Imagine if you could customize the next car you purchase by picking out the engine. You wouldn’t just pick any old engine to put in your dream car would you? You’d want to do some research first and figure out which engine fits your needs the best. Not necessarily just the cheapest engine.
So you wouldn’t spend hundreds on your next racquet and when it comes time to pick out your string, you wouldn’t just pick any old string would you? Well, lots of people do.
Strings are vital to how a racquet plays and performs. It’s the only thing that actually makes contact with the ball. But learning about string and picking the right one can be daunting with the huge variety to choose from. We’re here to help. Hopefully this blog will provide you a clearer picture about “the engine” in your racquet.
Gauges are essentially the thickness of a string. The higher the gauge, the thinner the string. The problem with gauges however, is that there is not a standardized and universal chart. A 16 gauge for one company might be a 16L (L stands for ‘light’, which basically means it’s halfway between 2 gauges, think of a 16L as a 16.5) for another. Which is why we recommend referencing the actual millimeter sizing. In general, thinner string will provide more power and spin while thicker strings provide more control and durability.
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.
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).
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.