Sneak Peek…The New Prince String Line…(WOW!)

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 Premier Series

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.
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Sneak peak – Polyfibre TCS

 

Polyfibre TCS — Buy it here!!

The basic facts

  • Construction: co-polymer monofilament

  • Gauges: 16, 16L, 17

  • Color(s): Yellow

  • Available in: sets and reels

  • 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.

 Playtester comments

  • “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.”

Sneak Peak – Signum Pro Firestorm

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The basic facts

  • Construction: Co-polyester monofilament with additives to boost comfort and power
  • Gauges: 16 (1.30mm) and 17 (1.25mm)
  • Color(s): Gold
  • 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.”

Check out our playtest video!

Strings for big hitters on a budget…

 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the magic of Babolat RPM Blast …

….with its innovative cross-linked silicone coating, vicious snap back and otherworldly spin. I also appreciate the miracle that is Luxilon, especially on the professional tour, where strings like Alu Power have enabled the tornadic angular whip of the modern topspin game, allowing for exponentially higher levels of spin and control. Indeed, it only takes a few topspin forehands with either of these strings to realize why consumers shell out top dollar.

Does this mean you have to spend over $10 to get a good string?

If a polyester string costs less than $10 will it not snapback? Will it prevent me from reaching my personal best tennis? I humbly submit that the answer is “no”. Savvy consumers who are willing to poke around can find great performance for a low price.

For the love of Gosen

Of course, if you don’t feel like poking around, just go to the Gosen string page. There you will find the sorts of low cost/high performance strings that make home stringers giddy. More specifically, you will find the original Polylon, which prompted our resident polyester expert, Chris Edwards, to declare, “This string is legit. Sweet as a nut right off the stringer.” Needless to say, after a few sessions with Polylon, it’s easy to conclude that the $2.95 price tag is a typo.

For a softer feeling poly at a great price, there is the technology advanced Polybreak which provides the incredible spin and control of the original Polylon but with a slightly more flexible response. Finally, no mention of Gosen is complete without paying homage to OG Micro, an extremely responsive synthetic gut which has long been the standard-issue reel for stringers in need of reliable hybrid parts.

Gosen Polylon

Gosen Polybreak

And Tourna . . .

Poly players who have not experienced any of Tourna’s co-polys are hereby advised to make some room on their demo list for Big Hitter Silver and Big Hitter Blue (which both come in Rough versions for added grip). These innovative co-polys are not only loaded with control, spin and feel, they are steals at under $8. For players who like comfy (yet crisp) polys, Tourna Big Hitter Black 7 offers a combination of bite, comfort and control that is near impossible to beat for under $10. As someone who ran lab tests on the early prototypes of this string, I can safely say that the Tourna crew is extremely serious about meeting their design goals. They also have an ultra-comfortable multifilament called Quasi-Gut which is softer than NXT and NRG2 (at half the cost).

Tourna Big Hitter Silver

Tourna Big Hitter Blue Rough

MSV and Topspin

Big hitters on a budget do not have to sacrifice liveliness or comfort as long as Topspin keeps making Cyber Blue and Cyber Flash. The results from our TWU lab tests place these amongst the softest polys on the market. Another company with some impressively playable low cost polys is MSV. You can start by reading our string review of Focus Hex, a medium-firm co-poly with incredible control. After that, give both Co-Focus and Hepta-Twist a serious look. These meticulously engineered co-polys fit perfectly inside the growing ranks of elastic, user-friendly monofilaments, offering advanced players a friendlier response without sacrificing any spin or control.

Topspin Cyber Blue

MSV Co.-Focus

MSV Hepta-Twist

JW

 

Gamma Zo Magic 16 String Review

The Gamma Zo Magic 16 gauge string is advertised to be a very soft co-poly with very good tension maintenance. Sounds like a good combination to me…and so I gave it a try!

I strung up the Gamma Zo Magic 16 in a Prince TT Warrior MP at my standard 56 lbs for a polyester string. The string was very soft and stretchy for a polyester, and thus it was a little easier to string than most polys.

My first impression of the string was that it was extremely soft, almost “gummy” feeling. Since it was so soft it was very arm-friendly for a polyester, and thus very comfortable to play with. It also provided me with a lot of touch and feel on my shots, which is not always typical of a polyester.

With that said, the Zo Magic did not feel great hitting off the ground. Since the string was so soft and gummy, it did not pocket the ball well and did not have very much “pop” or spin potential. I felt that my groundstrokes floated off the racket a little too much and did not have the heaviness that my shots would normally have.

On serves and volleys, the softness and feel of the string gave me lots of control, especially on touch volleys. However, I was not able to generate very much spin or power on my volleys and serves. This was the general dislike I had for the string.

The string’s tension maintenance was excellent. I played with it for a few days, and then went on a two week long trip. Upon return, the tension had dropped slightly but was very similar to its original tension, which is pretty impressive for a polyester.

With that said though, I did not particularly enjoy playing with the Gamma Zo Magic. It was very arm-friendly, but did not provide me with enough power or spin for my liking. If you have the desire to play with one of the Gamma polyesters, I would suggest instead trying the Zo Power, which is soft and has a little more pop than the Zo Magic.

AG

Tennis Strings. Where to Begin?

If you’ve ever had the arduous task of going to the grocery store, then you understand that in 2011, there are way too many choices for everything you want. Need some bread? Would you like white, wheat, whole grain, 9 grain, potato, or buttermilk?  Take a stroll down the juice isle and you’re be bombarded with cartons that read: No Pulp, Less Pulp, Calcium Added, and Extra Pulp.

And don’t even get me started on the types of ice creams and flavors that are available. What in the world is a Dippin Dot?!

So I can relate to those of you who take one look at our string page and think, as the kids say, “WTF.” I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I get to try out so many types and brands of strings that I know what to look for and I’m not intimidated by the vastness of the selection. Let me help you by breaking it down as simply and easily as possible.

Before we even get into string types, we should talk about tension. Every racquet has a recommended tension range and it usually lies between 50 and 60 pounds. As a general rule of thumb, the lower the tension, the more power and the higher the tension, the more control. Not sure what tension to go with? I recommend stringing at mid, and then making adjustments from there. Feeling like you’re slightly over hitting? Dial up the tension a couple pounds. Vice versa if you feel your shots are landing shorter than usual.

Now onto the string types. There are 4 basic string categories: nylon, multifilament, natural gut and polyester.

Nylon (AKA synthetic gut or syn gut):
Price Range: Less than $5.00
Pros: Cheap, does everything decently well.
Cons: Does nothing spectacularly well.
Examples: Babolat Synthetic Gut, Prince Duraflex, Gamma Synthetic Gut, Wilson Extreme
The most basic string type is also the cheapest. A jack of all trades, it provides decent spin, power, control and durability. This is ideal for the casual player and those looking for all around performance in an economical offering.

Multi-filament:
Prince Range: $5.00-$20.00
Pros: Soft feeling, arm-friendly, wide selection, powerful
Cons: Durability
Examples: Wilson NXT, Gamma TNT2, Babolat XCel Premium, Tecnifibre NRG2
Generally speaking, these types of strings are softer and better for the arm (those suffering from any arm injuries take note: These strings are for you!). They are made up of thousands of little fibers all wound together and provide great elasticity for power and ball pocketing. This is a great cheaper alternate to natural gut and offers all weather performance.

Natural Gut:
Prince Range: $20.00-$43.00
Pros: Comfort, arm-friendly, ultimate feel and insane ball pocketing.
Cons: Durability, price, doesn’t like damp or wet conditions.
Examples: Babolat VS, Wilson Natural Gut, Pacific Natural Gut, Klip Legend
Whether you’re recovering from an arm injury or trying to prevent one, this is the best possible string you can get for your arm. Provides a very soft and forgiving stringbed with plenty of power. Natural gut used to be used by just about every pro player until the invention of polyester strings (see next section). Natural gut is seeing a resurgence on the pro tour as part of a hybrid set up (different types of string used in the stringbed — one in the mains, the other in the crosses) as it adds comfort, pocketing and power to whatever string you combine it with. Natural gut alone has to be strung very tightly for big hitters to still have control, but because of its unique natural fiber construction it plays softer at higher tensions. Made from a cow’s intestine, this is not the string for members of PETA.

Polyester:
Price Range: $4.00-$20.00
Pros: Large selection, control, durability, spin
Cons: Stiff, lack of power, tension maintenance
Examples: Luxilon ALU Power, Babolat RPM Blast, Polyfibre TCS, Solinco Revolution, Becker Bomber, Signum Pro Poly Plasma
The hottest thing to hit the tennis world since graphite racquets or Anna Kournikova, take your pick. Most of the pro tour has already made the switch. The question is, is it right for you? What’s all the hype about? And it really boils down to two words: spin and control. Because it is so low powered, players are able to take full, big cuts at the ball, imparting more spin than ever before. The big downside is how harsh it can be on your arm. This is not an issue for the pros as they find the sweetspot more than the rest of us, but off-center hits can be very jarring. The high stiffness level does very little to help absorb all the shock and vibration. Avoid this one if you have arm, wrist or shoulder issues.

That is a very quick break down of the 4 main categories of strings. If you really want to dive deeper into the world of strings, I suggest you head over to our TW University. I hope this clears some things up for you and you are now able to narrow down the types of strings you want to try in the future.

And if not, there’s always Dippin Dots.

Jason, TW

String Review: Polyfibre TCS 16

After hearing rave reviews about it, I gave the Polyfibre TCS 16 gauge a try. It comes very highly praised from a number of TW playtesters as well as a number of ATP and WTA players. Advertised as being one of the softest and best feeling co-polys around, I looked forward to playing with it.

Stringing with the TCS was pretty much standard for a polyester string; stiff with not a whole lot of stretch. I strung my racquet at 56 lbs, and it was a somewhat difficult string, about on par with many of the other polyester strings on the market.

With the first strike of the ball I noticed the softness and the excellent bite the TCS had. For a co-poly, the softness made it very reasonable on the arm, and did not cause much discomfort. The softness of the TCS also provided me with lots of touch and feel, giving me a lot of control and command with all my shots.

What I liked most on the groundstrokes was the amount of spin I was able to generate off both the forehand and the backhand, as well as the backhand slice. Topspin shots were heavy and jumping off the court, and the slice had excellent bite and stayed low to the ground.

When volleying and serving, I had excellent control and bite with the TCS. Because the string was so soft, along with its excellent ball pocketing, I could control the ball really well and generate good control. The string is not too “explosive” and does not have a lot of “pop” like a Luxilon Big Banger ALU Power does, but because of the softness and spin potential of the TCS it enabled to have lots of command over my volleys and serves.

There were only two things about the TCS that stood out to me that I did not particularly like. First, as mentioned before, the string did not have a lot of “pop”, and thus generating pace was a little more difficult than I would have liked. I prefer a little more “explosive” string. The second thing I did not like was the tension maintenance, as the string lost tension quite quickly. After about a week the string tension had dropped considerably and I needed to cut them out.

Aside from that, the TCS was a very nice string that I would recommend it to players that prefer a polyester string but have a history of arm problems. The extreme softness of this string makes it very arm-friendly for a polyester, and along with the ball pocketing it also provides the player with lots of control and spin

Andy.

I’ll Always Remember My First Time…

…with polyester, that is.

Before I became a playtester for Tennis Warehouse 4 years ago, I played exclusively with an inexpensive synthetic gut. I usually went with something like Prince Synthetic Gut or Gamma Synthetic Gut, though it really didn’t matter. I’d spend about $20 to have my racquet strung, then be back in a couple of weeks with a busted string for another string job. To me, that made the most sense as it was pretty much the least expensive (without resorting to nylon). Natural gut, I’d heard it was great, but that was not an option with the pricing. I mean, come on, why would I pay more than double for string that won’t last any longer? Synthetic gut is a fraction of the price and I’m sure can’t be too far off from natural gut. Heck, they’re both “gut,” right? I’ll stick with the less expensive one, thank you. At this point, my naivete in the tennis industry had limited my product knowledge, and I’d never even heard of polyester string. Polyester leisure suit? Sure. I was kickin’ around in the ’70s, so I’m familiar with that. But tennis string? I don’t think so.


Soon thereafter, I started working for Tennis Warehouse and eventually became a playtester as well as working in the Web Editing Department. I didn’t have much of a choice but to play with different product. Strings included. I was quickly brought up to speed on the vast selection of not only manufacturers, but different types of string within manufacturers. On top of that, all the different gauges. If you’ve had a difficult time trying to choose a racquet that works best for your game, finding the perfect string may even be tougher.

Being sent some sample packs of string from a manufacturer we had yet to carry as a brand, I strung up a couple of racquets with their strings. This was the first time I hit with a polyester, and I immediately noticed something different. The first thing I noticed was the ball pocketing — how the strings seemed to cradle the ball, then spit it out with more spin than I’d been used to. To say I loved this string was an understatement. It changed my whole outlook on string, let alone my tennis game. My control, both depth and direction, seemed to be more locked in. After hitting for a good session and taking good size swipes at the ball with no ill effects of balls flying out, the last thing I noticed was that I NEVER had to straighten the strings! What the heck was this?

It was Polyfibre Hightec, a soft co-poly.

Since then, I haven’t looked back. My preference in string is overwhelmingly polyester. (The leisure suits aren’t bad either!)  I’m lucky that I’ve been able to sample several different brands, gauges and compositions, giving me a great feel for what I like (and what my arm likes, too).

I continue to like Polyfibre string. Not because it was my first, but because they simply offer good playing string.

Spencer, TW.

Tourna Big Hitter Silver Review

ubighit17-1Playtesting Tourna Big Hitter 17 was like riding a rollercoaster for me. I had so many up and down feelings about Unique’s Big Hitter Silver. I found it to be a very pleasurable poly to string. Once the string was out of the package and uncoiled I had no issues with recoiling or kinking; the surface of the string was easy to hold and weave as it had a chalky yet crisp feel to it. Being a 17-gauge gave it even more points in the stringing department; it was very pliable and it felt similar to stringing something like the WeissCannon Silverstring or the Topspin Cyber Flash.

The first hit was pretty unimpressive. The response was a bit muted, the string was soft, yet it wasn’t pocketing the ball very well. I had strung my weighted Babolat Pure Storm at 61 lbs and would say that the string didn’t perform that well at that high of a tension. Once the string settled after about 30 minutes of hitting, the feel improved and I started to get a little more plow through but I would still describe the response as being a little mushy feeling for a poly. Spin potential was also a little lackluster relative to other polyesters out there; most of the spin was being generated by the stroke while the string seemed to act as an accessory for topspin.

As the weeks went on the string maintained its feel and control but around the 13-14 hour mark I noticed a definite loss in tension. The tension loss wasn’t horrible but I had to make sure to really keep the swing speed up or the ball would trampoline off the stringbed with little topspin, usually hitting some part of the back fence. Even though I had to concentrate on my shots more, the power that came with the lower tension also came with a feeling of glee once I got a handle on controlling it. I did really enjoy this string at the net; the combination of low power and soft feel was great for drop shots and short angled volleys. The string seemed to play better at a lower tension but technique was key in producing the topspin necessary to keep it in the court. Unfortunately, shortly after losing tension, around the 17-hour mark, the string seemed to die and I had to cut them out of my frame. No matter how hard I would swing, the type of shot hit (flat or topspin), I just couldn’t produce the power to really finish points and would usually have to hit one or two more balls after a shot I would normally pump a fist for.

The ups and downs during the playtest would make me hesitant to switch to this string. Despite my own feelings, I do think there is a good market for it. Competitive players with a fast swing, who generate a lot of power would get along quite well with the Big Hitter Silver. It would be perfect in a hybrid setting if you’re aiming to tone down the power without increasing tension, and anyone who likes the control aspect of polyester strings but doesn’t like the 2 X 4 feel should definitely give this one a shot.

Jackson

Rediscovering the Yonex RD Ti 80

yti80-1

It’s funny how a racquet being re-released or updated with a new cosmetic can inspire one to go out and hit with it again.

Such was the case with Yonex releasing a new cosmetic for the RD Ti 80. It was actually the third time I’ve been inspired to hit the RD Ti 80, making this the third cosmetic version I’ve used. The good news is, the response has never changed. Every time I hit the RD Ti 80, it feels exactly how I remember it: rock solid, silky smooth, stable yet maneuverable and offering almost effortless depth and penetration.

In the previous two iterations of the RD Ti 80, I was using multifilament strings exclusively. I always enjoyed the racquet but would occasionally find a shot fly deep on me for no apparent reason. It seemed the same response that offered effortless depth could, at times, provide too much of a good thing and cause me to miss long. It was that missing long which prevented me from seriously taking a look at the RD Ti 80. Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoyed playing with it, I could just never find that feeling where the racquet became an extension of my arm — until today.

yti80-5

Today, I went out and hit the RD Ti 80 strung with Topspsin Cyber Flash 16 at 60lbs. From the first hit, the racquet felt great. I was finding that same silky smooth response, effortless penetration and just a dynamite combo of stability/maneuverability. I was getting more spin from the racquet than I remembered and was really enjoying it on my slice backhand. The big difference, however, was I didn’t miss long. Monofilament co-poly string has cured my malady with the RD Ti 80. For the first time the racquet felt like an extension of my arm. I felt really comfortable taking a good cut at the ball and quickly started to trust the response I was finding. It was just a great hit with the racquet today and I really found the groove with it.yti80-2

Am I going to switch? No. I’m still really happy with my Volkl Power Bridge 10 Mids and can’t see myself leaving that racquet. However, I’ll definitely be hitting the RD Ti 80 more from now on. I had so much fun hitting the racquet today. Now I’m anxious what kind of performance I can find from it with different co-poly strings and at different tensions (yes, there will be some experimentation in the 30lbs range for sure).

Cheers,

Chris.