From the company that has launched some of the most famous graphite racquets in tennis history comes four classics.
Remember that original Precision Response?? Patrick Rafter’s weapon of choice as he crashed the net like a maniac in the late 90s? Gunmetal red with the Double Bridge vibration dampening system that was the precursor to the Triple Threat Warrior. Yea, that one…it’s back, and better than ever!
Featuring the same specs as the original (97 sq. in. headsize, 11.9 oz strung, 6 pts HL, 70 RA, and a swingweight of 322), taking it to the courts is a trip back in time to the good ol’ days, when racquets were heavy, super head light and weren’t bogged down by fancy technology. It’s rock solid, stable, and offers incredible precision and feel, and now with a new paintjob for the new millennium!
As the turn of the century hit, a revolution in tennis strings was starting on the pro tour. It started in 1997, when Gustavo Kuerten won the French Open with a polyester string made by Luxilon. Traditionally, players on the pro tour had been using natural gut string, made from animal intestine and known for its unmatched tension maintenance, power, and soft feel. Natural gut was rumored to have been manufactured first by Pierre Babolat in the late 1800s, and it remained the most popular string on tour for the next century.
However, when Guga won the French with polyester string, players began to realize something. Since polyester is much stiffer and lower powered than traditional natural gut, it allowed for players to take much larger swings at the ball, unlocking their own natural power. With greater racquet head acceleration, players were able to generate more spin and ultimately more power than ever.
Furthermore, racquet technology was getting better, with companies producing lighter and more powerful frames than ever. As pro players transitioned into these high-powered frames, they needed a string that could harness a bit of this new found power and provide the control and spin necessary for the modern game. As a result, it’s very rare nowadays to see a player using a full bed of natural gut, and instead almost every pro player has made the switch to either a full bed of polyester string or a hybrid setup that utilizes both poly and natural gut strings, designed to take the control from the poly and the comfort of the natural gut and blend them together.
Tension Strategy with stiffer strings
In general, stringing your racquet at certain tensions will give you specific sensations when hitting the ball. If you string your racquet tighter (at a higher tension), you maximize control and produce a stiff, dead feeling stringbed. On the other hand, dropping the tension low maximizes power, comfort, and feel, but sacrifices control.
Traditionally, with a full bed of natural gut, players would string their racquets at very high tensions to harness the power of the soft string and their fast strokes. In the 1980s and 1990s, you’d often see players in the 60, 70, or even 80+ pound range for tension. At the 1991 US Open, Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl, and Jim Courier were stringing their racquets in the 70+ lbs range, and Thomas Muster and Monica Seles were even at 81 and 83 pounds respectively! That’s like playing with a 2×4! But with natural gut’s extraordinary playability, the string remained soft and the high tensions were the only way for the players with longer strokes to have enough control on their shots.
Nowadays, with pros switching to stiffer polyester strings, the tensions that pros are using have dropped dramatically. At this week’s Japan Open, Andy Murray is stringing his racquet at the highest tension of anyone in the tournament…at 60 pounds! Most of the pros are between 45-55 lbs, with Milos Raonic coming in with the lowest tension in the tournament at 41 pounds.
Players are forced to come down in tension with the polyester strings because they are so much stiffer than natural gut. With stiffer strings, there is a significant loss of comfort and power, but dramatically more control. If the same high tensions are used with a polyester string, it would be way too stiff on a player’s arm, causing fatigue and eventually injury. Players must come down in tension with a polyester in order to get the comfort and feel they require.
The best value polyester strings on the market
With the increased popularity of polyester strings there has been lots of new companies producing them, leaving you with an overwhelming selection to choose from. However, with all the new additions to the market, companies have found new ways of altering the poly string to make their strings unique and enhance playability. Some polys are now textured or shaped in order to grab the ball even more than “standard-shaped” strings, maximizing the spin potential of the strings. Companies have also introduced materials into the strings making them softer, reducing the jarring effect of the stiffer strings and making them more arm-friendly. Furthermore, the newest development in polyester string technology is making the surface of the string very slick so that it slides on itself easier, which also dramatically helps spin potential.
Enough mumbo jumbo…I want to make your decision process easier. Here are (in my opinion) the best polyester strings around with the best value, so you can get high-end performance at a great price!
Volkl Cyclone is the string I used the most when I was out playing on the pro tour. It has medium stiffness for a good blend of power and control, and its shaped design grabs the ball exceptionally well and helps you to generate tons of spin. It’s offered in 16, 17, and 18 gauge and in multiple different colors. At only $7.99, it’s a steal!
Tourna Big Hitter Black 7 has become one of my go-to strings lately after a recent playtest. Very similar to Cyclone, it has great playability and exceptional spin potential with it’s 7-sided design. Very few strings that cost $10 or more out-perform it, so at $8.95 it’s a no brainer!
Solinco Tour Bite has in the past couple years gained a ton of visibility on the pro tour. Players love it because of the great control and massive spin that it offers. This one is also a shaped string (you’re beginning to figure out I tend to like shaped strings). It’s a little more expensive at $11.50, but it’s still not going to break the bank. It’s offered in 16, 17, 18, and very soon 19 gauge!
Topspin Cyberflash was my string of choice during my college career. According to TW University tests, it’s one of the softest polyester strings around, making it super comfortable and easy on the arm. I loved it’s super lively and soft feel, and it’s only $7.49!
Thanks for reading!
Our next featured Tennis Warehouse Playtester is Sean. Sean can be seen on playtests of all different racquets and shoes. He is a certified Master Racquet Technician and is a supervisor for our Customer Service department. Check out his interview below.
Racquet of Choice: Head Youtek Prestige Pro
String of Choice: Kirschbaum Pro Line II Black
Shoe of Choice: Nike Court Ballistec 2.3
Apparel of Choice: Preferably no shirt in the California sun but more often than not I gravitate towards Nike
When/Why did you start playing tennis?
I started getting into tennis as soon as I moved out to California in 7th grade about 12 years ago. My dad got me into tennis after my little league baseball career in Texas ended in failure. I’m also not much of a team sports person so tennis worked out in that regard as well. My theory is if I win I want all the glory and if I lose I want all the blame which is why I much prefer singles over doubles.
Who inspires you to play tennis?
Everyone who I play against inspires me to continue to improve. My competitive nature on the tennis court drives me to constantly want to become a better player and when I don’t play well or are straight up outplayed, it makes me want to come back stronger the next time.
What is your favorite shot to hit and why?
I love hitting my forehand when I’m on the run and can barely get to the shot. Because my forehand is so wristy, I’m able to come up with some pretty amazing passing shots from that side both down the line and cross court. That look of disbelief on my opponent’s face brings a smile to mine.
What racquets have you used (not tested) during your tennis career?
My first racquet was definitely a Head Titanium Ti.S6 (wonder where I developed a power oriented game). In high school I moved on to using the Wilson Hammer 5.2 frame with the sweet orange paint job. After that my local pro shop hopped on the Babolat band wagon and my coach convinced me to try one out. I ended up with the Babolat Drive Z-Tour which I still have a few frames of to this day. In an effort to replace those racquets I was using a customized Babolat AeroPro Drive for a while until I settled on the Head Youtek Prestige Pro about 6 months ago.
If you could compare your game style to a pro’s (past or present), who would it be and why?
It’s too difficult pick just one player that I like to tailor my game after. It’s more of a combination between Michael Chang speed, some Rafa buggy whip forehand, some Fed slice backhand in there, and a serious case of Safin temper.
What has been your favorite match you have ever watched (live or on TV)?
One of my favorite matches off all time to watch on TV was the 2000 U.S. Open final when Safin completely outplayed Sampras to take the title. By far the most incredible match I’ve seen in person was last year at the BNP Paribas Open tournament where Agassi / Sampras / Federer / and Nadal threw down on some epic doubles.
Do you have any superstitions before playing a match?
I actually hate the whole superstitions thing so much that I make a point to break all of the superstitious rules that I can just to prove to myself that they have no bearing on the outcome of the match. I enjoy walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, not knocking on wood, throwing the entire salt shaker forward, and stepping on every line on the court.
Do you have pre-match meals you like to eat before a tournament?
I try to make sure to eat a huge meal the night before I have a match, usually some kind of pasta. Of course now that I think about it, a huge meal of pasta is something I enjoy a couple nights a week, so nothing new there.
What has been your most memorable tennis match (win or lose)?
I typically remember the matches in which I become the most angry, at my opponent or myself. I was playing an important doubles match in my high school playoffs and I had gotten on the other team’s case about sketchy line calls. They took offense to this and decided to call a line judge over because he claimed our calls on his big first serve were complete crap. I had a little bit of a Sampras vs. Courier in ’95 flashback and when I get angry I can play some fantastic tennis. I took over and we dominated them for the rest of the match. Definitely a gratifying feeling.
I also got to attend a charity even before the BNP tournament a couple years ago where I got the opportunity to play with some of the pros. I played a few games with Ivan Ljubicic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Shahar Peer, Jensen Murphy and Fernando Verdasco which turned out to be one of the more memorable tennis experiences of my career.
Have you had any injuries? For how long? How did you deal with them?
Unfortunately I’m fairly injury prone when it comes to any activity outside of tennis but I’ve only had one real tennis injury that’s affected my ability to play. A couple years ago I severely sprained my ankle to the point where I needed crutches to walk around normally, not that I actually used the crutches like the doctor recommended. The injury kept me off the tennis court for 6 to 8 weeks which was just about the most frustrating part of the injury.
Who is your favorite TW playtester to hit/play with?
I know this is the politian answer to the question but I like hitting with everyone who playtests with me. Tennis is a game where no two players have exactly the same style. The challenge is to make myself such a complete player that I’m able to deal with all sorts of shots and styles.
Who is the TW playtester that gives you the most trouble?
My toughest matchup is definitely against Chris. He uses all of these stupid drop shots that I can get to without problem but then he’s too good around the net for me to win the point without coming up with multiple great shots. Plus, I’m used to getting some free points off my serve and Chris hasn’t missed a return against me in what seems like years. I’m coming for ya Vlogman…
What has been your favorite review and why?
The Yonex V Core 100 S has been one of my favorite playtests to date simply because of how I was playing that day, not necessarily because of the racquet itself. It just happened to be one of those days where I couldn’t miss a shot and every forehand I hit found a line. If you check out the playtest, Brittany and I have some great points.
Do you have any nicknames from the TW playtest squad?
The Hammer, Hemmer Time, Sean “2nd Gear” Hemmer, that guy with the forehand
Please check back next week when we feature another playtester in another installment of, “Meet the Playtesters.”