Outlook 2013: Game-Changers
Manufacturers, and pro players, are bringing attention to a frequently ignored part of a player’s game.
By Kent Oswald
Aficionados and frequent players have long argued the benefits of one string over another, but could it now be that strings are poised on the brink of gaining respect from the majority of players? Forced by a highly competitive market and needing to define their particular niche in order to survive the difficult economic climate, manufacturers have explored string technology and brought attention to a frequently ignored part of a player’s kit.
No less than Roger Federer, in recent remarks as he prepared for the Aussie Open, claimed that the biggest change to the game during his career has been the development of string technology. Although clearly a beneficiary, he also recognizes the need to adapt his own game when opponents are enabled by their mains and crosses to hit with “so much spin and so much angle” thanks to the work of so many labs and manufacturers around the world. And that was before the current crop of strings was launched, adding their targeted benefits to players’ arsenals.
ashawayusa.com • 800-556-7260
The Rhode Island company with 60-plus years of tennis string manufacturing experience is highlighting its 17-gauge MonoGut ZX Pro, a slightly thinner, lighter complement to the previously released 16-gauge MonoGut. Both offer stiffness and playability similar to natural gut, with minimum tension loss and at a significant cost savings. Ashaway Vice President Steve Crandall describes the key attraction of energy responsiveness and arm comfort as “soft power.”
babolat.com • 877-316-9435
One hundred thirty-seven years after first producing gut strings, Babolat still keeps their R&D folks busy. The next string to be added to the product line is a brand extension of the co-poly, monofil RPM Blast. The RPM Dual, also featuring a cross-linked silicone coating to reduce friction and increase string positioning time and ball spin, is set for a February debut.
dunlopsport.com • 800-768-4727
The latest addition to Dunlop’s revamped string line is Ice, a monofilament polyester available in both 16- and 17-gauge. The clear string is intended to offer significant bite to aid with control and provide durability for players with the fullest of swings.
gammasports.com • 800-333-0337
Pittsburgh-based Gamma will add to its lineup with four new strings. The co-poly Gamma Moto is designed to create a maximum amount of bite with its seven-sided construction; generating spin that lets big hitters keep the ball in the court through exceptional “ball pocketing” is the story for the co-poly Gamma iO; and durability, control and tension maintenance in a responsive polyester string are the selling points for the new Gamma Poly-Z. The company will also be bringing to market the Gamma RZR Rx, an oval shaped, co-extruded monofilament offering a more aerodynamic string bed to maximize racquet-head speed and spin potential through a reduction of friction where the strings cross.
genesis-tennis.com • 888-750-1011
Not yet at the four-year anniversary of the launch of its first two strings, and with thunder and lightning-serving Ivo Karlovic as a key endorser, Genesis will feature the 16-gauge, Typhoon. The pentagonal co-poly is designed to boost player power and spin and is offered in battleship gray and twilight blue. Current promotion plans include reaching out to big hitters by working through online retail partners and increasing brand awareness with cross promotions of racquets and bags.
head.com • 800-289-7366
The co-poly, pentagonal, 16-gauge Sonic Pro Edge will be introduced in March. While not stinting on letting players showcase their power, the focus of Head’s research and development for this string has been to help advanced hitters maximize spin and touch in order to showcase shot control.
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 stringbed 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.
solincosports.com • 310-922-7775
Doing a bit of brand extension, Solinco will bring to market the Tour Bite Soft, a newly designed co-polyester monofilament string to be introduced in 16- and 17-gauge versions. The goal was to maintain the tension maintenance and performance of the well-received Tour Bite, but offer an alternative for players looking for a slightly softer relative that will offer the same power generation and spin and bite promotion.
tecnifibreusa.com • 888-838-3664
Rather than feature new strings in its spring marketing efforts, the French-made string company Tecnifibre — featuring Janko Tipsarevic as lead endorser — will highlight its full slate. The line includes the vibration reducing, soft-playing Black Code; firm Polycode; durable, pop-providing Pro Red Code; flexible, durable Razor Code; firm, co-poly cored Ruff Code; highly-elastic NRG2; elastic, multifilament TGV; elastic X-One Biphase in natural and red; durability and comfort combining Duramix; and multi-filament power and control blending X-Code.
uniquesports.us • 800-554-3707
The most recent strings include the German-engineered Big Hitter Black 7 co-polyester, which garnered favorable ratings for the sharp edges that promoted massive spin while not producing too much arm wear and tear. The line also continues to feature the powerful Big Hitter Blue Rough (with five sides) and the similar, but slightly more control-oriented, Big Hitter Silver Rough. Always careful about adding to the line, the company will only admit to exploring plans for developing ultra-thin versions of its Big Hitter Blue Rough and Silver Rough.
Victory Racquet Sports/Acelon
victoryracquetsports.com • 610-466-6100
Longtime fishing-line manufacturer Acelon has released its first two tennis strings — the Acelon Seven and Acelon Advanced, two co-polys. The Seven features a sharp seven-sided construction for spin and is available in black. The softer Advanced is available in silver or pearl.
vb-tennis.com • 858-626-2720
Complementing Volkl’s Power-Fiber II multifilament strings in natural and black, which are focused on power, the German company introduces two new, control-focused strings. The Cyclone Tour is a soft, co-poly in red and twisted to provide greater spin. The V-Torque is a polyester available in multiple gauges as well as neon green and blue, and designed to increase a ball’s rotation as it heads back across the net.
wilson.com • 773-714-6400
Wilson heads into the new year highlighting two well-touted strings launched on the eve of the 2012 US Open, the Luxilon 4G and Extreme Octane. The former is a 16-gauge co-poly for aggressive hitters (also in a 15-gauge version, the 4G S, for additional durability). The Extreme Octane, a solid core synthetic gut available in both 16- and 17-gauge versions, is economical, medium-soft and highly durable.
ytexstrings.com • 786-280-2138
Three strings stand out among Y-Tex’s 2013 lineup. The Microfiber-X is a five-strand, gut-like string with high ratings for power, durability, and feel. The Sintex, a 16-gauge, mint-green multifilament, provides solid comfort and control, while the Touch, with its multifilament core encased in monofilament fibers, is, just as the name implies, a highly responsive string that still offers a strong measure of power and durability.
See all articles by Kent Oswald
About the Author
Kent Oswald is a contributor to TennisNow.com, producer at the JockBookReview.com and a former editor of Tennis Week magazine.