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.