A Turning Point?
Polyester is changing the way consumers buy strings, making stringers even more important to the player’s game.
There is probably more string chatter now than there has been for years. Everyone is talking about string. Why? It is all due to the polyester craze. A product that has been around for years, sold very inexpensively, and was considered a low-end durability string is now suddenly being used by most of the Top 20 pro players, sells for $15 wholesale, and has become the “gotta have” sensation of the last year. What happened? What is going to happen? The answer is lots “more.”
Polyester is all the rage among the 4.5 and higher players, mainly because so many pros are using it. And they are using it for a reason. Today’s bigger and stronger pros are using stiffer and slightly larger racquets, and they are swinging all out on every shot. They want to tame the power, not increase it. For these guys, gut has, for the time being, become too much of a good thing.
The answer lay in what used to be called a “non-performance” string because it was stiff (but durable) and had no pop. Being a nonperformance string, it was cheap. But, now we’ve changed the definition of performance, and poly’s got what player’s want. Consequently, some brands and models now carry a price tag that manufacturers and retailers want. More poly equals more money.
More Durability, More Performance
Players were also looking for more durability — and poly was the answer. It never breaks. But irony reigns. As it turns out, players complain that poly loses its tension and playing characteristics too quickly. The ball starts to “fly” after a few sets or a match. So they have to cut their strings out anyway. Now, durability is taking on new meaning — it is not how long it takes to break a string, but how long it takes to lose its desired performance. Manufacturers are busy working to improve polyester’s consistency over time.
Ouch! Poly can be harsh. That’s why you see mostly young, strong, accomplished players using it. But even they are whimping out. Many players are using hybrids composed of poly mains and gut or multifilament crosses. And they are even reversing it with the softer string in the mains and poly in the crosses. Whatever the combination, they are trying to soften the feel without gaining too much power. You will see more packaged sets of hybrids to meet this demand.
More Thin Strings
Big topspin. That’s what player’s want. Thin strings give more bite and more spin. But they break — unless they are poly. With the emergence of polyester, players have been migrating to thinner strings that have the same durability as thicker nylons but have more bite. Some manufacturers are seeing their inventory ratios approaching 50/50 for 16- to 17- gauge string. There is even some demand for 18- gauge on the horizon. Believers in the adage that you should use a string that you can break in six months will be moving to thinner strings.
More String Jobs
Because many polys lose playing characteristics quickly and because there is so much experimentation with hybrids to find the right combination of feel, control, power, and long-lasting performance, stringers will be on call to meet the changing and conflicting needs of players. In reality, the situation is a stringer’s “Field of Dreams.” The savvy stringer should be marketing his ability to concoct string jobs of magical proportions by using secret formulas of hybrid combinations of strings and tensions. Never before has the stringer’s opinion and knowledge meant so much to the player.
More Awareness, More Questions, More Celebrity
String has become center court in the minds of players looking for an edge. There is a growing awareness and curiosity about what string can do for a player. Consumers are starting to ask more questions, willing to take risks, and experiment more. The stringer is well positioned to be the new tennis hero, if he is ready.
The move to higher price points and players’ willingness to experiment also led to increased gut sales for many manufacturers last year. Part of that may have been the inclusion of gut in hybrids, but manufacturers are also hopeful that players and stringers are becoming more educated and are selling and stringing “up.” The consensus is that business has been increasing at higher price points. More Reels
Whether due to more hybrids, better marketing, or more shops doing large volume stringing, several manufacturers report that reel sales are up and that they look forward to the trend continuing.
More Like Nylon, More Like Gut
As more players move to polyester, manufacturers are trying harder to make polyester play like nylon — the string from which they are migrating. They are trying to make poly softer. This year, like last year, you will see polyester strings introduced with many more additives, more complicated extrusion processes, and varied heat treatments that will make a kinder, gentler poly. Polyurethane, polybuthylene, and other exotic substances are getting thrown into the mix. The goal, of course, is to make a string for the sub-4.5 player.
Meanwhile, the quest to make nylon play like gut continues. This is the biggest segment of the string market, in spite of what you would think given all the talk about polyester.
Multifilaments continue to expand in numbers. The club player is still looking for more power and more comfort, and for gut-like playability at an affordable price. Meeting their needs is still the bread and butter of most string manufacturers.
More Head Scratching
As players, stringers and manufacturers try to figure out the perplexing plethora of contradictory demands of performance and properties, there will be much more head scratching about the role of strings in performance. That is as it should have been all along. We have polyester to thank for this blessing of confusion that can only result in the emergence of a higher appreciation of string and stringing.
New Strings for Spring 2004
To contact these and other manufacturers, see our links pages.
|String Brand||Gauges||Construction||Materials||Length (feet)||Color||Wholesale Price|
|Monogut||16, 17||Monofilament||Mult-polymer||40, 360, 660||Metallic silver||$4.00, $37.50, $70.00|
|Ultra Tour||16L||Monofilament||Co-polyester||40||Silver, Blue||$10.80|
|Synthetic Gut PPS||16, 17, 18||Monfilament w/wrap||Polyamide 6, Polyphenylene Sulfide||40||Gold, White, Red, Silver||$ 4.00|
|Zo Life||16||Monofilament||Polymer Alloy||40, 660||Amber||$16.00|
|Zo Power||16L||Monofilament||Polymer Alloy||40, 660||Silver||$18.00|
|Zo Plus||16L||Monofilament||Co-Polymer Alloy||40, 660||White||$18.00|
|X-plosive||17M/17X||Hybrid||Gut Mains, Co-polymer Crosses||22/22||Silver/Natural||$18.00|
|Stamina||17M/16X||Hybrid||Aramid Mains, Synthetic Crosses||22/22||Gold||$ 9.00|
|K-Boom||17, 16||Monofilament||Co-polymer||40||Silver||$ 9.00|
|Synthetic Gut||15L, 16, 17||Monfilament w/wrap||Nylon||40||Gold, White||$ 4.00|
|Laser Kryptonite — Tour Select||16, 17, 18||Monofilament||Polykrypton tetraflouride||40, 440||Natural||$11.95, $110.00|
|Laser RuffCut||16||Monofilament w/ wrap, laser treatment||Co-polymer w/UTB wrap, Nylon coating||40||White||$10.50|
|Laser Kryptonite — Tri-brid Blend||18M/16X, 17M/16X,||Tri-brid||Kryptonite M, Laser Ruffcut X||20 M, 20 X||Natural M, White X||$10.50|
|Duo-Color TNT Syn Gut||17||Monfilament w/wrap||Nylon||40||1/2 Black and 1/2 White||$9.00|
|Duo-Color TNT Fat Core Syn Gut||17||Monofilament w/wrap||Nylon||40||1/2 Black and 1/2 White||$10.00|
|Spinfire Maxipower||16,17||Monofilament||Polyester, Polybuthylene||40||Natural||$11.00|
|X-One Biphase||16,17||Multifilament||H2C & NRG Microfilaments, Polyurethane||39||Natural||$14.50|
|Tourna-Poly Big Hitter||16, 17||Monofilament||Poly-poly ether||40, 660||Silver||$5.50, $49.00|
|Enduro Mono||16L||Monofilament||Polytetraflouroethelyne||40, 660||Natural||$7.50, $85.00|
|Enduro Tour||16, 17, 18||Monofilament||28 Polymer blend||40, 660||Natural||$10.00, $100.00|
See all articles by Crawford Lindsey
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