Glynn Roberts knows a thing or two about tennis rackets. The 40-year-old Briton spent a decade working as an on-site stringer at Wimbledon before joining Priority One – a stringing business that counts Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic among its clients – in 2008.
Here Glynn talks Relax Self to Health through his hectic Wimbledon schedule and how he manages to stay calm under pressure.
Glynn, you always seem as cool as a cucumber yet your job is quite demanding. Can you talk us through a typical day?
If one of our players (Priority One also takes care of Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, John Isner and Marcos Baghdatis) has a match, we’ll wake up at either two, three or four o’clock in the morning to start stringing rackets. We tend to look after two players each at Grand Slams. Here, I’m stringing for Andy and Novak. On match days I can end up stringing between 20 and 25 rackets, on training days it can be anything between ten and 12.
Crikey, how long does it take?
I allow around 30 minutes per racket. That includes everything – replacing grips, stencilling strings, and popping them in the plastic bags. Our days our shaped by how many rackets we’ve got. And at smaller tournaments we may have one stringer for three or more players. If I have to start work at two or three in the morning, I’ll try to get to bed by 10pm the night before but that’s not always possible.
That’s not much sleep. How do you maintain your wellbeing?
With lots of naps during the day. It’s not uncommon for me to have a three or four hour kip. Dinner time is usually work time for us too. Sometimes we’ll start stringing at around four or five in the afternoon to work through our allocation. There’s a saying that stringers are very fast eaters. If we do go out for dinner we’ll finish very quickly because we’re always thinking that we need to get back and finish work so that we can get some sleep before getting up early the next morning! It’s a tough habit to get out of. Even when you’re not working you always end up finishing your meal before everyone else.
Do you find time to exercise during Wimbledon?
With our schedules, it’s tough to work fitness in but here there’s lots of hill walking! We stay in a house just off Wimbledon Common. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the All England Club and at any one time I could be carrying up to 30 rackets on my back. Each one weighs 300 grams or more. That’s a lot of weight. So I guess that counts. [Laughs]. I’ll do a drop off in the morning, wait around for the players to finish practising, collect the rackets again, walk back up the hill and then it starts all over again. If a player doesn’t finish play, say because it’s been rain-delayed or they didn’t get on because of long match, I’ll still need to restring the rackets because they lose tension. So I can be up and down the hill three or four times during the same day!
Are Grand Slams the hardest tournaments workload-wise?
Grand slams are probably the easiest because they’re held over two weeks and the players get a day off in between unless, of course, it rains. When that happens everything goes out the window. With the one week Masters events the matches are back to back so they tend to be a little bit harder.
How long are you on the road for?
We each do at least 100,000 air miles a year. We work the four Grand Slams, nine Masters tournaments, plus I’ll do at least two Davis cups a year as well as additional tournaments like Dubai, Doha, Queen’s, and Basel.
So, how do you handle long journeys?
On a flight I put on Bose noise cancelling headphones and am asleep before take off. Once there was a fire in the cockpit on one of our flights and it had to be diverted to Hawaii. I didn’t know a thing about it until we landed. 36 hours in Hawaii made up for the inconvenience.
What stresses you out about your work?
In our job surprises are bad so we try and keep it as boring as possible and eliminate potential issues. We make sure we get up early enough so that if anything goes wrong for whatever reason, we’ve factored in enough time to correct it. Missing machines cause stress. It’s happened before – where a machine has taken two days to arrive at the hotel. We always show up a week before the Slams so if the machine doesn’t turn up for a couple of days in the practice week it’s not so bad. Back to back tournaments are obviously tougher to work out logistically.
Can you recall a very stressful moment?
There was one time when a camera crew wanted to film us stringing and the machine decided to misbehave. On that day I was trying not to freak out in front of the cameras. I was calm on the surface but not inside.
What do you do to relax?
Close my eyes. As soon as my head touches the pillow I’m asleep. I also watch NFL and support Everton, although I’m not sure how relaxing that is. This season coming should be fun. If my schedule allows, I’ll go to a concert here and there – I highly recommend Welshly Arms. I also take pictures of the city or place I’m in. I enjoy editing and trying to make something good out of the pig’s ear of an image that I’ve just taken.