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.