Playtest: Unique Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut 16
By Greg Raven
Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut is a new hybrid string from Unique that combines Unique’s Tourna Gut natural gut with its Tourna Poly Big Hitter polyester for the best of both worlds: the power of gut with the durability of poly. (See the April 2004 RSI for our playtest report of Unique’s Tourna Poly Big Hitter.) According to Unique, Tourna Poly Big Hitter is one of the softest polyesters available, and its natural gut is some of the best in the world. The target consumer is intermediate-to-advanced players looking for the ultimate blend of feel and durability.
Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut is available in 16 and 17 in natural (gut) and silver (poly). It is priced from $17. For more information or to order, contact Unique at 770-442-1977, or visit uniquesports.us.
In the lab
We tested the 16-gauge Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut. The coils measured 21 feet (poly) and 20 feet (gut). The diameters measured 1.25 to 1.29 mm (poly) and 1.30 to 1.32 mm (gut) prior to stringing, and 1.20 to 1.26 mm (poly) and 1.28 to 1.30 mm (gut) after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 74 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 68 RDC units, representing an 8 percent 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 percent tension loss. Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut added 14 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.
The string was tested for five weeks by 34 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.5 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. Average number of hours playtested was 22.6.
We instructed our playtesters to install the poly in the mains. Traditionally, you want the more durable string in the mains, as they typically break first. Also, it often seems easier to install poly in the mains and gut in the crosses because of the stiffness of poly, but some playtesters struggled weaving the gut, which is understandable. Installing the gut in the mains would eliminate this problem. Unique tells us that Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut can be strung with the gut in either the mains or the crosses. We had no problems installing Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut.
One playtester broke his sample during stringing, eight reported problems with coil memory, five reported problems tying knots, and four reported friction burn.
On the court
Our playtesters gave Unique Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut high scores across the board, with four scores in the top 10 and an overall average score good enough to put it in fifth place of the 91 strings we’ve tested to date. Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut achieved a third-place rating in Resistance to Movement, and scored well above average in Playability, Durability, Power, Control, Comfort, Spin Potential, and Tension Holding. The high score in Resistance to Movement is no surprise, considering that Tourna Poly Big Hitter achieved a first-place score in our April 2004 playtest. Tourna Hybrid’s high score in the Durability category is no doubt helped by Big Hitter’s second-place score in that same playtest.
Five playtesters broke the sample during play — one at nine hours, two at 10 hours, one at 15 hours, and one at 24 hours of play.
Unique’s Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut is the highest-scoring hybrid string we’ve tested with natural gut crosses. Each of the gut hybrids that bested Unique Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut’s overall average achieved its score with gut in the mains. There’s no telling what the score might have been had we instructed our playtesters to install Tourna Hybrid Poly Gut with Tourna Gut in the mains and Tourna Poly Big Hitter in the crosses, but if the past is any guide, Tourna Hybrid would have scored even higher.
One of the great things about hybrid string jobs is the flexibility they offer the player. You can put the more durable string in the mains and softer string in the crosses, or install them the other way to trade off durability for better playability, power, touch/feel, and comfort. From there, you can fine-tune your set-up by raising or lowering the tension of the mains relative to the crosses.
“I love this string.” 4.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Head Protector Mid strung at 65 pounds LO (Head Pure Power 16)
“This is a very durable and good-playing string. It started to lose tension noticeably after 14 hours of playing. The strings do not move much and it plays a lot better than I thought it would with the polyester mains. Highly recommend it for string breakers who want a good-playing string.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson Triad 3 strung at 62 pounds CP (Gamma Professional 17)
“This is a terrific string. I am a chronic string breaker, so I use a hybrid, and I would use this one.” 5.5 male all-court player using Prince More Control DB MP strung at 60 pounds CP (Aramid/gut 16)
“Good pop on the ball, especially on serves and overheads. Strings do not move at all, and no notching. This is a string I will keep in my racquet and will stock.” 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson Pro Staff 5.1 Surge X strung at 58/56 pounds CP (Gamma TNT 18)
“This string looks and plays like my normal string, which up until now was the best string I’ve ever played with. This new one is now my favorite.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson Hyper Carbon 4.3 strung at 64 pounds LO (Klip X-Plosive 17)
“I am impressed with the level of feel this string provides, as well as its ability to maintain tension and resiliency over many hours of play. I would recommend it highly to power hitters who break strings frequently, but insist on a “feel” string. In fact, I’d have no problem recommending this universally to better players (4.0+).” 4.5 male all-court player using Pro Kennex Kinetic Pro 5G strung at 63 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)
“I had no problem switching to this string. In fact, I used it in two USTA doubles matches and two USTA singles matches. The feel is comparable to my normal string, except for off-center hits, where it’s not as forgiving. When I buy this string, I will try it with the poly mains at seven percent less tension to see if I can increase the pop. Very good control, and very good bite on the ball.” 3.5 male all-court player using Gamma F-9.0 strung at 66 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 17)
“This hybrid grew on me with time. I usually use 17-gauge gut for playability and comfort. At first I was bothered by the stiffness of the poly mains, but after a few hours it wasn’t a concern. The hybrid mixture is very stable and offers plenty of power. I did feel a slight difference in weight using the hybrid versus my usual string. It’s a string worth giving a try. The poly provides the durability and power, and the gut softens the playability.” 4.5 male all-court player using Volkl Catapult 3 Gen 2 strung at 48/46 pounds CP (BDE Performance 17)
“From the time I hit the first ball, I could tell this string was going to be great. I liked the ball speed it gives. It’s great for volleys, as well as for drop shots. I feel I have lots of control. The only setback is that the tension does not hold as long as my regular combination. I think this is a great string for serious tennis players. I rate it an “A.”” 5.5 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal Rave strung at 62 pounds CP (Luxilon Timo/Head RIP Control 18/16)
“A good string. I would use and recommend it to high school players.” 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson H5 strung at 53 pounds CP (Wilson NXT Max 16)
“Good blend.” 6.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix-One 95 strung at 51/53 pounds LO (Wilson poly/gut 17/16)
“Good string. This is a good combination for a hybrid.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson Pro Staff 5.1 Surge strung at 61/55 pounds CP (Wilson Polylast/Stamina 17)
“Very nice combination. It seemed to play better the first 10 hours: it was crisp and powerful. It might have lost tension, but even so I’m still getting use out of it.” 3.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Volkl Catapult V1 OS strung at 61 pounds LO (Gamma Pro 17)
“Tough to string because I have no experience with natural gut, but a pleasure to play with.” 3.5 male all-court player using Prince Tour Diablo MP strung at 63 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)
“Good string. It has a nice feel with solid pop.” 4.5 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Control strung at 60 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)
“I’m really getting to like this combo of polyester mains and natural gut crosses. The poly offers control and durability while the gut softens the stringbed and improves playability. This setup has a very crisp yet comfortable feel, which I likxe very much. My only complaint is its lack of spin potential. I’d like to try this in a 17 gauge.” 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson Pro Staff 5.1 Surge strung at 56/60 pounds CP (Babolat Tonic 16)
“This string was a pleasure to play with. It maintained tension throughout the test with little or no movement. Control was excellent and produced good pop on the serve. It is a little hard on the arm compared to synthetics and/or pure natural gut. A good choice for heavy hitters who still want touch and feel.” 3.5 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal Radical OS strung at 60 pounds CP (Gamma TNT 16)
“Initially I did not feel this string played quite as well as my normal hybrid, perhaps because it’s a bit thicker. After it loosened up a bit, it felt better. I’ll bet it’s a better value than my normal set-up!” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Head Liquidmetal Prestige MP strung at 64/62 pounds CP (Luxilon Ace/Babolat VS Tonic 18/16)
“Nice combination of poly mains and gut crosses. Has a nice feel and above-average control.” 5.0 male all-court player using Prince Turbo Shark MP strung at 58/62 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut 15L)
“A responsive string. A lot easier on the arm than some of the other “big name” hybrids I’ve tried. The ball really jumps off the stringbed on kick serves and volleys.” 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson Pro Staff 5.1 Surge strung at 60 pounds CP (Gamma TNT2 16)
“This string has very good durability and almost never moved. However, it plays very stiff, so I would recommend a lower tension than normal for nylon.” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince Tour NXGraphite Mid strung at 60 pounds LO (Babolat Ballistic 16)
“Very nice feel. This surprised me because the mains were very stiff during installation. Please let me know what string this is.” 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Prince DB800 strung at 62 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)
“Good product for string breakers; very comfortable with loads of power, but control is an issue for me.” 4.0 male all-court player using Head Classic MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Head Intellitour 17)
“I don’t prefer hybrids of this type because of the stretch of the gut. Play was average. The polyester was good.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson n5 strung at 65 pounds CP (Luxilon Alu Power 16L)
“Easy to string. Would love to try the gut in the mains, as this arrangement is too hard on my arm. Control is good but spin only fair.” 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix-One 95 strung at 62 pounds LO (Wilson Natural 17)
“This string has good power and spin potential, but the lack of durability is a turn-off. I also think that this string feels a little mushy after about three hours of play. There are better poly/gut hybriids out there. Overall, this string is average.” 4.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Head Liquidmetal Instinct Tour XL strung at 62 pounds CP (Luxilon Alu Power 16L)
“Relatively difficult to install. This is a good choice for players who like to use lots of spin ond for those who use control and feel. This would be better suited for more proficient players, as there is little inherent energy in the stringbed itself. The reduction in tension and wear on the gut are worrying.” 4.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson Hyper Hammer 2.3 strung at 63 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)
“I was psyched when I saw this playtest sample combined poly and natural gut, but the playability disappointed me.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal Radical MP strung at 70 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG 18)
“No problems encountered during stringing, although the gut did fray slightly, even though I waxed and pre-stretched it, and wove one ahead. The stringbed initiall felt quite stiff, however after a couple of hours of play it started to feel very good. Playability was actually very good from about two through 18 hours of play. Thereafter the gut started to fray and the tension decreased considerably, causing significantly less playability and control. In summary, even though the mains resisted movement and playability was good for a shot time, I would not recommend this hybrid.” 4.5 male all-court player using Fischer Pro Impact FT strung at 60 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire 17)
“The poly mains take away too much of the feel of the gut.” 5.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Head Liquidmetal Radical MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)
“This string is a little more harsh than my regular string. The gut helps to soften the poly, but not enough for me.” 4.5 male all-court player using Fischer Pro Extreme FT strung at 60 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire 16)
“Lack of control and low spin potential are highlights of this poly-gut hybrid. Certainly not the best string for my style of play. It’ll be a long time before I stock this string. Sorry.” 3.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Head Liquidmetal 8 strung at 62 pounds CP (Signum Pro 17 17)
“The gut seems to be poor quality, and the strings felt dead from the first hit. Bad stuff.” 3.5 male all-court player using Wilson nSix-One Tour strung at 58 pounds LO (Gosen Micro 16/17)
(Strings normally used by testers are indicated in parentheses.)
| EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as easy||18|
|not quite as easy||14|
|not nearly as easy||2|
| OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as playable||6|
|not quite as playable||13|
|not nearly as playable||4|
| OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as durable||6|
|not quite as durable||5|
|not nearly as durable||1|
| RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
|Resistance to Movement||4.0|
See all articles by Greg Raven
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. He plays tennis five days a week, and is turning into an avid cyclist.