Tennis is Columbia teen's game, restringing is his aim

News-DemocratJuly 13, 2014 

Michael Lesko's racket is restringing tennis rackets.

His business card motto: "Only the pros go with Lesko's."

First thing Monday morning, the 18-year-old replaced strings on his own racket, working on the lower level of his parents' home in rural Columbia.

He used the narrow 5-foot end of a ping-pong table to roughly measure enough string -- roughly 35 feet.

"A lot of people come to me to get color strings," he said. A box held coils of bright lime and orange. "Sometimes girls want pink strings or purple. That's about half of my businss. The other half is people wanting good strings to play with."

He averages 8 to 10 rackets a week.

How did he get into the restringing business a couple years ago?

"Just through playing," said Michael, a recent graduate of Gibault High School in Waterloo and an outstanding tennis player for the Hawks. "I've broken strings a lot. I hit harder than most people. I've had to replace them often. Instead of going to a club and paying, I bought my own machine and do it myself."

His used machine cost him about $750, but it works like a charm.

"If you know how to do it, it's not that challenging," he said, leaning over the waist-high piece of equipment. "It just takes time."

His uncle showed him how: Place the racket under the vise-like grips, adjust, thread the racket long ways, then weave it across.

"Fortunately, my uncle (Steven Lesko) used to do it in Belleville," said Michael. "It took just a few days of going over it with my uncle. He used to string in the '70s when he played for Belleville West.

"If I'm focused, I can do one in a half-hour."

Does anything ever go wrong?

"On occasion, I measure too short and have to redo the whole thing."

Michael advertises his skill through business cards and word-of-mouth. Fellow players give him jobs.

"I do it cheaper than a club can," he said.

His price ranges from $15 to $25, depending on the string. Some are polyester. Others are multi-filiment.

"I like these primarily because they are spiral and grip the ball a lot better," he said of the soft polyester string he was using.

Michael's father, Alan, got him interested in tennis. His whole family played. She started at 7 or 8. At 11 or 12, Michael was taking lessons and competing in tournaments. By 14, he was beating his dad.

"I used to play other sports like soccer and track in grade school," he said. "By high school, I knew tennis is my sport. I dedicated fully to tennis. I knew I'd get to play in college if I worked at it."

e was the Gibault Hawks top player, winning 74 percent of his high school matches, a sectional singles championship and qualified for the state finals three years.

Soon, he'll be playing -- and likely stringing -- at Quincy University.

"It's kind of similar to my school," said Michael, who has a tennis scholarship there. "It's a small school, a Catholic school, in the city, but not too big of a city. I am not a city person. The players are friendly. The coach seemed like he knew how to run a team."

Need a racket restrung? Contact Michael at 618 340-3376 or email leskomi@quincy.edu

Family: Parents Alan and Julie Lesko, and two older sisters

Major: Accounting or business administation.

Favorite food: Seafood and fruit smoothies

Place to eat out: Joe Boccardi's in Columbia

Books, TV or movies? "If it's an interesting book like Harry Potter for example, I will get into it. I don't do too much TV or movies. I don't have time for it."

Car? "2001 green Hyundai Sonata that's been passed down. My sisters drove it in high school."

How many tennis rackets do you have? "At the moment, I have four."

Where do you buy them? "Through online tennis websites or Racket Man in West County. Some stores let you practice with them for a few days to see which one you like best. The kind I use cost $150 to $200."

Tennis favorites: "I am a big (Roger) Federer fan. He got to the finals at Wimbledon, which I am happy with."

Have you met any tennis greats? "Jimmy Connors. His brother Johnny gives me private lessons."

How often do you play? "An average of four or five days a week. Some weekends, I take time off to relax. In the summer, I play tourneys throughout the area to get ready for the college level."

What is your strong point? "I am decent at everything. My strong points are ground strokes and speed. I can hit sooner and put pressure on my opponent."

If not tennis? "I do enjoy ping pong a lot. My tennis instincts take over and I am good at it. One of my friends has a pool. Occasionally, I go swimming there ... In high school, I played trombone in the school band."

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