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Playtest: Wilson Champions Choice

By Greg Raven

Wilson Champions Choice is a hybrid of two premium strings: Luxilon Alu Power 125 Rough and Wilson Natural. Luxilon Alu Power is a poly-ether-ether material with a textured surface for added spin and control. Wilson Natural is a high quality natural gut fiber, with a long-lasting weather-resistant coating. Champions Choice is the string used by world #1 Roger Federer.

Wilson Champions Choice

Wilson recommends it to any player seeking the ultimate hybrid performance, as well as to those players who want to experiment with the hottest string trend on the pro tour. With Champions Choice, players get the playability of natural gut, in combination with one of the most popular strings on the pro tour. Wilson tells us that Champions Choice gives players ultimate control, spin, and superb comfort.

Champions Choice is available only in 16L Alu Power Rough and 16 natural gut, and only in silver/natural. It is priced from $26.20 per set. For more information or to order, contact Wilson at 773-714-6400, or visit wilson.com.

IN THE LAB

The coils measured 22’8” (Alu Power) and 20’ (gut). The diameters measured 1.23-1.26 mm (Alu Power) and 1.29-1.33 mm (gut) prior to stringing, and 1.20-1.23 mm (Alu Power) and 1.26-1.28 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), the stringbed stiffness measured 67 RDC units, representing a 9 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. Champions Choice 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 3.5 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. Average number of hours playtested was 23.3.

According to Wilson, the majority of players using Champions Choice install the Luxilon Alu Power 125 Rough in the mains, and the natural gut in the crosses. However, Champions Choice can be strung with the gut in the mains and the Alu Power in the crosses, the way Federer does. Either way, Wilson recommends installing the Alu Power 10 percent below your normal tension. (Federer has his Alu Power crosses strung 1.5 kilos lower than the gut mains.) We instructed our playtest team to install the Alu Power in the mains at 5-10 percent lower tension.

Normally, stringing an Alu Power/gut hybrid with the Alu Power in the mains is very nice because you start off with a shorter piece of Alu Power — which is easier to control than a 40-foot length — and the gut tends to glide over the Alu Power when you do the crosses. The Alu Power Rough adds another dimension, though, and you’re conscious of the fact that you are dragging a piece of expensive natural gut across a textured string. The gut does seem to survive, and it’s easier than sawing across gut mains with a textured cross.

No playtester broke his sample during stringing, 12 reported problems with coil memory, seven reported problems tying knots, and three reported friction burn.

ON THE COURT

Judging by the comments, nearly two-thirds of our playtest team really, really liked Champions Choice. The ratings reflect this fact, as Champions Choice came out well above average in Durability, Control, Spin Potential, Tension Retention, and Resistance to Movement. Out of the 117 strings we’ve tested to date, Champions Choice ranked third for Spin Potential, bested only by Wilson Natural Gut in first place (see the June 2006 RSI), and Wilson Super Spin in second place (see the May 2007 RSI). Champions Choice is also ranked 10th for Tension Retention, 14th for Control, and 16th for Resistance to Movement. With its other scores, this gives Wilson Champions Choice a top-20 overall score.

Two playtesters broke the sample during play, one after six hours and the other after 10 hours.

CONCLUSION

Clearly, Wilson Champions Choice has a lot going for it aside from the fact that Roger Federer uses it. Keep in mind that its scores, as good as they are, come from using the Alu Power in the mains. As you can see in the comments, several of our playtesters thought that playability and comfort might be even higher with the Wilson Natural in the mains instead.

If you think that Wilson Champions Choice might be for you, fill out the coupon. From the entries we receive from USRSA members in the U.S., Wilson will draw the names of 100 lucky winners, with 400 others receiving a special discount offer.

Playtester comments

“This string has the perfect combination of power, control, and spin. My kick serves and topspin forehands seem to explode off the court. The natural gut definitely adds comfort and power. This set-up is perfect for heavy ball hitters. I found myself playing very confident tennis.” 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson nPro strung at 57 pounds LO (Wilson Reaction 18)

“I simply cannot get over the comfort and responsiveness of this hybrid, especially on off-center hits. The stringbed has a very uniform, solid feel. The extra bite is noticeable from the beginning. Using the natural gut in the mains makes this set-up supremely comfortable.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 58 pounds LO (Polyester 17)

“While I’ve never been a hybrid fan, I am very impressed with this string. Even though the polyester is stiff, the stringbed is not harsh. Even more surprising is the degree of feel and touch. Power is remarkable. Serves and volleys have extra zip. After twenty hours of play, these strings still look fresh. If I had to switch from my full natural gut set-up, this would be my first choice.” 5.5 male all court player using Head Liquidmetal Radical OS strung at 54 pounds CP (Babolat VS Touch 16)

“This string not only has power, it has tons of spin potential. The control is incredible. I won’t be cutting these strings out after the playtest.” 3.5 female all court player using Prince O3 Tour OS strung at 54/57 pounds CP (Nylon/Natural Gut 17/17)

“Great spin, power, and playability. Feels like a high-end multifilament, but with more bite and durability.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince O3 Red strung at 55 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“Spin and control come very easily with this string. It is very comfortable. The ball feels like it’s getting sucked into the stringbed and snapped out.” 5.0 male all court player using Head MicroGEL Radical MP strung at 63 pounds LO (Tecnifibre Promix 17)

“Excellent feel and control. I seem to get more spin with this string, and the power is amazing. This is my first hybrid. I think I’m hooked.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince O3 White MP strung at 54/57 pounds LO (Luxilon Big Banger TIMO 18)

“Typically, I have found hybrids to lack feel and control. This string is an exception. It’s not stiff or dead. It has great playability, control, and power.” 4.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson n1 strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“With the natural gut in the mains, the power, accuracy, and spin on serves are incredible. Volleys seem to have extra pop. The stringbed feels firm, comfortable, and very consistent. Unlike with some polyesters, the sweet spot does not disappear.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson H Tour strung at 58 pounds CP (Nylon 17)

“This string definitely has some pop. Spin is above average. The natural gut definitely improves the comfort. Anybody wary of polyester should start here.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop 200G (Muscle Weave) strung at 62 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 17)

“This is a surprisingly easy hybrid to install. It adds control to serves and it makes for very crisp volleys. String movement is non-existent. This is a very consistent, predictable string.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 58 pounds CP (Gamma TNT Fatcore 17)

“This is a very user-friendly hybrid. The playability is exceptional and the comfort surpassed my expectations. Very easy to control the ball with spin.” 4.0 male all court player using MicroGEL Extreme strung at 56 pounds LO (Gamma Professional 17)

“I was expecting a very stiff response. To my surprise, however, I found a wonderful combination of feel and power. This hybrid shows no wear during the playtest. String breakers looking for more liveliness and comfort will love this offering.” 4.5 male all court player using Volkl DNX 9 strung at 56/62 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 17)

“Overall, this string has great control and spin. Though the natural gut starts to fray after ten hours, it adds a huge amount of zip, playability, comfort and feel.” 4.0 male all court player using Prince O3 Tour MS strung at 62 pounds LO (Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough/Gamma Live Wire XP 16L/17)

“Excellent spin and tension maintenance. Off-center hits come with a slight reduction in power and control.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince Extender Thunder 880 OS strung at 55 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut Original 17)

“I typically do not prefer the feel of polyester. This hybrid, however, is less stiff than others I’ve tried. The control and power are apparent from the first hit. While this is not a soft string, it is a great compromise for those who want the control benefits of polyester without the typical harshness. Touch artists may want to look elsewhere or put the natural gut in the mains.” 3.5 male all court player using Tour 9 V Engine (70 Holes) strung at 53/58 pounds LO (Tecnifibre X-One Biphase 16)

“Pre-stretching is recommended on both mains and crosses, as there is significant coil memory. While this string errs on the side of control, power is there when needed. Despite the polyester, this hybrid has wonderful touch and comfort. Slower swings do not result in a dead hit. The manufacturer obviously chose the combination wisely, as this hybrid is good for a wide range of stroke styles and ability levels.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 5.0 Stretch MP strung at 64 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 17)

“Not only does this string have excellent durability, it has decent comfort and feel. It would work well for string breakers in search of more playability.” 4.5 male all court player using Pro Kennex Kinetic Pro 7g strung at 60 pounds CP (Babolat Pro Hurricane 16)

“This string is extremely durable and it handles most shots well. Lower tensions are necessary, however, for those accustomed to a softer response.” 5.5 male all court player using Wilson nTour strung at 58 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This is a hybrid with controllable power and tons of bite. Extremely comfortable. The polyester loses tension quicker than the natural gut.” 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Dunlop Aerogel 2 Hundred strung at 54 pounds CP (Natural Gut 16/17)

“This string really grabs the ball. The spin potential is simply excellent. While the feel and touch are not outstanding, this string’s playability and comfort are impressive for a polyester hybrid.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince O3 Hybrid Tour (16x18) strung at 54 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 17)

“Initially, this string lacks feel. Once the polyester settles, it feels great and the playability is impressive. The control, durability and tension maintenance are excellent.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson nTour Two strung at 57 pounds LO (Wilson Reaction 16)

“This is a durability string with plenty of comfort. It’s not only good for baseline drives, but it has enough feel for soft touch shots. This is a good all court string.” 5.0 male all court player using Babolat Aeropro Drive strung at 60 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 17)

“As a multifilament user, polyester is too stiff for my taste. The spin and control will definitely appeal to players who swing hard.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince O3 Hybrid Tour (16x18) strung at 56/53 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut Multifilament 16)

“Recommended to people who prefer a stiff or crisp response. The durability and control are decent, but touch and playability are lacking.” 5.5 male all court player using Volkl Tour 10 MP strung at 59 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 17)

“For those wary of trying polyester, especially one as stiff as this, I recommend using the natural gut in the mains. This will not only provide more power, but a softer, more comfortable feel.” 3.5 male all court player using Prince O3 White MP strung at 64 pounds LO (Gamma Professional 17)

“Control and power are very good. This string takes my kick serve to new heights. While the natural gut crosses add some comfort, my heavy topspin strokes proved too much for them.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson nSix One Tour strung at 62 pounds LO (Kirschbaum Touch Turbo 17)

“Good durability and control. I can take a full swing from the baseline without worrying about the ball flying. Slice backhands are very penetrating. There is some noticeable tension loss.” 6.0 male all court player using Volkl DNX 8 strung at 58/62 pounds CP (Gamma Professional 16)

“I have to muscle the ball with this string and control suffers. Initially the string plays with a good deal of pop, but it loses power over time. Spin on serves is very good and overall control is decent. Durability is not great, as the natural gut broke after 6 hours.” 3.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince O3 Hybrid Hornet Midplus strung at 63/60 pounds CP (Kevlar 18)

“This string is very “springy.” The trampoline effect makes the depth and trajectory hard to gauge. This string would probably work well with smaller headsizes or higher tensions.” 5.0 male all court player using Wilson nTour strung at 58 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This polyester is a little to stiff for me. The lack of feel and comfort made for a less than optimal hit.” 4.5 female all court player using Prince O3 Red strung at 58 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 17)

“This string has good feel, but the power is too low for my game. I have to swing harder to achieve depth, and this leads to control problems.” 4.0 male all court player using Pro Kennex Core 1 No. 10 strung at 60 pounds LO (Pacific Force/Gosen OG Sheep Micro Super 18/16)

“Overall, this hybrid is very ‘middle of the road.’ I’m slightly concerned about the fraying, which starts fairly early. After a slight break-in period, the playability improves. Spin potential is above average and tension maintenance is impressive. The feel is pretty stiff and touch shots are hard to execute.” 4.5 male all court player using Volkl DNX 8 strung at 50/55 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire XP 17)

“The feel is a tad stiff, making it hard to control touch shots and short angles.” 5.0 male all court player using Dunlop M-Fil 300 strung at 56/59 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“Installation is no walk in the park. The natural gut must be handled with care and the polyester tangles without provocation. While the string has adequate power and control, there is not enough touch and feel around the net. If you prefer a muted feel, this string is not for you. There is definitely a little vibration. Perhaps many of these things would be mitigated by installing the gut in the mains.” 4.0 male all court player using Prince O3 Red MP strung at 53/58 pounds LO (Gamma TNT2 16)

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

EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
Number of testers who said it was:
much easier 0
somewhat easier 0
about as easy 18
not quite as easy 17
not nearly as easy 0
OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 0
somewhat better 6
about as playable 12
not quite as playable 16
not nearly as playable 1
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 8
somewhat better 12
about as durable 11
not quite as durable 4
not nearly as durable 0
RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
Playability 3.3
Durability 4.0
Power 3.3
Control (15th best to date) 3.8
Comfort 3.2
Touch/Feel 2.9
Spin Potential (3rd best to date) 3.8
Holding Tension (10th best to date) 3.6
Resistance to Movement (16th best to date) 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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