Time to restring – Spring String Deals

Now that Winter has released its cold grip on most of the country, it’s time to start thinking about the long tennis season that lies ahead. In light of this realization we have some good news and some bad news.

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First, the bad news. If you didn’t get a chance to play a lot this winter, your timing will likely be a little off. With that in mind, I want you to go grab your racquet.

Go ahead, I can wait.

Now that you have your racquet in hand, I want you to look at your stringbed. If you don’t see any strings, keep reading for the string deals below. But let’s say you do see strings, and let’s further speculate that they are the same strings that were in your racquet at the end of last tennis season. If that’s the case, allow me to be frank. Those strings are old and have likely lost too much tension. With tension loss comes changes in feel, power, friction properties, and trajectory (i.e., bad news). Couple that with the winter rust plaguing your mechanics and your timing problems just got worse. In other words, it’s time to restring.

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TW Playtester (The Wolfeman) Pick of the Week – Wilson Optimus Tennis String

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It’s not every day that a string comes along with the comfort of Tecnifibre NRG2, Babolat Xcel and Wilson NXT. Optimus, a new multifilament from Wilson, is just such a string. Constructed with an army of shock absorbing filaments, we think it will lighten the load on your tendons as well as any multi on the market.

But that’s not the whole story. Unlike some multifilaments that are mushy and come with an unruly “trampoline effect”, we found that Optimus, when tensioned correctly, had a wonderful crispness along with above average control for the breed. This somewhat unique response is partly due to a thermoset co-polymer membrane, which firms up the filaments in the core and slightly tempers this string’s elasticity. Granted, advanced big hitters and string breakers will likely not find enough durability and “snapback” with Optimus (in a full bed), but we think this unique multifilament is a strong option for the non-poly player who wants a great blend of comfort and controllable power.

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Last minute holiday gift ideas for the tennis player in your life!

Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 11.19.03 AMWe are down to single digit shopping days left until Christmas, and if you’re like me you’ve still got some friends and family left on your list to shop for. Here are some great last minute gift ideas for your tennis-loving loved ones:

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Looking for a new racquet? The Babolat AeroPro Drive GT is an excellent, all-around performing racquet that could be used by virtually any level and style of player. The former racquet of choice for world #1 Rafael Nadal, this 2010 version offers a crisp, lively feel, perfect for the modern game.

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Stocking Stuffers! (Great Tennis Gifts under $20!)

sstwBeing that tennis has consumed a good 95% of my life, you can assume that means my family and friends eat, sleep and breathe almost as much tennis as I do on a daily basis (and I certainly make sure they get their daily dose of tennis). Even the members of my family that don’t play tennis anymore still love the clothes and accessories that tennis players adorn from the hoodies to headbands to tops and capris, etc. And don’t even get me started on the obsession from my brother-in-law-to-be with the sour candy from Sugarpova.

With that being said, although I am slacking slightly this year in my gift buying, there’s a good chance most of my presents will be bought where? Where else but the Warehouse! So while I can’t disclose too much on the specifics of my shopping cart because I know I have snoopers in my family…I can offer some pretty awesome stocking stuffers (I’m talking some seriously fun swag for under $20!) for you guys to contemplate for the tennis lovers in your life!
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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.”

String of the week – Head FXP Tour

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The basic facts

  • Construction: Four polyester fibers wrapped with 8 multifilament layers and a no-friction outer shell.

  • Gauges: 16 & 17

  • Color(s): Black & Blue

  • Available in: sets and reels

  • Feel: Comfortable (and quite muted) compared to a traditional polyester

  • Recommended to intermediates looking to transition into a more control oriented string. Also great for advanced players looking for the control, durability and spin of a co-poly with less impact shock and vibration on off-center hits. Adds comfort to lighter, stiffer frames.

How does it play?

Control meets comfort!

Head FXP Tour blends stiff and soft materials to provide a comfortably firm and somewhat muted feel with a nice balance of pop and precision, akin to a well crafted hybrid. The core of this innovative string is comprised of four polyester fibers. This supplies control and durability but with a friendlier feel and less vibration than a polyester monofilament. Surrounding the core are eight multifilament wraps designed to increase shock absorption and comfort. Head constructs this one with a firm and slippery coating to allow the strings to move out of position and snapback with more force. The result is easy access to spin punctuated by more RPMs and some explosive bounces. Players looking for exceptional durability, precision and spin (along with impressive comfort and liveliness for a control string) are encouraged to check this one out.

Staff feedback

  • Low vibration. Not a bad option for the poly player who is looking for a genuine boost in comfort. Somewhat muted feel.
  • Nice bite and pocketing with easy access to spin.
  • Plays like a very responsive hybrid with a good blend of control, durability and pop.
  • Very Versatile! Can be strung a little tighter than a monofilament to add more control without giving away too much comfort. Strung looser, this one provides a soft ride with some nice touch on volleys.

 

Multifilament of the month – Isospeed Professional

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The basic facts

  • Construction: Polyolefin Ribbons

  • Gauges: 17 (1.25mm)

  • Color(s): Natural

  • Available in: Sets

  • Feel: Extremely Comfortable. Low vibration.

  • Recommended to: all ability levels, but especially those whose chief concern is comfort. A great option for players with tennis elbow. Also perfect for adding feel and vibration dampening to a hybrid.

     

How does it play?

Isospeed Professional Classic does not have the name recognition of Wilson NXT, Tecnifibre NRG2 or Gamma Professional. Nor does it have the higher price tag. What it does share with these iconic multifilaments is comfort – outstanding comfort. In fact, in the TW String Lab this string received a stiffness score that places it closer to natural gut than any of its more famous peers. The unique ribbons that make up Professional Classic are pre-stretched under high heat. As a result, this string maintains playability quite well while also offering a more muted and controlled response than comparable strings. Finally, no mention of Professional Classic is complete without noting its “Best of Class” vibration dampening. Aside from natural gut, there are few other strings that are as effective at adding comfort to a stiff frame. Anyone in the market for an arm-friendly multi or the perfect hybrid cross is encouraged to give this one a try. (And the price is awfully hard to beat)

What our playtester said;

“Soft without being mushy.”

“Installed at the top of the tension range, this string enabled me to swing big enough to generate good spin. Control was excellent and I didn’t give away an inch of comfort.”

“High marks for tension maintenance, and surprisingly good durability.”

“Touch around the net is spectacular. And it has a level of precision and predictability that is typically seen with much firmer strings.”

 

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

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