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