Babolat RPM Blast Review

I wanted to postpone this review for a couple weeks in order to hit with the strings for a substantial amount of time under a variety of conditions. My prior configuration was a hybrid of Pro Hurricane Tour 17/VS Team Gut 17. I replaced that with RPM Blast 17 on the mains. Tension is 53lb on a Prince EXO3 Black frame. In general, I think strings like PHT/RPM need to be on stiffer frames. Interestingly, Rafa’s stick, the AeroPro Drive GT (stock frame) has a stiffness of 70, swingweight of 331, and balance is 4pt HL. The EXO3 Black has a stiffness of 71, swingweight of 328, and equivalent balance. Nadal can afford to swing away with a fullbed; I prefer a gut hybrid for a little more control and feel. Maybe that’s why he’s French Open champ and I’m writing Flex applications for a living 🙂

The observation I want to counter with this review is that RPM Blast is just PHT in a different color. On the subject of color, black is a great choice. The difference does not stop there. I could tell from the very first hit that this was a different string. The responsiveness was there, but with a little something extra. The ball even sounds a bit different at impact. I do not have specific measurements, but over the course of several weeks, I can see increased spin on the ball. This is generally from getting a bit more dip on the ball with the same stroke. If I really try to put some spin on the ball, I can get some wicked action 🙂

Two other observations of note. First, I always disliked restringing because I thought it took several days of hitting before the PHT/VS Team hybrid started to ‘feel’ right. Some of that may be that I’ve always thought gut plays better after it starts to fray. With the RPM Blast/VS Team hybrid, I liked the feel from the very first hit and it’s even better after a few weeks of hitting.

Second, the RPM Blast silicone coating does seem to let the strings slip more, but I kind of have a habit of adjusting the strings after every point anyway. The side effect is that the mains do not cut into the gut as much, which will probably increase the durability of the hybrid configuration. I rarely worry about that in any event because at the low tension the hybrid becomes mushy before it breaks.

Now, for what you really want to know about – power. Revenge was marketed as a power string, but it kind of underwhelmed me. RPM Blast delivers the goods, although to achieve the string’s potential you will probably want to string a bit lower than you are used to. I can’t vouch for feel in a fullbed and you may lose some control depending on your current configuration. It may be okay in a fullbed for very advanced players, but intermediate or between intermediate and advanced may prefer it in a hybrid.

For me, the extra feel and control from crossing it with gut is worth the extra cost. I also found RPM to be easier on the arm than PHT, a nice bonus recovering from an arm injury.

RPM Blast is an upgrade over PHT in every aspect of the game. Serve, volley, groundstroke, overhead, drop shot, whatever. So, if you don’t mind a bit more coinage for a poly, go string up some bad-ass black RPM Blast and kick some on the court!

Babolat Revenge Review Part 2

Continuing from part 1, I hit with Revenge as a fullbed for a little over eight hours under a variety of conditions.  Tension loss was less than a pound.  The string grew on me, but I was still anxious to test it in a hybrid.  Fortunately, the gut on my regular hybrid became mushy and it was time to restring.  So, I had both racquets restrung with VS Team 17 on the crosses.  One was strung with Revenge 17 on the mains at 51 lb and the other with the usual Pro Hurricane Tour 17 at 53.  My racquet is a Prince Speedport Black.

I was pleased with the control provided by Revenge as a fullbed at lower tension, so I wanted to experiment at the low end of my normal range.  If I strung a hybrid with say xCel Power on the mains at 51, I would be guranteed to spray balls into the fence from the first shot 🙂  The hybrid Revenge configuration performed pretty much  the same as the fullbed.  Solid control even at lower tension and this from a so-called ‘power’ string.

There was increased feel from groundstrokes by crossing with the gut, which helped alleviate my concerns from the first part of the review.  Next, I wanted to see how the configuration volleyed.  At 51lb, I expected a slight mushy feel from volleys.  The opposite was true.  Response was crisp from the very first volley.   With the VS Team/Pro Hurricane Tour hybrid, I get a serious feel of the ball being pocketed and ‘launched’ from stringbed.  This affects volleying to some extent based on the pace of the ball coming towards  you.  With VS Team/Revenge, response is consistent whether it is a light touch volley or responding to a very hard passing shot.

You will pick up a bit more feel and spin from the hybrid configuration on serve, but overall response is quite muted compared to Pro Hurricane Tour on the mains. Again, the expectation for Revenge is to provide  reasonable power while maintaining control.  With a power configuration, it’s up to you to provide the control.

My first conclusion is that Revenge is better suited for a hybrid configuration if you already play a hybrid (especially a gut/poly hybrid).   Control is quite good even at lower tension.  Given the combination of control and response on volleys, I’m probably going to keep the VS Team/Revenge hybrid as a doubles racquet.  It is not as powerful or responsive as the VS Team/Pro Hurricane Tour combination, leading me to believe that Babolat should be advertising this as more of a control string as opposed to a power string.

You can get plenty of power from Revenge by stringing at lower tension and just hitting out on the ball.   The response is adequate and the control ensures that if you miss, it’s all on you.   Spin is average; about what I would expect from any 17 -gauge hybrid configuration.  As might be expected, it is noticeably less than I achieve with the VS Team/Pro Hurricane Tour configuration.  However, given Revenge’s reputation for tension maintenance, you can hold that power/control level for longer periods of time than other configurations.  I expect more frequent restringing with VS Team/Pro Hurricane Tour.

Given the pace I experience from 4.5/5.0 players, my general conclusion is to stick with the VS Team/Pro Hurricane Tour hybrid for singles play.  I’m viewing VS Team/Revenge as more of a specialty configuration, for use in windy conditions when control is at a premium or doubles play.

Babolat Revenge Review Part 1

This is the first in a two-part review of the new Revenge string from Babolat.  I currently play a VS Team 16/Pro Hurricane Tour 17 hybrid, so I’m reviewing Revenge both fullbed and in a hybrid.  I normally string in the 50-53 range, so I first tried Revenge 17  in a fullbed @ 54lb.

I had previously tested Pro Hurricane Tour and xCel Power as a fullbed in the same racquet, both at an average tension of 53.  The xCel Power felt great but had a tendency to spray balls.  It was better crossed with xCel Premium.  The Pro Hurricane tour was so responsive in my head-light racquet that it had some low-frequency vibration that was very noticeable on touch shots and light volleys.  Crossed with the VS Team gut, however, performance is terrific in a hybrid.

My first impression of Revenge was that it was a cool-looking (red) string with a unique popping sound at impact.  At lower tension, the string provided expected power on groundstrokes but with unexpected control.  This is one string you can take a hard swing at the ball and if you miss, it’s all on you.  While not advertised as a comfort string, I did not notice any arm soreness after hammering on the string with 4.0/4.5 players for about an hour.

Volleys were very crisp and it almost seemed like the string performed better at the net than on the baseline.  If you have a relatively flat first serve, you will probably upgrade your first serve with Revenge.  Spin was definitely weaker than Pro Hurricane Tour (as would be expected) and from what I remember hitting with xCel Power.  You might lose a bit on a sliced second or heavy topspin first serves.

Coming from a gut player, my next observation is almost predictable.  Revenge does not have the feel I like on touch shots.  If these are an important part of your game, then you will not like this string in a fullbed.

After about 3 1/2 hours of hitting under various circumstances (including in the middle of the day in Texas heat), there was very little string movement.  The person who strung my racquet indicated no issues in the stringing and little coil memory.  DIY’ers will probably find it an easy job to string.

Overall, this string impresses me as good choice for 3.0/3.5 players looking for a power string without sacrificing control.  Revenge is advertised as a highly durable string with minimal tension loss.  That means you can afford to string at lower tensions without fear of the string becoming mushy after just a couple weeks of hard play (which happened to me with xCel Power).  I will continue to hit with the string and once I get to about ten hours, I’ll measure the tension and report back.

I believe 4.0+ players might consider Revenge as an alternative to say Big Banger, but only from the standpoint of adding control or getting a more arm-friendly string.  If you currently play a hybrid (especially a gut/poly hybrid), you would only want to consider Revenge as a substitute for your mains.  When my current hybrid is ready for restringing, I’ll see how Revenge compares as a main string to the Pro Hurricane Tour and then post part 2 of this review.

More Hybrid Tests

I’ve been conducting ongoing hybrid tests on my Prince Speedport Black Team.  The incumbent is Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour 17 on the mains and NXT Tour 17 on the crosses @57.  I tried ALU Power Rough on the mains and had to work a bit to get the tension right.  Seemed like the best approach was to drop the tension on the mains as is widely recommended and string the crosses a few pounds higher than the mains (depending on how much tension loss you expect on the crosses).  You will have to work a bit to get the right combination.  Seemed to provide a bit more control, but I didn’t get quite the response I liked with the other combination.  Interestingly, the ALU Power Rough did not seem to provide any more spin than the Pro Hurricane Tour.

My current combination is Pro Hurricane Tour 17 on the mains and xCel Power on the crosses.  Upped the tension to 58 to see if 57-58 is really the upper bound.  I hit extensively on the ball machine (indoors) on my recent Houston trip and at first the response was a bit flatter than my previous favorite.  After 2-3 full rounds on the ball machine, I started to get the response I wanted.  Get the tension right and this is looking to be a potent hybrid for this particular racquet.  On restringing, I’m going to stick with 57 and it seems like it takes this hybrid a bit of ‘break in’ time, whereas I was ready to play with the Pro Hurricane Tour/NXT hybrid immediately after it came off the stringer.

My First Hybrid

Well, I had pretty much become fed up with the low-frequency vibration caused by stringing my Speedport Black Team with Pro Hurricane Tour 17 @53.  On the other hand, I really liked the bite and extra spin from the string and the trampoline effect of the ball coming off the stringbed.

As an experiment, I had my White Pro strung at 56 with the same string and there was no vibration at all.  Probably to be expected since its a heavier and stiffer frame with a denser string pattern (18×19 vs. 16×19). The balance is head-light vs. head-heavy.

As a final experiment, I decided to try a hybrid on the Black Team, placing the Pro Hurricane Tour 17 on the mains and NXT Tour 17 on the crosses, strung @57.  I can only say one thing about the result – WOW!  Absolutely no vibration on anything from a drop-shot to a full-speed groundstroke.  Excellent spin and respone, especially from volleys.

Now, I can enjoy the maneuverability of the frame and spin characteristics of the strings.  I’m really sold on the hybrid concept.  So much so, I’m going to experiment with ALU Power Rough on the mains and NXT Tour 17 on the crosses on my backup racquet.  I’ll post again on both hybrids once I have a chance to hit with them for an extended period of time.

Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour 17 Review

I’ve been playing with my new SpeedPort Black Team racquets for a few weeks now, still enjoying the light, maneuverable frame.  Still deciding on the strings.  My ‘base’ racquet is strung with NXT Tour 17 @54lb. which has a nice, soft feel.  I decided a couple weeks ago to experiment with the Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour 17 in the other racquet.

It was strung at 53lb and I immediately noticed the increased power on the very first hit. I also noticed some low-frequency vibration in the frame when playing dink-ems (hitting just inside the service court) or just bouncing the ball up and down.  As swing speed increases, the vibration dissipates, but the combination of tension, string response, and this particular frame produces unwanted vibration at lower swing speeds; something I don’t care for in touch volleys or any touch shot for that matter.

I was about to have the strings cut out, then decided to try a Gamma shockbuster.  I don’t normally play with any vibration dampener, but placing the shockbuster just above the lowest cross worked wonders. No more low-frequency vibration and the response from full shots feels great. I absolutely love the results.

The racquet still produces good power, and the hype about more spin is not just hype.  It did take a couple hours of practice to really get used to.  At first, it seemed like I was not getting a crisp response on volleys, but once I really felt comfortable with the strings, I have good confidence in volleys (even light touch-volleys).  Serves and overheads seem to launch themselves off the racquet.

The other really great feature is that at the lower tension, I get very little string movement; something that kind of irks me about the NXT strings, even at comparable tension.

The string seems to share some qualities with Big Banger. There is a definite trampoline effect, even if I don’t swing much at all.  I can half-volley and deflect hard shots from out of position and the ball launches itself well into the backcourt with little effort on my part.  I can hammer the ball deep with spin on offense or play defensive shots with lots of confidence.

I’m not there, but this sting sometimes makes me thing of the Bruce Lee quote; “When my opponent expands, I contract.  When he contracts, I expand.  And, when there’s an opportunity, I don’t hit.  It hits all by itself.”

I would really like to try the string without the shockbuster on a heavier racquet; perhaps a regular Speedport Black.  If I ever do so, I’ll post again.