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View Full Version : My first poly experience... going to need some advice!


JohnP
10-15-2007, 03:57 AM
Hi all,

Some background: I recently have begun playing tennis again after a several (6-8) year layoff. I am a former competitive junior/college player who stopped playing tennis seriously around age 20-21 and haven't picked up a racquet more than three times since. I am now 28. I have an all-court game, with a relatively weak/loopy western grip forehand and a flatter and probably better overall 1 handed backhand (with the same grip). My serve is effective but relies alot more on placement and spin than on pace. I am very comfortable at the net and was always a much better doubles player than singles.

My standard setup (as it was for alot of us) when I played competitively was a bag full of Wilson Pro Staff Classic 6.1 95's strung stiff (~65 pounds) with either Tournament Nylon, or if I was feeling frisky, Prince Synthetic Gut/Topspin. My old PSC's were pretty old so I treated myself to a pair of brand new Wilson K-Factor 6.1 95s (16x18). I have been reading alot about string on this forum and decided to try out a Poly hybrid setup on my new racquets. I had Tennis Warehouse string my new racquets with Tecnifibre Pro Red Code 17 in the mains at 57 lbs and Prince Synthetic Gut (Duraflex) 16 as the crosses, strung at 55 lbs. (For reference, I demo'ed the K-Factor which was strung with Wilson Reaction).

I was able to try out my new racquets with the poly string for the first time tonight. My first impressions were VERY favorable. I *immediately* recognized the positive traits people have described with poly. I honestly was hitting groundstrokes more crisply than I have maybe ever. My forehand tends to be very loopy, and it is very hard to drive through the ball without having it sail. With the poly setup, I was able to really pound the ball on both sides and have it drop in nice and deep with lots of power AND spin. Forehand shots that normally would have sailed 3-5 feet behind the baseline were now dropping in as penetrating shots with lots of pace and spin a couple of feet inside the baseline. I even spent several minutes "arguing" with my hitting partner because he SWORE the court we were hitting on was "faster" and "the ball is just skipping and not bouncing up like normal" when I knew for a fact I was simply hitting a much different ball.

On the flipside, I noticed very few of the "negatives" that poly is known for. It didn't feel "harsh" to me whatsoever, I could see what people meant when they describe poly as "board like" but I quite enjoyed the feel (it's hard not to when you're hitting shots as crisply as I was). Heck, even volleys felt really good. The only slight downside I could think of was that my serve seemed to be missing some pop, BUT it was more effective overall as I was placing it very well and my first serve was much more consistent than it has been.

We started to play our first set and I immediately broke his (normally very hard to break) serve as I was able to actually swing on the return without sending it into another time zone. His serve is very big and it's very hard to control returns and still hit with good pace/placement. My hitting partner is an old tennis buddy of mine who was at or slightly below my level when we both played competitively, but unlike me, he has remained playing in tennis shape, so he holds a distinct advantage over me right now and has beaten me regularly without too much challenge since I began playing again. I was really able to put alot of pressure on his serve and on baseline rallies (which he is normally the agressor on) I was able to hit some big shots and take control of the point, rather than being on the defensive with little or no confidence when I *do* get the chance to go for a big shot. It was a good feeling.

Sometime towards the end of the first set, I suddenly began to notice that I was hitting with less and less confidence. For some reason, I was suddenly afraid again that the ball would sail on me, particularly on my forehand. I really fell back into my normal mode of looping the crap out of it, feeling like I would send the ball into the fence if I tried to hit through it. It was a very strange feeling, and I had no idea why I was feeling that way. I even mentally made a note to tell myself to have confidence in the stroke and just hit through it. As soon as i did that, I hit through a few forehands that just sailed on me. I was lost, and confused as hell.

At the same time, I noticed that I was starting to hit bigger and bigger serves. My serve had more pop on it, and my first serve was an even bigger weapon than normal. That was very odd, as out of shape as I am currently my serve deteriorates rapidly after a few service games as my arm just can't sustain it like it used to.

Then it dawned on me. I went over to my bag and picked up the other K-Factor racquet that I had and did the ping test on the tensions. Sure enough, the unused racquet (which was actually lower than my other one when they arrived from TW) was MUCH, MUCH higher in tension. The tension had dropped considerably (as is normal with polys) and now my racquet felt like a trampoline.

I decided that this was the "break-in" that people talk about with polys, and I should try my best to adjust to it. Well, that didn't work too well, and my groundstrokes were completely out to lunch for the duration of the second set. After the match, I broke out my other (unused) racquet and hit a handful of balls with it just to make sure I wasn't crazy. Sure enough, it had that same crisp feel that was so in love with for the first 45 minutes or so of my hitting session.

So, here I am. At one point I would've proclaimed myself a poly-convert-for-life, but now I am not so sure. I am not sure what the solution is for what I went through today. Part of me says "just string them tighter next time and you're good to go" but at the end of the day tension loss will happen. Also, I hear people talk about how much lower they have to string poly, and how much lower it is recommended to string by the manufacturers, it feels like stringing it at 60+ pounds would just be "wrong" for some reason.

I have my own stringer and fully planned on experimenting with all kinds of string (I would like to try multifilaments as well) but I would really like to figure out how to get some kind of poly setup that I am happy with, I really really loved how it felt at first. I think I may have to try a few different polys, I know Cyberflash is supposed to have good tension retention, and of course I can play with using a full poly setup and changing the configuration (string/tension) of the cross.

Anyway, I ended up alot wordier with this post than I was planning, but I don't want to leave any of it out. I'm pretty lost right now, any help/advice would be much appreciated!

LPShanet
10-15-2007, 11:08 AM
Hi all,

Some background: I recently have begun playing tennis again after a several (6-8) year layoff. I am a former competitive junior/college player who stopped playing tennis seriously around age 20-21 and haven't picked up a racquet more than three times since. I am now 28. I have an all-court game, with a relatively weak/loopy western grip forehand and a flatter and probably better overall 1 handed backhand (with the same grip). My serve is effective but relies alot more on placement and spin than on pace. I am very comfortable at the net and was always a much better doubles player than singles.

My standard setup (as it was for alot of us) when I played competitively was a bag full of Wilson Pro Staff Classic 6.1 95's strung stiff (~65 pounds) with either Tournament Nylon, or if I was feeling frisky, Prince Synthetic Gut/Topspin. My old PSC's were pretty old so I treated myself to a pair of brand new Wilson K-Factor 6.1 95s (16x18). I have been reading alot about string on this forum and decided to try out a Poly hybrid setup on my new racquets. I had Tennis Warehouse string my new racquets with Tecnifibre Pro Red Code 17 in the mains at 57 lbs and Prince Synthetic Gut (Duraflex) 16 as the crosses, strung at 55 lbs. (For reference, I demo'ed the K-Factor which was strung with Wilson Reaction).

I was able to try out my new racquets with the poly string for the first time tonight. My first impressions were VERY favorable. I *immediately* recognized the positive traits people have described with poly. I honestly was hitting groundstrokes more crisply than I have maybe ever.
On the flipside, I noticed very few of the "negatives" that poly is known for. It didn't feel "harsh" to me whatsoever, I could see what people meant when they describe poly as "board like" but I quite enjoyed the feel (it's hard not to when you're hitting shots as crisply as I was). Heck, even volleys felt really good. The only slight downside I could think of was that my serve seemed to be missing some pop, BUT it was more effective overall as I was placing it very well and my first serve was much more consistent than it has been.

We started to play our first set and I immediately broke his (normally very hard to break) serve as I was able to actually swing on the return without sending it into another time zone. His serve is very big and it's very hard to control returns and still hit with good pace/placement. My hitting partner is an old tennis buddy of mine who was at or slightly below my level when we both played competitively, but unlike me, he has remained playing in tennis shape, so he holds a distinct advantage over me right now and has beaten me regularly without too much challenge since I began playing again. I was really able to put alot of pressure on his serve and on baseline rallies (which he is normally the agressor on) I was able to hit some big shots and take control of the point, rather than being on the defensive with little or no confidence when I *do* get the chance to go for a big shot. It was a good feeling.

Sometime towards the end of the first set, I suddenly began to notice that I was hitting with less and less confidence. For some reason, I was suddenly afraid again that the ball would sail on me, particularly on my forehand. I really fell back into my normal mode of looping the crap out of it, feeling like I would send the ball into the fence if I tried to hit through it. It was a very strange feeling, and I had no idea why I was feeling that way. I even mentally made a note to tell myself to have confidence in the stroke and just hit through it. As soon as i did that, I hit through a few forehands that just sailed on me. I was lost, and confused as hell.

At the same time, I noticed that I was starting to hit bigger and bigger serves. My serve had more pop on it, and my first serve was an even bigger weapon than normal. That was very odd, as out of shape as I am currently my serve deteriorates rapidly after a few service games as my arm just can't sustain it like it used to.

Then it dawned on me. I went over to my bag and picked up the other K-Factor racquet that I had and did the ping test on the tensions. Sure enough, the unused racquet (which was actually lower than my other one when they arrived from TW) was MUCH, MUCH higher in tension. The tension had dropped considerably (as is normal with polys) and now my racquet felt like a trampoline.

So, here I am. At one point I would've proclaimed myself a poly-convert-for-life, but now I am not so sure. I am not sure what the solution is for what I went through today. Part of me says "just string them tighter next time and you're good to go" but at the end of the day tension loss will happen. Also, I hear people talk about how much lower they have to string poly, and how much lower it is recommended to string by the manufacturers, it feels like stringing it at 60+ pounds would just be "wrong" for some reason.

I have my own stringer and fully planned on experimenting with all kinds of string (I would like to try multifilaments as well) but I would really like to figure out how to get some kind of poly setup that I am happy with, I really really loved how it felt at first. I think I may have to try a few different polys, I know Cyberflash is supposed to have good tension retention, and of course I can play with using a full poly setup and changing the configuration (string/tension) of the cross.

Anyway, I ended up alot wordier with this post than I was planning, but I don't want to leave any of it out. I'm pretty lost right now, any help/advice would be much appreciated!


Obviously, the first thing you're going to want to do is experiment with a few different polys and a few different tensions to see what holds tension best for you. The main thing is going to be trial and error. As long as you're close to suggested tension ranges for the racquet, don't be afraid to experiment to the limits. Here are a few other things to think about:

- I'm not sure what type of machine you have, but if you're using an electronic, you can adjust how long it takes to tension and/or how long it pulls before you clamp off. This has the effect of "pre-stretching" the string. While poly isn't known as a string you need to pre-stretch, you can give it a shot. Even with a constant pull machine, you might try a manual pre-stretch.

- The dramatic change in tension may also have something to do with your stringing technique. There's no way to know this without watching you, and seeing all the details of how you string. But again, what type of machine you're on, the condition and type of your clamps, the type of knots you use, etc. can all affect the outcome of the string job. That said, any string job will lose a lot of tension immediately after you start playing with it (and also on its own after stringing, though less so), so just pinging two racquets together as you probably did, may not tell you much.

- You might also try a full poly string job instead of a synthetic gut hybrid. Prince Synthetic is fairly stiff anyway, so the benefit of having it in your crosses probably isn't that great, and it's not known for amazing tension retention. The hybrid you used is somewhat pointless, really. String setups that make more sense than what you used are: poly with gut (for maximum feel, elasticity, etc.), pure poly (to maximize what you like about poly, such as control, crispness, durability, etc.), or poly with a soft multifilament such as Excel, NRG, Live Wire, etc. (to have a similar setup to the gut hybrid, but with lower cost and possibly a little more durability depending on the multi).

- Even though conventional wisdom would have you put the crosses at a slightly lower tension than the mains, as you did, polys are generally strung looser than synthetic gut, so your "effective tensions" were probably a bit further apart (mains much tighter) than optimal. This may have put too much strain on just the mains, causing them to loosen up faster. Just a guess.

- Finally, the 800 pound gorilla in the room...the thing that may have been at work here, but sometimes is not the one you want to face...is yourself. You hadn't played in a while, so your strokes aren't grooved/locked in like they were when you played competitively. Add to that the fact that you're clearly not confident in your forehand, and you have a recipe for variability and mind games with yourself. The fact is that lower tension racquets don't actually have more (or less) power Lower tension can cause balls to go long just only because they can alter the angle of flight/departure from the racquet face...something that can be adjusted if you know to do so. More likely, since you'd been playing for a bit, you were getting slightly tired, and your racquet head speed dropped. As any tennis physicist will tell you, it takes GREATER racquet head speed to hit spin than power. So when you get tired, you may actually lose control of your shots and hit them long, as you apply less spin to them. At the same time, you may hit your first serve harder because it's flatter from the lower racquet head speed (and from trying to compensate).

Overall, I'd say you might want to experiment a bit, but also don't base any of your conclusions on one session. Play with that first racquet again starting fresh and see what happens. Also, mark the two racquets somewhere subtlely, so you can identify which was strung when and how when you inspect it, but not so it's obviously visible. A buttcap sticker with the info is a good way. Then mix them up so you don't know which is which and see if you can REALLY tell the difference, and how much of an effect the mental side of thinking about the racquet all the time has.

tbini87
10-15-2007, 12:02 PM
i guess you could try stringing it up tighter, so it settles in your favorable tension range. you could also check around for strings that are better on tension maint.

scotus
10-15-2007, 01:27 PM
Just be careful to pace yourself, since you are coming back from a long break from tennis.

I was in a similar situation as you, and I found myself loving the polys and the extra spin it provided. I began to train hard, practicing daily against partners and walls.

Then about 7-8 months into my comeback, I developed TE, which I never had before. I never played college tennis like you but I did play #1 varsity singles in a competitive southern california high school.

So try to ease back into tennis, especially now that you are playing with much stiffer strings.

JohnP
10-15-2007, 04:11 PM
- I'm not sure what type of machine you have, but if you're using an electronic, you can adjust how long it takes to tension and/or how long it pulls before you clamp off. This has the effect of "pre-stretching" the string. While poly isn't known as a string you need to pre-stretch, you can give it a shot. Even with a constant pull machine, you might try a manual pre-stretch.

- The dramatic change in tension may also have something to do with your stringing technique. There's no way to know this without watching you, and seeing all the details of how you string. But again, what type of machine you're on, the condition and type of your clamps, the type of knots you use, etc. can all affect the outcome of the string job. That said, any string job will lose a lot of tension immediately after you start playing with it (and also on its own after stringing, though less so), so just pinging two racquets together as you probably did, may not tell you much.

I have a Gamma Progression Dropweight stringer. Just FYI the racquets I have now were strung by Tennis Warehouse when I purchased them.

- You might also try a full poly string job instead of a synthetic gut hybrid. Prince Synthetic is fairly stiff anyway, so the benefit of having it in your crosses probably isn't that great, and it's not known for amazing tension retention. The hybrid you used is somewhat pointless, really. String setups that make more sense than what you used are: poly with gut (for maximum feel, elasticity, etc.), pure poly (to maximize what you like about poly, such as control, crispness, durability, etc.), or poly with a soft multifilament such as Excel, NRG, Live Wire, etc. (to have a similar setup to the gut hybrid, but with lower cost and possibly a little more durability depending on the multi).

That is on the list to try, although I see varying reviews of hybriding poly with multis. Alot of people seem to think you end up with NO durability with that setup

- Finally, the 800 pound gorilla in the room...the thing that may have been at work here, but sometimes is not the one you want to face...is yourself.

Absolutely. i've wondered if i'm crazy even worrying about racquets/strings at this point. Thanks a bunch for the advice.

Just be careful to pace yourself, since you are coming back from a long break from tennis.

I was in a similar situation as you, and I found myself loving the polys and the extra spin it provided. I began to train hard, practicing daily against partners and walls.

Then about 7-8 months into my comeback, I developed TE, which I never had before. I never played college tennis like you but I did play #1 varsity singles in a competitive southern california high school.

So try to ease back into tennis, especially now that you are playing with much stiffer strings.

I'm with you there! I've really had to make sure and listen to my body, and take it easy. I am really paranoid about going too hard and developing a condition or injury that prohibits me from playing tennis as much as i'd like to again.

I must say that my elbow IS bothering me a bit today, even though I didn't feel any issues yesterday when playing with the poly. I am probably going to take close to a week off right now as my body as a whole could use the break.

Midlife crisis
10-15-2007, 05:14 PM
The Red Code is a pretty stiff, low powered string. I just got finished trying it as a full stringjob and its more remarkable attribute seemed to be very little tension loss (for a poly). It's not the string I'd recommend someone move to as their first try with a poly, even as a hybrid, unless you're coming from Kevlar strings.

Since you were a Tournament Nylon/PSG user, I'd give the SPPP a try. It holds tension well, and the pure version doesn't have the same hideous orange color as the original version. It'll be soft enough that you could do a full stringjob, and in the middle 50's, it doesn't seem that sensitive to string tension. In other words, the ball reaction is pretty similar within a fairly large range, like maybe 53-57 pounds, so you should have a pretty consistent stringbed for at least 30-40 hours after the initial break-in play day.

LPShanet
10-16-2007, 11:30 AM
I
That is on the list to try, although I see varying reviews of hybriding poly with multis. Alot of people seem to think you end up with NO durability with that setup


I wouldn't worry about reviews...string choices are fairly subjective. If you put poly in the mains and a multi (or gut) in the crosses and string correctly, you'll still get good durability. If you're finding that the poly goes somewhat dead for you, that'll happen long before you break a cross string.

More important is making sure you have a string bed that is evenly supported, meaning that the mains or crosses aren't doing an unfair share of the work. That's why I suggested trying a full poly string job (since you seem to like it's characteristics) first. That might solve all of your problems and simplify everything. Only if you find that string setup too harsh should you bother going on to the various hybrids.

bmichaelia
10-16-2007, 12:16 PM
I suggest trying a softer poly main (SPPP, Cyberflash, Cyberpower, etc) and a syn gut cross. A lot of us like OG micro crosses. I think you could go up to 58-60# on the poly mains and 60-62 # syn gut crosses and not have TE trouble. Cyberflash (and I think Cyberpower, but it's too new to me) hold tension pretty well- they'll lose some but then hold it.
Experiment, it's fun.

JohnP
10-17-2007, 08:22 PM
Thanks for all of the responses and recommendations. I am letting my body rest for a few more days and then I plan to get out and hit with the "used" strings that I hated and see how they feel with a fresh arm.

Also, after doing some research I placed an order for several packs of strings to experiment with. I got: Red Code, Pro Hurricane (non-tour), Cyber Power, Cyber Flash, Prince Synthetic Gut Multifilament, and some Tecnifibre Multifeel. I plan to mix and match them and try out several different poly/multi hybrids. I also want to try at least one full multi string job and at least one full poly string job. I still have a partial reel of Prince Topspin laying around incase I want to use a synth gut for anything.

Hopefully i'll have a better idea of what i'm looking for after going through a few sets from my order.

LPShanet
10-17-2007, 08:53 PM
Thanks for all of the responses and recommendations. I am letting my body rest for a few more days and then I plan to get out and hit with the "used" strings that I hated and see how they feel with a fresh arm.

Also, after doing some research I placed an order for several packs of strings to experiment with. I got: Red Code, Pro Hurricane (non-tour), Cyber Power, Cyber Flash, Prince Synthetic Gut Multifilament, and some Tecnifibre Multifeel. I plan to mix and match them and try out several different poly/multi hybrids. I also want to try at least one full multi string job and at least one full poly string job. I still have a partial reel of Prince Topspin laying around incase I want to use a synth gut for anything.

Hopefully i'll have a better idea of what i'm looking for after going through a few sets from my order.

With a list that long, I'd suggest also including at least one of the Luxilon strings...they're the brand that really can be credited for the poly-type revolution. I personally really like the Fluoro, but any of the Big Banger line are good, especially Alu Power and Fluoro.