Me and my racket: Sorana Cirstea
tennishead caught up with the likeable 20-year-old Romanian to talk string gauges, grommets, grips and, naturally, smiley-faced vibration dampeners
tennishead: Can you remember your first racket?
Sorana Cirstea: I’ll never forget it. I started playing when I was four years old. It was made of wood but it was too long so my dad cut it to make it like a mini racket. I still have it at home.
th: What model do you use now?
SC: All my life I’ve played with Wilson. From six years old I was crazy about Steffi Graf so I started playing with her rackets and when I turned 12 I got my first contract with Wilson and I’ve been with them ever since. I’ve used the [K]Blade 98 since the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.
th: How important is your racket to you?
SC: There are so many elements to a professional’s racket. Our rackets come customised for each player’s game so I may have the same model as another player but mine might be a bit heavier for example – Wilson will make it exactly as I want it. A racket is the most important thing for us because it’s how you feel the ball. It’s winning me the points and the matches!
th: How many do you travel with?
SC: I have six frames with me and I’ll always go on court with five newly strung and ready to use. You never know what’s going to happen out there.
th: How often do you get new frames?
SC: I change my rackets every six months because when you use them ever day they start to lose their feel a little bit.
th: When do you get them re-strung?
SC: Each one is re-strung before every match. I’m always re-stringing my rackets! I’ll normally have them all strung the same, but if I’m just starting on a new surface and I’m not sure what tension I need then maybe I’ll try two or three different tensions.
th: What strings do you use?
SC: Luxilon in the crosses and mains. I never use gut.
th: What tensions?
SC: There’s not such a big gap between my highest and lowest tensions – all my rackets are normally around 27 or 28kgs (59-62lbs).
th: Does your tension differ from event to event?
SC: There are so many different things to take into consideration – altitude, whether I’m playing on clay, hard or grass for example, wind, no wind, so it depends. At altitude the ball is flying more so you need your strings tighter. If you’re playing on heavy clay you need looser strings for more power. If it’s really hot then you need tighter strings because the ball flies a lot more, and if it’s cooler then you’ll drop tension for more power.
th: Do you have a favourite frame, one you’ll always pick first?
SC: I used to do that – I had different numbers on the rackets, but I took them off because it was becoming like a superstition. Now they’re all the same so I don’t think about it.
th: Vibration dampener?
SC: No, not any more. I used to use one that was a smiley face to make me feel better on court, but I don’t use them any more.
th: Have you kept any special frames from the past?
SC: I’ve kept one of every model I’ve ever played with so I can see the changes in technology through the years and also because they bring back memories from my career.