Wicked spin, radar control, tough as nails—the virtues of polyester string are well documented. With such qualities, it’s no wonder the popularity of polys has grown at every level of the game. One of its main shortcomings, however, is it usually on the firm side. Combined with the light, stiff, power racquets occupying the current market and the response at contact can be harsh and punishing on the arm.
Which is why dropping tension on polyester strings has become increasingly common. It softens the string bed for a more forgiving feel at contact, a little easier depth and potentially more spin. Wilson noticed the trend in its US Open tournament stringing room. Over the past 10 years, they have recorded that the average string tension for the pro’s racquets has dropped one pound per year. A decade ago it was 55 pounds; the most recent readings were down to 45 pounds. And numerous players are competing with tensions in the upper 30s.
What happens on the tours eventually filters down to the recreational ranks. However, stringing so loosely can bring playability issues to mere mortals. Namely a lack of control. Pros have remarkable command over their shots and hit with tremendous spin to provide safety; average players don’t possess the same assets. Which is why so many still choose to string polys at the higher of the recommended tension range, even if it costs them an elbow. Yet, it’s when the strings have aged for a while, and the tension has dropped, that they find the racquet most comfortable and enjoyable to play with.
Luxilon’s new LXN Smart string ($20/set; $290/reel) aims to bridge this gap. It’s the first string expressly designed to be played at lower tensions. In fact, the recommended tension range is 44 pounds, +/- 4 lbs. The string’s construction is such that it adapts to a player’s swing. When you let it rip, the string stiffens at contact to provide more control; on slower swings or more finesse shots, the string stays loose for better feel. Similar to Luxilon’s M2 string, LXN Smart seeks to deliver the playing traits of a poly, with the feel and forgiveness of a multifilament. It’s not intended to bring the same durability of their tougher models, but be much more arm-friendly. It’s also the first Luxilon string offered in a black colorway.
On the court, the feel of LXN Smart is certainly a departure from Luxilon’s ALU Power or 4G. I tried it in a couple of player spec’d frames—one stiff, one medium firm—at a mere 40 lbs. For a poly, the forgiveness and comfort was considerably heightened. Yet, I experienced no noticeable decline in consistency or execution. I didn’t find the same spin I could generate with certain shaped polys; nor did I seem to get quite the same pop from other livelier options. Tension maintenance and playability duration seemed about on par with what I expect from a softer poly.
However, it was impressive how much control I had at a tension I would normally associate with a slingshot. I never felt the need to pump the brakes on swings for fear of denting the back curtain. Once I got used to having more flex in the strings, touch shots weren’t a problem, either. And the kinder arm treatment and comfort from being able to string at so low a tension was a big benefit. I haven’t tried it in a hybrid, but I’m curious to see how it plays as a cross string with a more traditional poly. It could soften the string bed without some of the drawbacks of using a multifilament.
LXN Smart hit retailers in February. If you like the playability of polyester strings, but your arm could do without some of harsh feedback, give it a shot. You may never string above 40 pounds again.