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NEW YORK – There aren't many players who would do this for the first time at a Grand Slam tournament.
But Frank Dancevic is just crazy enough to try it.
When the Canadian takes the court for his first-round match against No. 32 seed Joao Sousa of Portugal Wednesday, Dancevic will be playing with a brand-new Wilson Pro Staff 97.
Yes, the man tennis analyst Mary Carillo once called the "poor man's Federer" will be playing with Federer's racquet.
Here he is warming up for the match on Court 15 earlier today – opponent Sousa is on the same court, as you can see.
"The racquets I was playing with are just finished, they have no more life to them. I’ve had four racquets and been playing with them for two years. They feel like a cardboard right now, just no feel," Dancevic said over the weekend after a practice with countryman Vasek Pospisil. "I tried this new racquet out a couple of days ago, really like the feel of it.
Dancevic played a practice match with the talented Ernests Gulbis Saturday, on Court 17 at the U.S. Open, and lost it 6-3 in the third set. "I figured if I could take a set off Gulbis with a brand-new racquet I’d played with one day, I should probably stick with it. I’ll probably get even better and better with it," Dancevic said. "Sometimes racquets feel great that first day, but you never know what it will feel like later on. But my other racquet (also a Wilson, but a BLX model) has been feeling just terrible lately.
"I’m playing decent, but feeling like I could definitely play better with something else," he added. "We’ll see. Try it out, see what happens."
Dancevic has made some other drastic changes. He has gone to a half-gut string job, something he did for about a year and a half back in the old days, but not since. He's been playing with plastic – let's face it, it's a lot more economical, something the real Federer doesn't have to worry about. "I was losing too much tension in matches. I've just been struggling, having to switch (racquets) five times in a match," he said. "I don't particularly like switching racquets too much, so the half-gut combination has been feeling good."
By making that switch, Dancevic also increased his string tension about 10 kilos. That's a huge amount – and an arbitrary one; Dancevic came up with it on his own – to counterract the ball flying with the gut string. It's too tight, he admits. "I'll have to drop it down a bit, maybe about three kilos tighter in the end," he said.
So the match against Sousa – this is the first time Dancevic hasn't had to qualify for a Grand Slam this year and got directly into the main draw – is a grand experiment of sorts.
He'll find out in a few hours whether the new racquet has the Federer effect, or the "poor man's" effect.