| NEW YORK, Sept 2
NEW YORK, Sept 2 There are many ways to get
noticed at the U.S. Open.
Some players have tattoos, some throw temper tantrums others
wear outlandish clothing but only Brian Battistone has a
Battistone once spent two years in Brazil preaching
Christian values as part of a Mormon mission but whatever else
the 33-year-old American does in his life, chances are he will
be known for a phenomenal contraption, a racket with two handles
that looks more like garden shears than a piece of sporting
"I call it the alien," said Nicole Mellichar, his partner in
the mixed doubles at the U.S. Open.
"The common nicknames are "hedge clippers" or a "divining
rod", said Battistone, who has become something of a celebrity
on the tennis circuit ever since he first hit the Tour in 2007.
"'Are you trying to find water with that thing?' is
"It's called The Natural. The new version we're coming out
with is actually called 'The Freestyle'."
Watching Battistone play is a bizarre experience in itself;
the ball may go from one end of the court to the other yet your
eyes are transfixed on his racket.
The theory behind the two handles is that Battistone is able
to hold each one with a forehand grip and hit two forehands,
which should be stronger.
"I'm just able to hit any shot with either hand, so I have
full reach on both sides," Battistone said. "I feel like the
angles give me some advantages on different shots and the whole
premise of it, from the inventor's perspective, is that it's
more healthy for the body to use each side equally."
Players are used to seeing Battistone and his racket now but
when he first came along, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
When he played with his brother, Dann, on the ATP Tour and at
Challenger Tour level, they were sworn at, called clowns and
freaks and generally dismissed as a circus act.
Others, though, are more intrigued and even Rafa Nadal,
during the 2010 U.S. Open picked it up to have a swing.
"He was about to go on for his match and he was asking me
questions about it and swinging it around a little bit,"
"I said, 'Hey you're a natural righty, you could play with
two forehands' and he just laughed. What was funny was that he
then went out and he went down a break in the first set and it
was not looking good at all.
"I was like, 'oh no, it's thrown off his timing'. But of
course he came back and won the tournament, so it was OK."
British doubles specialist Colin Fleming, who is ranked in
the world's top 30, has played against Battistone and described
it as a "unique experience".
"I've looked at the racket and there's just no way I could
play with it," Fleming said. "He can hit one-handed with it as
well which I don't understand because obviously the beam (gets
in the way).
"I don't think I'll ever be using it but it's amazing.
Everyone's interested to see him play, definitely. He always
attracts a crowd."
Battistone is a partner in the company that owns the racket
with its inventor, Lionel Burt, and after selling out the first
set of 1,500 rackets, they are about to roll out another order.
"It's obviously not big numbers, by any means," he said.
"It's just people who have been curious. We've done no
marketing, it's just been me on the Tour playing and for a while
with me and my brother as well."
Battistone only got into the U.S. Open mixed doubles after
winning a wild-card playoff and his ranking has dropped in
recent years as he focused more on coaching.
But having only begun to use the racket when he was 27, he
believes it has made him a better player.
The double-grip gizmo, however, has certainly not made
Battistone invincible, the American and his partner losing their
first-round match at Flushing Meadows.
"I played Futures and Challengers for a while and I never
got above about 800," he said. "Once I actually committed myself
and started playing with this racket I made it as high as 88 in
"It obviously takes someone who is thinking outside the box,
not in the traditional way of tennis teaching. But I think for
what I'm trying to do, with my game style, it fits."
Battistone's volleyball-style serve is also unorthodox. He
throws the ball up with his right hand, switches the racket from
left to right and then leaps up before striking the ball.
"I was just on the tennis court one day and thought, 'Wow,
if I could just toss it up, more like a spike serve in
volleyball, I'd feel like I could get into the net quicker and
it would help me create more angle.' It works for me a lot of
(Editing by Steve Keating)