New Racquets and Strings: The art of ‘more’
Q4 isn’t usually a time for introductions, but there will be some new product and promotions as the year winds down.
By Kent Oswald
The key word for strings and racquets for the remainder of the year will be “more.” Each year discussions take place on court and in stores over the promise of more power behind shots, more spin to keep shots within the lines, and more control of the vibrations caused when ball hits strings. Beginning this summer the Tennis Industry Association will be promoting the Tennis Tune-Up campaign (visit PlayTennis.com) and encouraging players to have more of those discussions with the people who really know strings and racquets.
Education is a key to improving everyone’s game, in addition to growing business at the retail level. While individual brands are attempting to connect racquet purchases directly to their own string, there is hope throughout the industry that Tune-Up conversations will inspire more string and racquet sales.
Initially, the emphasis of the Tennis Tune-Up campaign will be on strings and, hopefully, consumers will come to understand, as Wilson Tennis Hardgoods Marketing Manager Tracy Almeda-Singian explains, “Just like optimal tires and tire pressure allow a car to perform its best — in terms of safety, handling, better fuel efficiency, etc. — string performance and tension are vital to the performance of a racquet. Older strings can become brittle, which affects power, comfort, control, spin, and durability.”
The story of improved technology is not always getting through. “The string market has continued to evolve tremendously in recent years and with the introduction of various shaped and differently constructed co-polyester strings, the biggest challenge is developing a product that is both spin-friendly, easy to string, soft and durable simultaneously,” offers Genesis Managing Director Mitchell Lvovsky. However, all the evolution isn’t yet growing the string business fast enough.
“The most daunting challenge,” says Tourna’s Kevin Niksich, “is getting noticed in an oversaturated string market. It’s tough to convince a retailer to add yet another string and it’s tough to get consumers to notice there are many great choices out there.”
Rather than have more slices being taken from the same revenue pie, it is hoped that greater education will result in more string jobs, which will benefit players — allowing them to get more from their games — and the industry.
New technology. New products. New messaging. And increasingly focused efforts to explain why certain types of strings make better marriages with specific styles of racquets. They should all be part of the Tune-Up conversations and should add up to more opportunities for more players to improve their games, and for more stringers and retailers to increase sales.
On Tap for Year-End
While the calendar’s final quarter is not usually a time of introductions, in addition to the wide range of racquets and strings that already have established their territory, there will be new products and promotions to talk about.
Ashaway has arranged a heavy advertising flight for its MonoGut ZX polyketone monofilament strings. The roll out of these no-polyester high-end strings is scheduled to continue into 2014 with increasing marketing and promotional support along with the introduction of ZX hybrids.
ashawayusa.com • 800-556-7260
Prince will begin a big push this fall, building momentum to be carried through 2014 when the company will have refreshed its racquet line and produced a line of strings designed and marketed to enhance the new sticks’ benefits and performance.
The first of two racquet collections being unveiled are those featuring the ESP (extreme string pattern) technology, which was developed as a complement to the company’s EXO3 technology. To help retailers sell the Prince story, the ESPs are grouped in Premier (shorter, slower strokes), Warrior (moderate to full strokes) and Tour (longer, faster strokes) segments. Racquets making their debut include the Premier 115L ESP and 105 ESP, the Warrior 100 and 100L ESP, and Tour 98 ESP and 100T ESP.
The second of the two collections, “The Classics,” will provide players with comfortable hitting and something of a “retro” feel as the company leverages its history to bring forth The Classic Graphite 97, 100, 100 Longbody and 107. Additional models for both collections are scheduled for rollout in the new year.
The string line is receiving new packaging and is also being segmented in a way — by designation as a “Premier,” “Warrior” and “Tour” and further identified as either a “touch,” “power,” or “control” string — that should further establish the link between Prince racquets and strings.
princetennis.com • 800-283-6647
Later in the fall, Tourna will roll out advertising and seeding sets for its Quasi Gut Armor, a more durable multifilament version of Quasi Gut. In addition to working well on its own, the expectation is for the string to work with the new generation of shaped and sharp poly’s while still softening the stringbed.
uniquesports.us • 800-554-3707
Pushing the promote-ability envelope with a name to attract attention, Volkl is adding Psycho Hybrid string to its line, combining the multi-fiber Power Fiber II and its gut-like feel with the twisted co-polymer Cyclone and its 20 sides for bite on the ball. The company also be showcasing the new Organix VI racquet, with a 110-square-inch head and the Bio Sensor Handle system, all in service of creating a comfortable hitting experience.
vb-tennis.com • 858-626-2720
This fall, Wilson will be spinning a tale of spin. The theme is Spin Effect Technology. For the racquets, this includes a signature feature of fewer crosses than mains. The newest entry in the line is the powerful Blade 98S, which is optimized with a lighter weight/balance and 18x16 string pattern to produce more spin and a heavier ball. Additionally, the company will be highlighting its new monofilament, the co-poly RipSpin, which has an ultra low-friction surface designed to generate a high degree of spin, but in a durable and comfortable string.
wilson.com • 773-714-6400
More Coming Attractions
Dunlop (dunlop.com, 800-768-4727) and Genesis (genesis-tennis.com, 888-750-1011) will be announcing the details of new products they’re rolling out for 2014 later in the fall.
Solinco (solincosports.com, 310-922-7775) reports that it has a brand extension in the works for its line of strings.
Tecnifibre (tecnifibre.com, 877-332-0825), finishing off the first year in its new five-year racquet, string, bag and accessories partnership with the ATP, has its sights set on a January 2014 introduction.
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.