Roger Federer and all the other players are starting to resume training, with the start of the loosening of lockdowns in the various countries and the resumption of activities. However, tennis will remain in the box at least until July 31st, therefore many activities closely related to the Game will still remain in mothballs.
There are some categories of workers, such as racket stringers - especially those of the top-players - who now are facing the stops of ATP and WTA Tours. Champions have special needs, and often prefer not to rely on the services made available by tournaments.
So when they can afford it, they invest in personal stringers. A luxury for those who can. This is the case of Ron Yu: born in South Korea, he moved to the United States as a child and he is an American in all respects. He studied at Georgia Tech University, but tennis was too important for him.
He did nothing but play, neglecting his studies. But since he was not Michael Chang's emulator, he entered in the world of tennis as a specialist in the field: becoming one of the main racket technicians. A craftsman, a golden hand.
He does not just string the racquets, but he personalizes them according to the needs of the tennis player. his parents did not approve of his choice; they wanted him to study, but today they can console themselves: "My mother can tell her friends in Korea that her son works and is a friend of Roger Federer," he said.
He has been the silent protagonist behind 23 Slam titles, collectively won by Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer. In 2021, Yu will celebrate 20 years of collaboration with the Priority One company, which is responsible for providing this service to professionals interested in the care of the equipment.
Founded by Nate Ferguson, a well-known stringer of Pete Sampras, as well as industry legend, Priority One works with a small circle of professionals. Among them are Novak Djokovic and Federer himself, a client since 2004. Generally, services are limited to the most important tournaments.
More generally, they offer three types of service: Gold, on an annual basis, Silver (30 racquets, without time limit) and Bronze, with compensation according to needs. Problems began with the global Covid-19 pandemic. Despite being a luxury, Priority One must also comply with the rules of the business.
And then one of the three technicians, Glynn Roberts, who worked with Djokovic and Andy Murray, was fired. The 52-year-old Yu withstood problems caused by the pandemic to the economy, despite having suffered a reduction in wages.
Today he works with 1-2 racquets a day, while in normal times he worked with 25-30. "Our deal with the players is limited to when they travel, and we are present at the tournaments." In other words, the takings are now reduced to zero.
Also, because of this, Yu has found a part-time job near his home in Tampa. A big difference for those who are used to spending six months a year around the world. "In moments of maximum splendor I had reached 33 weeks around the world, then I settled at 26.
Tennis is like a small village that travels around the world: even if you are in a different city, you always see the same people. I admit that finding a part-time job made me realize how much I love tennis. Now I miss it."
Yu then explained the effect of the tennis lockdown on the world of stringers: "They have lost about 80-90% of their takings. Even in normal times, it is not a job that enriches. You can lead a quiet, classy life media, but what's happening is devastating,” he said.