Dubai: A Keralite racquet stringer's dexterity and craftsmanship will be in high demand at the Dubai Open which will feature top tennis stars like Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
Jasif Mustafa, the lone Malayali in the team of official racquet stringers for the championship, which kickstarts on Sunday at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, is an expert racquet mechanic.
A native of Perumpilavu in Thrissur district, Jasif is the head of the racquet stringing section of Adler Sports, one of Dubai's top sporting goods and equipment dealers.
Professional players would restring their racquets occasionally as the strings tend to lose their tension after several games. Jasif's job is ensuring the precise degree of tension requested by each player.
The professional stringers of Adler Sports, headed by Jasif, got the offer to be a part of the Dubai Open after they did a commendable job at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open which was held earlier this year. During the course of the 10-day event, they repaired as many as 513 racquets and their work was widely appreciated.
Jasif has vast experience under his belt as a string mechanic. He had worked at a racquet repair shop in his home town for six years before he landed in Dubai four years ago. After joining Adler Sports, he has repaired over 20,000 tennis and badminton racquets that include the ones used by ace Indian shuttlers like Kidambi Srikanth and P V Sindhu.
"Jasif has a knack of executing the right tweaks. He can assess the quality of the strings just by slapping it on his palm. It is something he has picked up over the course of time," says Pramod, a native of Guruvayoor and a coordinator at Adler Sports.
Stringing a racquet can take up to twenty minutes for a skilled stringer. Jasif's strength lies in his speed and accuracy. Recently, he strung a racquet in 12.33 seconds and shared the video on social media which attracted great attention from people and the media particularly in the Gulf.
The 28-year-old is a certified stringer of Yonex, a global leader in sports equipment manufacturing. He has had the opportunity to train under Yonex stringing team head Tim Willey and Europe Racket Stringers Association chief Mark Maslowski. Jasif is also grateful to Adler Sports owner Abdul Salam for all his support.
Stringing racquets is a challenging job. A stringer has to ensure that racquets are strung at the right tension based on the style of each player. Racquet tension can vary from anywhere from 30-70 lbs. Professional players tend to opt for the upper limit of the racquet tension range which offers more control, while lower tensions provide more power. Tennis strings are usually made up of polyester, synthetic gut or a hybrid of the two and the price ranges between Rs 300 and Rs 8,000.