Outlook 2012: String — Find Your Cure
The current market has a string that will suit just about any playing style.
By Jonathan Wolfe
Life was simpler in the 1970s, when I was shipped off to tennis camp with a couple of T-2000’s. When I was on the court and the ball started sailing, my stringer simply increased the tension. When I wanted more spin, I changed my swing path and swung faster. When my elbow was sore, I just popped an aspirin. I didn’t wake up at 3 a.m. worried about which co-poly would save my topspin — and neither did my stringer, who took refuge in a less complicated universe, one yet to splinter into a seemingly endless maze of materials, additives, technologies, and, most importantly, possibilities.
How times have changed. In 2012 when a ball misbehaves, players have recourse. They can select strings that emphasize power, control, touch, spin, feel, comfort and durability. They can select hybrids that allow them to zero-in on a feature set with amazing precision. They can mix and match until stroke and string are perfectly calibrated.
Needless to say, the current string market has an answer for just about every stroke style. Here are a few of the highlights.
ashawayusa.com • 800-556-7260
For those who refuse to join the polyester revolution, Ashaway’s Steve Crandall has an answer. It’s called Zyex MonoGut and it squares the circle by creating what playtesters describe as the “anti-polyester monofilament — comfortably crisp, with zero strain on the arm.” Ashaway also continues its long tradition of Zyex multifilaments with Dynamite Natural and Dynamite Tough, both of which rank among the more arm-friendly strings tested by the USRSA. Baseliners on a budget might want to consider the original MonoGut, which boasts near identical lab scores to some of the priciest co-polyesters. Did I mention that Ashaway strings are the only ones made in the USA?
babolat.com • 877-316-9435
If there is one string that is emblematic of the current co-poly craze, it is RPM Blast. Even intermediate baseliners will feel like they are grabbing the ball and throwing it at their chosen target. And don’t worry if you lack Nadal-like head speed; RPM’s cross-linked silicone coating promotes a powerful snapback, multiplied viciously for big hitters. Players looking for a tad more comfort now have the option of RPM Team, which features injected micro air bubbles for a softer ride. Those favoring maximum comfort and high dwell time will like Xcel, a pillowy and uniquely controllable nylon multifilament that has recently undergone a durability upgrade. If that’s still not enough, perhaps you should spoil yourself with some VS Natural Gut.
dunlopsport.com • 800-768-4727
“When we overhauled our string line a few years ago,” says Dunlop product manager Hunter Hines, “our goal was to satisfy all the different playing styles.” To that end, Hines continues, “Dunlop now covers the spectrum from comfortable and powerful multifilaments to crisp and spin-friendly polyesters.” USRSA lab tests suggest that the new Biomimetic approach (employing lessons from nature) has paid off, yielding scores for Silk that indicate high levels of comfort. Completing the spectrum is Black Widow, which is one of the softer co-polyesters tested at the USRSA.
gammasports.com • 800-333-0337
The well-earned popularity of Gamma’s TNT2 and Live Wire strings prove that no matter how much real estate the polyester kingdom claims, there is still no substitute for the all-around playability and feel of softer material. Put simply, Live Wire Professional is not going anywhere. Recent additions to Gamma’s Playability Series include TNT2 Touch, whose high elongation promises equally high shock absorption and energy return. Gamma’s Durability Series keeps evolving with recent additions like Zo Verve, a co-poly that blends stiff and soft materials to provide equal parts comfort and control. One veteran USRSA playtester sums it up nicely: “This is the perfect poly. Not only does it possess the expected durability, spin and control, but it has more comfort, touch and feel than its peers.”
genesis-tennis.com • 866-333-0337
“With the demand for soft and elastic strings on the rise” comments Mitchell Lvovsky of Genesis, “we responded with a superb selection of co-polyester and synthetic strings.” Standouts include the recently added Thunder Blast, a comfortable nylon multifilament with impressive bite and tension maintenance. The list continues with a wide variety of carefully engineered co-polyesters. Among them is Black Magic, which scored remarkably well with USRSA playtesters and has a growing following among big hitters, not least because it possesses one of the best price to value ratios on the market.
head.com • 800-289-7366
When the tennis industry started producing lighter and stiffer frames, a challenge was laid bare: absorb the shock, and do it for a fraction of the cost of natural gut. Head answers this challenge with its unique ribbon construction, featured in its RIP Control string and two tendon-friendly hybrids, Intellistring and Intellitour. Witnessing the explosive growth of polyester, Head Senior Business Manager Ben Simons muses: “I wonder what price our tendons have paid?” This wisdom likely explains why Head’s recently added FXP Tour, featuring four polyester monofilaments inside several multifilament wraps, has such an incredibly low stiffness score. For those who can’t seem to find the right feel or reliably compute the ball’s trajectory, Head’s Perfect Match Hybrid Program allows the most discerning palette to salt to taste.
pacific.com • 941-795-1789
"The racquet is really just a string holder," says Pacific’s Tom Parry, perhaps exaggerating slightly. Actually, if you look at the sheer comprehensiveness of Pacific’s offerings you realize that Parry, one of the most accomplished stringers in the world, is not kidding. Pacific’s natural gut line is, on the whole, the softest tested at the USRSA. Throw in “best of class” tension maintenance and it proves just how much of a burden Pacific believes the string bed should bear. As for polyester, like the recently added Xcite, Parry stresses that, “Developing a poly which not only performs better but holds tension longer is a tedious endeavor.” This probably explains why the company took over two years to develop player favorites such as Poly Power Pro.
princetennis.com • 800-2TENNIS
In an industry that perpetually offers the promise of next year’s technology, it’s satisfying to see the unshakeable persistence of Prince Synthetic Gut, the king of best sellers. Players wanting a softer ride can upgrade to Premier LT, a favorite of USRSA playtesters. New to the line is Premier Attack, which provides comfort-seekers the advantage of a strong Tri-Core construction for a crisper response and better tension maintenance. The Prince Endurance Series is lead by Beast XP, which, according to Prince’s Nathan Price, “combines a groundbreaking thermo-poly process with a secret polymer for added power and spin — and it’s friendlier than other top polys!”
solincosports.com • 310-922-7775
"Our goal was to create performance-enhancing strings that speak for themselves,” says Solinco’s Director K.T. Kim, whose co-polyesters have been adopted by many elite D1 programs and top international juniors. "Competitive players can tell the difference immediately," he adds. USRSA playtesters agree, awarding the popular Tour Bite one of the best scores for spin since the program’s inception. Solinco offers co-polys in a wide variety of flavors, including Revolution, which comes in one of the thinnest gauges available.
tecnifibre.com • 858-397-5712
Tecnifibre’s success with industry icons like NRG2, according to General Manager Paul Kid, “is achieved by painstakingly shaping the dynamic properties of string.” This effort shows in its new XR1, deploying no less than 1,125 filaments in the service of comfort and energy return. Players looking to inch closer to polyester should try what Tecnifibre calls the “missing link” between multifilament nylon and monofilament polyester. This is found in X-Code and Duramix HD, both of which blend polyester fibers with cozy polyurethane to give players a lively and pleasantly crisp response. Finally, Tecnifibre introduces Ruff Code, a shaped co-polyester that proves once again Tecnifibre does not know how to make an uncomfortable string.
uniquesports.com • 800-554-3707
It’s not easy for a prototype to make the starting roster at Tourna, which is extremely selective about adding new strings. This explains why Big Hitter Blue Rough received the second highest spin ranking ever awarded by the USRSA. And it also explains why, says Tourna’s Mike Niksich, “Serious players and college teams have been flocking to Big Hitter Blue and Silver for several years.” The Tourna crew is clearly not resting on its laurels. The new Big Hitter Black 7, an uncommonly elastic co-poly, contains seven sharp edges for maximum bite. For those seeking true comfort, Tourna offers Quasi-Gut, or its slightly tougher cousin, Quasi-Gut Armor, adding a uniquely crisp finish to its classic multifilament.
volkl-tennis.com • 866-554-7872
“The main focus of Volkl’s string line,” according to product manager Benny Neumann, “is on high-performance co-polymers and multifilaments.” In that vein Volkl offers V-Feel, an innovative multifilament nylon with a bite-producing metallic coil. It uses the same bonding process that makes the time-tested Power Fiber II so comfortably firm. Volkl’s newest offering is V-Twist, a plush multifilament that is twisted during the extrusion process and contains a raised coil for extra spin control. Finally, if you want a real natural gut delicacy, there is V-Icon.
wilson.com • 800-272-6060
If your elbow could use an army of well-trained micro fibers to cushion its load, and you (somehow) haven’t tried Wilson NXT or Sensation, then your demo list just got bigger. For those who want a little more control without sacrificing comfort, Wilson offers NXT Control and Sensation Control. Both feature polyester and nylon fibers in a bed of polyurethane so that bigger swings feel good and come down on time. Keeping with the control theme, Wilson has recently added Hollow Core Pro, featuring an air-filled polyester core for a crisper feel. And for string breakers unwilling to take the poly plunge, there’s Red Alert, a solid-core nylon with multifilament wraps and poly-like durability.
When Gustavo Kuerten first laced up his Head Pro Tour with something called Luxilon, few could have predicted the heights to which co-polyesters would rise, nor the amazing benefits that would accrue to angular momentum and high head speed. Luxilon continues its magical brew of spin, power, control and durability with two recent additions, including Savage, a six-sided spin monster, and Adrenaline, a more affordable entry into Luxilon’s new Liquid Crystalline Polymer, which builds improved feel into the famed snapback.
yonexusa.com • 800-44-YONEX
The Yonex string line is intelligently limited to a core group of solid options. On the soft side lies Tour Super 850, a comfortable and lively multifilament that holds tension remarkably well for the breed. For a crisper response, Yonex offers Tour Super 850 Pro, ideal for players seeking a little more control. Honoring the trend toward juicier polyesters, Yonex offers Poly Tour Pro, which has a friction-reducing outer coating for a more powerful snapback. USRSA playtesters concur, awarding this string high marks for energy return. More advanced players are likely to enjoy Poly Tour Pro HS, which errs on the firm side, giving big hitters more control and durability for their buck.
See all articles by Jonathan Wolfe