“String is the racquet’s engine”
The Ideal Combination
Hybrid stringing has managed to fly under the radar even though it has proven to be a real solution to optimize performance in your game. Explanations.
Stringing is Babolat’s DNA. Starting in 1875, stringing has been the brand’s history, it’s foundation, and it’s pride. Today, the expertise and seniority on the product allows Babolat to be the irrefutable world leader in this field. Across time, the brand has anticipated evolutions both technical and tactical. Through the evolution and improvement of racquets, more powerful players immediately sought out solutions to control their power without losing feel. The combination that guarantees the desired effect is without question a hybrid, as explained by Lucien Noguès, the expert on string at Babolat: “String represents 50% of the response. It is the engine. The more finely tuned the engine is, the more effective it will be with the frame. The hybrid, then, is the real solution to find that sweet spot. It guarantees unique feel, feel that is expected and used at the highest level.” The numbers confirm his analysis, as 45% of players in the top 20 ATP and 65% in the WTA are using this “magic formula”: “Magic, I wouldn’t call it that, but it’s clear that the hybrid combination offers many options. We can mix different strings (multifilament, monofilament polyester, gut). Moreover, and this is not to be taken for granted, it implies a string job with four knots. This allows for better tension hold. By playing with the gauges, tensions, mixing up mains and crosses, player are offered much more control over what they are receiving from their string. Once that perfect combination is found, we can take comfort in the fact that we are getting the most out of the frame-string interaction… Logically, then, this implies a comfort in your game and leaves no doubt in the performance of your equipment.”
“String is the racquet’s engine”
For the number 1 French player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the perfect combination includes power from VS Team in the mains and RPM Team in the crosses. For Dominic Thiem, he moved from a full bed of RPM Blast to a hybrid combination. “We convinced him by explaining that the gut would bring him more comfort, which is important for him, as he has a very physical game and plays such a heavy schedule,” explains Jean-Christophe Verborg. After many successful tests, Dominic Thiem eventually adopted the hybrid combination. When asked about it now, he has no doubts, “choosing to go with a hybrid was a good decision. I would never go back to the old basic stringing for anything in the world. The hybrid allows me to play with power but also to feel the ball very well,” confirms the world number 7.
We are still waiting for that big jump but hybrid strings have not yet become the staple of modern tennis, even though it is that combination that is often times the solution to many problems in a player’s game. “Hybrid stringing is compatible with all styles of play. It’s the best way to accurately tailor the string job to optimize performance. At Babolat, we’ve been preaching this for quite some time while also offering a gut with unparalleled quality. It’s a savoir-faire that Babolat has mastered for over 140 years to equip the best players with this technology,” comments François-Xavier Quesse, Global Product Manager.
“Hybrid is the choice of performance for all styles of play”
To help distributors suggest this combination to players more often, Babolat offers prepackaged hybrid combinations. “Hybrid, it’s the American Andre Agassi who made it popular in the ‘90s. It’s not that surprising, looking at his powerful game. Following Andre, the hybrid gained popularity, specifically the blend of gut and polyester that is still the most common in hybrid stringing.” It’s clear that choosing to go with a hybrid combination implicates the player more, forcing them to better express what is expected from the string, but also the stringer, who must take extra care, like a Formula 1 mechanic who is fine tuning the car before a race. “It is a more collaborative choice to go with hybrid. The dialogue between player and stringer must be much clearer and more specific, and it’s there that the expert at the store can advise on which type of string, gauge, and of course which tension will best suit the player,” explains François-Xavier Quesse.
“Gut is a string with unmatched feel”
Last but not least, hybrids allow players to experiment with and experience the unique feel of gut, the most effective, powerful, and comfortable string in the history of tennis. “Babolat is the historic manufacturer of this type of string that accompanied the evolution of tennis. Our know-how is unmatched. Made, but not stayed, in France,” comments Quesse. Babolat VS Gut is made in France but is exported all around the world and enjoys success at tournaments everywhere. “While we can not communicate on it, many big players in the top 10 use our VS, and even though we cannot advertise that, we are quite proud that this is the case.” That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that if a top 10 player played with only gut, without blending, the feel would be amazing but the control would be lacking. The ball would come off of the racquet too quickly. “The hybrid allows players to benefit from two strings. I like to think that the two types of string are talking, having a conversation. With this, we end up with the most well-balanced combination possible.”
No matter the level, hybrid strings are an experience that every player should try. “It may not be for everyone, but to know if it’s for you, you must at least try it,” concludes François-Xavier Quesse. The latest member of the Babolat family to take this step was Felix Augier Alliassime. Felix is a 17-year-old Canadian player with high hopes, finishing as a finalist at the junior Roland-Garros and winning the junior US Open. Ranked 153 on the ATP Tour, he is the youngest to ever win a challenger level match. “Felix has VS Touch in the mains and RPM Team in the crosses. It’s his coach that suggested this combination for him. He wanted to bring Felix a dynamic string so he could use his touch more effectively rather than relying solely on raw power. This was a significant move to prepare him for the transition from juniors to ATP where there are more styles of play than he is used to. The hybrid stringing allowed him to take his game to the next level very quickly.” This is another good example of how important it is to maximize the potential of a frame and string relationship even if that is dependent on a player’s game, career, and how a player physically grows. Hybrid combinations are not miracle solutions, but remain the most effective way to find the best balance and desired effect if we want to master power and keep the most feel.