Citi Open stringers prepare players for battle

August 2, 2012 11:09 AM
Citi Open head stringer Jay Lewandowski stringing a racquet.
By Kelyn Soong, special to
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The players at Citi Open depend on Jay Lewandowski and his team.
Lewandowski, 36, has been the head stringer for the Washington, D.C. tournament since 2006 and knows players’ tendencies as well as anybody.
"Everybody’s particular," he said. "Everybody knows what he or she wants. They trust us. When they have $20,000 on the line [in potential prize money], it matters. This is their weapon. If it’s not correct, they can’t perform up to their standards."
His company, Game.Set.Match Tennis, has been involved with the Washington, D.C. tournament for the past four years and is also the official stringer for the Winston-Salem Open and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University tennis teams.
Lewandowski, of Durham, N.C. has been stringing for 21 years.
He founded his company in 2003 and brought three other stringers - Dustin Tankersley, Alan Taylor and David Yamane - to the nation’s capital to work with him this week.
The tireless foursome arrives each day at the William H.G. Fitzgerald tennis center at 7 a.m. and leaves after the last match, which sometimes runs into the early morning.
"It’s two really challenging weeks of the year, but it’s a lot of fun," said Yamane, who works for the men’s tennis team and teaches at Wake Forest University. "There’s a camaraderie in the stringing room. It’s like you’re going into competition with your teammates."
There is barely downtime for the team as players constantly walk into the stringing room unannounced to pick up or drop off racquets.
"You’ve got to be prepared for everything," Lewandowski said, as doubles specialist Mark Knowles steps in the room without knocking, which is typical.
Last year, Lewandowski’s team strung around 650 racquets and he has already lost count of the amount his team has done so far this week.
Despite the small staff and constant work, Tankersley enjoys stringing at tournaments such as the Citi Open.
"I like the smaller tournaments because we get to interact with the players," he said. "I really like the atmosphere here."
Tankersley has been stringing racquets for 16 years and has worked around the country, including the US Open since 2009.
He met Lewandowski when they both started at the then Legg Mason Tennis Classic in 2006.
Through the years and tournaments, the players have developed a comfort level with the Citi Open stringing team and interact with them regularly during the tournament, Tankersley said.
Lewandowski wagers that they have strung for 95 percent of the players that come through the Citi Open, and there’s a level of mutual respect from both sides.
"[The players] need to be comfortable and confident in us," he said. "That is how you build rapport. They trust you with their equipment for battle on court."