Recently, a customer called and asked this question: “I had been playing with the same strings for five years and never had to change them. A month ago, I brought my racquet in to get new strings. I have only played with it 10 times and the strings are already broken. What did you guys do wrong?”
So let’s be completely honest here. We love stringing racquets. That’s why we do it. But this is the part of being a professional racquet stringer that sucks.
Customer breaks strings. We fix strings. Customer breaks strings again. Customer blames us.
The truth is, we didn’t do anything wrong. We fixed the racquet. What happened after that has nothing to do with us.
In this particular case, we know the customer. So we were able to drill down and find some clues that may point to an explanation.
The first of the clues comes from the fact that the customer exaggerated a bit when he said he had been playing with the same racquet for five years. In actual fact, he bought the racquet five years ago. He used it several times the first year, a few times the second year, then it sat in his closet for two and a half years before he started using it regularly again.
In this case, his perception is that the original strings last for years. In actual fact, however, his strings lasted several months. If you do the math and take out the time he was not playing, they lasted five to six months before breaking, which is about right.
The second clue also comes from the customer who tells us that five years ago, when he bought the racquet, he was a new player who was not hitting the ball very hard. In addition to that, because he was a new player, his rallies were shorter. This means that he was hitting the ball both less often and with less power five years ago that he is today.
The final clue has less to do with our customer than it does with the people he plays against. It turns out that the guy he is playing with now hits harder than anybody he has ever played before. So once again, as in Clue #2, we can see that the context in which the customer is using the strings has changed.
So why blame us when his strings break? Because thinking things through is difficult and most people can’t be bothered. It is easier to blame somebody else than examine their own role in their difficulties.
What every player needs to understand is that nothing is static. If they are playing frequently, they are getting stronger and hitting harder. If they are playing less often, they are getting weaker and hitting off center more often.
Our opponents are changing, too. If they are hitting harder, we are probably hitting harder. If we are evenly matched and both improving, then our rallies are probably getting longer as well.
And as our bodies and our abilities change, our string needs will change, too. Stronger players need stronger string. If you doubt that compare a 14 year old to a 20 year old. Or compare a forty year old to a guy in his fifties. One probably hits a lot harder than the other.
So before you start assigning blame for broken strings, take a few minutes to think things through.
We string two thousand racquets or more every year. What are the odds that we don’t know how to do it properly?