In what could very well become our most blasphemous and controversial blog entry to date, we finally respond in a public way to one of the most common questions we receive. “Why doesn’t the USRSA include the MSV and WeissCANNON strings in their annual String Selector Map?” The short and direct response is because we do not believe the data is representative of actual string performance and we choose not to provide samples for testing. Let’s use the remainder of this entry to explain our position.
First of all, we believe the USRSA does a commendable job in offering data, resources and information for all levels of stringers. We are a proud member of this organization and regularly use the tools and information provided because it adds value to our services. At the same time we do not agree with everything the USRSA does. There are three areas where we have significant differences of opinion. The first lies in the certification process used for Certified Stringers (CS) and Master Racquet Technicians (MRT’s). The second is the process used for collecting and measuring data for the String Selector Map. The third is the annual string survey. We will set aside the first and third issues for another day and focus on issue #2 in this blog entry.
The process the USRSA uses to collect the data involves testing a single swatch of string, less than 1′ in length. This single strand is tensioned and then allowed to sit for 200 seconds. (That is approximately 3.5 minutes), It is then impacted 5 times with a test hammer to approximate the impact of a 120mph serve. Deflection is measured to determine the stiffness of the string. Tension loss is measured using a process that in not clear to us, but it is clear that the string is not likely tensioned for 5 minutes before the measurement is taken.
While the data these tests produces is indeed interesting, we do not believe it clearly represents the performance of the string in the context of a full stringbed. In fact, there are many examples where the data indicates strings are stiffer or softer than they actually perform. For example, it would be difficult to find any player who will tell you that Prince Synthetic Gut plays stiffer than Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex, yet this is precisely what the test data published by the USRSA indicates. (There are numerous examples such as this.) In terms of tension loss, the data collected from a full stringbed over a 24 hour or longer period (such as those measurements used in the blind string tests) is clearly more representative of how the string actually performs in a real-world context as opposed to how a 1′ piece of string performs in a laboratory setting.
Again, we believe the lab data is interesting, but NOT truly representative of how strings actually perform in the context of a full stringbed. The trouble is many dualistic thinkers view, digest and take this data to heart. They believe that because a perceived authority, the USRSA, has published this data it must be 100% accurate. The CONTEXT of data is not understood or considered. The results are perceived as ABSOLUTE even when the lab data may not truly reflect how the string will perform in actual playing situations.
Rather than have players draw inaccurate perceptions based on data that may or may not reflect actual performance, we prefer to encourage players to playtest the strings for themselves so they can take their own measurements and draw their own conclusions about stiffness and tension loss. We playtest each of the strings we carry. We measure their tension maintenance. We try to make this information readily available to our customers. We make every effort to objectively provide comparisons to other strings when approached by our customers. We do not believe that accurate conclusions about how a string will perform can be drawn by solely using the USRSA lab data, yet this is precisely what too many do. The number of inquiries we get that say “X string has a stiffness of 202 in the USRSA data, what is the stiffness of Y string?” is staggering. When probing those who submit such inquiries we learn they are trying to draw hard and fast conclusions about strings using this data. We do not believe this is an effective or accurate use of the USRSA data.
The bottom line is we strongly believe many strings will perform differently in the context of a full stringbed than they will as a single tensioned strand in a laboratory setting. Because of this belief, we choose not to include the strings we represent in the current testing. If the USRSA changes their methods and uses a process by which a full stringbed becomes the baseline for testing, we will be happy to consider having the strings we represent included.
So there you have it. Please feel free to comment. I’ll start by adding a closing comment to myself…
John, you have just blown to bits any chance, however small it may have been, of being named as a USRSA retailer or stringer of the year, WTG goofy!