Textured Strings and Spin Production – – Our Analysis

Those Crawford Lindsey and Rod Cross fellas are at it again.  We give them credit for attempting to look take a strict quantitative look at the science of tennis.  Their studies and writings are always interesting, yet unfortunately in many cases, incomplete.  The major issue they face is that they edit out much of the qualitative data and fail to look at tennis equipment, particularly strings, in the context in which they are actually used.

Most recently Lindsey and Cross make the rather absurd observation that textured strings do not increase spin.  Anyone who has played tennis with textured strings, particularly poly-based strings, knows this is definitely a controversial statement.  Why?  Mostly because textured strings DO  increase spin.  Almost any player who has used them will testify to the reality of this statement.  Does it fit nicely into the quantitative analysis of Lindsey and Cross’s most recent study?  Nope.  But in this case, the QUALITATIVE data, what the player actually experiences, has to be taken into consideration.  Unfortunately these physicists fail to take actual player experiences into account.

In their study they state that “ideally, an experiment to measure ball spin off a racquet would be conducted under actual playing conditions.”  We can not take issue with that statement as it is 100% accurate.  They then go on to state that ball speed, angle at impact, racquet head speed and trajectory, among other variables are simply too complex to measure.  So in the interest of science they chose to limit these variables by ignoring them completely by using what they call “controlled conditions.”  When was the last time any player from the recreational level to professional level actually competed in a match under “controlled conditions?”  Unfortunately it doesn’t happen.  A study that fails to look at strings in the full context in which they are used is definitely interesting, but incomplete.  However, just like the way they measure string stiffness and tension loss, it fails to look at the strings in the context in which they are actually used.  This is dangerous because many dualistic thinkers read the findings of Lindsey and Cross with a non-critical eye and take them as absolute truths when in actuality the findings are snapshots of segments, rather than the full picture.  In our opinion their findings do not always represent what the player will experience, so they must be interpreted with some skepticism.

We believe this is early science and is important in that it is setting a path for future researchers to follow and improve upon. The findings, while quantitatively sound, fail to take into account many of the variables of string performance.  We hope future studies will be able to address these complexities so that quantitative analysis will be able to explain what the player experiences on the court.

With that as the background, we would like to point out that Lindsey and Cross do make an important contribution with their most recent study on friction and spin.  One factor, (perhaps the dominant one, but we can’t really be sure at this point in time) that contributes to spin production is the snapping action of the stringbed.  This is one reason (not the only reason) that poly-based strings are so good at increasing spin production.  Poly-based strings typically slide and move much more freely due to the construction of the string.  Thanks to Crawford and Lindsey we now understand that this sliding action does help accentuate ball spin.  There can be no denying this finding.  However, we believe that string gauge as well as the profile of the string also are factors that contribute to spin production.  While surprised their study did not find this to be the case, we are not about to discount the actual experience of tennis players who find that textured/profiled strings and string gauge do contribute to spin production in the context of their matches.

Our position is that the most spin friendly strings currently in production are profiled poly-based strings.  Players using these strings receive the benefits of the sliding action coupled with the texture of the string to amplify spin.  The new MSV Hepta Twist strings are currently the most spin friendly strings in our lineup, followed closely by the MSV Focus Hex.  We are also close to introducing a 5 sided poly from WeissCANNON called Black5Edge that has been wowing our playtesters in all facets, especially spin production.

Each of the above mentioned strings, (throw the Signum Pro Tornado into the mix as well), offer a sharp accentuated profile to help bite/grab the ball.  Based on qualitative data, we find that players report the sharper edged strings tend to generate more spin.

We applaud the work of Cross and Lindsey.  We are grateful that they have laid a foundation in the area of racquet and string science.  We hope that one day technology will advance to the point were we are actually able to study strings and string performance in the full context in which they are used.

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7 Responses to Textured Strings and Spin Production – – Our Analysis

  1. Boris Becker says:

    excellent article. well balanced
    when i finish my reel of sppp i hope to try a 5 sided string.

    I would imagine the main problem with textured or edged strings are the early deterioration or reduction, causing a faster change in playability

    For that reason it might be more suited to either people who rarely break strings, or people who break strings quickly or cut out poly frequently

    just a guess

    thoughts?

  2. ggtennis says:

    The edges on some strings do tend to dull after play…that is likely one reason that the sharper edges tend to fare better. In terms of cutting out strings, players all have different tolerances. We know that strings are constantly changing properties, not significantly, but slightly. Over time many players can adjust to these changes with ease, while others reach a point where their play is thrown off completely. The tolerance ranges wildly so the frequency of change is a moving target that is difficult, at best, to pinpoint.

    • Boris Becker says:

      I dont want to be a pain, but which are the “sharper edge” strings?

      and

      Over time if a player can adjust to the changes with ease, this would most likely be a higher skill level player, since a lower level player (below 4.0) has enough trouble adjusting to the ball, or tension reduction, let alone learning how to adjust to string edge deterioration.

      Dont get me wrong, I think 5 sided polys might add a new ability of spin production for a player, and I think any player using poly should try a few of your offerings to test. I just think its more suited to players who cut out a poly after 4hrs max, since the properties and benefits if the edges would be greatly reduced after a few hrs, depending on how hard and much spin someone hits the ball with, or course. 🙂

      rant off

  3. ggtennis says:

    I mention some of the sharper edged strings in the post. More appropriately it might be better to give some comparisons. Luxilon ALU Power Rough is not sharp whereas Luxilon ALU Power Spin is very sharp. Babolat RPM Blast is profiled, but not sharp whereas MSV Focus Hex is profiled and sharp. WeissCANNON TurboTwist is profile and twisted, but not sharp, whereas the new WeissCANNON Black5Edge is extremely sharp.

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment of who adapts to change easier. While there may be some lower level players who have difficulties, in general their games are no where near as fine-tuned as professionals who are sensitive to even the slightest changes. In my experience higher level players have more difficulty adjusting to the changes whereas the lower level players typically do not notice minor changes. Soemtimes they do not notice major changes. Each person is different in terms of how much change they can tolerate before it begins to impact their performance.

    Also please do not leave this post believing that texture somehow quickly wears off of strings. Profiled strings last much longer than 4 hours. To believe that the texture somehow diminishes after 4 hours would not necessarily be a valid belief.

    As always, the player should playtest for him or herself. Individual mileage will vary.

  4. Boris Becker says:

    Good point about a lower level not even noticing the reduction.

    Your right, I do remember a female player I sent to your site to buy msv hex, and she had dozens of hrs of high playability.

    I will def try the new weiss cannon offering

  5. Matt says:

    Textured strings are simply the “Emperor’s New Clothes” of the tennis world. Anyone with any knowledge of string movement and spin production knows there are two contributing factors to textured strings growth in popularity:
    -Textured strings are typically polyester, which allows more access to spin than non-poly strings
    -Manufacturers and retail stores need another marketing tool to promote new products
    -As described by the Lindsey and Cross in the book “Technical Tennis” the perception of a string having more spin creates an environment where the user is more focused on hitting spin, thereby increasing the spin. Read the book (spoiler alert: It’s awesome) and you’ll see that if you had just focused on hitting with more spin in the first place, your run of the mill non-textured string has incredible spin potential!

  6. sam says:

    Textured string makes no difference to spin production?
    Try this little experiment at home. String up a racket with a smooth poly (eg PLII or Black Code) at low tension then play with it for a while. Then sand the strings with some fine sandpaper and try playing with it again…notice any difference? I do.

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