It’s not every day that a string comes along with the comfort of Tecnifibre NRG2, Babolat Xcel and Wilson NXT. Optimus, a new multifilament from Wilson, is just such a string. Constructed with an army of shock absorbing filaments, we think it will lighten the load on your tendons as well as any multi on the market.
But that’s not the whole story. Unlike some multifilaments that are mushy and come with an unruly “trampoline effect”, we found that Optimus, when tensioned correctly, had a wonderful crispness along with above average control for the breed. This somewhat unique response is partly due to a thermoset co-polymer membrane, which firms up the filaments in the core and slightly tempers this string’s elasticity. Granted, advanced big hitters and string breakers will likely not find enough durability and “snapback” with Optimus (in a full bed), but we think this unique multifilament is a strong option for the non-poly player who wants a great blend of comfort and controllable power.
Right before your favorite pro goes to serve, a complicated dance ensues between player and ball-person. The player descends into what appears to be an OCD ritual, rifling through several different balls, looking intently at each one, shuffling them back and forth until finally arriving at the right one. The most memorable instance of this behavior occurred at the US Open several years ago. I watched as a very famous Spaniard paused long and hard over a particular ball, choosing eventually to throw it back to the ball person only to recall it two seconds later with a look of worried intensity and mild suspicion. He was, as many of you know, looking for the ball with the least amount of exposed fuzz (or at least that is what I hope he was doing).
But why? The theory, by no means a secret, is that the ball with the least amount of unruly fluff moves through the air with more speed, an important fact for those hoping to steal crucial milliseconds from unsuspecting opponents. This is why even savvy high school players are now reserving their first serves for the ball that resembles a Marine crewcut as opposed to the Bob Marley dishevelment that you see at the end of long clay court session, in the rain, where the ball becomes a waterlogged, dirt weighted grapefruit that slows down and sits up nicely for your opponent.
Our very own Tennis Warehouse University Professor decided to investigate the relationship between ball speed and wind drag, hoping to explain what really happens to a ball in the air, and why a cleaner ball travels faster. To perform this experiment he and Professor Rod Cross fired balls from a ball machine and measured the change in speed between two locations in the trajectory.
To make a long story short: the pros are not crazy. To find out why, check out this experiment: Click HERE!
Disclaimer: it’s not every day that one of our great American tennis brands revamps its string line. So please forgive us in advance if we seem a little excited.
From comfortable and powerful multifilaments to crisp and spin-friendly co-polys, the 2014 Prince string line has something for everyone. Let’s take a brief tour of their offerings.
The Premier Series – Multifilaments
Prince’s Premier line of strings features three very tendon-friendly multifilaments loaded with pop. Offering three distinct levels of firmness and playability, the Premier line gives the multifilament player the ability to select the one with just the right feel. Premier Touch, the softest of the bunch,features a very innovative ribbon core which is designed to have the responsiveness of natural gut. This new offering comes in three gauges, including 15L(!), which should please anyone who wants a side of durability and directional control with their comfort and power. As with the very unique Isospeed and Head ribbon technology strings, this one has an almost unbelievable level of vibration dampening (which makes it the perfect match for today’s lighter, stiffer frames). Coming in slightly firmer is Premier Power which updates Premier LT and continues to offer exceptional comfort. This update features an army of shock absorbing fibers wrapped in high density nylon filaments for improved durability. Finally, we have the firmest member of the Premier clan, Premier Control. Like the string it replaces, Premier Attack, this one features a stiff tri-core center wrapped in velvety soft nylon filaments. The result is a comfortably firm feel delivering near poly-like control without taxing the tendons like a traditional monofilament. Continue reading →
My personal journey with the Fila Cool Body Sport Towel.
I was initially skeptical about the Fila Cool Body Sport Towel (FCBST). On paper it seemed like a Wet Nap on steroids. To be completely frank, I just couldn’t imagine wiping my face, legs, arms, etc., with a big Wet Nap. Then one day a sample pack of FCBST appeared near my desk, arm’s distance. Even then, with it sitting right in front of me, I never considered using it. I was content to let it sit there forever, if that’s what it took. And though I don’t feel the need to defend my initial skepticism, I’ll just add that I grew up with, and felt extremely loyal to the old fashion towels, the ones that feel dingy and sweat-drenched after only a few wipes. Regardless, the FCBST is just not the kind of thing I would use or even consider using. Continue reading →
Maximum comfort and pocketing for a poly-based string.
Recommended to big hitters looking for the durability, spin and control of polyester with lower levels of impact shock and vibration.
How does it play?
Comfort meets spin and control!
Given the level of comfort it delivers, TCS should be allowed to defect from the polyester universe. In contrast to a crisp poly, this string is dampened and noticeably more forgiving off-center. One of the most distinctive features of TCS is the pocketing, which provides players with the pronounced sensation of grabbing hold of the ball. The result is a level of spin and control that matches some of the best shaped polys on the market. The main downside of TCS is poor tension maintenance, a very common problem with poly-based strings. All in all, TCS is a must try for big hitters who want maximum comfort, touch and pocketing from a firm control string.
“Probably the most comfortable string I’ve ever used! The ball pocketing and plush feel was refreshing.”
“It’s not textured, not shaped, but yet, I find this string to give me as much, if not more spin than any other strings out there. It’s amazing watching a ball that I thought I hit long drop in at the last nano-second and clip the baseline.”
“Even with all the spin potential and the great ball pocketing for power, I found the control to be excellent as well. There wasn’t a drop off in this department just because it excelled in the power and spin categories.”
“I never had any comfort issues with this one despite stringing it at 60 lbs in a very stiff racquet. Off center hits never felt excessively jarring and anything near the center felt plush.”
Construction: Four polyester fibers wrapped with 8 multifilament layers and a no-friction outer shell.
Gauges: 16 & 17
Color(s): Black & Blue
Available in: sets and reels
Feel: Comfortable (and quite muted) compared to a traditional polyester
Recommended to intermediates looking to transition into a more control oriented string. Also great for advanced players looking for the control, durability and spin of a co-poly with less impact shock and vibration on off-center hits. Adds comfort to lighter, stiffer frames.
How does it play?
Control meets comfort!
Head FXP Tour blends stiff and soft materials to provide a comfortably firm and somewhat muted feel with a nice balance of pop and precision, akin to a well crafted hybrid. The core of this innovative string is comprised of four polyester fibers. This supplies control and durability but with a friendlier feel and less vibration than a polyester monofilament. Surrounding the core are eight multifilament wraps designed to increase shock absorption and comfort. Head constructs this one with a firm and slippery coating to allow the strings to move out of position and snapback with more force. The result is easy access to spin punctuated by more RPMs and some explosive bounces. Players looking for exceptional durability, precision and spin (along with impressive comfort and liveliness for a control string) are encouraged to check this one out.
Low vibration. Not a bad option for the poly player who is looking for a genuine boost in comfort. Somewhat muted feel.
Nice bite and pocketing with easy access to spin.
Plays like a very responsive hybrid with a good blend of control, durability and pop.
Very Versatile! Can be strung a little tighter than a monofilament to add more control without giving away too much comfort. Strung looser, this one provides a soft ride with some nice touch on volleys.
Recommended to: all ability levels, but especially those whose chief concern is comfort. A great option for players with tennis elbow. Also perfect for adding feel and vibration dampening to a hybrid.
How does it play?
Isospeed Professional Classic does not have the name recognition of Wilson NXT, Tecnifibre NRG2 or Gamma Professional. Nor does it have the higher price tag. What it does share with these iconic multifilaments is comfort – outstanding comfort. In fact, in the TW String Lab this string received a stiffness score that places it closer to natural gut than any of its more famous peers. The unique ribbons that make up Professional Classic are pre-stretched under high heat. As a result, this string maintains playability quite well while also offering a more muted and controlled response than comparable strings. Finally, no mention of Professional Classic is complete without noting its “Best of Class” vibration dampening. Aside from natural gut, there are few other strings that are as effective at adding comfort to a stiff frame. Anyone in the market for an arm-friendly multi or the perfect hybrid cross is encouraged to give this one a try. (And the price is awfully hard to beat)
What our playtester said;
“Soft without being mushy.”
“Installed at the top of the tension range, this string enabled me to swing big enough to generate good spin. Control was excellent and I didn’t give away an inch of comfort.”
“High marks for tension maintenance, and surprisingly good durability.”
“Touch around the net is spectacular. And it has a level of precision and predictability that is typically seen with much firmer strings.”
Construction: Co-polyester monofilament with additives to boost comfort and power
Gauges: 16 (1.30mm) and 17 (1.25mm)
Available in: sets and reels
Feel: firm with above average comfort for a poly-based string
Recommended to: intermediate and advanced players with long, fast strokes
Pros using this string: Mikhail Youzhny
How does it play?
This firm and durable co-poly is ideal for intermediate and advanced level players who like to swing big. Make no mistake though, this is not a dead poly made only for the biggest hitters. Indeed, what distinguishes this very playable control string is the high level of comfort and power. For this reason Firestorm fits perfectly inside the growing ranks of friendlier, more elastic co-polys like Dunlop Black Widow and Tourna Big Hitter Black 7. While this string is not likely to have enough pop or comfort for the player who prefers the ultra-soft feel of a multifilament or natural gut, it does provide big hitters with a cozy new option for adding some spark and spin to their game.
What our playtesters said
“You can really feel the ball jumping off the stringbed. I actually found I had to increase my tension a couple of pounds to harness a bit of the power and get the control that I needed.”
“The ball sinks into the strings nicely, so when you do take a big rip at it, you are rewarded with good spin.”
“I found this string to be very comfortable for a co-poly. It felt like it was pocketing the ball exceptionally well.”
“This turned out to be one of the longer playing co-polys I’ve tested. The longevity may be slightly to do with the higher reference tension I used, but comfort was never an issue for me over a four week test — very impressive for a poly.”
For years the monofilament string market has been dominated by polyester — a substance that can be too firm and underpowered for less advanced players. About a decade ago, Ashaway’s Steve Crandall began working on a new concept: a monofilament control string with genuine comfort and power, closer on the stiffness spectrum to natural gut. In the early part of 2012, after years of testing and tweaking, Crandall finally found what he was looking for. It’s called MonoGut ZX. The ZX stands for Zyex, which is a much softer and more responsive material than polyester. On his most recent visit to Tennis Warehouse, we had the chance to interview Steve about his impressive new string. Here is what he said. Continue reading →