String Review: Wilson Optimus
A few weeks ago I got the chance to test out and review Tourna’s Quasi-Gut Armor string. It had the comfort and pop you’d expect from a soft nylon multi, but the co-poly coverings seemed to up the control and feel. Even spin, not quite at the level of my customary polyester, was still better than expected. Having abandoned full string beds of nylon multi years ago, I was pleasantly surprised with the playability of the Quasi-Gut Armor.
Wilson’s new Optimus string ($13/set) uses a similar model. It’s also a bundle of soft fibers with a co-poly membrane. It’s designed to be arm-friendly while still retaining some crispness, with better tension maintenance compared to other strings in the category. I’m eager to try it, but haven’t had the chance. Fortunately, Mitch Case, director of tennis at Woodridge Lake in Goshen, CT and frequent Pro Shop contributor, has us covered.
Mitch Case: Though I typically play with a hybrid of poly mains and multifilament crosses (strung at 55 lbs on a constant pull machine), I enjoy the occasional affair with a full nylon set-up—whether it be a solid core synthetic gut or a multifilament. Whenever I switch to full nylon, I tend to increase the reference tension by a few pounds in order to produce a launch angle similar to my hybrid. Based on the fact that Optimus is built with a co-poly outer membrane, I decided to install the string at 59 lbs in my Prince EXO3 Rebel 95, which is one pound lower than I normally would for full multi.
The first few hours playing with Optimus were the best. The string felt comfortably crisp, providing a response that I really enjoyed. The launch angle and power level were on par with what I expected, so making the switch from my usual set-up was seamless. Like most nylons, the ability of the string to “snap back” into place after leaving the string bed was not exceptional. As a result, I wasn’t able to produce the same amount of spin as with a poly, but that’s to be expected. The benefits with this type of string lie elsewhere, namely increased comfort and pop. I was still able to create enough spin to control the depth of the ball to my satisfaction. I did, however, have to constantly slide the strings back into position after every point. Again, not a huge surprise with a nylon multi.
During the sixth hour of hitting, the string started to breakdown and soften. While the comfort and launch angle increased (nice), the level of control/consistency from the string bed decreased (not so nice). Every now and then, I would “lose the ball” in the strings—the ball pocketed a little deeper than usual, and fly off in a less predictable fashion. Often, this would send the ball sailing beyond the baseline.
From that point on, I had to rein in my aggression. During rallies, I was able to effectively produce neutral and defensive shots, but whenever I wanted to attack with a flatter ball, I had to make sure to direct it into a much smaller—and therefore lower—window over the net. By reducing my margin for error in this fashion winning points offensively became more of a challenge.
In regards to durability, the string started to fray right around six hours of play, and continued to deteriorate until it broke. I was able to get about eight total hours of hitting out of Optimus before I wanted to cut it out. It lasted another two hours before finally breaking.
While it didn’t transform my game, I liked how Optimus performed before it started showing significant wear. I think if I had installed the string a pound or two tighter, I might have gained some additional time. And while the final four hours of the string’s life were not ideal for competitive play, they were just fine for rallying and teaching.
Optimus would be a good choice for players that need to move away from poly or poly hybrids, but don’t want to dive head-first into super-springy or muted choices. It could potentially work as a cross for a hybrid, although it’s unclear how easily it would allow the mains to snap back into place. But in a full bed this new string from Wilson will offer players more feel and playability than a standard synthetic gut.
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