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How Low Can YOU Go? My first experience with an ULTRA Low Tension Poly

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Through the years I have gone from stringing at high tensions (mid to upper 60’s) gradually dropping to accommodate the optimal performance of poly based strings. My current preferred tension is in the low 40’s, (40 – 44)…depending upon playing conditions. I tested mid to upper 30’s but could not really seem to dial things in when stringing in that range so I decided to settle on low 40’s. My journey with lower tension polys began many years ago and I admit…I was skeptical. I fully understood how poly based strings performed better at lower tensions, yet I was afraid. I was afraid of change. Change is hard and it took me a long time to become comfortable with playing at lower tensions and even longer to gain the confidence to push my customers down to the range I was using.

The other day I decided I wanted to revisit my low tension journey. I thought that this time rather than dropping tension a few pounds from my current setup and then slowly moving down in tension I would make a huge jump and then adjust upward as needed. (I already knew that the 30’s wasn’t my cup of tea)

So, in a fit of mad science revelry, I decided I would string ULTRA low. I went with mains at 15 lbs and crosses at 18 lbs, (6.8 & 8.0 kilos respectively). I decided I wanted a profile shaped poly for this so that I could have the most access to spin possible. The string I decided to use for this experiment was a new one my friends at Pro Stringer have developed…their 1.28mm Blue Steel which features a sharp square profile.

When my racquet of choice, (the inimitable Prince Precision Mono), came off the machine I had a 97sq in stick with a 16 x 21 string pattern that was vibrating like crazy as I bounced a couple of balls on the stringbed. I was more than a wee bit concerned so I added 3 dampeners…it helped a little, but I believed the vibrations were probably a wee north of ridiculous. I seriously wondered, “what have I done?” How would I tell my Pro Stringer friends I just totally wasted a set of their prized new string?

Fearful and expecting a complete disaster, I headed out to the courts in the dark of night so no one would see me. I went out by myself with a hopper of balls. I was mentally prepared for a god-awful short session with uncontrolled balls sailing about and perhaps even my right arm falling off from excessive vibration. I was definitely anything but optimistic.

This is where things get weird. And I mean really, really weird. I started my session by stepping to the service line, settling into my pre-service routine and hitting some light serves to loosen up. The balls failed to perform as I had expected and feared. Rather, I found surprising control and SIGNIFICANTLY more comfort than I expected, in spite of the vibration. So I began to ratchet things up…afterall, I’m not known as John “15+MPH on EVERY Serve” Youngblood for nothing.

As I began firing serves I was finding the power coming with ease and more surprising, the ball was being directionally obedient. I started adding spin and slice and was still mastering the session. The hitting sensation/feedback was definitely unique, but hitting full out was not nearly as off putting as just bouncing the ball on the strings. I was actually enjoying the serving session and not finding the limitations I initially feared. Thumbs up to serving!

Next it was time to hit goundies against the wall. Groundies felt pretty good…but I hate hitting against the wall on the courts I was using so I decided to just hit a variety of groundstrokes via the toss/bounce method. This is where I began to get excited. I was able to generate easy spin…not as much as I may have imagined when standing at my stringing machine, but plenty. (I had visions of spaghetti stringing performance…that didn’t happen) I was most struck, by the easy power and control. I could literally swing as hard as physically possible and if clearing the net within a reasonable height of 3′ or less, it really was impossible to hit the ball long. I was most struck by this because I was getting more ball speed than I imagined possible. As noted with serving, the hitting sensation was definitely different, but the vibration was not really bothering me when hitting in this context.

So, now I am anxious to get out and hit against a real live opponent. I will unveil this Frankenstein I have created knowing I will not likely be taking a walk of shame over to my bag to switch back to old faithful. I am wondering, how the racquet will respond to pace being hit at me? I am curious how it will handle net play? Will vibration be unbearable at the net or will it just be something to get used to? I will continue this journey wondering if this is indeed a playable tension? Is it a tension that may actually offer benefits? Lots of questions remain. Stay tuned as I intend to follow up this post with my findings.


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