Curvstar: The Future Is In Your Hands
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
A few days ago, I received an email from someone at a company called Curvstar, advising me to check out a new tennis racquet called the Curvstar EPIC, a curved handle tennis racquet recently approved by the ITF as sanctioned for official tournament play. This intriguing product certainly has a different look as every other tennis racquet product on the market today, and hopefully, Curvstar will be sending me a demo so I can try out the racquet myself soon and let everyone know what I personally think.
In the meantime, I had the opportunity to interview company founder and former NCAA tennis champion Manuela Emmrich, who along with her father Thomas Emmrich, an accomplished former East German tennis player, helped design the concept for the racquet and are working to bring it to the market. Manuela’s brother, Martin Emmrich is an accomplished ATP doubles player, still on tour today, who I had the pleasure of meeting at one of the tournaments I attended a couple of years ago. The Emmrich family has certainly contributed a lot to the sport of tennis, and perhaps Curvstar will be their greatest contribution, as it looks to be an exciting innovation to the market for players of all levels. The interview I did with Manuela can be read below, and I appreciate Curvstar reaching out to me.
Tell me more about yourself and your background. I know you played college Tennis and your father is an accomplished player himself, along with your brother Martin, who I have met before during my coverage of the professional circuit.
Manuela: As you know, I was born into a family of tennis players and started playing tennis at age 6. My mom and dad were still playing tournaments when I was a baby, so I probably held my first tennis racket at age 3. My dad was my coach and it wasn’t always easy to separate the coach and father relationship. I learned everything from him and I am very thankful for his dedication to tennis. I wanted to turn pro but wanted to finish high school first. Unfortunately, I had a motor bike accident after high school and could not play tennis for a while. After my recovery I got an offer to play college tennis in the US and I was excited about this opportunity to continue my passion for tennis. My team at Armstrong Atlantic won the NCAA Championship in 2005 and I must say that this was my most memorable accomplishment. I continued to stay in the US and eventually got my MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management. That is where the business plans for the Curvstar racket became concrete and I even won the business plan competition with it. I continue to play in USTA leagues and my team was the runner-up at the 5.0 Women’s National Championship.
How did you develop the idea for the Curvstar racquet and it’s unique curved design?
Manuela: A family friend of ours approached us several years ago about an idea he had for a tennis racket after witnessing the establishment of the parabolic skis. These curved skis were first ridiculed about their shape and are now industry standard. There had to be an analogy for tennis that combines ergonomics with enhanced performance. We analyzed the body position for volleys, serve, ground strokes, etc. and realized that a angled racket head would also provide more slice and spin. That gave us the perfect combination of a natural curved grip with a game enhancing racket head position while keeping the sweet spot pretty much at the same position.
After all these years of playing tennis, I also suffered from major wrist problems and had to get several cortisol shots in college. After playing with the first prototype, I felt quite some relief on my wrist due to the natural grip shape.
Besides its unique curved designed, how does the Curvstar compare to other top of the line frames sold today by major tennis equipment companies such as Babolat and Head, in terms of material construction, racquet head size, & weight?
Manuela: The material of the Curvstar racket is industry standard. We had the frame tested at one of the major tennis companies and it was deemed very good. We are still a start-up company and hope to hire a team after successful Kickstarter funding that can help to further enhance the material and continue developing more Curvstar rackets. The racket details are as follows:
length: 27 inches
head size 107 square inches
weight 9.7 ounces
The racket is on the lighter side to be easier on the arm and the wider frame generates enough power for the lighter weight. One can always add lead to the current model if needed.
If the product is successful, do you have plans to make more models of the Curvstar, ie different head sizes, weight and balance for different types and levels of players?
Manuela: Yes, we already developed prototypes for other racket weights as well as a thinner/stiffer tournament frame and a kids racket. Successful funding and sales will allow as to produce this broader product range. Due to limited resources we are currently only focusing on the EPIC model.
Where would you like to see the racquet distributed, online via direct order, through tennis retail stores, online retailers such as Tennis Warehouse?
Manuela: Players will want to test this unique racket so we would like to provide it to retail stores for local demos as well as to the major online retailers. Until we have these distribution channels secured, we will offer direct online sales on our website.
Do you intend to keep the product at the $150-$199 dollar price point?
Manuela: Actually, the retail price is $249, but we are offering it at a discounted price via the Kickstarter campaign right now.
Is their a recommended type of string/string tension weight for the racquet? or is stringing and string preference the same as any other traditional racquet
Manuela: The recommended tension is 51lbs but I am stringing it at 60lbs for myself and anyone can string it at their preference as any other traditional racket. The racket fits in a standard stringing machine and the pattern is traditional 16/20. Only the grip will stick out on the side of the machine instead of in front.
What do you think about the state of the tennis equipment and apparel industry today? Have you looked at new companies like Athetic DNA (a new apparel company worn by the likes of Lleyton Hewitt and Brian Baker) as examples of success to learn from for your company?
Manuela: I think the tennis racket industry has not been very revolutionary as of late. The shape of the racket pretty much stayed the same since Prince launched an overhead and longbody size. All other new launches have mainly focused on material improvement. I think it is time for more excitement on the tennis court. Since I’ve been playing with the Curvstar racket, I am enjoying the sport so much more. It is just so much fun to play with the Curvstar. Babolat’s Play racket is a fun idea to get players more engaged into the sport and I think it is the good move to get more excitement into tennis.
The clothing industry has had some new brands break into the market which shows that players are ready to change it up and that they want to try new things and be unique. I hope Curvstar will get the same acceptance as many of the new exciting clothing brands. That’s why we made the racket a bright green – it is bold and different on purpose so players can display their individuality and engage more with tennis.
Is the most intended audience for the Curvstar product the recreational player, higher level players (college, professional, competitive league play), seniors or juniors?
Manuela: The Curvstar racket is suitable for all levels of play and the appeal will vary by player. Players at every level would want to improve their volleys, slice and serve, though professional players are probably fairly proficient with their technique. The ergonomic benefits will appeal most to juniors who want to avoid injuries early on as well as for seniors who might be feeling the pain right now and are looking for a relief.
As Manuela mentioned, Curvstar is currently doing a kickstarter campaign to help get their product off the ground and you can check that out here: