An interview with Ashaway’s Steve Crandall on his latest creation: MonoGut ZX, the world’s softest monofilament

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.

What do you think of the Polyester craze that has spread from the pro tour to the club level?

SC: I understand why the pro tour has opened its arms to polyester because of the explosive spin it delivers to those with high swing speeds. However, I think it can be counterproductive for players with more compact strokes to mimic the pros with these strings. It’s like trying to drive a Formula One racer on the street. Polyester can work well for advanced amateurs or club players who have the high swing speeds and hand-eye coordination needed to reap its benefits, but it is counterproductive for players that lack the appropriate stroke style. Polyesters can be especially bad for smaller junior players because of the dangers to their arms and shoulders from impact shock. Even some pros complain of this.

What was your goal in making MonoGut ZX?

SC: The goal in making MonoGut ZX was to bring a monofilament string to the tennis market that would have the power and comfort of natural gut at less than half the price. We have been working with Zyex in multifilament forms using nylon jackets for more than 20 years now and have had tremendous success in many racquet string areas. But we felt it was time to bring Zyex out in its 100% pure monofilament form, especially considering the rise of these very harsh, dead polyesters.

Without getting too technical, can you summarize one or two things that separate Zyex from polyester?

SC: We see there are three main differences. The first is elongation, which is simply the ability of a material to stretch or give under impact. Zyex (or PEEK) has approximately three times the elongation of polyester at normal stringing tension. The second thing is dynamic stiffness, which is the ability of a material to resist stiffening up as it is rapidly stretched and released. The dynamic stiffness of Zyex is nearly equivalent to natural gut and is approximately 100 units lower than polyester. In layman’s terms, this means Zyex strings are tremendously more powerful and less stiff—less “boardy,” in the words of Zyex inventor Bruce McIntosh—than polyester as a string material. Think of it as arm-friendly power. The third point is the dynamic spin of Zyex strings. You’re able to grab and work the ball with less effort than with a polyester string. It makes the game more fun and opens up a wider variety of shots.

Do you think MonoGut ZX would work well for all the different ability levels?

SC: Absolutely. I think it has the potential to add value for players at all levels. The first and foremost beneficiaries would be junior and senior players who don’t hit so hard—really, any players who have medium to low swing speeds. This is because even at lower swing speeds, MonoGut ZX offers tremendous power and comfort. It’s much more user friendly. At the club and even the pro level, it translates into being able to play a more varied game. These players don’t have to just play a baseline, hard-hitting, topspin game. They can play more serve-and-volley because of the extremely crisp pace of the ball, and they can modify their swings, using a greater variety of strokes and angles. So it can add a lot of variety to their game. And, of course, it’s easier on their arms as well. Polyester has been called natural gut on steroids. We think MonoGut ZX is like natural gut on sale.

As you can tell, Crandall is excited about the prospects of MonoGut ZX. While this new Zyex string may not satisfy poly players who require a firm and dead response, it’s a solid option for players who want to balance durability with power and comfort. This doesn’t mean Ashaway has turned its back on the polyester community. To the contrary, the original MonoGut is without question one of the best poly values offered by Tennis Warehouse. Needless to say, with the addition of the world’s softest monofilament, the Ashaway string line is definitely worth checking out.

Thanks for stopping by, Jon

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