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Playtest: Wilson Ultimate Duo

By Greg Raven

Ultimate Duo is a hybrid string from Wilson comprised of Luxilon Alu Power and Wilson NXT Tour. This combination builds on Wilson’s dominant position in premium-priced synthetic multifilaments (more than 70% of the market) with Luxilon’s market-leading position in monofilaments. In early 2006, Wilson became the worldwide exclusive distributor of Luxilon strings, which created the opportunity to combine the best multifilament and the best monofilament into a single hybrid string.

Wilson Ultimate Duo

Luxilon Alu Power is a highly technical monofilament made of a proprietary poly-ether-ether polymer with aluminum added during the extrusion process. (See our playtest report in the July 2003 Racquet Tech magazine.) Wilson NXT Tour 16 consists of 1,200 high-crystallinity xycro microfibers wrapped around a micro-core and bonded with polyurethane.

According to Wilson, Ultimate Duo was created for players seeking gut-like feel with added durability, and players who prefer monofilaments but want added comfort and control.

Ultimate Duo is available in 16L/16 in silver/natural only. It is priced from $17.50 for sets with a 21-foot coil of each string. For more information or to order, contact Wilson at 773-714-6400, or visit wilson.com, or visit Luxilon on the web at luxilon.com. Be sure to read the conclusion for more information about a chance to win a free set to try for yourself.

In the lab

The coils measured 23’ 5” (Alu Power) and 22’ (NXT Tour). The diameters measured 1.24-1.26 mm (Alu Power) and 1.28-1.31 mm (NXT Tour) prior to stringing, and 1.21-1.23 mm (Alu Power) and 1.26-1.27 mm (NXT Tour) 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 66 RDC units, representing an 11 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. Ultimate Duo added 17 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The string was tested for five weeks by 35 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.0 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. Average number of hours playtested was 27.9.

Although it is possible to use either string in the mains, the most common set-up by far is to install the Luxilon Alu Power in the mains with the Wilson NXT Tour in the crosses. In this configuration, the tension for the mains should be 5-10% less than that for the crosses.

No playtester broke his sample during stringing, 8 reported problems with coil memory, 6 reported problems tying knots, and 2 reported friction burn.

On the court

Wilson Ultimate Duo’s durability figured prominently in our playtest scores and playtester comments, but what made this durability so exciting is the fact that along with its well-above-average score for Durability, Wilson Ultimate Duo also garnered well-above-average scores for Power, Control, Spin Potential, Tension Retention, and Resistance to Movement. Along with these six high scores, our playtesters also gave Ultimate Duo above-average ratings in Playability and Comfort. The end result is a well-above-average aggregate score for Wilson Ultimate Duo.

No playtester broke his sample during play.

Conclusion

Of the 108 strings that we’ve playtested to date for publication, Wilson Ultimate Duo is in the top 15 for Power and Control, and the top 20 for Durability, Resistance to Movement, and Overall Average Score.

Even though our playtesters scored Wilson Ultimate Duo highly, their comments were even more positive. They weren’t just paying lip service, either, as the average playtest duration was almost 3.5 hours longer than normal when using a favorite string. That is, on average our playtesters kept using Wilson Ultimate Duo 14 percent longer than they would have if they were using their usual string.

If you think that Wilson Ultimate Duo might be for you, fill out the coupon. From the entries we receive, Wilson will draw the names of 100 lucky winners.

Playtester Comments

“This is a great combo. It feels like a polyester/natural gut mix. The control is superb. I would not only stock this for my clients, but I would use it myself.” 3.5 male all-court player using Völkl Tour 9 V Engine (70 Holes) strung at 57 pounds CP (Tecnifibre X-One Biphase 17)

“This hybrid has a great combination of spin and comfort. Big hitters read on. Keeping the ball inside the lines is a cinch. With each new hitting session, I was amazed at how easy I could control the depth. I was initially worried that the soft crosses would cause unwanted power, but I was pleasantly surprised with the lack of trampoline effect. This is a comfortable control string for the baseliner in your family.” 5.0 male all-court player using Völkl DNX 8 strung at 63 pounds LO (Polyester/Nylon 16)

“This is one of the best poly/nylon hybrids that I have ever used. It is an improvement over the first generation polyesters, which were a bit too stiff. This string provides power and control. The tension maintenance is exceptional. I would not hesitate to recommend this for all ability levels.” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince O3 Red MP strung at 53/56 pounds CP (Babolat Attraction Power 17)

“This hybrid is truly comfortable. Anticipating a harsh feel, I was pleasantly surprised when it played as soft as a high-end multifilament. This string is above average in every category.” 5.5 male all-court player using Dunlop M-Fil 200 Plus strung at 60 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 17)

“This hybrid provides some nice pop and, surprisingly, some great touch. The overall playability is exceptional. The resistance to movement adds control, while the superior durability makes it a great choice for big hitters.” 3.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Tour OS strung at 57/60 pounds CP (Nylon/Natural Gut 16/17)

“The combination of playability, comfort and power make this a great hybrid. String movement is minimal and durability is impressive.” 5.0 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Control MP Team strung at 58 pounds CP (Gamma TNT2 16)

“During installation, the cross felt a little mushy. However, in play, the string had a nice, crisp response. The comfort and playability are great; the power is more than adequate. Even touch shots are easily executed, which makes this a very friendly polyester.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson H1 Outer Edge strung at 62 pounds CP (Kevlar/Nylon 17)

“This hybrid has changed my beliefs about polyester. I was expecting a very stiff and boardy stringbed, but I found great playability and control. The durability and power are also exceptional.” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince O3 White strung at 58 pounds CP (Prince Premier w/Softflex 17)

“This string has no major flaws. The Comfort and control are well above average. It survived 83 hours of hitting, mostly teaching. I’m a believer.” 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson nSix Two strung at 55 pounds LO (Wilson Reaction 18)

“This is one comfortable hybrid. Not only is it durable, the feel and playability are great. With little tension loss and minimal string movement, this string has solid control from the first shot to the last.” 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson n1 strung at 63 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This is one of the best feeling hybrids I’ve ever used. This is a solid string for big hitters and string breakers. Good power with exceptional feel. Two thumbs up.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix Two strung at 55 pounds CP (Wilson Extreme Synthetic Gut 16)

“I confess to having a touch game built around thin, elastic strings. I went into this playtest a little apprehensive, I came out extremely impressed with the combination of control, comfort and power. With every forehand drive, I found myself thinking: “yes, this is why I play tennis”.” 4.5 male touch player using Wilson nPro strung at 62 pounds LO (Babolat Super Fine Play 17)

“Two words: control and power. The essence of a good hybrid is complimentary strings. This hybrid has that in spades. The stiff mains make for a wonderfully crisp response, while the soft mains add just the right amount of comfort and dwell time. Topspin players will love it.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 5.0 MP strung at 57 pounds LO (Wilson NXT Tour 16)

“I’m sold. This is the most playable hybrid I have ever used. The stringbed has no surprises. The crosses create a luxurious, zippy sweet spot, while the mains keep the ball from flying. I tend to go for a lot of lines and my control comes from heavy spin. With this hybrid, I feel like I’m throwing the ball to my target. Sign me up! ” 6.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head i.Radical MP strung at 64 pounds LO (Polyester 16)

“This string is a nice combination. Though lacking a truly crisp feel, it’s comfortable with a nice bite. The durability is exceptional.” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince O3 Tour MS strung at 58 pounds LO (Babolat VS Touch/Luxilon TiMO 16/18)

“The coil memory slows the installation process. The durability is good and the resistance to movement allows for excellent control. Though not as playable as a multifilament, it’s a great choice for string breakers.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head i.X5 MP strung at 57 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 17)

“This is a great hybrid. Normally, I do not favor polyester, but this one is hard not to like. Even after some tension loss, this string plays solid. It is surprisingly powerful and very comfortable.” 5.0 male all-court player using Völkl DNX 10 MP strung at 58 pounds CP (Völkl Power-Fibre 17)

“The resistance to movement is refreshing. The string bed is a bit stiff, but the soft crosses make for a comfortable ride. Overall, a very nice compromise between comfort, playability and durability.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop 200G 95 (Muscle Weave) strung at 60 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)

“This string has exceptional durability and tension maintenance. Though comfort and touch are lacking, I found it easy to keep the ball between the lines.” 5.0 male all-court player using Pro Kennex 7g strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Polygut 17)

“What a pleasant surprise! This hybrid rivals all but the best natural guts and multifilaments in comfort. Due to the soft crosses, this blend has above average playability. If you are looking for an arm friendly string with durability, look no further.” 4.5 male using Pro Kennex 7g strung at 62 pounds CP (Babolat Pro Hurricane 16)

“Great durability and power. Playability was above average for a polyester. I would definitely include this in my string line.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nPro Surge strung at 63 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This string has good control and touch. The durability is well above average. For a fairly stiff string, this is quite comfortable. Touch shots are a breeze, making this a good all around hybrid.” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince Triple Threat Warrior MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)

“This string has a truly nice feel. Not only is this a comfortable combination, the mix of power and control is just right.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat Aeropro Drive strung at 55/60 pounds CP (Polyester/Nylon 17)

“While there is some fraying and notching — which is not uncommon for my stroke style — the string lasts longer than my typical nylon. It plays quite well. I stand impressed by the comfort and playability.” 5.5 male all-court player using Wilson nTour Two strung at 53 pounds LO (Nylon 16)

“This is a nice hybrid with above average durability. While it is not a soft, mushy comfort string, it is recommended to those looking for a highly predictable response.” 5.0 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal Radical MP strung at 57 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 17)

“This string is durable and the spin potential is above average. The strngs do not move, which adds to the control. Surprisingly, this string has power. Baseline and topspin hitters will enjoy it.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince O3 White strung at 65 pounds CP (Multifilament Nylon 18)

“I’m not a fan of polyester, but this string has caused me to think again. The control is great and there is a surprising amount of comfort. The soft crosses make for a virtually shock-free impact., while the crisp mains create loads of spin-friendly bite. From the first hit, one thing becomes apparent: this combination works.” 5.5 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Drive Team strung at 60 pounds CP (Nylon 16)

“The performance level is slightly lower than my typical multifilament. Given the low power level, I had to swing harder, which did not suit my stroke style. This is recommended to big hitters.” 3.5 male all-court player using Wilson Hyper Hammer 4.0 strung at 52 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 17)

“This string has no outstanding qualities. It is recommended to big hitters who are looking for durability with a crisp response.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson n5 strung at 61 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This string is wonderfully crisp and spin friendly. It errs on the side of control, but power is there when needed. As a polyester, it will appeal to hard hitters and spin doctors.” 4.5 male all-court player using Extender Graphite OS strung at 52/58 pounds CP (Head RIP Ti.Fiber 17)

“This hybrid is durable and string movement is minimal. There is not much feedback or feel, making this an unremarkable string. It is recommended to those who prefer durability over feel.” 4.5 male all-court player using Völkl DNX 9 strung at 60/63 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 17)

“This string has plenty of power and a crisp response. It does not offer the same touch as I’m used to, but I could adapt easily. The control from the baseline is impressive. This is worth a second look.” 4.0 male all-court player using Pro Kennex Core 1 No. 10 strung at 65 pounds LO (Pacific Force 18)

“This is another attempt to rescue the polyester experience with a soft cross. This is okay for big hitters with durability concerns, but I found insufficient bite and control. The ball tends to fly. Comfort is fine, but the lack of spin and power are problematic. As a polyester user, I was disappointed.” 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Handler Arrow strung at 42 pounds LO (Gamma Dura Blast 16)

“Another string for baseline bashers. A little disappointing considering how soft the crosses felt. Adequate power and control from the backcourt, but lacking on volleys & touch shots. I would recommend this to baseline players.” 4.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Red MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Gamma TNT2 17)

“This string plays stiff and has little feel. There does not seem to be enough elasticity in the crosses to lend the stringbed enough comfort. This string is fine for the polyester faithful, but I do not think it is going to convert the high end multi crowd.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head Flexpoint Prestige Mid strung at 59 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire Professional 16)

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

Ratings

EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
Number of testers who said it was:
much easier 0
somewhat easier 1
about as easy 28
not quite as easy 6
not nearly as easy 0
OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 2
somewhat better 3
about as playable 11
not quite as playable 16
not nearly as playable 3
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 8
somewhat better 19
about as durable 7
not quite as durable 1
not nearly as durable 0
RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
Playability (#10 overall to date) 3.4
Durability 4.1
Power 3.6
Control (#5 overall to date) 3.8
Comfort 3.3
Touch/Feel 2.9
Spin Potential 3.3
Holding Tension 3.5
Resistance to Movement 3.8

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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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