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Mailbag: Pistol Pete’s New Pure Storm 09/03/2010 - 2:43 PM gear editor Bill Gray and his technical advisers will answer your equipment questions every Friday. Click here to send one of your own.

2010_09_03_pete2 I just saw some clips of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi at an exhibition and it appears Pete has switched to a Babolat racquet that looks like a version of the Pure Storm. I remember hearing that he enjoyed Roddick's Babolat but didn't know he made a permanent switch. Can you confirm and how does it compare to his Wilson Pro Staff?—Eshan

Sure enough, Eshan, Pistol Pete is packing the Pure Storm Tour these days, according to his personal racquet customizer and stringer, Nate Ferguson. “It’s almost his old weight and balance of a decade ago, with stationary weight of about 390 grams [13.8 ounces],” Ferguson reports. He’s also now using the hot Babolat RPM Blast polyester string that Rafael Nadal introduced at the Australian Open this year. Looks like Sampras has joined the Babolat and poly bandwagon. He used just one racquet type, the Wilson Pro Staff, and played with gut during his career.

I have been trying for several years to playtest a new racquet, but it is impossible to find a demo with anything bigger than a 4 3/8 grip, which is child-size as far as I’m concerned. I play with a 4 5/8, and could make do with a 4 1/2. Can you help me find a place where I can demo racquets with adult-size grips?—J. Chapman

It’s true that demo sizes these days are almost always 4 3/8, a reflection of how grips have shrunk since the advent of the wristy, open-stance style (Rafael Nadal, for instance, plays with a 4 1/4 twig). Skinny grips help players come over the ball, enabling them to hit with lots of topspin. But we checked with the big online retailers and found that Tennis Warehouse still carries 4 1/2 demos. We suggest you try one of those and wrap it with an overgrip to get closer to your preferred 4 5/8 without masking the touch and feel you’ll want for the playtest. A spokesman for Tennis Warehouse said to just make sure you unwrap it before you send it back. And, of course, they do have racquets for sale with 4 5/8 grips.

I am 39 years old, and play at a very high 4.0. I went to sectionals in both the men's and in 8.0 mixed, and my partner and I are the state's top-ranked 4.0 team. I play with a Yonex RQIS 2 Tour strung with 18-gauge Topspin Cyberblue in the mains and 18 gauge Hex Poly in the crosses. I hit a big first serve and a severe American twist second serve and hit with topspin on my forehand and backhand (and can slice it too). My shots are deep and hard, and I put pressure on opponents to keep up. But I want to improve the stability on my volleys, get a little touch on my shots, and see fewer of my big shots to sail off the court, while maintaining spin and velocity.—Bric

That’s quite a repertoire, Bric. But actually, if I were on the state’s top-ranked 4.0 doubles team, I wouldn’t make any major changes to my racquet and strings. But here’s a tweak you might try: Add two or three grams of lead tape to the sides at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions on the frame and see if that helps stabilize your net game and slow down your swing a little to keep your power shots in the court. Let us know how you make out.

I was playing with my 14-year-old the other day and it started to rain and my strings, Luxilon Big Banger, got a little wet. Will this affect their longevity? I am 5.0–5.5 player who breaks strings every four or five matches.—Bobby

A little rain isn’t going to hurt your strings says string adviser Bob Patterson. Not even gut is as affected by moisture as it was in the old days. Most modern gut strings have a protective outer coating.


Posted by Coach Myron 09/03/2010 at 03:34 PM

Pete Sampras should have asked me what racquet to use.

Back in the late 1990s, I was using the Prostaff 6.0 85 and 95.

Back then I sent Pete a message through a fan site saying that he should use the 95 for the French Open and the 85 for the other majors. I joked to people about sending the message - because telling Sampras wht racquet to use seemed comical.

Then in 2008 I saw an interview of Sampras and he said: "I wish I had used a bigger racquet for the French Open".

So a few years ago I switched from the Prostaff 95 to a Babolat.

Now Pistol Pete is copying me again!!!

Posted by X 09/03/2010 at 03:54 PM

Babolat and poly strings are like red lightsabers. They're associated with the Dark Side.

Posted by Killerc 09/03/2010 at 04:55 PM

I used babalot for a couple years but, felt the net stability with my aero drive was poor.. I gave other lines of babi a try but wasn't impressed. I wanted something new and nothing too exotic, I decided to try wilson! switched to the wilson ksix 95' enjoyed it since.. I do use the babalot strings tho! i believe their co-polys are the best in the game! Pro-hurricane Tour enables a lot power/durability and seems nice on my arm. (I string 60lbs) My game is the S/V type tho. I donno if I am gonna follow pete tho and switch back' Him using rpm is interesting tho! from what i've heard about rpm is that it plays alot like the pht, maybe a little more spin but less power and string life/durability fluctuates compared to pht. Im sure pete can have his sticks strung whenever so the durability thing probably doesn't bother em. Maybe he likes the kick on his serve a little more with RPM?

Posted by steve137 09/04/2010 at 04:32 AM

Next thing he will hit is back hand double handed and started serving left handed! Another Jedi turned to the dark side.

Posted by mateo 09/04/2010 at 06:59 AM

Wonder if Wilson will continue to sell the Pete Sampras model!

Posted by Mafiana Rigatoni 09/04/2010 at 02:50 PM

The biggest question about Sampras:

After he serves the ball does he still run in toward the net even using more of a baseline racquet?

Posted by George Zipp 09/04/2010 at 02:52 PM

This just in -

Pete Sampras is returning to his old 2-handed backhand.

Posted by Calvin Tech 09/04/2010 at 02:57 PM

I never heard the story of Pete Sampras switching from his 2-handed backhand to a 1-hander.

Does anyone here know the story?

Posted by Ty 09/06/2010 at 01:10 AM

I just put in a full set of RPM Blast at 59 lbs and I am not digging it so much. It does not seem to have the same pop as my usual Kirshbaum Spiky Shark.

Posted by jmt 01/15/2011 at 06:05 PM

not impressed with rpm blast.found gs's snakebite 17g. alot better @5lbs less for power and incredible topspin

Posted by stormtrooper costume 09/26/2011 at 05:51 PM

Just goes to show you how much trouble really really tall players have, ha! Seriously, though, I love pistol pete's new "gun!"

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