Outlook 2010: Strings
Despite the tough economy, manufacturers are fired up about their string offerings.
Players are spending more time getting to know strings, probably because they’ve delayed buying new racquets, and instead are looking to their strings to improve their games.
Retailers and manufacturers are seeing an increased interest in hybrid stringing, recreational players trying out polyester strings, and consumers are using more multifilaments. Other trends include an increased use of thinner strings as players look to their strings to provide more control.
“Players are coming back to gut,” adds Tom Parry of Pacific, “and even more so in a hybrid, where they can mix gut with something else and realize it’s affordable.”
“We continue to see a shift in the market toward hybrids and polyester strings,” says Ben Simons, senior business manager of accessories for HEAD/Penn. “Most popular hydrids consist of polyester mains with a more playable cross string like natural gut or a soft multifilament like Head FXP Power.” Head also is promoting its Hybrid String Program. “We tried to simplify it for the consumer so they could better understand what the hybrid is doing for them,” Simons adds.
“The trend, or need, is the increased demand for thinner, softer strings,” says Steve Crandall, V.P. of sales and marketing for Ashaway. “Competitive players find that thinner strings increase ‘bite’ on the ball, and give them better overall control. But the other group angling for thinner, softer strings is the increasingly active senior set, looking for that extra edge.”
Crandall says both groups are increasingly turning to softer-playing, more economical alternatives such as multifilament and synthetic gut strings. “Until recently, however, thinner multifilament strings were neither soft nor durable,” he says, adding that recent advances in technology are producing Zyex filaments that are “finer and stronger than before.” In 2010, Ashaway plans to introduce a new line of multifilament Zyex strings called Dynamite Soft, in several different gauges.
Prince is addressing players’ concerns with a new string called Poly Spin 3D, a “co-extruded” string that Global Business Director of Strings Dave Malinowski says will play a lot like a monofilament poly. It has a 17-gauge core and three outer extrusions on the outside, “making it almost triangular; the edges grab the ball, helping to generate spin.” And Prince’s Hybrid Spin 3D offers players “the feel of poly with a bit more durability, but without a superstiff feel.”
“Our main goal in 2010 is to educate dealers and stringers on how we can customize strings to take away the disadvantages of polys,” says Malinowski. “Co-extruded technology allows us to take two different poly materials, a high-density and a low- or medium-density, and combine them in different percentages. The high density gives it a crisp feel; the medium density absorbs more shock.”
Babolat is offering its Revenge string, for players looking for more power and control. Multiple pre-stretching at high temperatures improves tension hold as well, says the company. And Babolat says Revenge has a “softer” more forgiving feel than a traditional poly.
Tecnifibre will be introducing at least one new string in 2010, but hasn’t yet revealed the launch date. “Poly has been around a long time, and is filtering to the recreational level,” says Tecnifibre USA General Manager Paul Kid. “But we want to find a better solution to poly because it’s not necessarily the most comfortable string. We’ve developed a new concept that we’re planning to put into the market, hopefully by this summer.”
New offerings from Wilson for 2010 include two hybrids: NXT Duo II and Pro Duo. The NXT Duo II hybrid is an upgraded version of the high-performance Duo and features 16L-gauge Luxilon Adrenaline 125 paired with 16-gauge Improved Performance Polymer NXT. The super-thin Pro Duo has 18-gauge Luxilon Timo 110 and 17-gauge Hollow Core Pro.
Also new from Wilson is the Hollow Core, a synthetic gut with a triangular air-filled core that Wilson says provides power, comfort and control, and the Hollow Core Pro, which has a thinner triangular core for a more “crisp” feel, with outer wraps of fluorocarbon and nylon.
New for Luxilon is the Adrenaline line in 16 and 17 gauge for aggressive hard-hitters, providing “tour-quality performance,” says the company. The strings feature liquid crystalline polymer.
Gamma has two new strings for 2010, TNT Touch and Ice. TNT Touch, in 16 and 17 gauge, is the first multifilament with Gamma’s TNT processing, which is a thermal process that increases elasticity and resiliency. “It’s probably the most responsive multifilament we’ve ever come out with,” says Gamma’s Chuck Vietmeier. Gamma Ice is a crystal-clear 16-gauge poly that offers durability but is a forgiving poly, says Vietmeier. “It’s along the lines of finding the right balance between stiffness and forgiveness.”
Pacific is excited about its new Poly Power Pro, a double-coated monofilament. The high-modulus polymers combine with two layers of a special coating for ball control, elasticity, and durability, says Parry. Pacific also is introducing two new gut strings. Prime Gut Orange Spiral is 14 threads of prime gut, and a 15th thread that is, as Parry says, “the best of the best” gut. That extra thread is colored orange and is intertwined with the others. Bull Gut, says Parry, is a level above — 15 fibers of the absolute premium gut fibers. “It will be the ‘premium premium’ of all sets of gut ever manufactured — fast, comfortable, and durable.”