Mailbag: Leaving Racquets in the Sun, and More

by: Bill Gray | June 04, 2010

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Rafael Nadal gear editor Bill Gray and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions every Friday. Click here to send one of your own.

Does the new Babolat RPM string actually produce more topspin? Rafael Nadal has been hitting with less spin since he switched.—Sam

I think Gianni Mina, Horacio Zeballos, Lleyton Hewitt, Thomaz Bellucci and Nicolas Almagro would probably disagree with you. They were all on the receiving end of Nadal’s looping shots in Paris and none could manage to take as much as a set off the spinster. In addition to more spin, Rafa says the string allows the ball to “stay more time on the racquet, so [it] is easier to have control.” RPM must also be working for surprise finalist Samantha Stosur. Here’s Jelena Jankovic, after Sam thrashed her in the semis: “To be honest, she kind of has like almost the game of a man. That's what it feels like…. She has a very good kick, which not many women have. It's a very heavy, you know, spin.”

I usually leave my racquet in my car during the workday in the back seat or trunk. As summer heats up here in Texas, should I be concerned about any adverse effects of prolonged, extreme heat on my racquet and strings? Should I bring my tennis bag in the office with me?—Jay P.

Jay’s question has been asked and answered a thousand times, but it’s worth revisiting since we still see a lot of gear bags emerging from car trunks at club and park parking lots. Racquets, like milk, go bad fast when left to bake in a hot car. The worst-case scenario: The heat can soften the graphite and allow the tension from the strings to pull the face out of shape, making it look like it’s something out of a Salvador Dali painting. Everyday should be take-your-racquet-to-work day, especially in the summer.

I'm in my mid 50s and a 4.0 singles baseline player. I have been using oversize racquets since the ’80s, but I’m wondering if I should switch to a mid or mid-plus. Also, what do you think of Tecnifibre X-One BiPhase 1.30 gauge 16 strings?—Harold

It depends on your priorities, Harold. What’s more important to you, power or control? A mid or mid-plus will give you the latter, but at the expense of giving up the big sweet spot of the oversize. As for the BiPhase, we think it comes closest to gut for comfort, power and the ability to maintain its resiliency and tension longest. The 16-gauge version is more durable, but the ultra-thin 18-gauge BiPhase will increase spin.
I'm a junior in the 16s who plays tournaments and I'm looking for a racquet to replace my Wilson [K] Factor 6.1 95 18x20 with something that will let me hit with more spin for consistency. I string with Luxilon Alu Rough in the Mains and synthetic gut in the crosses. I've playtested the Wilson BLX Pro Open and I like it, but I’m wondering if there’s something better for me. Any suggestions on other racquets I should try?—Ji-Ho Park

I’m wondering why you’d stray from the racquet that helped you groove your strokes for competition, Ji-Ho. Rather than re-inventing your mechanics with something like the Pro Open, a fine hybrid for spin but much lighter than what you’re used to, why not try the latest incarnation of the 6.1, Wilson’s Six.One 95 BLX 16x18? It has the same specs, but a more open string pattern that will give you more bite on the ball for spin.

What's the difference between multifilament and hybrid strings?—Sel

Hybrids are a combination of two different strings, one for the mains another for the crosses. A lot of players these days are opting for something like a co-polyester in the mains for spin and gut or a multifilament in the crosses for comfort. Multifilament is a kind of string made of different materials twisted together, a kind of poor man’s gut.

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