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Playtest: Unique Big Hitter Blue 17

By Greg Raven

Unique Big Hitter Blue is a monofilament string made with polyether. According to Unique, the use of polyether in this advanced German string formulation allows for a much softer string that absorbs shock and increases comfort, while retaining the incredible durability, power and resistance to movement of the best new generation, co-polymer polyester strings.

Unique Big Hitter Blue 17

Unique tells us that Big Hitter Blue offers control and comfort at normal swing speeds, but when power is wanted, long, fast swings with Big Hitter Blue create an ultra powerful pop. The extra durability allows players to use a thinner gauge for more bite and accuracy, while expecting the same or better string life. Unique also recommends its use in hybrid combinations with Unique Tourna-Gut Natural Gut for a great combination of durability, touch, and power.

Unique Big Hitter Blue is available in 40-foot sets in blue only. It is priced from $6.75 for sets of 40 feet, $59 for reels of 660 feet (200 meters). For more information or to order, contact Unique at 800-554-3707, or visit uniquesports.us.

In the lab

We tested the 17-gauge Unique Big Hitter Blue. The coil measured 40’ 3”. The diameter measured 1.23-1.26 mm prior to stringing, and 1.20-1.23 mm 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 64 RDC units, representing a 14 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. Unique Big Hitter Blue 17 added 18 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The string was tested for five weeks by 39 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 32.1.

Big Hitter Blue strings up about the same as other poly strings, despite its slightly different formulation. One end was pre-cut at an angle, which was nice. We noticed some burning on the mains toward the end of stringing the crosses on a tight stringbed pattern, similar to what we’ve seen with other poly strings containing ether.

The blue color is a nice change from other strings, especially considering that it doesn’t come off during play: The color is part of the string.

No playtester broke his sample during stringing, 14 reported problems with coil memory, three reported problems tying knots, and one reported friction burn.

On the court

Our playtest team gave Unique Big Hitter Blue 17 fantastic scores in three categories important to power players. Big Hitter Blue 17’s scores for Spin Potential put it in third place of the 116 strings we’ve playtested for publication. Its scores were also good enough for fourth-place finishes in both Durability and Resistance to Movement. It’s interesting to note that another Unique string, Tourna Poly Big Hitter, is still in first place in Resistance to Movement, and is in second place in Durability. (See the May 2004 issue of RSI for the full playtest report on Tourna Poly Big Hitter.)

Unique Big Hitter Blue 17’s high scores in these three categories helped it earn an average score of 10th overall, making it the top-scoring poly string.

Our playtest team also awarded Big Hitter Blue 17 scores well above average for Playability, Power, Control, and Tension Retention.

Two playtesters broke the sample during play, one at three hours and one at five hours.

Conclusion

Big Hitter Blue’s playing characteristics won’t be for everyone, but if you’ve tried other poly strings containing ether and found you like the way they play better than you like the price, Big Hitter Blue may be just the ticket, costing about half that of its most direct competitor on the market.

Playtester comments

“I’ve never been a big polyester fan. This string has changed my mind. I can’t believe how playable and comfortable this string is. This string has the best of both worlds: playability and power.” 5.5 male all-court player using Prince O3 Hybrid Tour (16x18) strung at 54 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 17)

“It’s about time somebody made a truly comfortable polyester. While I do tend to favor polyester strings, this one really stands out. It requires no adjustment period. It’s one of those strings that you know you’re going to like right after you hit the first ball.” 3.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Head i.Radical MP strung at 63 pounds LO (Polyester 16)

“This polyester is as good as any I’ve tried. What make it special are the high power level and exceptional comfort.” 5.0 female all-court player using Head Liquidmetal 4 strung at 57 pounds LO (Head RIP Control 17)

“The only thing not to like about this string is the excessive coil memory. The combination of power, control, spin and feel make this one of the best polyesters I’ve used.” 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson Sledge Hammer 3.8 strung at 62 pounds CP (Prince Premier w/Softflex 17)

“This string does not move or notch during the first ten hours. Given my playing style, this fact is pretty impressive. The best feature of this string is the spin potential. It is worth noting that the spin was even better than with my typical set-up, which has thin Kevlar mains. I am considering a switch.” 4.0 male all-court player using Yonex RDX 500 MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Kevlar/Nylon 18)

“This is a high performance string. It seems to have it all: control, durability, touch, and comfort.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal 4 strung at 56 pounds CP (Gamma Synthetic Gut 17)

“As a multifilament user, I tend not to like the stiffness of polyester. This string, however, is extremely playable. The combination of power, spin, control, and comfort is truly impressive. Perhaps it’s time to make a switch.” 5.0 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Control Zylon 360 strung at 50 pounds LO (Babolat Xcel Premium 17)

“This string has good power and plays as well as the top polys on the market. It is not recommended to those looking for a soft response, but it would be a great choice for baseliners who take big swings.” 4.0 male all-court player using Fischer Pro No. One strung at 63 pounds LO (Natural Gut 16)

“The playability is higher than I expected for a durability string. Power is very easy to produce, but control is only average.” 4.5 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 58 pounds LO (Babolat Xcel Premium 16)

“Though this string starts fairly stiff, it settles quickly and becomes quite playable. This is the perfect string for those who are searching for durability, power, and spin.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head FXP Radical Team strung at 53 pounds LO (Klip Legend 16)

“This is a very playable polyester with incredible spin and control. It is also surprisingly comfortable. Notching is minimal and the durability is wonderful. After 20 hours it does lose a little tension.” 6.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix One Tour strung at 54 pounds CP (Babolat Pro Hurricane 17)

“This string has decent spin potential and surprisingly high power. The most surprising element, however, is the touch.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince Triple Threat Hornet strung at 53 pounds CP (Wilson NXT OS 16L)

“High marks for durability. This string has a somewhat harsh response and does not provide adequate spin until it settles in. I prefer more comfort and touch. I’m impressed, however, by how easy it is to keep the ball in the court. I never have to worry about taking a big swing.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson NXT Tour 17)

“This string has a very crisp feel at net. Depth is easy to control from the baseline. While I would not call it a comfort string, it does not feel nearly as boardy as its peers.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson nSix One 95 (68 Holes) strung at 56 pounds CP (Völkl Power-Fiber II 16)

“Great control and durability. Pretty comfortable for an otherwise stiff string. Topspin hitters will enjoy this. I would stock it.” 4.5 male all-court player using Völkl DNX 8 strung at 56 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough 16L)

“This is a very playable polyester. While I would prefer more spin and touch, control is quite high.” 5.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Babolat Pure Drive (with Cortex) strung at 60 pounds CP (Babolat Attraction Power 17)

“This string has good playability and a soft feel. I would definitely recommend it to people who want to experiment with polyester. It is not as playable as a multifilament, but it will satisfy players looking for a more comfortable durability string.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix One 95 (68 Holes) strung at 55 pounds CP (Wilson Ultra Synthetic Gut 16)

“This is a soft poly with good control. It would be great for baseliners and spin-doctors. Those looking for touch might have to make some adjustments. The comfort is higher than expected for the breed.” 3.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince Michael Chang Graphite MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Unique Tourna Gut 16)

“The stringbed is crisp and responsive, with great spin. It has good control and performs well on touch shots. Off-center hits, however, are slightly jarring.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal Radical MP strung at 57 pounds CP (Polyester/Multifilament Nylon 17)

“This string would be perfect in a hybrid with a natural gut cross. The control and durability are excellent. The comfort and playability are what you would expect from a polyester.” 4.0 male all-court player using Prince Precision Mono strung at 55 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut Original 16)

“Great durability and loads of power. Spin potential is also extremely high. Since it does lose tension pretty quickly, I would string it on the tight end.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson n5 strung at 62 pounds CP (Wilson Stamina 16/17)

“This string is initially quite stiff. It loses tension fairly quickly, however, and becomes very comfortable and playable. The non-existent power and feel rival my current string. The spin and durability make this a good string for the baseline topspin game.” 4.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Völkl DNX 10 Mid strung at 54 pounds CP (Natural Gut 17)

“This is a solid offering. Good playability and exceptional durability. It doesn’t play quite like the top multifilament nylons, but it’s a great option for string breakers looking for a little extra touch and comfort.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix One 95 (68 Holes) strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson NXT Tour 17)

“This is a very comfortable poly, but it does lose tension after 10 hours. The control and spin make this a very user-friendly string.” 5.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 White MP strung at 60 pounds CP (Natural Gut/Nylon 17)

“This string has no major flaws. It plays like a typical polyester and is recommended to hard-hitting string breakers. While I did find it very easy to play with, it lacked the ‘wow’ factor.” 5.0 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal 1 MP strung at 61 pounds CP (Natural Gut/Polyester 15/16)

“While this is probably a great choice for polyester fans in search of durability and low power, I would not recommend it to those looking for comfort and touch.” 4.5 male all-court player using Völkl Tour 9 strung at 57 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 16)

“The power level is uniquely low, so it is recommended to people looking for more control. After several hours of play, my arm felt a little tired. I had to work overtime to get any pace on the serve. This could be the perfect choice for over hitters.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head i.Prestige Mid strung at 53 pounds CP (Gosen Polylon 16)

“Stringing takes a little longer because of the coil memory. This string has a stiff feeling at impact. While it is not very comfortable, spin is very easy to produce. Those in search of a softer response are advised to hybrid it with a soft cross.” 4.0 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Drive + strung at 58 pounds LO (Multifilament Nylon 16)

“Aside from the durability, there is nothing about this string that grabs one’s attention. It does not standout from the other polyesters that I’ve used.” 4.5 female all-court player using Prince More Precision MP strung at 63 pounds LO (Nylon 17)

“Durability, control, and resistance to movement are the top attributes. While power, playability, spin potential, and tension maintenance are good, touch and feel are lacking. This is a good overall string, but it is most likely designed for hard hitters with durability concerns.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 55 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“This is a lively and responsive polyester. It loses resilience pretty quickly, though. It would play better in a hybrid.” 5.0 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal 2 strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“While this is not going to convert the natural gut user, it is a nice polyester. Not my cup of tea, but no major adjustments required.” 6.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Speedport Red strung at 70 pounds CP (Prince Sweet Perfection 16)

“Tension maintenance is excellent. A little harsh, though, during warm-up. Notching occurs almost instantly. This is a powerful polyester.” 5.0 female baseliner with heavy spin using Prince O3 White strung at 55 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire Professional 17)

“Holds tension well. Great control when taking a full swing, but lacking touch and feel on softer strokes.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head Metallix 10 strung at 60 pounds (Wilson Sensation 17)

“While I did not anticipate a responsive, comfortable ride, I am disappointed with the utter lack of spin potential.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson nTour strung at 54 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This is a stiff string. It is not recommended to those who like a long dwell-time or a cupping effect. It also does not have great touch and feel.” 4.0 male all-court player using Head Flexpoint 6 MP strung at 45 pounds CP (Gamma ESP 17)

“This is a very stiff string. Plays like Kevlar. Not recommended for light, stiff frames or short, slow stroke styles.” 6.0 male all-court player using Head Flexpoint Radical MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)

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

Playtester ratings

EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
Number of testers who said it was:
much easier 0
somewhat easier 1
about as easy 22
not quite as easy 15
not nearly as easy 1
OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 0
somewhat better 6
about as playable 15
not quite as playable 15
not nearly as playable 2
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 10
somewhat better 17
about as durable 10
not quite as durable 1
not nearly as durable 0
RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
Playability 3.5
Durability (4th overall) 4.4
Power 3.5
Control 3.6
Comfort 3.2
Touch/Feel 3.0
Spin Potential (3rd overall) 3.7
Holding Tension 3.6
Resistance to Movement (4th overall) 4.1

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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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