String Profile: Dunlop Black Widow
If you’re looking for a string that helps put nasty spin on the ball, it’s hard not to be attracted to one named after a spider with a deadly bite. In addition to the name, running your fingers over the Black Widow’s heptagonal shape gives the impression that the string will really grip the ball in its web, allowing for great spin potential. The string has been on the market for a few years, but I’m just getting around to trying it now. Which is a shame because it has a lot to offer. And starting in November, anyone who buys a Dunlop racquet will get a free mini-reel of Black Widow (about six sets) from participating dealers.
Upon first hitting with Black Widow the thing you immediately notice is, compared to a typical firm poly, the ball jumps off the string bed with an extremely comfortable response. It reminds me of Volkl Cyclone Tour or Solinco Tour Bite Soft; softer, more powerful and arm-friendly polyester strings. In fact, I’ve played with plenty of multifilament nylon strings that were not nearly as lively as Black Widow. It was easy to put pace on rally shots and serves, and short balls could be punished without having to fifth-gear my swing. Even when stretched I felt as though I could return the ball with some interest, which is something that can be difficult with the less forgiving polys. And touch shots, not always a strength of polys, were pretty rewarding.
But softer and juicier wouldn’t separate Black Widow from a power string if didn’t deliver on spin. Rest assured, these strings really do bite the ball. Ground strokes could be looped or angled with heavy topspin and kick serves exploded off the court. There were even a few sightings of what I call “Luxilon” winners: Shots that look for certain to be sailing long, only to see them dive down just inside the baseline.
All that spin can be helpful with control, which was the one area I struggled a bit with the Black Widow. It wasn’t unruly, but the extra pop took a little bit of adjusting. Given the softness, Dunlop recommends stringing up to 3 lbs tighter than a regular poly to maintain that crisp feel. I took it even further and went up from 53 to 57 lbs with the 16 gauge, and going up another pound or two isn’t out of the question.
Being a poly, Black Widow also has good durability. And like most polys, especially the soft ones, tension maintenance can be an issue. I find with many of these strings the playability goes south before I can break them. Dunlop suggests pre-stretching before stringing, which removes the coil memory and can alleviate much more tension loss after the initial drop.
[Update: The strings did snap after six hours of play, which is a little quick for me when it comes to a poly. However, multi-sided strings like this one not only dig into the ball, but also to itself. So the spin is impressive, but the durability can be compromised.]
Put it all together and Black Widow is definitely a polyester worth trying. I hesitate to call it a entry or starter string into the polyester category, because that might give the impression it’s somehow less potent. But it certainly would appeal to those players who want to try a poly, but have always found them too stiff and underpowered. However, even experienced poly users who want a little more pop and a more cushioned response will find the Black Widow, contrary to its name, a most hospitable mate.