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BURBANK MAN IS RACKET STRINGER TO THE PROS.

Byline: Jason Kandel

Cruising through Burbank recently looking for stories, I ran into Julian Li, Burbank's tennis racket stringer extraordinaire who was whacking a few balls at the Burbank Tennis Center. I snapped a few shots and asked him what makes him tick. Tennis, he says, is his lifelong passion. And when he can't get onto the court because of his job, he lives vicariously. "I tape every match," said Li, who co-owns Raquets Rackets with his brother. "Now I TiVo."

When he's not watching the pros or playing the game himself, he's in his Burbank shop selling tennis shoes, rackets, clothes -- everything tennis. His is the only store that travels with the Association of Tennis Professional and Women's Tennis Association. He's a professional racket technician, and has strung the rackets of 95 percent of the pros touring in Asia, the United States and Europe, he says. He's tuned the rackets of Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Maria Sharapova and Martina Hingis. His was the only shop shop that was the official stringer for the ATP tour finals and WTA tour finals in 2003.

"It feels really good to be chosen. We're a little store. We're not a big chain or anything."

There's a fine art to the business. With his racket diagnostic machine, he can break down the swing weight, the balance of the racket, the overall weight of the racket and figure its torsion -- how stable the racket is on your hand when you make contact with the ball.

"Some players like the racket to be whippy so they come across the ball a lot faster," Li says. Federer's racket, he says, was very head-light, meaning that most of the weight is in the handle. Pete Sampras' racket weighs 14 ounces, Li says. Hingis doesn't get her rackets tuned too much. Hers is pretty much stock off the shelf. Li, 42, an Eagle Rock native, has always had a fascination with tennis. He watches Federer closely.

"He's history every time you watch him play," Li says of his hero. "He's history in the making."

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Julian Li takes a back swing during a round of tennis Jan. 31 at the Burbank Tennis Center. He has strung the rackets of many professional tennis players.

(2) Edwin Herrera plays tennis with Li Jan. 31 at the Burbank Tennis Center.

Jason Kandelvalleynews.com
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Title Annotation:Valley News
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 8, 2007
Words:396
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