Wimbledon: Roger still stringing top players along
Whoever comes out on top at Wimbledon in a fortnight's time, there's a good chance that Ulsterman Roger Henry will have played a small part in their success.
No strings attached: Roger Henry works for the company that provides rackets for the game’s acesBY DAVID KELLY
With the current fragmented set-up Ulster tennis may have little chance of ever producing a top singles player but Henry is now a resident fixture at Wimbledon and next year the French Open beckons for the professional stringer.
Henry headed off to SW19 yesterday to get ready for the annual fortnight of thrills and spills as an official Babolat stringer — the company who provide rackets for such stars as Rafael Nadal (pictured), Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga — and he is relishing the chance to once again work with the world's best.
“I'm really looking forward to Wimbledon, it's obviously a special tournament,” said Henry.
“At Wimbledon we're in a group so it's a lottery whose racket you get.
“But I also have two-edged job at Wimbledon because in 2009 they switched from a manual to a computer system for the racket specifics for each player and I was at the front line so I dealt with the players and the coaches in what each player needed,” added Henry, a member of the European Racquet Stringers Association, through which he qualified as a Master Racquet Technician which qualifies him to string at any tournament throughout the world.
“There's a real science to the rackets, in how they are strung and the players are very particular in how they want each racket.
“You string it, then you have to logo it up and bag it and I had the pleasure of heading over to the locker room to give Rafa his rackets last year.
“But you know whoever it is I am aware that I cut my teeth on the junior tournaments in Ulster.. always whoever it is I give them the same time and quality of service, whether it's one of the top players in the world or a young Ulster junior.”
While he is an official Babolat stringer, Henry is also now associated with top manufacturer Wilson, who among many others supply Roger Federer, and the Ballymena man is about to play a key role in their development throughout the UK.
He explained: “Wilson have set up a new machine for stringing at 33 places around the UK and I have been asked to be part of the team to train up all those who will be stringing so they will all be stringing to the right standard.
“I got to meet Roger Federer and he was a great guy and to be honest the majority of the players are great to get along with and a lot of them have come to know me, like Federer, Nadal, (Caroline) Wozniacki and (Andy) Murray.
“When the Tennis Legends event came to Belfast back in 2007 and 2008 that was a big springboard for me because I got to work for the likes of John McEnroe, Pat Cash and Henri Leconte.
“I also work with Triangle Housing Association which helps disabled people with their housing so that is very rewarding.”
As for who will come out on top in the men's singles this year, just like everyone else Henry cannot look past the big four.
“It is certainly going to be interesting this year with the current form displayed by Nadal and his French Open win demonstrated that he is in great shape but we cannot rule out the maestro himself Roger Federer and there are others in the mix to make it interesting including Murray and Novak Djokovic.”