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For Brian Battistone, two hands are better than one at the U.S. Open

Published: Wednesday, September 01, 2010

By Conor Orr/The Star-Ledger

Brian Battistone wipes his arms as he carries his two-handled racket.

Brian Battistone
walked over to the fence as a group of six children piled against the other side waiting for a picture.

Before they all got into frame, he asked them what they’d all secretly hoped he would. The reason they’d stuck around twenty minutes after his unseeded doubles team lost in straight sets.

“Should I get my racket?”


They were like he was just a few years ago. Their curiosity was apparent as their eyes followed the red-and-black racket with two handles and the man who learned how to utilize its unusual contour. They clamored to the center of the photo to grab hold of it.

They were like him because he was just as curious when he first heard about it back on a court in California. As a player trying to become ambidextrous with a single-handled racket, he was turned onto the design from a man who’s father made the original patent back in 1973, he also had it legalized by the International Tennis Federation.

Ever since, he’s been that guy with the two handles.

Battistone, who played with Ryler DeHeart, fell to Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, 3-6, 6-7.

“I like the idea of having reach on all sides,” Battistone, a 31-year-old from Las Vegas, said. “I like playing with two forehands. After a while it started making sense to me and I could visualize doing a lot of different things.”

The why, to him, is simple. With a two-handled racket, everything becomes easier. The swinging motion operates by the push-pull concept. The racket cuts through the wind faster as the front handle slices out in front of the back one, where his hand is.

The grips, he says, give him at least 30 different kinds of swings. Throughout a match, he plays with hands on each handle and both, when he plants his feet to deliver a two-handed forehand, or backhand.

Then there is its intended benefit. Lionel Burt, the inventor, created it in part to reduce tennis-related injuries. With more grip options, it took the body’s focus away from using one hand predominantly. It allowed players to evenly distribute the stress on both arms.

His training partner, Trent Aaron, said he learned to use it in less than two weeks.

“It’s like, I’d say a 10-day process,” Aaron said. "It’s a different contact point but after like three days with it added so much power, speed and reach.”

Rafael Nadal was curious, too. Ten minutes before Battistone came out for his match, the No. 1 player in the world began staring at it, asking questions. Before long, he’d picked it up and began swinging it around the locker room.

“He was grabbing at it and looking at it,” Battistone said. “He’d never seen it before. He’s a natural righthander and I told him he could play with two forehands, a lefty forehand and a righty forehand and he was laughing.”

It wasn’t always that way. Curiosity started with ire from the tour regulars who harangued Battistone and his brother, Dann, who began using them professionally a few years back.

It took time for them to see Battistone darting from baseline to baseline, flipping the racket from his left hand to his right, and then planting to fire a two-handed forehand.

“Some people, it honestly angers them,” Aaron said. “It’s been radically opposed. They literally think it’s the ugliest thing.”

And it all started because he was like the kids. Just wanted to see what that weird thing could do.

It was probably why, now 30 minutes after his match, he’d invited them onto the court to hit some balls with the racket. That, and the fact that he manufactures them now with his brother and the original inventor. He is a walking salesman.

He watched as they blasted shots all over the vacant court, playing with the racket he named “the natural.”

“It’s about adapting,” he said, “just trying out a new strategy.”

Colorado State Open (Sept 2011) 

The Flying Californian Wins the Men's 2011 Open Singles

The Biggest and the Best Year Yet!

Colorado State Open (Sept 2011) boasted many firsts in its 120-year history.  With 1477 entries and over 950 participants in 62 divisions, this Open was the largest to date.

 Prior to the start of the State Open, the talk of the tournament was the presence of the two former ATP Tour players, Jan-Michael Gambill, former #14 in the world, and Taylor Dent, former #21 in the world.

Spectators flocked to see these stars play, but what no one expected was the unorthodox jump serve of Brian Battistone to capture the attention of the fans.  With his two-handled racquet and volleyball-inspired serve, scores of people congregated to see his unique game.

Battistone not only treated the crowd to a show, but also scored major victories over former pros Paul Goldstein, former #58 in the world, Dent, and Gambill, defeating Gambill in the final to take the Men's Open Singles Title and the $4000 prize money.

US Open National Playoffs
Thursday, August 16, 2012

The USTA announced the 13 men and 13 women who will compete in the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Championships, August 17-20, at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale in New Haven, Conn. The tournament is held in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, the final Emirates Airline US Open Series women’s event of the summer. The respective men’s and women’s US Open National Playoffs winners will receive a wild card into the 2012 US Open Qualifying Tournament, held Aug. 21-24, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., the home of the US Open.

The most unique challenge will come from Brian Battistone, a USTA Pro Circuit doubles champion who employs a volleyball-style jump serve and a double-handled racquet that allows him to hit forehands off both sides.

Battistone is one of two men’s players who will return in a week’s time to compete in the US Open National Playoffs – Mixed Doubles Championship, along with two-time UCLA All-American Nicolas Meister.

The US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship field includes (player, age, hometown and sectional qualifying tournament won):

Brian Battistone; 33; Las Vegas, NV (USTA Southwest)
Nicolas Meister; 23; Trabuco Canyon, CA (USTA Nor. Calif.)
Matt Brooklyn; 25; Washington, DC (USTA Mid-Atlantic)
Nolan Paige; 18; Fairfield, CT (USTA New England)
Dante Cipulli; 30; Murietta, CA (USTA Southern California)
Clement Reix; 29; Amiens, France (USTA Missouri Valley)
Eric Hechtman; 28; Miami, FL (USTA Florida)
Evan Song; 20; Henderson, NV (USTA Northern)
Nikita Kryvonos; 25; Flushing, NY (USTA Eastern)
Chris Wettengel; 30; Las Vegas, NV (USTA Midwest)
Adam Lee; 20; Auckland, New Zealand (USTA Southern)
Jon Wiegand; 25; San Antonio, TX; (USTA Texas)
Punch Maleka; 33; King of Prussia, PA (USTA Middle States)


Two-Gripped Battistone advances at US Open National Playoffs

By McCarton Ackerman

Saturday, August 18, 2012

With last year’s US Open National Playoff champions Blake Strode and Robin Anderson not taking part in this year’s event, it’s guaranteed that new winners will be crowned on both the men’s and women’s side.

The first round of the US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships kicked off on Friday at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. In the men’s singles event, Dante Cipulli of Argentina provided the biggest upset of the day by defeating No. 4 seed Chris Wettengel of the US in straight sets, while No. 4 seed Sandra Roma of Sweden advanced without any difficulties in her opening round against American teenager Peggy Porter.

The most unique match of the day saw Nevada natives Evan Song and Brian Battistone do battle. The crowd whispered to each other in amazement as Battistone wielded a racquet that had two grips, lept three feet off the ground for every serve and hit a variety of unorthodox spins and drop shots.

Battistone’s highly unusual presence on the court gradually wore Song down once he began to find the range on his shots, reeling off the final eight games of the match to advance into the quarterfinals with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 win.

“I was really struggling with my timing in the beginning and couldn’t find the court,” said Battistone. “It’s a little bit warmer on the west coast and the courts are slower here, so it was just a matter of getting used to the conditions.”

Battistone competed as a full-time doubles specialist on the ATP Tour from 2007-2011, playing almost exclusively with his brother Dann. He reached a career high ranking of No. 88 in 2010 and competed in the main draw of the men’s doubles event at the US Open that year. In addition to playing in the singles event of this year’s US Open National Playoffs, he is also competing in the mixed doubles event next week with fellow American Nicole Melichar.

“Getting to the US Open again would be a dream come true for me,” said Battistone. “Playing doubles there was the highlight of my career, so going back either for the singles qualifying or mixed doubles would be equally special.”

The semifinals are set for Sunday at 11:00am and the finals are scheduled for Monday. The winner of the men’s and women’s singles events this week will receive a wild card into the US Open qualifying tournament, held from August 21-24 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.

Men’s Singles - 1st round
Brian Battistone, Las Vegas, Nev., def. Evan Song, Henderson, Nev., 3-6, 7-5, 6-0
Punch Maleka, King of Prussia, Pa., def. Nolan Paige, Fairfield, Conn., 6-4, 7-6 (6)
Eric Hechtman, Miami, Fla., def. Adam Lee, New Zealand, 6-4, 6-2
Jon Wiegand, San Antonio, Tex., def. Matt Brooklyn, Great Britain, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
Dante Cipulli, Argentina, def. Chris Wettengel, Las Vegas, Nev. (4), 7-5, 7-5

Melichar, Battistone win National Playoffs Mixed Doubles

By McCarton Ackerman

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The US Open National Playoffs Mixed Doubles Championships concluded on Saturday with the championship match at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. No. 2 seeds Nicole Melichar and Brian Battistone of the U.S. saved their best tennis of the tournament for when it mattered most, defeating No. 1 seeds Hilary Barte and Nicolas Meister 6-4, 6-3 on the Grandstand court and earning the coveted wild card into the main draw of the mixed doubles event at the US Open.

Melichar and Battistone were able to make an immediate impression on Meister’s serve from the beginning of the match. The No. 2 seeds earned break points in his first two service games before finally converting in the lone break of the set at 4-5, when Melichar rifled a passing shot down the middle to clinch the opening set.

“This was a match that we weren’t going to win by playing safe,” said Melichar. “We had to go for it and really take advantage of our chances when they came because we weren’t going to get many of them.”

Barte and Meister earned their first break of the match in the opening game of the second set on Battistone’s serve when Melichar missed a routine forehand volley. Unfortunately, Meister continued to struggle on serve, hitting a pair of double faults to give the break back in the very next game. The second seeds began to stand well inside the baseline on their returns of serve and rush the net at the first opportunity, taking charge of the rallies and racing to a 4-1 lead.

With Battistone serving for the match at 5-3, the duo converted on their first opportunity with an overhead winner from Melichar and ran to embrace each other in celebration. The win sends Melichar into her debut Grand Slam event, while Battistone competed in the men’s doubles event at the 2010 US Open, where he lost in the first round.

“When we were first playing the sectional championships to get into the tournament here, we were kind of joking about going all the way to the US Open, but we can’t believe it actually happened,” said Battistone. “Playing in the US Open two years ago was the highlight of my career and now getting to go back there for mixed certainly matches that.”

Battistone retired last year after five years as an ATP Tour doubles specialist playing almost exclusively with brother Dann. He reached a career high ranking of No. 88 in 2010.

The 19-year-old Melichar has been playing a heavy schedule on the pro tour this year, improving her ranking nearly 250 spots to her current career high of No. 409 on the WTA Tour. She’s won two $10,000 futures event in Turkey so far in 2012.

But now that the duo have gotten into the US Open, they said they’re not going to be content with just playing there. They cited last year’s mixed doubles championships at Flushing, where the American team of Melanie Oudin and Jack Sock rode their wild card all the way to the title

“Anybody can win. That’s the whole point of a tournament,” said Melichar. “There aren’t going to be any bad teams or easy matches at the US Open, but we’re going in thinking that we can do well. It would be a dream to do what Melanie and Jack did by winning the whole thing, but we’re just worrying about our opening match first. We’re going to head to New York tomorrow to start practicing and working on some things that we need to fine tune for next week.”

The US Open Mixed Doubles Championships will kick off on Wednesday and run through September 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.

US Open National Playoffs--Mixed Doubles Championships
Saturday, August 25
Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University
New Haven, Conn.
Surface: Hard-Outdoor


Mixed Doubles - Finals

Nicole Melichar and Brian Battistone, United States (2), def. Hilary Barte and Nicolas Meister, United States (1), 6-4, 6-3

Brian Battistone sports his unique, two-handled racket in a mixed doubles match at the recent U.S. Open in New York. (Eduardo Muñoz, Reuters) (2012)

Brian Battistone wins Colorado Open tennis tournament (2012)

By Adrian Dater The Denver Post    Posted:   09/16/2012 10:32:07 PM MDT

Watching Brian Battistone play tennis is, well, let's just call it unique.

Battistone plays with a two-handled racket that at first glance looks like garden shears. There has never been another racket like it. When Battistone serves, he starts with the tennis ball in his right hand, the racket in his left. Then he tosses the ball high in the air, switches the racket to his right hand and leaps into the shot — looking every bit like a volleyball player.

Battistone successfully defended his Colorado State Open men's singles title Sunday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Florida's Greg Oullette at Gates Tennis Center.

Battistone has been playing with his one-of-a-kind racket for several years now. Not until he qualified in mixed doubles at the U.S. Open this month did Battistone and his racket catch the attention of the national media. Even men's star Rafael Nadal was intrigued by it, peppering him with questions before one of his matches and trying it out a bit.

"It's a constant topic of conversation, yeah," Battistone said. "I just feel like it works for my game, and I think it's better on the body. You're not stressing one side over the other."

The main idea of the racket is to give its user two forehands to make shots, which theoretically should be stronger.

"I have some ideas of being able to play with either hand — ambidextrous tennis — having the advantage of reach on both sides," Battistone said. "People laughed at it a lot, but the more matches you win, the more people start to take it seriously." ...

Finals (3) Brian Battistone d. (1) Gregory Ouellette 6-2; 6-1
Semi Finals
(3) Brian Battistone d. (2) Taylor Dent 6-7; 7-5; 6-4

(Brian was also a finalist in the Men's Doubles and Mixed Doubles!  -- Colorado State Open 2012 )


The team of Scott Crandall and Trent Aaron have four handles between them and one goal in mind: A national championship for USTA Southern California.                                 (Dizzle Rivera's photo).

USTA League National Championships

What's this racquet? SoCal men show Freestyle form

September 29, 2012 12:22 PM

 By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com

 INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- When it comes to watching the 2012 USTA League 5.0 Adult National Championships this weekend at the Indian Wells Tennis Center, you never know what you might see.

Two members of the USTA Southern California Section men’s 5.0 team, which plays out of Westchester Park in Los Angeles, played their Friday morning doubles match against the Mid-Atlantic Section men’s 5.0 team using the recently introduced Freestyle racquet.

The racquet, which is produced and distributed by Natural Tennis, Inc., is the latest version of the two-handled racquet used by touring tennis professionals Brian Battistone and Dann Battistone, who compete on the ATP World Tour.  

Scott Crandall, a 42-year-old resident of West Hills, Calif. and 43-year-old Trent Aaron, a USPTA teaching professional from San Pedro, Calif. are the two Southern California players who arrived at this weekend’s National Championships ready to play with their dual-handled racquets.

Aaron, a minority partner of Natural Tennis, Inc., was thrilled to be using the Freestyle racquet. "The racquet is designed so you can use both sides of your body equally when you play tennis. You get a full brain and full body workout," Aaron said. "There are competitive advantages such as leverage on the serve, smash and reach and disguise."

Using the Freestyle racquet has help Aaron improve his tennis game. "The biggest way it helped (me) was the reach, but more importantly was the smash. I really wasn’t explosive with my overheads. Typically now, whenever I hit an overhead, the point is over," Aaron said. 

"It has a natural wrist snap at times at the right time and it pulls downward," Aaron added. "Same on the serve, you get 10 to 15 more miles an hour on your serve."

According to Aaron, who began playing with earlier versions of the racquet about three or four years ago, the International Tennis Federation has approved the racquet for all levels of competition and ruled that the racquet conforms to official ITF rules of tennis.

Crandall, who works in the bio tech field, first saw the racquet several years ago when the Battistone brothers played a USTA Challenger in Calabasas, Calif. However, it wasn’t until about three months ago he played with the racquet for the first time.

"When I saw that Trent was on my 5.0 team, I started playing with it," Crandall said. "Right off the bat, within a week, my serve got better almost immediately as soon as I got used to it, because of the angles. My spins became more pronounced. Being left-handed, that gave me a nice lefty serve." 

Crandall also noticed other changes in his game after he began using the Freestyle racquet. "The other thing is returning serve. When somebody kicks that high ball to your backhand, with this double-handled racquet, you have so much stability," he said. "I’m hitting better shots when I’m out of position because I can use both arms and there is more strength there than I could produce with a single-handled racquet."

Both Aaron and Crandall are frequently asked about the racquet whenever they play at tournaments and they are more than happy to share their thoughts. 

"People are really curious about it, so that’s great," Crandall said. "I would encourage people to give it a try. If you put in the time, you will get better."