| By Roman Prokes

Players are always looking for an edge on the court. They work with teaching professionals to master their technique, coaches to solidify their tactics, trainers to ameliorate their conditioning. Why not have an expert help with your equipment? That is the goal of an on-court consultation.

I have been working with top pro players for over three decades. I have aided players like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, and countless others throughout the world. This massive experience has pushed me to really understand the game from the equipment perspective. Players are constantly searching for the best specification of frames, handles, weights, balances, strings and tensions. I have seen the enormous diversity when players change any of these variables. One example is recently when I was on the court with Maria Sharapova and her coach Michael Joyce. Even though Maria was hitting with extreme force, Michael hardly broke a sweat. Maria’s shots were not as efficient as they could be. By testing multiple equipment variables and giving her direct feedback, Maria was able to alleviate her shoulder pain, add some pop to her ground strokes, improve her confidence and numerous other benefits. By choosing the right specifications, we quickly had Michael doing all the running. The difference was enormous and instantaneous, creating results that translated to tournament wins and ranking points. Professionals are not only superhuman in competition, but they have an uncanny ability to feel differences in almost any infinitesimal change when testing equipment. This continuous discussion of minute details of equipment with myself and top professionals has educated me to really see what specification is needed to achieve a player’s desired results.

This gave me the idea to do what I always did for the best players in the world for everyday players as well. I have tested this in a couple of formats, and have tweaked and perfected the system where, within about one hour of on-court time, I can determine the best possible racket frame, grip size, weight, balance, string and tension for any player. Typically, when searching for the correct equipment, players demo rackets. These are programs where a player borrows a racket, tests it for couple days, and after few tests, buys the racket. I have seen more times than I can recount, where a player purchases multiple rackets only to come back a few weeks later saying that they don’t like the racket. In effect, a player ends up having spent a lot of money and the result is not what they hoped for.
That’s where I think an on-court consultation is far superior. The process requires access to all pertinent racket demos for a player’s game, customization resources, a tennis hitter with consistent hitting and meaningful feedback, and a player looking to improve. The player tests different rackets, strings, tensions and customizations, all the while, they receive feedback from the hitter who has the best gauge of their performance. I analyze the performance, hear what goals are desired, and advise which various equipment changes to try. There is really no definitive format of doing this because every player is very unique. Sometimes, we can try a lot of rackets, whereas other times, not many at all. Sometimes, the results come with retail rackets off the shelf, and sometimes, rackets need to be adjusted to distinct specifications to be perfectly matched to a player’s specific needs. In this well-controlled environment, a player gets the best litmus test of the equipment, as well as allowing me to implement changes to the racket. At the end of the process, we all agree on one to two possible options. The player is then encouraged to test the selected rackets a few more times under different conditions.

An on-court consultation is a very precise and methodical way to find out what works best for you. It will always be a chance for a player to test equipment in a controlled environment, with the guidance of an expert, as well as the feedback of an educated coach/pro. It’s a chance for a player to know what works optimally for them without the “what ifs” (what if I tried this racket at a different tension, what if this racket was heavier, what if I used this racket against a big hitter, etc.). Whether you end up with a whole new racket frame, a customization of your current racket, a new string, new tension, or a modification that you didn’t know existed, one thing is certain … you will improve.