Tennis Industry magazine

 

Playtest: Head FXP Tour

By Greg Raven

FXP Tour is a new three-layer, multi-core multifilament string from Head. Head’s goal with FXP Tour was to take advantage of the burgeoning acceptance of polyester string in the tennis world, capitalizing on the benefits of polyester while producing a softer, more playable string. According to Head, FXP Tour gives players many of the benefits of polyester in a powerful, multifilament string. It also has very unique playing characteristics giving the racquet a lot of power and a great solid feel.

At FXP Tour’s core are four polyester monofilament fibers. The polyester increases durability, while using four strands instead of one reduces vibration, and increases dampening and comfort. According to Head, the combination produces a great solid sound when the ball hits the string. Wrapped around the core are eight multifilament layers, for increased power, enhanced playability, soft touch, and high elasticity. The outer coating is a non-friction liquid, to improve string installation and increase spin.

Head FXP Tour is designed for all players who are looking to utilize the benefits of polyester but need a powerful, comfortable string.

FXP Tour is available in 16 gauge only, in Liquid Blue and Liquid Black. It is priced from $12 for sets of 40 feet. For more information or to order, contact Head at 800-289-7366, or visit head.com. Be sure to read the conclusion for more information about getting a free set to try for yourself.

IN THE LAB

We tested the Liquid Black FXP Tour. The coil measured 40 feet. The diameter measured 1.34-1.37 mm prior to stringing, and 1.29-1.32 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 76 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 x 18 pattern) on a constant-pull machine.

After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 69 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. FXP Tour added 13 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The string was tested for five weeks by 38 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 26.7.

There are no special stringing instructions for FXP Tour, so playtesters were free to set reference tension as normal. However, out of the package FXP Tour exhibits a lot of coil memory and feels wiry, which might have led some to install it at a lower tension. FXP Tour also has a definite texture, but this did not interfere with installation.

No playtester broke his sample during stringing, 11 reported problems with coil memory, three reported problems tying knots, and two reported friction burn.

ON THE COURT

FXP Tour scored well above average in Control, Comfort, Playability, Durability, Power, and Touch/Feel. Out of the 157 strings that we have playtested for publication, Head FXP Tour’s overall score was — not surprisingly — also well above average.

CONCLUSION

By incorporating polyester into the core of a multifilament string, Head seems to have covered a lot of bases with FXP Tour. Both the ratings and the comments reflect the versatility of FXP Tour: You could recommend it to your customers either as a playable string with great durability, or a durable string with great playability.

Playtester comments

“This is a lively string with superior comfort and exceptional tension maintenance.” 4.5 male all court player using Volkl Power Bridge 1 strung at 56/54 pounds CP (Forten Dynamix 16)

“This is a very playable string with great touch and amazing spin.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson BLX Six One Tour strung at 50 pounds LO (Luxilon Alu Power/Wilson NXT Tour 16L/17)

“Outstanding feel, especially in the beginning. The texture adds bite.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson n5 strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 17)

“This is an arm friendly string with excellent feel and a controlled, crisp response. The power is more than sufficient.” 4.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson nPro strung at 60 pounds LO (Tourna Quasi Gut 16)

“This string has the control and spin of a polyester, with the feel and comfort of a nylon multifilament.” 5.0 male all court player using Wilson BLX Pro Open strung at 56 pounds LO (Babolat Superfine Play 16)

“This is a very comfortable string with good power and great control. The feel is excellent.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson BLX Tour strung at 50 pounds CP (Luxilon Alu Power 16L)

“This string plays like a topnotch hybrid. It has the perfect mix of spin, control, power, and comfort.” 3.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince Triple Threat Hornet strung at 56 pounds CP (Forten Sweet 16)

“The ball seems to stay on the strings longer, which creates a greater sense of control. This string has a remarkable combination of feel and power.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson BLX Pro Open strung at 58 pounds LO (Gosen Polylon 17)

“This string has it all. Excellent feel, comfort, power, and control. The extra bite is noticeable right out of the box. It even holds tension well. Did I mention comfort?” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Yonex RQiS 10 strung at 52 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 17)

“Soft feel and tons of pop. The outstanding comfort allows for higher tensions, which is advisable for those with control issues. It is surprisingly durable for such an arm friendly string.” 6.0 male all court player using Wilson nBlade strung at 56 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 16)

“This is one of those strings where you can feel the ball being grabbed and rotated. The control is exceptional, especially on serves. Touch is no slouch either.” 4.5 male all court player using Babolat Pure Storm Tour GT strung at 55 pounds CP (Babolat RPM Blast 16)

“Very comfortable. Tons of power. Very little wear after 15 hours.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson BLX Pro Team FX strung at 55 pounds LO (Babolat RPM Blast 16)

“Excellent touch. The predictable response provides a wonderful sense of control. Players with compact strokes will appreciate the comfort and touch. Heavy hitters will use the extra power to keep their opponents off balance.” 4.0 male all court player using Head MicroGEL Radical MP strung at 58 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 17)

“Great bite. Very comfortable. Soft but not mushy. Excellent Control.” 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat AeroPro Drive + strung at 62 pounds LO (Babolat Pro Hurricane/Babolat N.vy 17/17)

“This is an exceptionally responsive string. It is comfortable from the baseline and crisp at net. Low volleys have excellent touch and control. Power is there when you need it. Tension maintenance is excellent.” 5.0 male serve-and-volley player using Prince Triple Threat Viper strung at 60 pounds LO (Gamma TNT2 Ruff 16)

“These strings feel great from the first hit. The power and control are instantly noticeable. It is very easy to hit deep, penetrating shots. Control and power hold up for about 18 hours, which is longer than my typical string.” 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head MicroGEL Radical OS strung at 62 pounds LO (Gamma TNT2 16)

“This string plays like a soft co-poly. It straddles the boundary between nylon and polyester, with decent levels of power, spin, durability, and touch.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince EXO3 Graphite (port inserts) strung at 64 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)

“Very little string movement. The rough texture increases bite and control.” 4.5 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson K Three strung at 58 pounds LO (Babolat RPM Blast 16)

“This string handles stiff but plays with power and comfort. Impact feels very solid, especially on volleys. The power on ground strokes makes for some penetrating shots.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson BLX Six One (18x20) strung at 52 pounds CP (Luxilon Alu Power 16L)

“Great power and control, but a little rough on the tendons.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson BLX Pro Open strung at 56 pounds CP (Weiss Cannon Black 5 Edge 16L)

“This string provides great depth and trajectory control on flat strokes. It is perfect for players who like to drive the ball through the court. Topspin hitters might want a little more bite.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson BLX Six One (18x20) strung at 58 pounds LO (Luxilon Alu Power 16L)

“The texture enhances spin. While cleanly struck balls have extra pop, off-center hits feel a little stiffer than usual. This string would probably work best in an open pattern.” 4.0 male all court player using Volkl Power Bridge 7 strung at 59 pounds CP (Volkl Gripper 17)

“This string strikes a fine balance between durability and playability. It can handle several sessions of hard hitting. Power and spin are on the low side.” 5.0 male all court player using Head Ti.Classic MP strung at 60 pounds CP (Gamma Synthetic Gut w/Wearguard 16)

“Tension maintenance and comfort are the main positives. Players with sensitive tendons will enjoy this string, especially if they have flat strokes. Topspin players will probably want more bite and less string movement.” 5.5 male all court player using Prince Tour NXGraphite Mid strung at 42 pounds CP (Solinco Tour Bite 18)

“This is a comfortable string with extra pop. Hitting heavy balls is easy. For such a durable string, the touch is great.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson nSix One (16x18) strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson Natural Gut 16)

“Excellent spin. The power is very controllable. More comfortable than expected given how stiff it handles. The outer coating tends to peel over time.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Yonex RDS 002 strung at 50 pounds CP (Genesis Hexonic 16L)

“While this string plays stiffer than my normal string, the playability, touch, and feel are still quite good. Iwould rank it above many of the durability nylons on the market.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince O3 Blue strung at 55 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire 17)

“Decent tension maintenance and durability. The bite is underwhelming despite the stiff feel.” 5.0 male all court player using Tecnifibre T Flash 315 VO2 Max strung at 56 pounds CP (Tecnifibre Black Code 17)

“The high coil memory adds a few minutes to installation. This is a soft and powerful string with below average spin. The lack of feedback makes it hard to feel what the ball is doing on the stringbed. Perhaps a higher tension would solve this problem.” 4.5 male all court player using Volkl C10 Pro strung at 55 pounds LO (Tecnifibre Black Code 18)

“Control and feel are adequate. This is a good overall string, if not superior in any one category.” 4.0 female all court player using Prince O3 Tour MP strung at 56 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 17)

“Though I like the comfortable response, this string does not snap back as powerfully as my typical poly.” 5.0 male all court player using Wilson BLX Six One (18x20) strung at 58 pounds LO (Tecnifibre Black Code 16)

“Welcome to a tale of two strings. This string starts crisp, controlled, and lively, but ends soft, sluggish, and sloppy. This string definitely shines during the first few session, but the tension falls hard. Pre-stretching might help with the tension loss. I would love to try it in a hybrid because I think it has great potential.” 5.0 male all court player using Wilson BLX Blade Lite strung at 58 pounds LO (Luxilon Alu Power Fluoro/Wilson Sensation 17/16)

“This is a soft string without much feel. It errs on the side of comfort over control. While it does everything well, it lacks the “wow” factor.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince EXO3 Tour (18x20) strung at 54 pounds LO (Prince Hybrid Spin EXP 18/17)

“The string plays great initially. The durability is excellent, but spin production is an uphill battle.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince EXO3 Black (port inserts) strung at 50 pounds CP (Pro Supex Big Ace 18)

“The touch and feel during the first ten hours is remarkable. At the 12 hour mark, the elasticity wanes, the workload goes up, and the tendons become stressed.” 3.5 male all court player using Babolat AeroPro Drive strung at 56 pounds CP (Tourna Big Hitter Blue 17)

“This is a decent control string. Nothing spectacular.” 4.5 male all court player using Babolat AeroPro Drive strung at 60 pounds CP (Gamma TNT2 Touch 17)

“This is a comfortable string with good control. It is above average in many categories but does not leave a powerful impression.” 4.0 male serve-and-volley player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 61 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 16)

“This string loses tension quickly. On court, it lacks power, feel, and touch. Control is pretty good, but the sweet spot feels small.” 4.0 male all court player using Babolat Pure Storm Ltd strung at 57 pounds CP (Genesis Typhoon 16L)

(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 6
about as easy 20
not quite as easy 11
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 12
about as playable 10
not quite as playable 14
not nearly as playable 2
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 1
somewhat better 12
about as durable 19
not quite as durable 5
not nearly as durable 1
RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
Playability 3.6
Durability (11th overall) 3.4
Power (20th overall) 3.4
Control (5th overall) 3.7
Comfort 3.6
Touch/Feel 3.4
Spin Potential (5th overall) 3.3
Holding Tension 3.3
Resistance to Movement (18th overall) 3.4

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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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