet on Instagram.

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.

Watch UTR Pro Match Series Women’s: Day 2.
Read about the Women’s UTR Pro Match series.

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.

Read the DHS press release.

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 historyAccording 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.

Read about Osaka in Forbes.

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.

Read the Tennis.com article.

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 Universityand head straight down to see the differences.

Static Weight:

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:

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.

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Getting out of your comfort zone—Ti #38

Getting out of your comfort zone—Ti #38

“It seems you can’t go a day or two without some self-development guru or wanna be Simon Sinek telling you that ‘you have to get out of your comfort zone to improve!’ It’s a tried and tested truism in the space of self-improvement. But how does this idea work when it comes to playing tennis matches and competing?”

Is your mental game holding you back?—Ti #37

Is your mental game holding you back?—Ti #37

“Tennis Australia consequently announced that all matches scheduled on Thursday would be postponed a day to give casual contacts—which could be up to 600 people (players, coaches, support staff, etc.)—a chance to get tested. The postponement of play will also give Tennis Australia and the Victorian government a chance to get a handle on just how bad the situation is.”

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