Gear Guru – An Interview with Yvon Gilbert, stringer for Team Canada
February 3, 2013 · Print This Article
Most of the year, Yvon Gilbert manages two tennis stores located in Montreal, Canada. Two or three times a year, however, his day-to-day routine changes dramatically when he is asked by the Canadian Davis Cup team to be their head stringer. He has been traveling with the team to Davis Cup ties across the world and a fixture on the bench alongside players and support staff since 1999. He and his employees have also handled tournament stringing at the Rogers Cup almost continually since 1980. After the doubles match on Saturday, I had a chance to catch up with him.
Yvon: The biggest challenge is moving the machine (a Babolat Star 5) back and forth. Each day I need to bring the machine to the tournament site, and then pack it up and ship it back to the hotel so that I can string during the night.
It’s difficult to bring the machine into a new country, especially in Latin America where customs fees are so high. When it costs $7000 to bring the machine into a country, it’s almost as expensive to buy a new one. So we get in touch with the local Babolat distributor, and rent a similar machine for the duration of the tie.
What I always bring with me, regardless of where we are going, are the stringing instruments and accessories such as lead tape and finishing tape. The players carry their own grips, strings and overgrips.
Yvon: Tonight, for example, I need to string 16 racquets for Sunday’s singles matches. Ten for Milos and six for Frank. I am the only stringer for the Canadian players, so the workload is pretty heavy. A few nights ago I strung from 11:30PM to about 7AM, which meant that I didn’t sleep. Yesterday I slept a little bit, thankfully.
STRINGS AND TENSIONS
Yvon: One thing that’s important is to time my stringing by taking into account the tension loss. I always do one player’s racquets at a time; Milos’ are first up tonight. Also, I take into account the start time of the match, and work my way back.
Milos and Frank are both using Luxilon M2, which is a co-polyester string. The balls play a bit heavier this week, so both of them went down about 1kg compared to their usual tensions to get the right feel. Frank is playing at 19.8kg, while Milos is playing 19.5kg mains and 20.5kg crosses. Both players ask for two-piece stringing.
Frank uses an app called Raquettune on his iPhone to check the tension on his racquet, and before his first match we were trying out different tensions at 0.1kg intervals before he settled into what he likes.
Daniel Nestor is unique in the sense that he will ask for each of his racquets to be strung at a different tension. He is playing gut mains and co-poly crosses and asks for 4 or 5 racquets to be strung for each match. The lowest tension is around 39lb mains/37.5lb crosses, and the highest is 42lb mains/40lb crosses.
Generally speaking, players string a lot looser today than a decade ago because of the co-poly strings. They play stiffer and have much better snap-back, so you need to string at a lower tension to take advantage of that.
Yvon: Frank Dancevic and Milos Raonic both use the Wilson Blade, but Frank used his older 2012 model during his singles match because the 2013 model, prepared to his specifications by Wilson’s racquet technicians, has not arrived yet.
All the players’ racquets arrive here customized, matched and ready to be strung. There might be some very minor tweaks involving lead tape, but generally all I do is string the racquets and get them ready to go. Recreational and competitive players in Montreal sometimes come to my store and request their racquets to be matched. We have a Babolat RDC machine as well as a Prince Diagnostic Center to measure weigh, balance, swingweight and frame stiffness. Once those numbers are calculated, we can go about making all of the frames play the same. It’s a very time-consuming process; it takes about 4 to 5 hours to match 3 frames.
The overwhelming majority of the players here prefer to put on their own overgrips and are all pretty exacting in their gear preferences. They wouldn’t be competing at this level otherwise. That attention to detail is a must to be a top player.
MILOS’ WILSON BLX BLADE
(Don’t have the exact specs, but there is lead under the bumper, and a leather grip beneath the overgrip)