Blake on racquet technology and pj's

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by jings, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. jings

    jings Professional

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    I thought it worth sharing Blake's comments on this in case you don't get to reading the interview itself. Fairly conclusive proof if ever you need it ...

    Q. Martina talked before you came in about the racquets, the courts and so forth. From the time that you started playing in Harlem and so forth, has the game changed in terms of yourself, but the racquet?

    JAMES BLAKE: Oh, yeah, the game's definitely changed. I think with the advent of this poly mono string ‑ the Luxilons, the, I don't know who else makes it, Babolat ‑ they all make this poly mono string, and it makes such a difference. All the clay courters use it, I've been using it. Literally, the first time I put it on my racquet, I said I'm never switching to anything else, I'm using this for the rest of my career. It's unbelievable, the difference it makes. Racquets have gotten more technologically advanced. It really has changed. I think that's part of the reason it's taken away from a lot of serve and volleyers, because it makes it so much not easier to return, but your returns are much more effective. You can dip them to people's feet, you can swing a lot harder, and guys can stand far back and they know they can create enough power with these racquets and with this string.

    It has made tennis, I think, much more enjoyable because it's made ‑‑ it's brought the level of the game up. You see guys hitting shots that didn't seem possible back with wooden racquets or back with natural gut, and it's ‑‑ I think it's great for the game. It's gotten better.

    I don't know if Martina has used that to her advantage; I haven't seen her play that much lately. But I'm sure she's noticed a big difference because she was back in the day of the wood racquets. I think I'm just about on that borderline of people that never grew up with a wooden racquet. I never used a wooden racquet. I'm sure it's a huge difference for people like that.

    Q. She said the manufacturers are trying to dictate the game. Do you believe that?

    JAMES BLAKE: They might be trying, but I don't think they can be effective with that because if you're a top player, I think you use what you want to use. You don't care about if you're getting paid a little extra to play with something that they want. You're using what's effective for you.

    For me, that's a no‑brainer. I don't mess with my racquet unless I put it in my hand and it feels good. If it's something where I need to adjust, I'm not sure about it, I can't do that. That's then messing with my prize money, my state of mind, because I'd rather go out on the court feeling good, feeling like I'm going to win, as opposed to worrying about a racquet that might change something.

    So I don't even know if they're trying, but they're not going to be effective with me and I don't think they're going to be effective with a lot of the top players. You see a guy like Roger Federer, he's using basically the same racquet that he has the whole time. Sampras used the same racquet for his whole career. Andre has basically used his, the same racquet, his whole career. They stick with what works. I don't think manufacturers can change that.

    If they are, they're probably trying it at the junior level. If you get kids started on something, then I think they're going to stick with it. But I don't think at this level they're dictating anything.
     
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  2. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Thanks for posting that, jings! Very interesting. Sounds like Blake is giving much more credit to the changes in strings than to the changes in racquets.

    Also, does that mean that Blake thinks that Federer is still using a PS 6.0 85 (w/ paintjob)?
     
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  3. jings

    jings Professional

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    No Lux, u sux it would seem. I wouldn't have thought it possible to attribute so much to a string, but you've got to believe what Blake is saying. As to the Fed stick I wasn't going to go there Breakpoint, but since you ask it would seem that he thinks he does - the small qualification might mean it is a slightly larger mould than he started out with - but it would seem the 6.0 lives on in some way, shape and form.
     
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  4. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    I've always thought of all this poly hype as just a fad that will eventually blow over. But obviously the pros really believe in this stuff, as evidenced by Blake saying that he expects to use Lux for the rest of his career.

    I haven't tried Lux in my own racquets (although I've hit with some that had Lux in them), but I have tried a few other polys, and so far all they've done for me is give me golfer's elbow. Ouch!!
     
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  5. joesixtoe

    joesixtoe Rookie

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    i dont think blake ment that roger is using the same racquet he used when starting out,, i think he ment the same line of racquets,, he said the same thing with agassi as well,, he said basically using the same racquet, and with sampras he said he did use the same racquet,, so diff racquet, same line though is what i think he ment
     
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  6. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    BTW, jings,

    Off topic but, are you still using your Asian nSix-One Tour 90s? Or have you gone back to the PS 6.0 95s? If so, why or why not? Thanks.
     
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  7. jings

    jings Professional

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    I'm still with both BP! I'm not playing quite as much of late so enjoy the 6.0 95s a little more as they're a touch more forgiving, and a hair easier to swing. The Asian n90 is just a gorgeous frame as well and when I've warmed up or playing a little more regularly I enjoy the thinner beam and slightly more precise feel - but the differences in feel / result are as much in my head I think as anything else ... my footwork on the b/h will always let me down eventually. Definitely more cred points on court playing with the 6.0 though - people think you must really know what you're doing to play with such an "old" stick! While I'm at it I have them both set up with gut mains and lux alu rough cross and will let Blake do my talking for me as to the benefits of Lux - a really great set up this if you haven't tried it. I take it you're still with your 6.0 95's?
     
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  8. edberg505

    edberg505 Legend

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    I don't really care for Lux, but that stuff stays in your racquet forever.
     
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  9. travlerajm

    travlerajm Hall of Fame

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    I'm curious to know more about Lux. I haven't tried it. Does anyone out there agree with Blake? Does it really give that much more bite?
     
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  10. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Thanks, jings!

    I haven't played for a while as I'm recuperating from the golfer's elbow I got from using poly strings and/or overplaying, but when I was playing I was also using both the Asian nCode 90 and the PS 6.0 95, for pretty much the same reasons as you stated. I also use my Slaz Pro X-1 and Vantage 90 sometimes.

    One of these days I'll have to try a poly hybrid with the poly in the crosses and maybe a multi in the mains (I'm not a big fan of gut). Seems to work for Federer, right? ;)
     
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  11. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    One thing you'll notice is that deep groundstrokes you think are going out will start dropping in, even on some you'd almost turn your back on to go pick up a ball to start another point. Also, you'll win points when your opponents leave the ball, only to see it drop in.

    You do have to string it low though, since it really is a stiff string. Getting the thinnest guages helps too. The stuff doesn't move, which means it's tough to break. So, you can use the thin stuff, which helps with the feel.
     
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  12. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

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    Three years ago, when asked almost the same question as Blake, Pat Rafter said that the biggest change to the game was in strings and if anyone was thinking of creating limits on technology that was where they should start, not with racquets. He believed that, above all else, they were the thing making it so difficult to serve-volley.
     
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  13. SCSI

    SCSI Rookie

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    Luxilon and imitation Luxilons really help those who hit with lots of topspin. They allow you to hit hard and keep the ball in play.
     
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  14. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    ^ Yeah, Big Banger strings are pretty remarkable. It's rare that something actually makes a REAL difference but these strings really do help you keep the ball in play. A great added benefit is how durable they are. I'm just repeating stuff that's already posted, but these strings really are one of the most incredible things I've tried in tennis.
     
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  15. Richie Rich

    Richie Rich Legend

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    i remember when rafter made the doubs comeback at the aussie openand he mentioned how hard the guys were hitting and no one was using gut anymore. he was one of the only players still using gut. we probably read the same interview.
     
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  16. Ripper

    Ripper Hall of Fame

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    Durable, because they don't snap. At least, not easily. HOWEVER, they lose tension fast. Therefore, I think you need to re-string with as much frecuency, not less. Oh and pros never use the same string twice. So, they can care less about tension loss. Yes, Luxilons and similar strings give an advantage to hard hitters, but the need to re-string frecuently is still there.
     
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  17. VGP

    VGP Legend

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    Luxilon string does add more spin.

    I used to play with the Wilson PS 85. Coming off a several year layoff, I needed to get fresh stringjobs (I used to string myself with Alpha Gut 2000) and I deceded to give Luxilon TiMo 18 a try.

    Once I started getting some strength back, I really saw a change in what I could do with the ball - even with my old, outdated, small-headed frame. The strings don't move and they really bit into the ball. More spin than I could ever generate before. I could drive shots deep and they'd dip onto the baseline, I could dip the ball short on passing shots better.....

    I remember reading about Luxilon in 2002 and overheard Brad Gilbert talking about them when I was at the USO in 2002 (amonst all his other blabbering).

    It's the biggest effective change in racket technology since the widebody.
     
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  18. norcal

    norcal Hall of Fame

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    About 5 years ago I was hitting with my cousin who at the time was playing the satellite circuit and when we finished he pulled a reel of Kirschbaum out of his bag and said, 'try this, everyone is using this now. It's cheap and lasts a long time'.

    Been using poly hybrid ever since.
     
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  19. TW Staff

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    Here's an article we had posted during the Pacific Life Open where Agassi comments on the changes to the game since the intro of poly strings. - Chris, TW


    If you're stringing racquets at the pro level these days, you'd better enjoy stringing with polyester strings.
    While any respected stringer is more than capable of handling polyester string, most would admit it's not a whole lot of fun.
    As wiry and difficult to manage as polyester string is during installation, its response once in the racquet has made it the go to choice among touring players.
    Andre Agassi has noticed a difference in the game since players switched to using polyester or co-polyester strings.
    "Back in sort of the day, whatever decade you're talking about, you're looking at gut, you're looking at the synthetic strings and you had to worry about controlling pace, you know," said Agassi. "You had to worry about the ball flying, you know. Now you're getting that spin so you can just hit everything, which means that guys can go out there and take their chances, which means that every match it's who's on that day, you know, because so many of them can do it."
    Agassi also uses a polyester type string in his racquet as it allows him to take fast, aggressive swings at the ball without losing control.
    "I think the strings have made a big difference in the game, you know. I mean we have strings now that really bite the ball which gives you that spin which means that you can really let go on your swings, and you can still control. It means you can hit harder with control."
    The most popular polyester type string used on the pro tour is made by Luxilon. Looking at the list of players using Luxilon strings on the pro tour looks like a laundry list of the top 100. Even those using other string brands, are using something very similar to a Luxilon string.
    Getting the hard to handle polyester strings into the pro racquets at the Pacific Life Open is the job of Star Stringing.
    According to Star Stringing's David Mindell, polyester type strings started to become popular around 2000 to 2001, right about the time the Pacific Life Open moved to its current location at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
    Last year when we caught up with Mindell, he was busy stringing up Carlos Moya's racquets. Like most players from Southern Europe, Moya also uses polyester strings.
    This year, Mindell was busy customizing some racquets for Prince sponsored pros such as Guillermo Coria and Rene Stubbs. The rest of the Star Stringing team were busy stringing pro racquets.
    "See those guys there," said Mindell pointing to members of his stringing staff. "They've strung 400 racquets between them in the last few days. Most of those racquets were strung with polyester."
    Mindell jokingly added, "You could say, we're sick of polyester."
    As with most professional tournaments, the stringing room at the Pacific Life Open is a busy place. Several of the Star Stringing team had been working 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. shifts for 9 straight days.
    Even rain delays during the middle weekend didn't slow things down, with a steady flow of racquets entering the stringing room each day.
    While the majority of those racquets were strung with polyester type string, there were some exceptions. According to Star Stringing, pro player Max Mirnyi is among of a handful of players who still use an all natural gut string job. Then there are players such as Roger Federer and Andy Roddick who use a hybrid of natural gut and a polyester string. The idea behind the hybrid is to benefit from the control of the polyester string, while enjoying some of the comfort and feel from the natural gut string.
    The players using gut, whether complete or in a hybrid, also tend to have their racquets restrung more often.
    According to Mindell, players using gut, or hybrids with gut, often have their racquets restrung even if they've never been hit.
    The polyester players aren't as picky, often using unused racquets for their next practice or match.
    No matter if the racquets are used or not. Few players will go more that one match before having a bunch or racquets freshly strung.
    If you are a member of the Star Stringing team, that means there's plenty more poly heading your way.
     
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  20. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    I only string my rackets when they break. Before they're about to break, the Big Bangers moves around the string bed just as much as any other string does.
     
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  21. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

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    Poly strings only give the appearance of not moving by snapping back into place easily. This topic seems to be John Barrett's pet peeve.
     
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  22. foetz

    foetz Rookie

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    i'm kinda surprised blake said this although the question about the 'perfect' string is just a matter of taste.
    however, physically the elasticity of gut is unmatched so far and this affects almost all areas like spin, power, feel - nearly all.

    also some of his statements make no sense. he's saying he can hit without having to worry about getting too long BUT he's also saying guys standing a few feet behind the line can still hit fast passing shots. that's contrary.

    anyway this is not his first extremely positive statement about luxilon within a short time so this and that comes to mind :rolleyes:

    don't get me wrong i love luxilon. actually it's the only string beside gut i'm using . imo it's a bit crisper but that's it. all other credit goes to gut.

    my 2 ...
     
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  23. arosen

    arosen Hall of Fame

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    Blake's right, that Lux string helps generate insane pace and spin, especially if you string it at lower tensions. I like gut, but it doesn't last, and it's succeptible to all kinds of conditions.
     
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  24. NoBadMojo

    NoBadMojo G.O.A.T.

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    i think most would say that it is Lux which doesnt last and gut which does. sure, Lux is hard to break but it quickly becomes pretty unplayable not to mention hard on your body. the pros dont care..they'll use whatever works best and they switch off to a fresh set of strings every few games
    poly does have an uncanny way of making the bottom fall out of the ball and causing it to not go long virtually taking hitting long out of the equation..thats why they use it. the stuff has been around since 'hector was a pup' whatever that means, and nobody would buy it back then because it was so nasty and even tho it was probably the cheapest string available...

    but i think the game has changed also because of the racquets being larger and lighter. also because they slowed the courts down in many events and because they have slowed the balls down in many events..its a combinaton of things i think
     
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  25. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Lux isn't elastic at all, and I think that's his point. Poly is as far from gut as you can get. What poly definitely lacks is "feel." Elasticity, yeah, like any other string characteristic affects spin, power, and feel, but gut doesn't offer clear advantages in each of just those three categories. Definitely more feel, but less power and spin. And by power I mean controllable power.
    No, both scenarios is about Lux's ability to generate spin and keep the ball in play. A lot of things in tennis seem contrary to some people. Pros want "more" power so they use Big Banger, so then why don't they use super high powered rackets? Why do so many use relatively low powered rackets?

    Someone should re-link that article some racket customizer wrote about how Babolat rackets would have caught on so quickly on the pro tour if not for the Big Banger strings, and others like it.

    Is poly as popular on the WTA???
     
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  26. foetz

    foetz Rookie

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    yes but gut's even better. as i said physically the elasticity of gut is unmatched so far.
     
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  27. jings

    jings Professional

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    foetz isn't that the point? all these guys can use new gut jobs all day long if they want but they've found something that works better in a modern frame (or not so modern frame) and that lets them hit the bejessus out of the small fluffy green thing.
     
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  28. foetz

    foetz Rookie

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    sure, as i said in the end it's a matter of taste. never questioned that.
    anyhow imo blake overstated saying the gamestyle today was cause of the strings(mostly).
     
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  29. !Tym

    !Tym Hall of Fame

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    Well, I've tried an RD-7 with natural gut strung low and the power is ridiculous, you barely tap the ball and it hits the back fence. Resilient? Sure...a little scary too? Definitely. In the old days, players could hit just as hard on their maximum power shots, it's just that they were much more *aware* shall we say of swinging away for their maximum power shots from bad positions. Nowadays, even if they're out of position they'll still swing uninhibited just because they're confident that the Luxilon won't allow the ball to sail. It's a huge difference in the mindset as a result. There was a huge difference in my confidence to swing at the ball with a Forten Kevlar Gear 17L hybrid for example, but the difference today between Kevlar and the old polys is that today's polys are nowhere near as hard on the arm and also actually maintain decent power as well. Kevlar gave you spin and control, but at the same time it all gave you NO power whatsoever, so it was like a double edged sword.

    I'm not saying you can't
     
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  30. brtennis

    brtennis Rookie

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    If you have tennis channel, James blake had done one of those "bagcheck". In it, he shows a few Luxilon Big Bangers in his bag. He went on to say that he would change the string after about every two hours of play.
     
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  31. foetz

    foetz Rookie

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    sure second that.
    however i still think it's rather the racquet than the string. e.g. with a ps85 i'm seldom worried about hitting long no matter which string i have as long as the tension is not too low.
    but as always such stuff is subjective in the end.
     
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  32. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    Poly strings have added a level of power and control to the game but a good percentage of the players still blend natural gut on 1/2 of the string bed to tame the power and keep some of the touch. Blakes is also confirming that many of the players are still using midsize graphite rackets from decades ago. Its also sorta ironic that Blake has one of the more classic flatter power games on tour currently so even though most of the hitters are now baseline blasters, some of the more effective players still use more of the traditional tennis weapons and tactics.
     
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  33. bc-05

    bc-05 Semi-Pro

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    i dunno but poly by itself feels like cardboard.. ive been using all poly job myself.. i can say if u string it too high itll feel like ur hitting with a paddle and u can't feel anything.. yes its crisper but no feeling wat so ever.. string lower is good.. i dunno much about hybrids but does hybrid help? im new to hybrid.. so i got a question about hybriding.. if i want the control and crispiness of poly but i want the feel of gut.. what kind of hybrid should i do? poly main or gut main?
     
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  34. fastdunn

    fastdunn Legend

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    I would use poly if it doesn't hurt my wrist or arm(it did it for me before).


    By the way, what the hell Hingis mention about equipment and tennis ?


    The game of tennis is being tampered two much by its equipment.
    The game of tennis is tranforming itself as ping-pong on the ground, IMHO.
     
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  35. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    I understand the point you're trying to make, but every sport changes with the times. Even running. Training and diet have also evolved. Gone are the days of eating a huge steak and several glasses of whole milk before a match. But I don't think those things are compromising sports either. During the Olympics, they were talking about a new type of skate for speed skating. To me, it's sort of disingenuous to make a distinction between a sport and the equipment that's integral to said sport. Seeing as how everybody has complete freedom to use whatever racket they want, it still simply comes down to who's better, which, to me, is the real essence of sports.
     
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  36. legolas

    legolas Banned

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    good read, thanks
     
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  37. tlm

    tlm Legend

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    A lot of pros still hybrid lux with gut,but there is no question lux will let you really rip the ball+still keep it in.And there is also no question that it loses tension fast.I tried lux last summer+i loved the way i could hit power with control,but i did not love the way it made my arm feel.I wanted to stay with this string but it was to hard on the arm.
     
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  38. a lot of injuries and discomfort come from players stringing poly too high. maybe it is a macho thing about high string tension, but poly can actually feel pretty nice if you get it at the right tension for your racquet.
    mid 40s is perfectly acceptable for midsize frames and low 50s is enough for most MP even for hard hitters.
    if you learn this lesson before injuring yourself, you will likely be a poly user for life just like Blake.
    The spin is just amazing and I am getting a "gut-like' pop on my serve with ALU.
    The stuff just works! Luxilon prices don't work for me... so I am always on the lookout for the best imitation.
     
    #38
  39. watch_the_ball

    watch_the_ball Rookie

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    In another thread Grant Morgan stated that James' strings his all Luxilon job at 68lbs.....that's high!
     
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  40. jorel

    jorel Hall of Fame

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    i think they mean martina nav.
     
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  41. jorel

    jorel Hall of Fame

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    i have spoken to stringers for the pros and they say that many of them string lux as low as 30 lbs.

    correct me if i am wrong (i have to try it)
     
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  42. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    So, is poly a bigger deal at the pro level? In the world I inhabit (4.0-4.5), I just don't see the huge difference.

    Sure, I see guys with poly who are happy with it and it has improved their game, and I do see some shots that I probably wouldn't have with old school strings and frames, but I don't see the modern frame/poly guys having any huge advantage over any one else, meaning the poly/modern frame guys lose to the heavier frame/gut-syn gut-multi guys just as much as they beat them.

    I should actually see what all the fuss is about. I tried full poly on my Diablo mid and loved it for a day and then hated it. I've also tried a Pure Drive with simple syn gut and hated it. But, I've never put the two together. I'm so used to having a heavier frame that I just can't get used to the lack of heft and plow through.

    Maybe I'll change in time.
     
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  43. jorel

    jorel Hall of Fame

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    with poly you really do need to swing fast and not rely on the plow through as much, (usually helps with a lighter racquet) but more the topspin brushing of the ball.... When Blake swings (full poly),..,, it looks kinda awkward, not like Fed which is much smoother (he uses gut in the mains, so does Sampras now)

    i have played with a heavy heavy racquet strung with gut and also a light racquet with poly and its almost a different swing for each
     
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  44. jorel

    jorel Hall of Fame

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    another thing,... from reading some articles and from personal experience .... if you dont swing hard enough with a poly,,, the ball will sail on you.. so its not like if you use poly,,, you wont hit long

    with a poly... if you hit long, you pobably arent swingin hard enough (hence a lighter racquet helps)
     
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  45. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    That actually makes sense. I'm a strong guy and can hit fairly hard, but it's more a creation of fullswing and pressing my shoulder into the shot, i.e., it's not that "whippy." I'll whip on the run or if I'm not in position to get a full stroke set up, but it's not my normal rally shot.

    It's odd to say "you have to swing harder to keep the ball in." Boy, times have changed. I feel old (and I'm only 35).
     
    #45
  46. jorel

    jorel Hall of Fame

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    #46

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