Question of the Day: Sympathy for String Patterns
TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions in the Mailbag. Click here to send in a question of your own.
I just read your review article on the new Head Extreme sticks. I am a 4.0+ tennis player and have been playing for about four years with the Extreme Pro. When I switched a couple of years ago to the latest model of the Extreme Pro (the YouTek), I had an issue with the fact that Head changed the string configuration to a more open pattern. I have to say that it affected me negatively: I lost quite a lot of control and the feel for the stick, and I actually switched back to the my older Extreme Pro sticks.
Is this still the case with the new models? Is the stringing pattern of the newest YouTek IG Extreme Pro still open? Did you have any comments on the stringing pattern by any of your reviewers/players?
—John Makris, Athens, Greece.
Thanks for your question, John. Unfortunately for your case, all three versions of the Head YouTek IG Extreme 2.0 (Pro, MP, and S) still feature an open, 16x19 string pattern. (The Head Extreme 1.0 also featured a 16 x 19 pattern.)
As I wrote in the racquet’s review, the Extreme is tailored to baseliners who value ball velocity and spin; its thin beam, only slightly head-light balance, and open string pattern is a testament to that. To answer your final question, most playtesters did not mind the open patterns. However, there was one 4.5 tester who did not like the racquet in part because of the pattern; accordingly, he plays a Head Prestige.
Like it or not, open patterns—which move more on impact, imparting added rotation onto the ball—seem to be the standard now, as more and more players are centering their games around heavy spin and aggressive baselining. And, with the explosion of polyester strings, open patterns’ reduced string durability is less of a concern as it once was.
That’s not to say, however, that there’s no longer a place for, say, racquets with 18x20s. All things being equal, denser string patterns do offer slightly more control by raising stringbed stiffness. (i.e., a 16x18 strung at 60 lbs. will play looser than an 18x20 at the same tension.) And because denser patterns are more durable, they’re also a great option for players who use softer multifilaments or natural gut strings.