My top 3 strings in 2015

Well, first I thought this post should be titled "my top 3 strings *of* 2015". But turns out that my favorite strings have come out before 2015, and what really matters is what works best at any given time. Hence my top 3 string *in* 2015.

Over the last few years, a seemingly endless stream of polys have been hitting the market. On the one hand that's quite exciting: many new strings to - literally - play with, and there's always hope to find a game changer amongst them.

On the other hand, which ones to try? If you look at Tennis-Warehouse for example, you'll find over 300 single sets of poly. Other shops offer house, budget, and/or lesser-known-brands as well.

So how to navigate that market? Personally, I keep an eye out for announcements and reviews. I also check out the "string of the year" surveys, which usually bring 1-2 strings to my attention. From time to time, I search for "best string of 2015", "best poly", "best tennis string" etc. And finally, talking to other tennis folks at tournaments tends to yield some interesting insights too.

I then try the strings that seem promising and/or interesting. Over the last few years, that led to testing north of 200 string setups, so thought I'd share my 3 favorite to date.

What have I been looking for?

Most importantly, I wouldn't want to sacrifice on performance. So spin, power, and feel are equally important to me.

I don't care too much about durability in the sense of the string breaking. For years now, I've been cutting out polys long before they would have broken.

Obviously a drastic change in playing characteristics, e.g. due to tension loss, would not be great. If a string can give me 5 great, consistent hits, I'm happy.

Also, I definitely want poly. I've been playing polys for more than 25 years now, starting with the good old PolyStar Classic, and sticking to it for more than a decade. I've never really found a multi setup that delivered all that power and feel that many are raving about. Plus lack of spin would be an issue.

I don't care too much for hybrids either. I prefer a consistent feel on the string bed, and then there's also the mindset that one string should be able to do it all :)

In terms of gauge, I like strings around 1.25 mm, maybe +/- 2 mm. I haven't been getting a solid enough feel with thinner gauges, and not enough finesse out of strings once they get close to 1.30 mm.

So with that background, here are my current top 3:

Kirschbaum Pro Line II (red, 1.25 mm)

I found this one by accident. As apposed to many other tennis friends, I had never been fond of Kirschbaum strings. They all used to feel pretty dead to me. But then I found some good reviews on the Pro Line II and decided to gave it a try.

Out of the box, the string is soft as licorice. So that was fun and made it easy to string. On court, that translated to comfort, power, and feel. If strung too tightly though, the string can quickly become generic. I would probably shoot for a string bed tension around 22 kg / 48 lbs.

For the first while I was very excited about the Pro Line II, and even strung up a bunch of older racquets with it. After some time I found one key issue though - it just wouldn't grab the ball. No big surprise - it's soft and round with a low friction surface. I mostly noticed that on second serves, which would tend to sail about a foot long. Also, the string seems very sensitive to temperature. In heat, balls would just fly.

Overall though, if you'd like an awesome playing string, don't care much about a string's spin potential, and play in constant conditions, this might be a good choice for you. Also, due to its high comfort level it's probably one of the best strings for teaching. Note that I found the black version to play noticeably stiffer.

If you haven't, try it to benchmark power, feel, and comfort against strings like the Tour Bite...

Single set:

Solinco Tour Bite (1.25 mm)

In many reviews over the last few years, the Tour Bite came out as the front runner in regards to spin potential. I felt the same - most bite I've ever put on the ball. That's not only great for ground strokes, but also very effective for drop shots, opening up angles, and creative shots like sidespin backhands.

Again though, when strong too tightly, the Tour Bite loses some of its qualities. You still get decent spin, but lose most power and ball pocketing. It also becomes very hard on the arm. I found it to be one of the stiffest playing strings out there. Solinco noticed that too and put out "Tour Bite Soft", which I tried too but didn't like as much.

So I'd go for the original Tour Bite, and string it quite softly (and slowly), maybe iterating from the low 20s (kg) / mid 40s (lbs). I found that a dampener helps too. I usually prefer playing without one, but with the Tour Bite I put a thick one in. That changes the feel from metallic to somewhat plush (!). In addition, a cushy grip and of course a forgiving frame can further help to take the uncomfortable edge off.

The best term to describe the Tour Bite might be "effective". It produces a heavy ball with massive spin. That not only creates problems for your opponent, but also keeps your shots in the court.

If you play a lot and/or mishit a bunch and/or string too tightly, your arm will probably start to complain. In that case you might want to string up a more comfortable alternative while you recover :) Or try a hybrid - Ana for example pairs the Tour Bite 1.3 with a Wilson Natural Gut.

In any case, great string to try and benchmark against.

Single set:
Reel: (16L = 1.25 mm)

UPDATE: I tried the Tour Bite in different gauges, which are all significantly softer - read about it here.

Völkl Cyclone (orange, 1.25 mm)

This summer, I did string up the Tour Bite too tightly and ended up with a sore arm. That led me back to looking for something between the Tour Bite and the Pro Line II.

I remembered the Völkl Cyclone, which many have found to be a great half-priced alternative to the Babolat RPM Blast. I had tried the black Cyclone on a demo racquet, and it felt a tad too stiff for me. I hence tried the orange one, and ended up really liking it.

The orange Cyclone has a bit of a plasticky feel, but delivers almost as much spin as the Tour Bite, almost as much power as the Pro Line II, and sufficient feel and comfort. You clearly hear the string snapping back after hitting a spin shot, which somewhat incentivizes putting even more spin on the next ball :)

There's also a yellow version - if you want to dive in, you can find my comparison of the 3 colors here.

The slightly more expensive Cyclone Tour is not bad either - it plays noticeably softer, but I found that it eats up too much power on impact. The ball just seemed to lose more and more momentum as it approached the opposite baseline.

So the orange Cyclone is my current string of choice. It's a solid (though not perfect) combo of the red Pro Line II and the Tour Bite. Indoors, I found that it plays best around a string bed tension of 22 kg. Outdoors I'm currently shooting for 20.5 kg, depending on conditions, balls etc.

Single set:

If you decide to play test any or all of these, I'm sure you'll gain some valuable insights!