I was invited by Desai Devang and Simon Bushell to talk about tennis gear and go through the 1997 French Open final on their Open Era podcast.
I really enjoyed the conversation on the Open Era podcast, which lasted for about an hour. We went through the 1997 French Open final between Gustavo Kuerten and Sergi Bruguera and discussed their different gear. One of the key things about that match was that Kuerten used Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power strings. At the time he was one of the few players using polyester strings and it was clear that the technology gave him an advantage in the match. He could hit out more freely while Bruguera, who naturally plays with even more topspin than Kuerten, struggled with his full bed of multifilament strings in his Yonex RD7.
If you want to listen to me talking on the Open Era Podcast, the episode can be found on this link or you can play it in the embedded player below.
Listen to “52. The Evolution of Racquet and String Technology” on Spreaker.
These days polyester strings are the norm on the tour and among most club players. They are stiffer, will move, and then snap back into place for more spin potential and offer better durability than natural gut or multifilament strings. Poly strings are stiffer and can cause arm issues for some players, but used correctly they can give big-hitting players a lot more control than softer strings. Especially on clay courts, where there are more wear and tear on the balls and the string beds than on hard courts.
Luxilon Alu Power Changed the Game
So the Luxilon Alu Power Big Banger string really changed the game and brought in a new era of polyester strings. Today there are countless brands, types, gauges, colors, and shapes which gives the player a sometimes overwhelming choice of what string and tension to use in their racquet. Choice can be good in moderation, but there is literally a jungle out there right now. If you need help choosing the right racquet, string, and tension for your game, check out my popular racquet consultation service.
You can also read more about tennis strings in the posts below.
One of the things I have noticed about Poly strings is that they play quite different between new and around a month later onwards. When you look at the information from places like Tennis-Warehouse you see that a typical Poly loses 40-50% of tension, whereas a typical Gut string only loses 10% and a typical Multifilament around 15%. I don’t think that means if you string Poly at 50lbs, it will drop to 25lbs in a few weeks, but it is the case in my experience that new Polys are much less comfortable than used strings. For the average amateur player, restringing every week is not an option, so I think Poly reviews should in the main comment on the performance after a month or so of use, rather than brand new. I find for example the RPM Blast strings in a demo racket I picked up, that must be so old that the crosses have carved groves in the mains, play absolutely fine. Similarly, when I restrung another racket recently with Volkl Cyclone, I found it too dead at first, but after a few weeks became more comfortable and alive.
Hence, I wonder if for the average player there is a risk of stringing too low with Polys to start with. What do you think Jonas? Since Polys clearly lose significant amount of tension, it is best to string them around 55lbs if that will be considerably lower after a few weeks?
I think you raise a good point. A fresh poly string bed is great for a pro who hits the sweet spot all the time, but for the average rec player, it plays better when the strings have settled a bit.
When you string you always need to factor in a pretty dramatic tension loss for polys. I tend to string fairly high actually (55 lbs) and then it only takes one hit for the string bed to feel perfect. But it depends on what racquet you use. My Soft Drives have a low RA and are well-used. If I would measure the RA today it would probably be below 60 so they can handle a stiff stringbed.
In a new Pure Aero, it might be different. But if you don’t want to or tend to restring often, I think you can start with a higher tension than intended because of that tension drop.