Tennis Industry magazine

 

Playtest: Unique Tournafiber Irradiated 16

By Greg Raven

Brand & model

Unique’s Tournafiber Irradiated is a new and improved version of their multifilament, multi-wrap string, the original of which we playtested in early 2002 (see Racquet Tech magazine, May 2002, for the playtest report). Unique says that the multifilament fiber center core and surrounding fine monofilaments give Tournafiber Irradiated exceptional comfort and control. According to Unique, the irradiation process injects energy into the molecular structure of the string to enhance elasticity and lower dampening, thus giving faster rebound and less loss of energy.

Unique Tournafiber Irradiated is available in 16 and 17 gauges in natural only. It is priced from $5.95 for sets of 40 feet, and $39.95 for coils of 330 feet (16-gauge only). For more information or to order, contact Unique at 770-442-1977, or visit its website.

Unique Tournafiber Irradiated

Bench testing

We tested the 16 gauge Unique Tournafiber Irradiated. The two coils measured 39 feet 9.5 inches and 39 feet 10 inches. The diameter measured 1.32 mm prior to stringing, and 1.24 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 88 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 × 18 pattern) on a constant pull machine. After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 78 RDC units, representing a 11% tension loss. Our control string, Prince Synthetic Gut Original Gold 16, measured 78 RDC units immediately after stringing and 71 RDC units after 24 hours, representing a 9% tension loss. Unique Tournafiber Irradiated added 14.95 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The testers

Tested for five weeks by 30 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3 to 6.5. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages, to reduce preconceptions and biases regarding manufacturers, type of construction, and materials. Average number of hours playtested was 15.8.

Stringing

For the most part, installing Tournafiber Irradiated is as easy as any other high-quality multi-filament string. The surface is smooth enough that the crosses don’t saw on the mains when pulling them across, and yet it has enough texture that you can grab a hold of it. The string also feels clean, with little or no surface lubricant.

Although it does not have a strong coil memory, Tournafiber Irradiated does have a tendency to twist, reminiscent of natural gut. Fortunately, it doesn’t tend to kink, and with a little care the twisting can be kept under control.

Unique Tournafiber Irradiated

The ends cut to a nice point, and the string is stiff enough that blocked and shared holes are not a problem.

None of our playtesters broke his sample during stringing, 8 reported problems with coil memory, 1 reported problems tying knots, and none reported friction burn.

Playtesting

Our playtesters were impressed by Tournafiber Irradiated, rating it well above average in playability, control, spin potential, and tension holding. Playtesters also thought Tournafiber Irradiated was above average in power, touch/feel, and comfort. These high ratings combine to give Tournafiber Irradiated an overall score that is well above average.

Twelve of our playtesters broke his sample during testing, one after 20 minutes, one after 2 hours, nine with between 6 and 16 hours of play, and one after 24 hours.

Conclusion

Unique has clearly hit their target of wanting to improve on the original Tournafiber Irradiated, as the new version rates more highly than the original in every category except resistance to movement. Furthermore, Tournafiber Irradiated’s dealer price is well below that of other irradiated strings. In fact, the price of the new version is the same as that of the original Tournafiber from two years ago. If you’re looking for an irradiated multifilament string and you don’t mind playing a lesser-known brand name in exchange for a substantial monetary savings, Unique’s Tournafiber Irradiated may be for you.

Playtester comments

“This is an excellent string. It felt very nice and held tension well. I would definitely carry this string in my lineup.” 5.0 male all court player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 58 pounds CP (Tecnifibre E-Matrix 17)

“For players looking for a string that holds tension and doesn’t move, this one is wonderful! Up until the day it broke, I noticed minimal tension loss. I didn’t notice any huge differences in power or spin, and it felt a little firmer than a standard synthetic gut. I would be very interested in a 17-gauge version of this string to pick up some more playability and spin potential. With a good portion of the string being of a multifilament construction, I was surprised that it behaved the way it did.” 5.0 male all court player using Dunlop 300G strung at 65 pounds CP (Head FiberGel 16)

“This string seemed to have a little coil memory, so I pre-stretched it, which helped tremendously. On court, this string is very comfortable. I like all the qualities is possesses. It doesn’t have a downside, in my opinion.” 4.5 male using Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 65 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)

“I really enjoyed playing with this string. It held the tension well, very little string movement, and it felt good on all strokes. Plenty of feel and control with no loss of power. A very all-around good string. I would definitely carry this string. It was easy to install, with no problems with tying of knots.” 4.5 male all court player using Head i.Speed strung at 58 pounds LO (Wilson Stamina 16)

“Very soft-feeling string, but went from 60 to 56 pounds after 24 hours and two sets. However, it actually played better, and kept getting better as time went on. Excellent feel for the ball. Great topspin potential. I give it an A+. Wow. I need to buy this string.” 4.5 male all court player using Head i.S2 strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 16)

“I found the test sample to have crisp response throughout the play period. There was no significant tension loss, and the strings settled in after about two hours of play. If I knew how well it retained tension I would have strung it at less than the highest tension, to increase power, the lack of which was the only limitation of the string. I would certainly recommend it and look forward to hearing who makes it and what it is called.” 5.0 male all court player using Head i.S6 OS strung at 61 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This string lasted me only 15 minutes. It broke near the head, but the break did not appear to be caused by the grommets. Besides the premature breakage, I enjoyed the exceptionally soft feel the string had. The string also allowed me to generate more power and spin than my usual string. I felt confident in hitting out on the ball, knowing it would drop in. Great feel!” 4.5 male all court player using Prince AirDrive MP strung at 61 pounds LO (Ashaway Aramid 17)

“I find it difficult to say anything negative about this string because the first time playing with it I beat my opponent 6-0 without losing a point. I’ve never done that before. I liked this string, too. It had a nice feel and plenty of controllable power. It also held tension well. Durability may be an issue as although it didn’t break, it was notched more than average for the amount of time I played with it.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince More Game MP strung at 55 pounds CP (Prince Perfection 16)

“Overall I was very pleased with the string and would probably use it again. The string felt comfortable and offered good feel and control. Tension maintenance and string movement were better than I expected, though by the end of the test the stringbed was noticeably softer with more string movement.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head i.Tour strung at 57 pounds LO (Gosen OG Sheep 16)

“I like it! Has a crisp and comfortable feel, and it’s easy to string. Plays well. If it would resist movement better, it could be my string of choice.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson Pro Staff Surge X strung at 64 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“Fairly easy to install, but kinking became annoying. Surprisingly, I didn’t break the string. Played well: kind of stiff, but a solid string. String would bite the ball well, pretty good control, but not as much feel. Overall, a good solid string.” 6.5 male all court player using Wilson H Tour strung at 58 pounds LO (Head FiberGel 16)

“This string played very similarly to Wilson Sensation 16, but it didn’t last as long as I would have liked it to. Good on my arm, and it was easy to put spin on the ball.” 5.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince AirStick strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation NXT 17)

“This string played softer than it felt during stringing. I started noticing tension loss after about six hours of play. It felt a lot like other synthetic guts with solid cores, even though it was clearly a multifilament. I liked that it seemed easier to produce spin with this string. In the last hour of play, the string started to notch.” 5.5 male all court player using Wilson Triad Pro Staff 6.0 strung at 63 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“Easy to string except for a little kinking. The string moved a great deal during play, which impeded spin production. Flat balls were more crisp. A good string for hard, flat hitters, and very comfortable. It did start notching, though, after about two hours of play.” 5.5 male all court player using Gosen Secret Carbon strung at 62 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)

“I used the proportional tensioning method because I have been experimenting with this with my normal string. Performance of the test sample was similar to other synthetics I have tried, however control was excellent albeit with markedly reduced power. String movement was more than I expected. I added string savers after approximately 1.5 hours of singles and 4.5 hours of doubles. Serves and volleys had some pop, but ground strokes didn’t seem to have the depth one gets from seemingly similar string at similar tension.” 3.5 male all court player using Volkl VX1 strung at 61/46 pounds CP (Bow Brand Pro 17)

“Very easy to string up. Good feel. It moved around more than my regular string, but lost tension at about the same rate as other synthetics.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head Liquidmetal 4 strung at 55 pounds CP (Head Intellitour 17)

“The first three times I played with this string, I did not like it. I think it took longer to break in than I was used to. I finally felt comfortable with it and saw no difference between it and my normal string.” 3.5 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 5.0 Stretch strung at 63 pounds LO (Babolat Conquest 16)

“This string is a little wiry, and twisted easily during stringing. Tension maintenance was good, as is control, and it has good spin potential. String movement started the first day of play.” 4.0 male all court player using Topspin CL 633 strung at 63 pounds CP (Gamma XP 17)

“I enjoyed this string. It felt very comfortable, provided a solid feel, and had little string movement. I like it as an entry-level quality string. If the manufacturer feels it is a high-level string price-wise, I would not be as interested.” 4.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Pro Kennex 5G strung at 59 pounds CP (Gamma TNT 18)

“This string is average, and compares closest to Gamma TNT 16. It moved more than normal for the first three hours, but then stopped and behaved as most strings do after settling. I see no need to add this string to my inventory as others are as good or better.” 3.5 male all court player using Wilson Sledge Hammer 3.8 strung at 61 pounds CP (Gamma Professional 17)

“Not bad. Middle of the line performance-wise. Felt a bit boardy at first, then mellowed out after awhile. However, I did feel some elbow discomfort from time to time, but nothing consistent. Not sure this string has enough positive points for me to rush out and purchase.” 5.0 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff Surge 5.1 strung at 58 pounds CP (Tecnifibre 515 Gold PS 17)

“Average string. I did not break it because I did not play as much, but it was wearing about the same as my strings normally do.” 3.5 male serve and volleyer using Prince More Game MP strung at 63 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut 15L)

“This string had a lot of coil memory. It kinked easily during stringing and wanted to stay that way, which was a headache when pulling the cross strings. The string plays very dead: I have to provide all the power myself or else the ball will barely make it over the net. It does hold tension well and produce good spin, but this does not compensate for the lack of power and feel. The outer coating started peeling off after three hours of play.” 4.5 male all court player using Head Radical OS strung at 70 pounds LO (Tecnifibre 515 17)

“I didn’t like this string. I gave it the benefit of the doubt, but feel and power are average at best. Nothing stood out, although there was nothing really bad, either.” 5.0 male all court player using Pro Kennex Core #1 strung at 63 pounds CP (Luxilon Ti-Mo Banger 1.10)

(Strings normally used by testers are indicated in parentheses.)

Playtester ratings

EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
much easier 0
somewhat easier 5
about as easy 19
not quite as easy 4
not nearly as easy 1
OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to the string played most often)
much better 1
somewhat better 6
about as playable 11
not quite as playable 10
not nearly as playable 1
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
much better 1
somewhat better 5
about as durable 16
not quite as durable 5
not nearly as durable 1
RATING AVERAGES
Playability 3.5
Durability 3.3
Power 3.3
Control 3.6
Comfort 3.4
Touch/Feel 3.3
Spin Potential 3.4
Holding Tension 3.4
Resistance to Movement 3.1

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About the Author

Greg Raven  is an associate editor for RSI magazine and technical writer. He is certified as a Master Racquet Technician by the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association. He can be reached via e-mail at greg@usrsa.com, or through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. He plays tennis five days a week, and is turning into an avid cyclist.

 

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