Gear Q&A: An Alternative to Kevlar
I am getting back into tennis after a 14-year layoff. I went to get my racquet strung, and was told the strings I used are not made any more, nor are any like it. I used Hammerlast (Kevlar hybrid—yes, I'm old). What strings or types have comparable play? Thanks.—Wes Sperry
We don’t discriminate—we like questions from both our younger and more seasoned readers. (Old is such a loaded word). Either way, it’s nice to hear you’re picking up your racquet again. Finding that your favored strings have been put out to pasture was probably a rude reintroduction, but alternatives abound.
Contrary to what you were told, Kevlar offerings exist, but the pickings are slim. Ashaway, for example, produces some Kevlar blends, most notably the Crossfire line. However, polyesters have become the standard in sturdy endurance strings, and have evolved to offer added benefits to Kevlar. Brands such as Babolat, Luxilon, and Solinco have popular choices in the category, but there’s no shortage of options across the string universe.
Rather than my throwing random suggestions against the wall, there’s a better way to make a more focused search. David Bone is the Executive Director of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association and has forgotten more about strings than I will ever know. I posed your question to him and he had this recommendation:
“Generally, my advice is to find a USRSA member in their area and ask them to help. USRSA members have access to our String Selector tool on our website. With this tool, a stringer can enter the string a player has been using and then tell it what they want different or the same from their new string. The tool then searches through all the strings currently available and returns a list of strings that meet the requests. Then, the member can see how many of the strings in the results they carry and suggest one of them. Also, if a player doesn't have access to a member in their area, they can sign up for access to the site for 1 month for $9 and use the tools themselves. The only problem with this string is it was discontinued before we started measuring string specs. So, we don't have data on it to compare to the strings available today.”
Not having your Hammerlast in the system is a wrinkle, but perhaps it can be solved by substituting one of the current Ashaway models, since they’re probably the closest match. No matter what you decide to do, best of luck in your search. Experimenting with strings is a little like dating—it’s tough to make a commitment.
Now about that 14 year-old racquet…
Jon Levey is an editor-at-large for TENNIS. You can e-mail him here.