Home Uncategorized The Man Who Keeps the Wheels Turning at the U.S. Open

The Man Who Keeps the Wheels Turning at the U.S. Open

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“Usually, players do preventative maintenance every day,” Zangari said. “They rotate their tires, just like a car, because of the high-pitch angle and so they don’t get worn out and can last longer.”

Once, at a tournament in Boca Raton, Fla., Wagner said, he was dashing back for a shot when his front wheel got caught on a grate, which shattered the wheel’s caster.

“Fortunately, I carry all of my own equipment,” said Wagner, the top seed in the Open’s quad wheelchair division. “I can change a tire in five minutes.”

But for those who can’t, Zangari is a lifesaver.

“I don’t think the word ‘lifesaver’ can even describe how valuable he is,” said Joanne Wallen, the U.S.T.A.’s director of wheelchair tennis and the U.S. Open wheelchair tournament director. “There is only one person we would trust to do this job, and it’s Mike.”

Kunieda, 33, who has won 20 major singles championships, is known for not allowing others to touch his equipment. But he did allow Zangari to tinker with his chair, removing the wheels and then replacing the tubing and tires before his first match.

Racing against the clock, Zangari completed his assignment just in time for Kunieda’s prematch warm-up, sweat dripping down his face.

“These competitors are so precise and so are their chairs,” Zangari said, trying to mask his stress level. “If there’s anything off — tire pressure, ball bearings, wheels — they know. They’ll see it right away. It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

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