Tennis is billed as the sport for a lifetime, but the pursuit of spin and power has caused its share of collateral damage among lifetime players. Some players craving more bite on the ball have turned to polyester strings, only to feel the sting of the harsh strings chomping back.
That's what makes this new string so interesting.
Solinco designers have spent the past 18 months developing a chemical composition they believe will soften their polyester strings, providing arm comfort without dramatically blunting bite, power, and spin production. The California-based brand gave TENNIS.com a sneak peek of its new Tour Bite Soft polyester string, which is scheduled for release in early February. The MSRP has not yet been set.
Solinco’s popular Tour Bite string is a high-performance polyester designed for elite players. The new Tour Bite Soft is created for players who have been pained by tennis elbow and arm issues, players who prefer hybrid string set-ups, and those who want to try polyester strings without the running the risk of ravaging their arms. Solinco designers say its newly-developed chemical additive and manufacturing process—the actual heating and cooling of the polyester during manufacturing—are key components in creating a gentler string. Though it shares similar packaging, Tour Bite Soft is designed as a supplement, rather than as a replacement, for Tour Bite.
“Soft polyester” may sound as oxymoronic as a silent scream, healthy candy, or light heavy metal. And for a 4.0 player with all-court aspirations like me, playing with a full polyester string bed in recent years has often felt as comfortable as brushing with a brillo pad. The prospect of a kinder, gentler polyester almost sounded too good to be true, but too enticing to ignore.
So when I strung my regular racquet, a Donnay X-Dual Gold 99, with a set of Tour Bite Soft at 51 pounds for play testing—the brand recommends stringing Tour Bite Soft at a tension 10 percent lower than your typical tension—I was pleaseantly suprised with the results. Playing with the Tour Bite Soft in three sessions of about two hours apiece, both on hard courts and Har-Tru, the string was not jarring even on off-center hits. That dreaded tingling sensation I’ve felt at times playing with other polyester strings—it typically starts in the wrist, works its way up the forearm, before erupting in a full-throbbing elbow—was non-existent.
The Tour Bite Soft does not feel nearly as stiff as other polyesters I’ve tried, yet at the same time offers the playability, spin production, and pop of polyester. That was most evident on groundstrokes and hitting dipping angled passes—it helped bend the ball into short angles of the court—as well on heavy topspin lobs when the ball would trampoline forward after its initial bounce. Tension retention and durability can be a concern with some polyester strings, but wasn't an issue during my play-testing.
It would be overstating the case to suggest that the Tour Bite Soft is a panacea for pain: If you’re experiencing chronic tennis elbow, wrist or arm pain, remember that rest is the best remedy. And if you’re an extremely flat-ball hitter struggling to produce rotation, don’t expect a tidal wave of spin to pour out of the package—you must be able to generate the racquet-head acceleration required to make the most of it. However, if you’re a former polyester player looking for a pain-free poly, or looking to transition into this type of string for the first time, Tour Bite Soft is well worth testing.