By Leander Paes
My racquet is like an extension of myself on the court. Just like my body has to be fine-tuned to the smallest sinew, I expect my racquet to hum to the slightest twitch of my fingers; excellence, after all, is in the details. For the fan, my racquet would look very much like the regular Yonex Ezone 100 off the shelf. But up close it’s a different beast altogether. To begin with, regular frames are 27 inches in length, mine is 27.5. That little extra allows for higher trajectory on my serve.
Regular racquets weigh anything from 270 to 315 gms, mine is 360 gms plus. As the game has evolved and the balls, as well as the courts have gone slower, I now look for a frame that has extra power and a bigger sweet spot. The Yonex isometric-shaped frame provides for just that and each of my racquets is made at the same factory and to my precise specifications. For that, it’s essential to tie up with a manufacturer of repute.
Regular racquets come with different grip sizes as per the size of an individual’s hand. Mine is a bit more customised. The grip is based on a mould of my hand to ensure the most precise fit–that’s how you see me pull off those almost magical reflex volleys on the net.
The perfect fit is so important in swift grip change situations. That’s why I also use a leather grip under the softer overgrip that’s visible to spectators. The leather also moulds to the shape of my hand far better. Wait, I am not done talking about the grip just yet. Mine is also especially cast with a mixer of silicon and foam to enable better vibration dampening. Then, there is lead injected into it to provide for the weight-balance that I like.
While the racquet is heavy, its swing velocity is 315 gm. For that to happen, I worked with the Yonex engineers to ensure an aerodynamic shape that worked for my game style. Earlier I used to use natural gut in my cross strings for more feel. But now, string technology has made such great leaps that my Yonex Polytour Fire works just fine. I keep shuffling between strings depending upon weather, surface and my needs for a particular tournament.
The special aerodynamics, the bigger sweet spot and more power plus spin from the frame allow me to keep playing at the highest level of the sport even at the age of 45. I could go on and on about the special shape of the holes in my grommet, the way I change the balance of the shaft with injected lead etc, but I think its best for the racquet to create a racket out on court. For you guys, I’ll leave it at this.