Tennis Industry magazine

 

Playtest: Ashaway Crossfire ZX 17

By Greg Raven

Crossfire ZX is a hybrid that combines Ashaway’s Kevlar® +Plus mains with its MonoGut® ZX Pro crosses. According to Ashaway, the 1.25 mm Kevlar +Plus main string is a blend of braided aramid and silky PTFE fibers that soften the string’s feel, while the 1.22 mm 100 percent Zyex® MonoGut ZX Pro cross string is known for its ability to generate power and spin, and a soft, gut-like feel. Ashaway tells us that each of these strings adds a new dimension of soft power, spin and durability to the hybrid spectrum.

The target consumer for Crossfire ZX, says Ashaway, is the heavy-hitting power player who wants more feel, spin and durability than poly with better tension holding.

For heavier hitters, Ashaway offers Crossfire ZX Tour, a hybrid with 1.27 mm MonoGut Original monofilament polymer strings in the mains and 1.27 mm MonoGut ZX in the crosses.

Crossfire ZX is available in Gold & Black/Natural, priced from $10.50 per hybrid set. The +Plus mains are available in 360-foot reels for $95 and in 720-foot reels for $165. The MonoGut ZX Pro crosses are available in 360-foot reels for $125 and in 720-foot reels for $235. For more information or to order, contact Ashaway at 800-556-7260, or visit ashawayusa.com. Be sure to read the conclusion for more information about a special offer on Ashaway Crossfire ZX.

In the Lab

The coils measured 23 feet, 11 inches (+Plus mains) and 21 feet, 7 inches (MonoGut ZX Pro crosses). The diameters measured 1.20-1.22 mm and 1.28-1.30 mm prior to stringing, and 1.19-1.20 mm and 1.26-1.29 mm after stringing. Crossfire ZX 17 added 13 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The string was tested for five weeks by 30 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 24.5.

Ashaway recommends the +Plus in the mains at 10 percent to 15 percent less tension than a nylon string, and the MonoGut ZX Pro in the crosses at 5 percent to 10 percent less tension than nylon, so that’s how we instructed our playtesters to install Crossfire ZX. Given the potential difficulties in navigating blocked holes with the braided +Plus, it’s much easier using it in the mains than in the crosses. The 1.22 mm MonoGut ZX Pro has to be handled with respect during stringing to avoid breakage (especially during knotting), but once installed is fine.

Two playtesters broke the sample during stringing, two reported problems with coil memory, eight reported problems tying knots, two reported friction burn, and three reported other problems.

On the Court

Our playtest team was most impressed with Crossfire ZX’s Durability, Tension Retention, and Spin Potential, rating it well above average in each of these three categories. Overall, Crossfire ZX rated above average.

Two playtesters reported premature fraying or peeling, two reported buzzing, and four reported notching. One playtester broke the sample after 15 hours of play.

Conclusion

Most players probably think primarily of durability when it comes to aramid strings, but Ashaway places a heavy emphasis on the softness of Crossfire ZX, and a good number of our playtester comments support them. “A really comfortable hybrid setup that’s easy on the arm,” says one. “No wear on my arm,” writes another. “The first thing I noticed was the softer feel,” states a third.

Spin also ranked high in the comments, indicating a good interaction between the aramid mains and the MonoGut ZX Pro crosses. And, you still get the durability you expect with an aramid string.

If you think that Ashaway Crossfire ZX might be for you, Ashaway is making USRSA members in the U.S. a “buy one, get one free” offer during the month of May 2014. You can contact Ashaway at 800-556-7260.

Kevlar® is a registered trademark of E.I. Dupont de Neumours and Co. and Zyex® is a registered trademark of Zyex Ltd.

Playtester Comments

“I liked the hybrid. The softer mains added to comfort, feel, and power. The crosses helped with control. I thought it had better spin than I would have anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise. This is a good mix of strings.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 55 pounds CP (Babolat VS Gut 16)

“I love hybrids being that’s what I normally use. Course mains were great at inducing spin. Little less powerful than my normal setup. Touch was less than normal at net, but adjustment was easily achieved. Stringbed was stiffer than I am used to. I believe the cross strings caused that. Overall, a very good hybrid setup.” 3.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat Pure Drive Roddick strung at 47/50 pounds CP (Babolat Xcel/Ytex Quadro Twist 17)

“Solid string with nice power and comfort. String movement was a little more noticeable compared to my normal string. A really comfortable hybrid setup that’s easy on the arm. Durable strings that held their position well.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Steam 99S strung at 50 pounds CP (Tourna Big Hitter Black 17)

“Pleasantly surprised by string. Not as stiff or uncomfortable in the beginning as I expected. Good access to spin and control. Easy to string. Approximately 18 hours of play so far. Surprised by fact that the aramid string is notched and not the crosses. Overall, a good string combination. Would recommend for a big string breaker.” 4.5 male all court player using Head Graphene Speed MP strung at 55 pounds CP (Dunlop Black Widow 18)

“I like the looks of this hybrid. The main string is reminiscent of the old school nylon spiral strings. They are also a bit soft like the old school strings. I almost expected them to fray, but they have not. The main strings look and feel like the highly rated Ashaway Monogut strings. Overall, a nice hybrid string set up. Also the color combination is outstanding in my Prince Boron. I would re-string my whole collection of Prince Boron because of that, as this string hybrid also plays well.” 4.0 male all court player using Prince Boron strung at 60 pounds LO (Gamma Professional 18)

“I was pleased with the overall play. No wear on the strings or my arm. Very solid string. Would use again! Easy to string and easy to swing. Good bite on volleys and good spin on serve. Plenty of control and pop on groundstrokes.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince Warrior Pro strung at 45/48 pounds CP (Dunlop Black Widow 17)

“The first thing I noticed was the softer feel which surprised me with a hybrid string. This is a softer feeling string with very nice comfort and feel. It maintains tension a lot better than other strings I have tested. I did notice on drop volleys when taking the pace off the ball it was a little bit tricky as the string seems to slow the ball down too. I guess the best three words to describe this hybrid string is comfort … comfort … comfort.” 5.5 male all court player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 60 pounds CP (Babolat VS Gut 16)

“Love Kevlar because I’m assuming that’s what the mains were. Played extremely well. I thought ball was on strings well. Good bite and control. Would highly recommend. Excited to see what it was.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince Classic 107 strung at 56/54 pounds LO (Dunlop Black Widow 17)

“I thought I would dislike it, but I was impressed with the touch and spin.” 5.0 male all court player using Babolat Aeropro Drive strung at 50/45 pounds CP (Babolat VS Gut/Babolat RPM Blast 17/18)

“This string is very durable, and produces sufficient power on serves, groundstrokes and overheads. Average spin potential, and good touch and feel on volleys. No problems experienced during stringing.” 4.0 male all court player using Prince Triple Threat Viper strung at 54/57 pounds LO (Gamma Ruff 16)

“I’ve been playing in unusually cold weather for North Carolina winters. String bed felt really ‘pingy’ even at lowered tension. One Sunday temps went up above 70 degrees. String bed felt much better! But also broke at the tie off knot for the crosses after about 2 hours of singles play. Checked the grommet hole at the tie off point where cross string broke. Grommet slightly frayed and may have stressed the string. So, not sure about the reason for premature breakage.” 4.5 male all court player using Head i.Radical strung at 54 pounds LO (Head IntelliTour 16)

“Played surprisingly well. Initially, I did not like the feel at all. After playing for three hours or so, the feel and control and comfort were really good. Obviously, with the Kevlar it is durable. This is a great durable option for poly lovers. Good spin too!” 6.0 male all court player using Wilson Juice strung at 48 pounds CP (Luxilon 4G 16)

“Nice hybrid package set up. Poly seemed to give access to more power and spin, but natural string off set with control. Experienced some string movement due to contrasting string textures, but not distracting or overly significant. This set up also allowed me to have some fun by moving toward a semi-western grip and taking some big swings at the ball (not my normal style, but game me some additional access to spin). Felt like a nice baseline set up, but gave enough control to be able to move forward and finish points cleanly and with confidence.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson nSix One strung at 57/59 pounds CP (Klip Legend 16)

“This string had impressive power and feel throughout the playtest. Control/comfort was not optimal, but it was very good as well. Utilizing hybrid technology makes this string much more enjoyable to use than just being all over stiff as many new strings are these days. This is simply a good quality string set for a wide range of player abilities. A nice higher end string.” 4.0 male all court player using Head Youtek Radical MP strung at 51/54 pounds LO (Babolat Xcel Premium 16)

“I enjoyed the feel of this string despite the Kevlar mains. The act of bouncing the ball with the strings off the ground to pick it up was actually difficult so the strings were certainly not bouncy. This string could definitely have a niche in the string market with tournament players and league players with heavy topspin or big string breakers.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head Youtek Graphene Instinct S strung at 50 pounds LO (normal string not specified)

“I hit very flat with this string, and was only through great effort able to generate any (minimal) spin. In addition, I was not able to generate consistent depth to my shots. A majority of my shots landed around the service line or just beyond. Only through significant effort was I able to achieve depth of shot.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Pro Kennex Ki 15 PSE strung at 56 pounds CP (Pacific X Force/Pacific Powerline 18/16L)

“I’ve experimented a lot with Kevlar mains with softer crosses. I like softer crosses better than the poly crosses of the test string. Seems like this combo would benefit heavy hitters looking for comfort.” 3.5 male all court player using Pro Kennex Graphite Acclaim strung at 55 pounds CP (Ashaway Kevlar/Prince Attack 18/17)

“I would definitely string this at the manufacturer’s recommendation to reduce tension based on nylon reference. The string felt tighter than my usual hybrid even when I strung it at a lower tension. I would have enjoyed playing this string more if it were strung up at an even lower tension as I feel that it would be even more lively and able to unleash more potential.” 3.5 male all court player using Wilson BLX Pro Tour strung at 52 pounds LO (Luxilon Alu Power Rough/Wilson Hollow Core Pro 17)

“Overall, I felt I had a lot less power on my ground strokes and serves. The volleys were crisp, however not as much pop as I would like. The control was good. Above average I would say. But, I wasn’t getting a ton of bite on winners from the baseline.” 4.5 male all court player using Babolat Aeropro Drive GT strung at 54 pounds CP (Babolat RPM Blast 16)

“Crosses were hard to install. The string broke just as I was tying off the crosses. The knot held. Mains were 55 pounds and the crosses were 54 pounds. Power was average. The strings were slightly boardy but had decent spin. Probably better suited for heavy conditions.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop 200G strung at 55/54 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex 16)

“Interesting string. Instructions were a little complicated. Did not string over 60. Had a little trouble with control. But, overall pretty good. I didn’t think this is a string for a high performance player.” 4.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson BLX Five strung at 57 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 17)

“Was this an aramid/poly hybrid? Not as stiff as I thought it might be. Very solid. Not dull, the way some stiff strings can be. It had a nice combination of being stiff but maintaining some playability. Seemed to enlarge the sweetspot of my frame. However, it also decreased some of the feel.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson K Six One Tour strung at 50 pounds CP (Pro Supex Big Ace Micro/Pro Supex Maxim Touch 19/17)

“This is a good string set up for spin and control. Not recommended for someone with arm or shoulder issues. Goes in quite stiff, even at reduced tensions. So, you have to be careful to follow manufacturer’s recommendations. I would even go more than 10% reduction from normal tension with a tight string pattern. I am used to playing with gut, so this would not be a good setup for me.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince O3 Hybrid Hornet strung at 54 pounds LO (Prince Premier Attack/Pacific Prime Gut 16/16L)

“Not one of my favorite string that I have played with.” 5.0 male all court player using Head Prestige strung at 53 pounds LO (Tecnifibre NRG2 16)

“Overall decent string although not enough plusses to recommend to a customer.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince Warrior strung at 53/58 pounds CP (Prince Premier LT 17)

“Plays like Prince Pro Blend. Lacked power and spin control. Found myself having to create more spin when need with greater effort. Strung at 45 pounds and noticed ball did not pocket in the string bed as well as my current string.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Pro Staff BLX Six One strung at 45 pounds CP (Tourna Black 7 17)

“Below average for both stringing and playing. Seems to be a lesser quality material.” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Babolat Pure Drive + GT strung at 55 pounds CP (Babolat RPM Blast/Babolat Xcel 18/17)

“This string appears to be a hybrid of an aramid fiber main and a polyester cross. Why would you even? Ground strokes were just average with you supplying the big swing. Much less crispness on volleys and little to no feel on touch shots. Any off center hits were abysmal and I could create no power nor generate much spin on serves.” 4.0 male all court player using Prince O3 Red strung at 48/51 pounds CP (Gamma TNT2 Pro Plus 17L)

“I found this string to be below average compared to my usual string. The power and durability seem to be slightly above average, but control and touch were nothing special. The string did seem to do a good job of holding its tension compared to other strings I have tested lately. It lacked a liveliness that I have come to expect after using polys most of the time. Overall, pretty easy to install, very durable, but nothing great on the court.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop Biomimetic 500 Tour strung at 52/54 pounds LO (Luxilon Savage 16)

“This string played with more stiffness than my usual string. I prefer a more elastic string bed for my 95 year old arm.” 3.5 male all court player using Head i.S12 strung at 54/52 pounds CP (Gosen Multifilament Nylon 17g)

(Strings normally used by testers are indicated in parentheses.)

Playtester Ratings

Ease of Stringing (compared to other strings)
much easier 0
somewhat easier 5
about as easy 15
not quite as easy 9
not nearly as easy 1
Overall Playability (compared to the string played most often)
much better 0
somewhat better 6
about as playable 7
not quite as playable 12
not nearly as playable 5
Overall Playability (compared to other strings of similar gauge)
much better 8
somewhat better 11
about as durable 8
not quite as durable 3
not nearly as durable 0
Rating Averages From 1 to 5 (best)
Playability 3.1
Durability 4.0
Power 3.3
Control 3.3
Comfort 3.1
Touch/Feel 2.9
Spin Potential 3.5
Holding Tension 3.5
Resistance to Movement 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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