Hybrid Stringing II:
Mix and Match To A Perfect Hybrid
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
Last time, we discussed the history of hybrid stringing and some of the benefits players have traditionally sought from hybrid strings. Now, let's take a closer look at some common types of hybrids, and explore some of the reasons why they are popular with certain types of players.
Have you ever stood in front of your stringer, debating over which string to use, and felt like you had to forfeit one benefit for another? For example, you often choose a durability string because you are a power player, and like to play hard, but don't like having to constantly re-string your racquet due to breakage. And yet, you miss the playability factor other strings provide. Or, you are a performance player who relies heavily on feel for ball control, but suspect your string does not maintain tension as well as other string choices.
Hybrid stringing allows the player to take advantage of the best properties each of the two strings has to offer-essentially, to get "the best of both worlds." As noted, hybrid stringing involves using two distinctively different types of string-one for the main strings and one for the cross strings-in the same racquet. Hybrid string sets can either come pre-packaged (such as Ashaway's Killfire™ hybrid strings) or can be created by the stringer.
Some of the most common properties players are looking for when they decide to use a hybrid string are increased durability, tension stability or playability. Let's take a look at which string combinations will give you these desired results.
The number one reason players use a hybrid string is increased durability. In a strung racquet, the main (or vertical) strings are the supporting strings. They are the strings that bear the wear load. They are also the strings that are "sawed" into by the cross (horizontal or playability) strings, frequently causing the mains to notch and break prematurely. This is a problem especially for power players.
The most popular main string used for adding durability to a hybrid is braided Kevlar®. Kevlar is a stiff, aramid fiber (also used in bulletproof vests) that won't fray or break easily. Resistant to the notching caused by the crosses sawing the mains, strings made from Kevlar last longer, even for power players. And, when matched with a solid playing cross string such as Ashaway's SuperKill® II or SuperKill 17, the resulting hybrid is both durable and playable.
Ashaway's MonoKill™ is also a popular main string for "durability hybrids." MonoKill is a tough polyester monofilament, with the added benefit of a smooth surface that makes it easy to string. Very resistant to wear from notching or sawing by the cross strings, MonoKill performs well when paired with a high playability string.
Another common reason players use a different main string is to hold tension more consistently over the life of the stringing job. Racquetball is a power game and players lose ball control as the racquet loses tension. By combining mains constructed with Kevlar, Vectran® or Zyex® fibers with a top performing cross string, players create a hybrid that will hold tension better than a standard string. This increase in tension stability improves the consistency of performance over the playing life of the strung racquet, and offers more dependable ball control.
Zyex strings make an exceptionally good main for tension holding hybrids. While nylon can lose up to 25% of its original stringing tension immediately after stringing, Zyex does not lose nearly so much. For this reason the racquet should be strung at 10-15% less initial tension than nylon to achieve the same result. String Zyex at the same tension as you would nylon, and you are likely to be disappointed, with a stiff stringing job and poor resiliency.
As we know, many players will do anything to find a string that plays better than what they have, and will often experiment with hybrid stringing to increase performance. One such approach is to string with different gauges of string (like Ashaway's SuperKill II 16-gauge mains and SuperKill 17 crosses) for increased playability and bite on the ball. Using a string typically considered a "playability" string for the mains, in a thicker gauge for durability, adds increased resiliency and feel. And, when combined with a thinner "playability" string for the crosses, this hybrid's playability factor goes through the roof.
And people are spicing up the mix all the time. Imagine a racquet strung with high durability, tension-holding 17-gauge Zyex mains (like Ashaway's PowerKill™ 17) combined with crosses of a resilient 18-gauge multifilament squash string like Ashaway's SuperNick® XL Micro. The Zyex mains lend durability, power and tension holding properties to the mix. Borrowing from Squash, a nylon multifilament string like SuperNick XL Micro offers optimal performance in a narrower gauge, for supreme resiliency and ball control. A near perfect combination, this cross-sport hybrid would likely offer most players superior power, while maintaining good feel, playability, and reasonable durability.
As you can see, there are no limits to where racquetball hybrids may go in the future! As for our future-in our next column we'll explore other hybrid string combinations and concepts, and we'll talk to some top racquetball stringers for their comments on hybrid stringing.
Vectran is a registered trademark of Celanese Acetate L.L.C.
Kevlar is a registered trademark of DuPont.
Zyex is a registered trademark of ZYEX Ltd.
This article previously appeared in Racquetball Magazine.