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In recent years, polyester tennis strings have surged in popularity as professional players on the ATP and WTA tour have increasingly adopted them as their preferred string.
If you’re looking to learn more about polys, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know (and more) about polyester tennis strings.
Here’s a quick overview – click any of the following links if you’d like to jump straight to that section:
- Our top 10 poly picks
- Poly vs. Co-poly
- Who should use poly?
- Hybrid setups
- Stringing with poly
- The future of poly
If you have questions, or you’d just like to share your feedback on this article, we’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom of the article. In the meantime, let’s get started!
Our Top 10 Poly Picks
As the demand for polyester tennis strings has surged, so has the selection available. Overall, this is fantastic for consumers. However, the overwhelming number of options has made selecting the ideal polyester tennis string more challenging.
Recognizing this, we’ve gathered our favorite poly strings to help cut through the clutter and present you with the cream of the crop. While you’re here, be sure to check out our picks for the best tennis strings of 2017.
|#1||Luxilon ALU Power||$$$|
|#2||Luxilon ALU Power Spin||$$$|
|#4||Luxilon ALU Power Soft||$$$|
|#5||Prince Tour XR||$|
|#6||Babolat RPM Blast||$$$|
|#7||Head Sonic Pro Edge||$$|
|#8||Luxilon Big Banger Ace||$$$|
|#9||Luxilon ALU Power Rough||$$$|
There’s no denying that polyester tennis strings are incredibly popular, so let’s take a look at the top reasons professional to recreational players are gravitating towards poly.
If there’s one professional tennis player that we can credit with the rise in popularity of polyester tennis strings, it would be Rafael Nadal. He has completely redefined what’s possible when it comes to topspin, and not surprisingly he strings his racquet with a full bed of polyester.
The reason polyester strings are perfect for topspin lies in the fact that they’re smooth, slippery, and quickly snap back into place. As a result of these qualities, these strings increase have the potential to increase spin, which is often a shared goal for players of all levels.
However, there’s one caveat. For a player to benefit from the increase spin potential of poly strings, they need to have the appropriate technique along with sufficient racquet head speed to reap the benefits.
Higher racquet head speeds cause these strings to move out of place and subsequently snap back into place. Unfortunately, if your racquet head speed isn’t high enough, you won’t see drastic increases in spin, which is worth considering as you evaluate polys.
Using Nadal as the example, he’s style of play is ideally suited for polyester tennis strings. He swings incredibly fast, which increases the spin imparted by his strings.
With that said, if you’re looking to amp up your spin, polyester tennis strings are an excellent option that comes with other benefits too.
In many ways, spin and control go hand in hand. If you hit with more topspin, you can hit higher over the net and increase your margin for error, while still having confidence that the ball will drop back down into the court. As a result, the added spin gives players a greater sense of control.
However, the main reason polyester tennis strings provide players with more control lies in the inherent stiffness of the string. This stiffness results in less power, but it also causes the ball to sit on the string bed for a shorter period – this is often referred to as dwell time.
The shorter dwell time ultimately provides players with a more consistent response from their strings and in turn that gives players a greater sense of control.
Today, players are stronger than ever, and their style or approach to the game has become increasingly aggressive. This change has put a premium on control, so it’s no wonder that more players have turned to polyester to provide them with the control they desire.
When polyester tennis strings first emerged on the market, their top quality was durability or their ability to withstand breakage. Not surprisingly, polys have maintained this quality over the years.
At the time, this was a welcome attribute for big hitters and chronic string breakers. After all, breaking strings can become an expensive habit. Moreover, when it happens at the wrong time can cost you a point, game, or match.
So, if you’re looking for a string that will stand up to your aggressive style of play, then polys might be a great option.
While we’re on the topic, it’s important to make the distinction between durability and the ability for strings to keep their tension, which players often mistake as one in the same. The truth is, tension maintenance or the resiliency of the string is one of polyester strings biggest pitfalls.
We’ll cover this more in the disadvantages section of this article.
One of the lesser praised qualities of polyester strings tends to be the fact that they virtually always snap right back into place.
You might be wondering, why should I care about string movement? If so, that’s a great question.
The first and biggest reason you might care about string movement goes back to control and the ability for your string bed to provide a consistent hitting surface. Theoretically, the more consistent your hitting surface, the more control you’ll have.
Beyond control, some players simply can’t stand having to readjust their strings between every point. If this isn’t a problem for you then perhaps you wouldn’t consider it an advantage, but it’s worth noting.
If polyester tennis strings are starting to feel too good to be true, then it’s about time we switch over to their weaknesses and common complaints associate with them.
Easily one of the biggest pitfalls of polys lies in the fact that they’re not great at maintaining their tension over long periods of time. This tension loss occurs at a faster rate than other types of strings both while you’re playing and while your racquet sits in your bag.
This can be problematic for a few different reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly for recreational tennis players, is that your strings are going to dead faster which means you’re going to have to replace them more frequently and that means you’ll be spending more money to keep your racquet strung.
However, dead strings will also lead to less control and power and if not replaced can contribute to arm injuries like tennis elbow, which along with the stiff nature of polys can make the problem worse.
Another drawback to polyester strings is that they’re stiff which can make them feel uncomfortable. If you’re young and healthy, then you might not think twice about the comfort level.
However, as any player who has ever had tennis elbow can attest it doesn’t take much when playing to add to their discomfort.
For this reason, polys have often been labeled as harsh especially when compared to other strings like natural gut or multifilament.
However, there are a few different schools of thought when it comes to the harshness of polyester strings with some individuals arguing the harshness experienced by players is a direct result of stringing at higher tensions. We’ll cover tension at a later point in this article.
Poly vs. Co-poly
In recent years, the term co-poly has emerged and caused a heck of a lot of confusion for players.
If we take a step back, polyester tennis strings have historically used a monofilament construction, which means they’re composed of a single solid strand made from a single plastic or polymer such as polyethylene terephthalate or PET.
With that in mind, the term co-poly starts to make a heck of a lot more sense because co-polys are simply polyester tennis strings that combine additives to enhance their performance.
As you can imagine, manufacturers are experimenting with co-polys in an attempt to maintain the advantages we’ve discussed while combating their disadvantages.
Another way to look at this is that polys and co-polys are both in the polyester family, so there’s nothing wrong with referring to co-polys as polyester strings.
However, a reference to co-polys is a reference to a more specific type of polyester tennis string, so it doesn’t work the other way around, i.e. referring to co-polys as polys might raise the eyebrows of any strings snobs that are within earshot.
Who should use polys?
At this point, you may be wondering whether or not you should test out a set polyester tennis string. If any of the advantages are appealing to you, then you should consider them.
I’d even encourage players who don’t think they’d be a great fit to experiment with them because you won’t know whether or not you like them without giving them a try.
But before you fully jump in, let’s take a look at three questions you can ask yourself to help determine whether or not you should stay away from polys.
Do you have the technique?
One of the most frequent reasons players will seek out polyester tennis strings is due to the potential for greater topspin on their shots. While it’s true that polys will help maximize your spin, there is no substitute for proper technique.
As a beginner, you’ll see huge gains in topspin by improving your technique and likely see virtually no increase in spin simply by having your tennis racquet strung with polyester.
However, once your technique along with your racquet head speed is sufficient you’ll be able to give the topspin on your shots an added boost when you string your racquet with polyester.
Do you have any arm injuries?
If you’re suffering from any arm injuries like tennis elbow, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to enjoy polyester strings.
Remember, polyester is a solid hard plastic that is stiffer than other materials and string constructions like multifilament. As a result, you’ll find your arm absorbs more of the shock from your shots and because they don’t deliver much power you’ll have to work harder to achieve the pace that you desire.
Also, polyester tennis strings will lose their tension, and go dead faster. If you’re not diligent about restringing, then you’re going to magnify the negative effects as you have to work even harder to hit with power.
Frequent restringing leads us to our third and final question.
Do you have the budget?
Again, since polyester tennis strings don’t do as great a job at holding their tension they’ll go dead faster than other strings, which means you’ll have to restring more frequently.
Of course, every time you restring it’s going to cost you more money, so you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with the added expense because it can start to add up.
Many players appreciate the benefits of polyester but the disadvantages prevent them from stringing their entire racquet with them. Perhaps they’ve tested a full bed of polyester, and it’s too harsh on their arm, or it doesn’t provide enough power.
Luckily these players don’t have to settle for an all or nothing approach. Instead, they can combine two different styles of strings, such as polyester and a multifilament, to try and get the best of both worlds.
While stringing entirely with polyester tennis strings has become a widespread practice on the pro tour, stringing with polyester and natural gut or a multifilament is extremely common as well.
Here’s a quick recap of the pros and cons for polyester:
- Limited string movement
- Tension maintenance
Here are some pros and cons of multifilaments:
- Tension maintenance
- String movement
Helpful tip: keep in mind that the above pros and cons are generalities for these types of strings based on how they tend to score in playtests.
As you look through the pros and cons associated with each string, you can begin to understand why it would be highly compelling for a player to want to combine the two.
As you evaluate and consider different polyester tennis strings, keep in mind that a hybrid string setup can be a fantastic option.
Stringing With Polys
If you’ve decided that you’d like to experiment with polyester tennis strings, then you might be asking yourself one of the following two questions:
- What tension should I use?
- If I’m stringing them as a hybrid should I use them in the mains or the crosses?
Let’s start with string tension. If you’re moving from natural gut, synthetic gut, or a multifilament, then I’d recommend you drop the tension for your polyester string by 5-10%.
Therefore, if you typically string your racquet at 55 with a multifilament, then you’re going to want to string 3-5 lbs lower or anywhere between 50-52 lbs.
For many players, that kind of tension drop might make you a bit nervous with the most common fear being the loss of control, so let’s talk about why I’d recommend the drop in tension.
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that polyester strings are stiffer than other strings. If you string too high, you’re going to enhance the harsh feel of the strings, especially compared to your current non-poly string. Bringing the tension down a bit will help reduce the stiff, harsh feel associated with polys.
Similarly, if you string too high, you’re going to decrease the power potential of the strings further to the point where you may end up feeling like the strings are dead. Since polyester strings are naturally more control oriented, you can drop the tension while still maintaining fantastic control but allowing the strings to feel lively.
Hybrid – Mains or Crosses
If you opt to use a polyester string as part of a hybrid setup, then you may be wondering whether or not you should use the poly in the mains or the crosses. If so, it’s a fantastic question!
At the end of the day, the string you place in the mains will tend to dominate the overall feel of your racquet, so you’ll need to ask yourself which string characteristics are most important to you.
For example, many players that use multifilament will be interested in experimenting with a hybrid setup, but they might be weary of the harshness associated with polys. If that’s you, then you might opt to keep the multifilament in the mains and then string the crosses with polyester.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to maximize topspin and control without completely giving up the pop of your multifilament then you might string the polyester in the mains and the multifilament in the crosses.
Again, it all comes back to your personal preferences along with the specific characteristics of the two strings you opt to bundle for your hybrid string setup.
The Future of Polys
While polys have come a long way, there’s no doubt that manufacturers will continue to try and push the boundaries of what’s possible with this popular type of string.
Most likely we’ll continue to see experimentation with co-polys and the introduction of new additives that attempt to maintain the advantages of the string while minimizing the disadvantages.
One thing is for sure; polyester tennis strings will remain hugely popular and likely achieve further market share as the strings evolve to meet the growing demand from players of all levels.
- Tennis String Gauge and Its Impact on Performance
- How Often Should I Change or Replace My Tennis Racquet Strings?
Hopefully, this article proves to be useful in providing you with a deeper understanding of polyester tennis strings. Of course, if you have questions that we didn’t cover in the article, please let us know in the comments below.
We’d also love to hear any of your experiences with polys that you might like to share with other readers!
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