String Playtest: Babolat RPM Blast Rough 16
By Greg Raven
Babolat RPM Blast Rough is a textured geometric monofilament polyester string. According to Babolat, it offers maximum spin thanks to its octagonal cross-section, surface roughness and “cross-linked silicone,” which allows the string to “bite” the ball better.
Babolat says RPM Blast Rough is designed for competitive and performance players seeking the highest levels of spin, along with great response and control.
RPM Blast Rough is available in 16 and 17 gauges in black, red and yellow. It is priced from $15 for 40-foot sets, with quantity price breaks available.
For more information or to order, contact Babolat at 877-316-9435, or visit babolat.com/strings.
In the Lab
We tested the 16-gauge RPM Blast Rough in black. The coil measured 38 feet, one inch (Babolat assures us the length of the retail sets will be 40 feet). The diameter measured 1.26 mm prior to stringing, and 1.24 mm after stringing. We recorded a string-bed stiffness of 73 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 × 18 pattern) on a constant-pull machine.
After 24 hours (no playing), string-bed stiffness measured 69 RDC units, representing a five percent tension loss. Our control string, Prince Synthetic Gut Original Gold 16, measured 84 RDC units immediately after stringing and 77 RDC units after 24 hours, representing an eight percent tension loss. In lab testing, Prince Synthetic Gut Original has a stiffness of 217 and a tension loss of 11.67 pounds, while Babolat RPM Blast Rough 16 has a stiffness of 206 and a tension loss of 18.21 pounds. RPM Blast Rough 16 added 16.5 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.
The string was tested for five weeks by 26 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.5 to 5.5. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. The average number of hours playtested was 29.9.
No playtester broke the sample during stringing. Six reported problems with coil memory, one reported problems tying knots, none reported friction burn and one reported other problems.
On the Court
Our playtest team appreciated the Spin Potential of Babolat RPM Blast Rough, ranking it 12th highest in this category of the 196 strings we have playtested for publication to date. Our team also ranked RPM Blast Rough well above average in Durability, Resistance to Movement and Control. As a result, Babolat RPM Blast Rough ranked well above average overall.
No playtesters reported premature fraying or peeling, one reported buzzing and one reported notching. Two playtesters broke the sample during the test period, one at six hours and one at 65 hours.
Competitive and performance players are bound to value RPM Blast Rough’s features. It received the highest durability rating of Babolat strings we have tested, as well as the best rating for Resistance to Movement. For players who want to look at more than numbers, the shape and texture of RPM Blast Rough are obvious selling points.
“Because I normally use a hybrid string combination, I used this test string in the mains only, combining it with my usual cross string. This way, I could actually compare it to my normal set-up. I like this string a lot, and it plays very similar to my normal combination.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Pacific Raptor strung at 57 pounds CP (Pacific X-Force 18/Pacific Powerline 18/16)
“While challenging to install initially due to the texture of the string, it held tension well and allowed for excellent spin without changing my swing path. This would be a great string for moderate to high level player seeking more spin and durability.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Burn 100S strung at 54 pounds CP (Wilson Revolve 17)
“Great feeling poly string. Good bite and good spin with control. Held tension for the first four hours or so pretty well. Then the strings started moving. Liked the playability and the feel a lot. Honestly, I was very impressed and surprised. Played and tested many polys and this was really good!” 5.5 male all court player using Wilson Juice 100S strung at 49 pounds CP (Luxilon 4G 16L)
“One of the top five strings I have used. Could have had a little more pop for average player, but loved how you knew exactly what was going to happen when you hit the ball. I used this string for teaching for 49 hours and then played matches for another 16 before the strings broke.” 5.0 male all court player using Head Prestige strung at 60 pounds LO (Head Sonic 16)
“An overall excellent string that played well from the first hit. I found this string easier to install than most other strings of similar construction. Absolutely great for holding tension and resistance to movement. The only major differences I noted when compared to the string I normally use were with touch and feel — the test string was much stiffer, but after playing with it for several hours, it was easy to adjust. A great string overall, particularly with regard to its durability.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince O3 Red LS strung at 53 pounds LO (Tecnifibre Black Code/Tecnifibre X-One BiPhase 18/18)
“This string is my new favorite. Played a high level tourney for a week, with a lot of ball hit in practice and teaching sets. Great pop. Spin is excellent and it still hit well after nine sets. I did not feel that it lost tension.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson Blade strung at 54/53 pounds CP (Kevlar/Nylon 16)
“String played very well. Had good pop on the serve. Comfortable on groundstrokes. Not bad touch with volleys.” 4.0 male serve-and-volley player using Prince Textreme Warrior strung at 35/37 pounds LO (Prince Warrior Hybrid Touch 16)
“This string has a very solid, yet comfortable, feel to it. I did not find it overly generous with spin production nor control or feel, but power is there and overall it is on par, playability wise, with the string combo I usually use. Of note, I did find this string to be more arm friendly than my usual strings.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop Biomimetic 500 Tour strung at 58 pounds LO (Solinco Tour Bite/Luxilon Savage 17/17)
“Nice feel, making string easy to install. The texture of the string was great for spin and bite.” 5.0 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson Pro Staff RF strung at 55 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire Pro 16)
“Really enjoyed playing with this string. I don’t normally play with polyester because of injury potential and wear on my wrist. However, I put the string in at fairly low tension and was surprised at the softness of the string (for a polyester). It played with good control and resisted movement very well. I would definitely recommend this string to my customers looking to get into a relatively soft and playable poly.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson Blade strung at 45/48 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 17)
“Started off enjoying the amount of spin and playability I got from the string. The string seemed to lose some of its pop at about ten hours. Did continue to like the amount of spin and control I had on serves and volleys. After about the ten hour mark noticed a little more arm fatigue. Overall enjoyed testing the string and would definitely use as a main string in a hybrid.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince Tour 100T ESP strung at 48 pounds CP (Prince Tour/Babolat Spiraltek 15L/16)
“The first hit with this string created a difficult time controlling the power, but after an hour or so the power level dropped and became easily manageable. The same with spin production. I enjoyed playing with this string after the break-in period. The comfort level was always high and the resistance to movement was impressive. Even though the power level was still above average, it was not difficult to control my shots. Different spins were easily attainable as well.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince Tour 100 ESP strung at 52/54 pounds LO (Prince Tour XC 17)
“This was a very solid string. It was one that gave plenty of spin and yet had a good feel on most shots. The durability was better than average for a gripping type of string and held tension pretty well. I would expect this to be a favorite for either a hybrid or a full string job. I would stock this string for my customers for sure.” 5.0 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson Juice 100S strung at 58 pounds CP (Luxilon 4g/Wilson Sensation 16L/16)
“This felt like a good working string that is average and predictable (that’s a compliment). At the right price it would make a good stock string for someone who wants a softer feel.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 55 pounds CP (Babolat VS 16)
“If I liked an all-poly string bed, this would be a candidate.” 4.5 male touch player using Babolat Strike strung at 55/52 pounds CP (Babolat VS/Babolat RPM Blast 16/17)
“This string was great at the beginning, but lost some pop after twelve hours of play. Players with arm problems may want to use a softer string in the crosses.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Prostaff strung at 49 pounds CP (Volkl Cyclone/Tourna Synthetic Gut Armor 19/17)
“Pretty good string. Nothing out of the ordinary. “ 5.0 male all court player using Wilson BLX 5 strung at 55/57 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16/17)
“Not a bad string, but not something that I would use.” 5.0 male all court player using Head Prestige strung at 58 pounds LO (Prince 16)
“A little stiff for my taste. The string had great durability and I would use it but only with softer crosses. Performance was average at best. A good string for chronic string breakers.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop 200G strung at 57/55 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/DuraFlex 16/17)
“A very average string. The thing I liked best about it was the low power. I’m prone to hitting a bit long, and this string helped with that error, but, of course, that also meant I was dropping the ball short sometimes. The feel was dull and a bit stiffer than I assumed it would be given the ease of stringing. This string might be okay in a hybrid, and certainly if someone were in love with a frame that was nevertheless too powerful for them to control, I’d recommend this string to help tone down that power. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say about this string.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson Prostaff strung at 55 pounds CP (Volkl Synthetic Gut/Tourna Big Hitter Silver 16/17)
“I liked the control on flat shots, controlling the depth of the ball. I lost feel when trying to control the direction of the ball. The string did not grab the ball well, so touch shots flew a little. The string did not notch as quickly as other strings.” 4.0 male all court player using Volkl V-Sense 4 strung at 54 pounds CP (Volkl V-Twist 17)
“This string was average compared to the string I most often use and even against others I have playtested.” 4.0 male all court player using Prince Warrior Textreme strung at 55 pounds CP (Prince Tour XP 17)
“It was not difficult to string. It played like most polys. I was able to swing out more on groundstrokes due to lower power compared to my regular string.” 4.0 male all court player using Bosworth Tour strung at 54 pounds CP (Gamma TNT Touch 17)
“Not my favorite string. Was harsh and hurt my arm.” 3.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson BLX Blade 98 strung at 58.5 pounds LO (Wilson Natural Gut 17)
“Excessive coil memory made process more difficult than average. Out of the box the string played dead; no pop and limited response to spin. Then after 10+ hours of play they loosened up and responded well, then after about 30 hours it began to feel loose and the ball sailed. This was controllable but not worth the effort. Could be a better string for either bigger hitters, or very soft hitters. I prefer a more consistent feel to the ball. These strings did not grip the ball well or consistently.” 4.0 male all court player using Prince Red LS strung at 58 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 18)
“This string was not as responsive during impact testing. This is especially noticeable during when serving. On long points, the player will find a huge difference in the fatigue factor.” 3.5 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Carbon 2.3 strung at 52/50 pounds CP (Prince Sythetic Gut w/Duraflex 17)
(Strings normally used by testers are in parentheses. For the rest of the tester comments, visit tennisindustrymag.com.)
EASE OF STRINGING (compared to other strings)
Much easier: 2
Somewhat easier: 3
About as easy: 11
Not quite as easy: 9
Not nearly as easy: 0
OVERALL PLAYABILITY (compared to the string played most often)
Much better: 2
Somewhat better: 5
About as playable: 5
Not quite as playable: 11
Not nearly as playable: 3
OVERALL DURABILITY (compared to other strings of similar gauge)
Much better: 6
Somewhat better: 6
About as durable: 11
Not quite as durable: 3
Not nearly as durable: 0
From 1 to 5 (best)
Spin Potential: 3.9
Holding Tension: 3.3
Resistance to Movement: 3.9
See all articles by Greg Raven
About the Author
Greg Raven is an associate editor for Tennis Industry 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. He plays tennis three to five days a week, and is turning into an avid cyclist.
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