Finding the Right Mix
Luxilon has been getting a lot of play among the top pros, but is this string right for your players?
By Joel Drucker
When it comes to the world of recreational players, just how valuable are the equipment patterns of the pros? This has always been a tricky question for shop owners.
Most recently, a string that’s become a standard among pros is drawing significant interest among recreational players. Luxilon is a string that turns the age-old notion of a racquet and a string on its head. As recently as 10 years ago, pros such as Pete Sampras often used highly resilient, lively gut strings as a means of adding life to their frames. But Luxilon is completely different.
Luxilon is a dead string. Nate Ferguson, head of Priority One, the company that strings for such pros as Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, and Novak Djokovic, says, “Because the string is so dead, the player can swing loose and hard. The result is much more dip, whip, and power.”
According to ATP pro Paul Goldstein, “The rotation you get is drastically different than with gut. The ball jumps and moves unbelievably. A ball that looks like it’s going way out and then drops like a stone-that’s what everyone calls ‘a Luxilon shot.’”
Adds Goldstein’s coach, ex-pro Scott McCain, “It’s changed pro tennis from linear to parabolic. It’s like Ping-Pong out there.”
With this kind of acceptance and performance among the top pros, stringers all over the country are finding their customers increasingly eager to try Luxilon. Neil Rothenberg, an independent stringer based in Piedmont, Calif., who strings racquets at the Berkeley Tennis Club and for the UC Berkeley men’s and women’s teams, says, “Lots of people are asking about Luxilon now. It’s very much part of my inventory.”
But putting this string in racquets is not so simple. Luxilon is a string fraught with a range of issues and nuances that if not addressed could lead to significant customer pain.
“You’ve got to understand the player’s physical style, as well as what they can withstand,” says David Bone, executive director of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association [and co-publisher of RSI magazine]. “Shock is a factor with these stiffer strings.”
Rothenberg’s philosophy is that, “To do my job best, I need to ask people questions about how they play and how they hit the ball. Fortunately I know a lot about the people I string for, but when I don’t know someone, I find out if they have a history of tennis elbow or other injuries — shoulder, wrist. If they insist on trying Luxilon, I warn them. Unquestionably there are some great advantages to it — that is, if you play often and can consistently generate good racquet-head speed.”
John Lyons, the global business director for Wilson Sporting Goods, the company that distributes Luxilon, says he makes sure to distinguish between the two kinds of Luxilon Alu Power. The first, Luxilon Alu Power 125, is what’s used by pros — a firm, durable string that provides significant control and spin. The second, Alu Power Fluoro 123, is a softer, more comfortable version that Lyons believes “is a better first try for recreational players.” (See our playtest review of Alu Power Fluoro 123 in the April 2008 issue.)
Still, says Lyons, “The fact that pros are using something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily appropriate for the recreational player. The best person for it is a fairly hardcore player, a fairly serious person who can really take advantage of this string’s special properties.”
Former touring pro Chris Lewis, head of Tennis-Experts.com and a coach at the Woodbridge Tennis Club in Irvine, Calif., concurs. “The person who’s best for this string is someone who mostly plays singles and has a big game with big swings who might be looking for more control,” Lewis says. “You get used to it when you’re whaling at the ball. A lot of juniors I’ve worked with are into it, but the hardness of the strings can create more injuries to the arm, so it’s tricky as a young player develops physically.”
Most strings will lose a certain percentage of their tension in the first few hours, but that doesn’t happen with Luxilon. So for more comfort, some pros will string Luxilon looser than other strings. While a pro like Goldstein dropped his tension from 58 to 48 with Luxilon, Bone’s advice for recreational players is “probably 5 to 10 percent less — 3 to 6 pounds lower.” Luxilon itself recommends lowering tension by 10 percent.
Tim Strawn of Roanoke, Va.-based Baseline Racquet Sports, and founder of gssalliance.com, believes that, “In an oversized racquet, this string has some breathing room. I’ve found with frames 110 inches or larger, it performs well for a lot of players.”
Durability is certainly a benefit — but with a degree of caution. Noting that the strings are “pretty much indestructible,” Rothenberg puts a date sticker on every frame so that his customers can keep track of when to get their racquet restrung rather than wait for them to break. He recommends 5.5 players or rising juniors restring as frequently as every two weeks.
But for all these comments about Luxilon’s properties and cautions, what’s emerged as the best way to deploy this string is a hybrid mix. “You can pretty much mix it up with anything,” says Bone.
One approach is to use Luxilon in the main strings and a quality nylon in the crosses. Says Lewis, “That can soften it and give some benefit as far as controlling the big power shots.”
There’s no question players will continue to be curious about Luxilon. With commentators like John McEnroe and Jim Courier raving about it on the airwaves, with more and more pros and aspiring juniors using it, it’s become a major part of the equipment mix. The wise stringer will be the one who can properly explain its nuances.
3 Keys for your customers
Are your customers asking to Luxilon strings? Here are three things you should consider when installing Luxilon for recreational players.
- Install Luxilon strings 5 percent to 10 percent looser than nylon strings.
- Consider using Luxidlon as mains in a hybrid with a sogfter cross string.
- Remember that these strings perform best for players who already generate a lot of spin.
See all articles by Joel Drucker
About the Author
Joel Drucker is one of the world's leading tennis writers. Based in Oakland, CA, his work has appeared in a variety of print and broadcast media, including Tennis, USTA Magazine, ESPN, and Tennis Channel. A technical editor for Patrick McEnroe's book Tennis for Dummies, Drucker's first book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life was published in 2004.