The String Bar: playability vs durability
Strings are like cars. Are you the Civic owner or the Lambo owner?
When it comes to strings there are a lot of confusing terms being thrown around to describe them. Dead, mushy, boardy, crisp, rubbery - are a few that come to mind.
You probably hear players talking about how one string has better playability than the other, but what does it mean? Is it power? Feel? Control? Durability?
Since we all love cars, come along for the ride as we dive into the subject and discover how strings are more like cars than you might think.
DURABILITY IS A MOVING SCALE
To better explain playability we need to first talk about durability. String durability, or simply how long it lasts, is a moving target and is relative to the type of string and type of player.
On the larger scale durability is how long the string lasts. But durability means different things to different players. Durability to the casual suburban player may mean a string that lasts 6 months, while durability to a heavy hitting college player could mean a string that lasts only 1 match.
Whatever side of the scale you are on, your perfect durability all depends on your needs and goals - it's whatever works the best for you.
DURABILITY ACROSS STRING TYPES
On the big picture a stiff poly is more durable than a soft multifilament, as you might imagine. The stiff poly string is basically made of plastic and can take more of a beating. But it gets more interesting as you dive into each string type.
Some softer multifilaments only last the casual hitter 2 months, while a more durable multi could last 6 months before restringing. Some polys might not last 1 match to the heavy college hitter, while a super durable poly could last a couple matches. It's all relative.
I'm happy getting about 3 weeks of heavy playing out of my current set up before it breaks. Some of the other people I play with prefer 3-4 months before breaking.
PLAYABILITY IS A DIFFERENT ANIMAL
Have you ever tried a string that played incredible for a couple weeks then all of a sudden you couldn't get anything in? We've been there.
Playability is the string's performance over the course of its life - a measure of how well it retains its features. In other words, does it play super consistent for those 5 weeks in your racket, or does it offer more of a peaky performance that only lasts 2 weeks then falls off a cliff as you wonder why you are erratically spraying balls over the fence.
A string with less playability will lose tension and elasticity at a quicker rate, and will start moving around in the bed sooner. As the player, you will feel a more dramatic change in comfort, power, and control. But it's not all bad - the benefit of these strings is they usually offer a higher level of performance during its prime time so you can get more of that felt ripping heavy ball that explodes off the court.
On the other hand, a string with good playability will have more predictable results over its life in your racket. It will be less finicky and offer a smoother ride. Wouldn't everyone want a string that is more consistent for longer? Not exactly - everything comes at a price.
LIKE ALL THINGS IN LIFE, IT'S A COMPROMISE
If you want a super high performance comfortable spinny grippy string, it simply won't be able to maintain that level of performance for long periods of time. It's like asking to have Lambo speed and looks but with the great fuel mileage and reliability of a Civic - it just doesn't add up.
But the tradeoff is pure bliss during its prime - and this is why it's worth it for someone like me. I absolutely live for over the top performance to give that extra edge over the person on the other side of the net.
And for someone else, they might be willing to tradeoff performance for reliability. It's the mindset of a Honda Civic owner vs a Lambo Gallardo owner. The screaming Gallardo is filled with extreme excitement and thill, while the practical Civic driver enjoys a care-free maintenance schedule and a predictable ride.
Both cars drive from point A to B and they each have their strengths and weaknesses. They are both loved by their happy owners.
So which type of person are you? The flashy gas guzzling Lambo owner who flies past the traffic willing to risk it all for a new level of fun? Or the smart Honda owner who smiles as they drive safely past the broken down Lambo on the side of the road (who enjoys the process of fixing it up). Neither is right or wrong, it's just their style.
Whatever you choose, enjoy the ride - and give a thumbs up as you pass each other by.