In September of 2019, Rafael Nadal had Tiger Woods on his feet and punching the air as he breezed past Croatian Marin Cilic to reach the US Open quarterfinals.
Now, the two legendary athletes and close friends have collaborated on a new Nike shoe that is set to release on 8/24 in limited quantities.
Features of the Rafa X Tiger Vapor Cage 4 Tennis Shoes
The next generation of Cage — introducing the all-new Nike Court Air Zoom Vapor Cage 4. Rafael Nadal x Tiger Woods collaboration. This new Cage 4 is the most durable Vapor to date. Innovated to last, Nike integrates durable rubber and tough plastic in high-wear areas. The medial lace eyestays are covered for added durability while sliding. The Vapor Cage 4 features responsive cushioning with Zoom Air unit beneath your forefoot creates a springy sensation with every step. The Vapor 4 has a very supportive fit thanks to unique lacing that wraps around your foot for support while you move. The shoe features a stiff frame on the lateral side which creates an extra stable feel during side-to-side movements.
Given their legendary status in their respective sports and close ties to one another, the Vapor Cage 4 is a must have for any tennis fan.
Midwest Sports’ Dave Limke rejoins the show to chat about the players he’s most intrigued by should tennis resume in 2020. He also discusses the latest products being offered by Midwest Sports, with a particular focus on the newest kicks available. He also shares how climate and elevation impact a player’s equipment, and analyzes the latest trends in racquet frame size.
Don’t forget to give a 5 star review with your twitter/instagram handle for a chance to win some FREE CR gear!!
In this weird time, it seems that more people are hitting the courts for the first time. Whether you are a parent introducing your kids to the sport or a lapsed player getting back out there, you will find that the right racquet will help your game and keep you wanting to play more.
At Midwest Sports, we’re always looking at the market for racquets that will best suit the beginner. Below are our favorites. All have a good balance of power, stability and control. They also come pre-strung and are priced right.
The Head Titanium TiS6 is best suited to a beginner because it has a larger sweetspot. It is also suited to the player with a slow to medium speed swing, while learning control. An open string pattern further enhances the sweetspot without sacrificing control. The ultra-light swing weight maximizes maneuverability, while the super-stiff construction maximizes power on any stroke.
The Babolat Drive Max 110 is geared to the beginning to intermediate player possessing a slow to moderate swing, who will appreciate the slightly lighter and more maneuverable feel versus the regular Pure Drive. It also offers added forgiveness on off center hits thanks to the 0.5 inch added length and 110 sq. in. head size.
The Aero 112 offers plenty of power to go along with a comfortable response. The Aero 112 is a very maneuverable racquet (9.8 ounces strung). It offers players who have a slower, compact swing to really get around on their swing and generate a good amount of pace on their shots. Up at the net this racquet is very stable, perfect for players who like to be aggressive and go for winners while volleying.
The Aero 112 tennis racquet is also packed with performance features including technology which cancels out vibrations, allowing for a smooth comfortable response off of the string bed. An Aeromodular beam design produces 11% less drag than the previous Aero 112. All in all, the Babolat Aero 112 is a solid option for beginners who have a slower swing looking for a lightweight, powerful frame with a comfortable feel.
The Babolat Aero G value frame falls into the “game racquets” category – best for the beginning tennis player looking for the right racquet with the same look and similar technology pieces. The Aero G is the ideal frame for beginners or junior players looking to move up to their first full-size frame. This full-graphite frame is inspired by the older Pure Aero collection. It comes in at a comfortable weight of 10.1 ounces strung. At 102 square inches, the Aero G features a nice large sweet spot, which allows for cleaner hits off the frame. The Aero G is a more aerodynamic frame thanks to Aero-Modular technology.
The Wilson Hyper Hammer 5.3 Oversize is very versatile in that it offers a moderately stiff beam that generates ample power without losing control. Amazingly lightweight and maneuverable, the Hyper Hammer 5.3 is designed for the beginning to intermediate player with a moderate swing speed. It offers Hammer Weighting balance for excellent power and stability.
The Head Graphene Extreme Mid Plus has a special combination of weight and balance that gives you extra power while still giving you the maneuverability you want. The Extreme MP is constructed of lightweight Innegra fiber for improved shock absorption and stability. This racquet features the use of Graphene – the world’s lightest and strongest material that allows for an optimal redistribution of weight from tip to grip, producing increased swingweight without sacrificing maneuverability, for more penetrating shots.
On today’s episode of the Great Shot Podcast, Midwest Sports Buyer and Product Manager Dave Limke rejoins the show to discuss the latest products being made available at Midwestsports.com.
He reviews some of the newest racquet models, talks about the type of player each racquet suits, and also offers a brief history of some of the more notable racquet companies. He also explains why the majority of tennis players do not update their equipment frequently enough, and why their games suffer because of it.
Host Alex Gruskin and Dave Limke of Midwest Sports discuss the brand new partnership between Midwest Sports and Cracked Racquets. Dave explains how Midwest Sports became one of the country’s premiere tennis retail outlets, how they ensure that every product they sell meets
Nate Walroth: Who pushed you to be a great tennis player? What do you love most about tennis?
Venus Williams: My dad was our biggest champion. He had us out on the court at a young age – I first picked up a racquet when I was 4. We’d practice almost every day after school so very early on it became a major part of my life. It took a lot of work and we spent a lot of hours on the court but I’m glad I put in the work when I did because it has paid off throughout my career. That’s my favorite part of the sport – putting in the work and seeing it pay off. It’s the best feeling.
VW: My inspiration is the chic and fabulous EleVen women who wear our designs. Our newest collections go beyond the tennis court and feature comfortable, easy to wear, fashion-forward activewear staples like tanks, leggings and bralettes that make a perfect outfit for at-home workouts or hanging out. I want women to feel like they are an 11 out of 10 when they wear my collections, even if it’s just at home right now!
NW: Why the name “EleVen”?
VW: EleVen is all about going that one step further. Why be a 10 when you can be an 11? I think it is so important to provide a community of encouragement, empowerment and positivity in a world where there are so many things that can bring us down, especially as a woman. I wanted to create, not just a brand, but a lifestyle that breaks through the chaos and negativity and focuses on the fun, exciting potential that this life has to offer.
NW: You’re a very confident person & player. Do you feel like that’s part of your brand with EleVen?
VW: EleVen is built on the idea of being the best version of yourself. I wanted our EleVen community to feel fabulous, confident and empowered to take on anything both on and off the court!
NW: You famously advocated for equal prize money for women at Wimbledon and consequently for equal pay for women in sports. What motivated you to take a stance for equal prize money?
VW: For me it was simple and clear; it was about standing up for what I believed was right. Tennis has given me so much opportunity in life, including a platform, so when the opportunity came to fight for women across the sport it was an easy decision. I spoke up for both myself and people everywhere who were facing, or will face, the same kind of injustice in their lives.
I’m glad it was able to create a ripple effect and set a precedent. So much positive change has happened since then, and so much positive change is still needed, but I’m happy I was able to do my part and will continue to do so until it doesn’t need to be a conversation anymore.
Dave Limke, Midwest Sports Racquet and Equipment Expert, takes questions from users on Instagram.
In this video, players wants to know if there is an alternative racquet to the Wilson Prostaff which will provide more “punch”, how to choose the best grip size and the difference between Luxilon ALU Power and Babolat RPM Power.
The Rochester, Minnesota native turned pro in 1999, at the early age of 15. In 2008, Mattek-Sands hit her stride on tour, reaching a career-high in both singles (No. 38) and doubles (No. 24). Her big breakthrough came at the All England Club, where she defeated the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli in the fourth round, her first top-10 win of her career.
Mattek-Sands has won over 750 matches at the tour level (singles 363, doubles 388), winning nearly 60% of her contests. The five-time doubles grand slam champion and former number one doubles player in the world (currently 20th) discussed the craziness of the tour during the coronavirus crisis, how she met her husband, her clothing line, and much more.
Nate Walroth: How’s life in Phoenix?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: It is 75 and sunny here. It’s amazing. I love Phoenix. Any time someone asks me about living in Arizona, I feel like I need to be a tourist guide. I’m always speaking of it highly. It’s an awesome place to live though. Justin (Bethanie’s husband) and I are really happy here.
NW: How did you meet you and Justin meet? Was it in Phoenix?
BMS: Justin had just got done playing college football and he was seeing a doctor named Dr. Conway, in Pennsylvania. And funny enough I had been introduced to Dr. Conway through Qadry Ismail (NFL tight end 1993-02’). He suggested to both of us that we go train in Arizona with Jay Schroeder. He just believed in his system and processes with athletes. Also, Justin was already spending his summers there.
And so Dr. Conway starts telling me about Justin and how we should connect there. Kinda workout together and what not. He was hyping him up big time, but he wasn’t wrong though (laughs).
NW: That’s awesome. Phoenix is a popular place during the spring time. Have you guys ever attended the spring training games?
BMS: I actually train with a lot of baseball players. Spring training is certainly a huge deal here. That’s all people talk about during the spring. It’s crazy. I’ve lived here twelve years and still haven’t made it to a spring training game. I was planning too (this year), but that’ll have to wait another year. I was actually looking forward to it.
NW: Your style has become such a big part of your brand and presence. What inspired you to take a stand with what you wear on tour and really be the creator behind it all?
BMS: Being around tennis this long I realized you don’t always get that behind the scenes access other sports offer. You don’t get that locker room access. I think our outfits give us a chance to show our personality. So, I really appreciate when players show their style. I like when they bring out their fashion on the court. I think it’s unique and interesting and that’s why I’ve done it and ran with it.
NW: Why do you think tennis has struggled to adapt or showcase that aspect of the sport?
BMS: There’s just some things tennis has done forever and it’s because like tennis is so attached to its history. As much as I think that’s important, it’s also important to kinda change with the times a little bit too. How do you attract new fans. How do you get causal sports fans interested in tennis? There are a lot of diehard tennis fans that will love it regardless what Roger is wearing or not wearing. It’s entertainment though. How can we bring that to the forefront? Obviously, without taking away from appreciating the skill and athleticism of these athletes. It’s worth going that route though think. Blending your history and changing with the times.
There’s plenty enough players that would look great in any of the brands lines you see on tour. It would look awesome if they each wore a different outfit. It would also look great for the brands. I feel they need to use these players as almost billboards for your products.
NW: How did you take it upon yourself to change that?
BMS: The way I went about it was I made my own clothing line (laughs). So, I stepped away from all that when I partnered up with Lucky in Love.
I remember the first time I met up with Brad Singer (Lucky in Love creator) and his team we clicked. He just knew and understood the edginess I wanted to bring to the tour.
NW: Do you think the players would’ve played a tournament (s) with no fans if it were an option?
BMS: The players would’ve played with no fans for sure. It wouldn’t have been the same, but under the circumstances I’m sure we would’ve figured it out. But it wasn’t an option for us.
NW: You’ve had great success as a doubles player on tour. What’s the most important thing about forming a good partnership/team? And what do you love about doubles?
BMS: I think having a close relationship with your partner off the court is very important. It makes the transition to the court much easier. A big part of doubles is communication and that’s why being friends with your partner helps.
The biggest difference (between singles & doubles) is you have a buddy out there. I love having someone to talk to and work a game plan with. It’s just a lot of fun.
NW: Yep, for sure. I’m a big fan of doubles. I imagine it can get a little tricky at times to stay close when you’re living across the country or globe from your partner. No?
BMS: Yes and no. For example, Lucie Safarova lived in the Czech Republic and I was in Arizona, but we were able to make our practice court time before tournaments count and had a lot of success together. Having an open line of communication is huge. And you can have that when you’re tight with someone.
NW: Today’s a match day (UK). What does the team typically do leading up to tip-off?
Danielle Wolf: Depending on when the match is…we usually get there about three hours prior. Hit once before we play. Take an hour to eat and prepare for the match with the coaches. Then we’ll go out about an hour before it starts and warm up again.
NW: Do you have any pre-match superstitions?
DW: Hmm. I don’t know if I’d call it a superstition, but I foam roll a lot on match day. Like an excessive amount (laughs). I also re-grip all my racquets before I play. Those are the two main things.
NW: You’re the only senior on this team. How has that experience been?
DW: And I’m a fifth year senior…so like a super senior (laughs). No, it’s good. A lot of the girls kinda look up to me. I get to be that sorta role model for the younger girls on the team. I like setting the example and being that go to person for them. It’s a real honor and I love this team.
NW: You’ve been around the program for a few years now. Have you helped play a role in the recruitment of some of your current teammates? If so, do you enjoy that aspect? I’ve always felt tennis coaches lean on the players a little when it comes to bringing talent in. Thoughts?
DW: I agree. It’s a very different sport in my opinion. Tennis is so much about the chemistry of the team….the environment at practice and matches is really important. Coaches ask the players for their advice and stuff, so it’s fun being able to help. Making sure we bring in girls that we think will be a good fit for us.
NW: Is this the best tennis you’ve played in your career?
DW: Yeah, I think so…I saved it for my last year. I worked a lot with my dad and former Ohio State player BJ Monroe over the winter break and that helped a lot. Also, throughout the summer I hit with my dad a ton and I was able to hit with JJ (Wolf – Danielle’s younger brother). I’ve just been trying to get everything possible out of my last college tennis year.
NW: That’s awesome. Does your Dad still hit a good ball?
DW: I mean he hit incredible. I hit with him indoors once at Camargo over break….and it was the first time he had hit since he his transplants and stuff. I didn’t know it until one of the pros walked up and asked him if he’d been hitting with us after watching. He said it was his first time. I’m like, “Are you serious?! You’ve missed 0 balls and haven’t gotten one drink in that time!” It was crazy (laughs). He’s very unique.
NW: What did you guys focus on in your practice sessions?
DW: My dad and I worked on my backhand a lot in the off-season. I think that gave me a bunch of confidence early in the year and I’ve just kinda rolled with it.
NW: What changed?
DW: I kinda just believe it (backhand) in more (than I used to). I’ve always had a grind backhand, but now if someone hits it to my backhand…I’m like, “Okay great.” It’s not, “Oh, I should try to get a forehand.” I’ve played a lot more offense this year and I’m playing on my terms. If they (opponents) can do that better…then fine, but I’m trying to move forward…get to the net…finish. I’m trying to kinda play more like my brother has been I guess (laughs). Just using my power and strength to get them on their heels.
NW: You just hit your top UTR rating ever? Was it like 10.9?
DW: (jokingly) ugh. Actually, the day after that was released I reached my highest. 11.1 That’s the highest I’ve ever been.
NW: You clinched against #5 Duke in an epic 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) win. (OSU currently #5 was ranked #12 at the time) Pretty cool memory. Finishing it off with that scoreboard pressure.
DW: It was an awesome experience. Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure in that moment, so if I could pick someone to be in that position I would’ve picked myself. So I’m glad I was and able to come through. The scoreboard plays a huge role in that situation, which makes it so much harder. Our court 5 had 9 match points and it was hard for me not to look over, but finally I just zoned in on my court and tried to finish it off. And I did. It was the best feeling ever that I could do it for my team.
NW: JJ is on tour now. Traveling a bunch it seems. And played a couple Challengers in Columbus. Do you guys keep tabs on each other’s matches?
DW: Yes, for sure. We talk every day. I text him good luck before matches. Whenever he’s not playing a tournament and he can be there (in attendance), he will. He obviously travels so much, but after he or I lose we talk and try to help one another. If we win we get excited together. So, it’s a great system. He’s still based here in Columbus, so whenever we get to hang out we do…and tennis is always the main topic.
NW: Did you and JJ always wish to play at the same school in college?
DW: I actually always wanted to play at Ohio State. That was my school growing up. It didn’t work out the first time around…they had a ton of players and there wasn’t really room on the team.
NW: You left Indiana for OSU after your freshman year. What went into that decision?
DW: I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to be closer to my family. My dad was doing his treatments at the James Hospital. Also, when I was growing up my dad coached the McCarthy brothers that played there and I always was just in love with the school since.
NW: Why did you switch racquets in college? (Head Speed to Babolat Pure Aero)
DW: The Head racquet I was using before was actually heavier than everyone’s racquet on the men and women’s team besides JJ (laughs). Our coaches hit with it and they were complaining their arms were sore after. I had some wrist issues at the time, so they made me switch. The Babolat was a lot lighter and my wrist issues just sort of went away.
NW: Did the lighter stick help add a little extra pop on the serve?
DW: My dad would say that I sort of need to do that more (laughs).
NW: Go bigger?
DW: Yessss. He’s like ya gotta pop it!
NW: How do you enjoy playing doubles in college?
DW: Omg. I love doubles. It’s so much fun. The team aspect of it is awesome. It’s such a different game than singles. I love getting hit at if that makes sense. The reflex part of it is so intense and different. You can get so into it and pump up your teammates. It’s great. A lot of athleticism is required too. You’re fighting balls off at the net and that’s like my favorite part.
NW: Have you given any thought to life after the season? Will you continue playing? Can you picture yourself not being in sports?
DW: That’s a tough question. I think I’ll play a little for sure. I’m not ready for it to be over, yet. Why let my career end when this is like the best I’ve played in my life, you know? So, we’ll see what happens. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to be uninvolved in sports.
Midwest Tennis Showroom’s Racquet & String Specialist, since 2008.
NW: What’s your role as the specialist when a customer walks in the door?
Chico: My job is just to recommend. I don’t ever tell a customer what they need. I don’t know them. I don’t know how they play or what they like. How can I really, truly know what you need. You have to feel them out. Sometimes kids come in here reluctant, but their parents want them to get involved. I try to bring the excitement to them with a new racquet that fits them. Make sure they have the right tension too, because you want to make it as easy as possible for them to hit it over the net. If you can’t do that, you won’t have any fun playing this great game.
NW: How has the Pro Shop experience changed in your time at Midwest as the Racquet & String Specialist?
Chico: It’s different nowadays because people used to change racquets every 2 to 3 years. Now it’s more like 5 to 7 years. So, it’s become more about the different types of string and trying to upgrade the racquet that way. You have to explain how different string can enhance certain racquets and certain players playing style.
NW: That’s interesting. I normally go 5-6 years, but assumed that was abnormally long.
Chico: Yeah, not necessarily. With the technology that goes into racquets and string now….equipment can last longer if taken care of properly.
NW: When it comes to string, why do so many people play with polyester?
Chico: Truth of the matter is most people choose a polyester string because of the longevity of it….not the playability or feel of it.
NW: Is there a poly you believe is the best of the bunch?
Chico: Tecnifibre’s Black Code is the best polyester for players who play with a lot of spin, in my opinion. The string has four sides, so there’s always a sharp side up (grabbing the ball). RPM Blast supposedly has eight really small sides, making it hard to really have that same effect. It has some texture to it, but it’s more rounded. It doesn’t give you that same spin that Black has. Black Code is the softer and more receptive poly as well.
NW: What are the players on tour using?
Chico: A lot of players on tour use Luxilon. It’s as expensive as RPM, but it doesn’t lose its tension as fast. Polyester loses 20-25% of its tension in a day or two. When you stretch it out…it gives almost immediately. I just feel like 75% of people choose poly because of its durability.
NW: You grew up playing tennis all over the city. Do you think the popularity of tennis in Cincinnati has grown in recent years?
Chico: Yes, for sure. My friend from Chicago and I were talking about the popularity of tennis here vs there the other day. Tennis is much bigger here than it is there. Within 30 minutes of Midwest (Sharonville)….there are probably 10 clubs or so. Those clubs have helped make tennis popular here.
NW: Hopefully, the sport in general is shedding its old reputation as being a rich mans game.
Chico: Oh yeah. I think it has. The game has grown as it’s gotten more exposure. It’s not just for the rich anymore. The game is more at the forefront than it was. When I was young, baseball was it. There weren’t many clubs around then either. The access wasn’t there year around.
I remember when I was in my late 20s and early 30s showing up to tournaments around town…I would be the only black person in the draw almost every time. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore for kids now, from what I’ve seen.
NW: What was that experience like?
Chico: It never bothered me a bit. It really didn’t. I was motivated to show those kids that I could play. They’d always be surprised to see the black kid playing good tennis. They expected me to be a hack and hustle player I think.
NW: Did you teach your kids how to play?
Chico: I was a self made tennis player and I thought I turned out to be a pretty nice player. So, you know….I thought I could teach my kids to be just as good as me when they were growing up. I wanted them to be like me. But as a parent, you get a little older….and you realize you just want them to be happy doing what they enjoy. I heard my voice and pitch and didn’t want to be the crazy dad pushing his kids on to something they didn’t love.
NW: I think a lot of kids can relate to that. I’m sure cutting out the friction made you guys tighter.
Chico: Oh, definitely. But they always respected my love for the game. My kids like the fact that I play tennis and always have since they were young.
NW: That’s pretty neat. I can relate.
Chico: I used to tell my kids. I’m your dad….but I’m still Chico. I need to be myself. Some people get lost in being a parent, and they lose complete focus on who they were as a person. I can be your dad and I can be me too….and I can be damn good at both.
NW: I have to ask. Is Chico your real name?
Chico: My real name is William, but I’ve gone by Chico my whole life. Even in elementary school teachers would call me Chico, even though I wrote “Willy” on all my papers. I haven’t been called Willy Williams in a long time. I’m not anti that, but I introduce myself as Chico.
NW: You got married fairly recently. How did you meet your wife?
Chico: I met my wife back in 1970 at Withrow high school. She was my high school crush. I was a senior and she was a sophomore. I hadn’t seen her for nearly 35 or 40 years. She had moved to Houston after school, then lived in Dayton for the last 21 years. We ran into each other at a wedding actually, and old sparks turned into new flames. We then got married on my 66th birthday, in 2018. It’s awesome. We still have fun like we did in high school. I knew anybody I dated or married had to be cool with me playing tennis….and she loves that I play. Tennis is what I do. You gotta have somebody to love, but you gotta have something you do too.
NW: Lastly, what are your thoughts on college tennis? You recently went to a Xavier match. For tennis fans who’ve never watched a collegiate match….how is it different?
Chico: College tennis is crazy man. I love the atmosphere there. They are yelling and clapping after every point. Getting into it. Getting into each other’s heads. I love watching that. It’s a different feel around tennis. I was really surprised by the enthusiasm around the matches. I always thought tennis as a quiet, gentleman’s game. I was hearing cheers on double faults from teams. “Let’s go X-Men!” All types of stuff.