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String Playtest Comparison: Polyfibre TCS 17 vs Leopard Plus Control 17

About the play testerAbout the String

Tester: DireDesire of the Talk Tennis message board

Playing Level: 4.0

Regular playing equipment: Fischer Pro #1 FT, Poly Polar 17g (although my “base” string varies), 57-59 lbs (varies)

Game Style: All courter, net rushing tendencies. Very fast swing, full western forehand, two handed backhand. Plenty of slicing off both wings.

Strings being tested: Polyfibre TCS vs. Leopart Plus Control

Gauge: Polyfibre TCS: 17, Leopard Plus Control: 17

Racquet(s) string is in: Separate Fischer Pro #1 FTs, mostly stock, minor matching adjustments.

Tension: 58 lbs (Note: Although polyfibre suggests/recommends stringing their TCS 2-4 lbs higher than a usual co-poly type string, I kept both tensions equal for a more informative comparative play test. I make comments on this later in the review.)

Polyfibre TCS 17/1.20 String
This 17 gauge version of Polyfibre's soft, TCS co-poly string, offers exceptional access to spin, excellent control and a very soft and forgiving response compared to competing co-polys.
Polyfibre TCS 17/1.20 660' String Reel
This 17 gauge version of Polyfibre's soft, TCS co-poly string, offers exceptional access to spin, excellent control and a very soft and forgiving response compared to competing co-polys.

Stringing

Both racquets were strung one piece. On this racquet, the mains end at the top, so a top down procedure is followed. I string the first cross with the short side of the string (this, IMO, gives a little more balanced tension distribution).

Machine: For reference, these racquets are strung on a true constant pull machine, Laserfibre MS200TT.

Polyfibre TCS: This string was a rather "unique" one. I could tell from the start that my experience with it would not be a "typical" co-poly experience. The texture/feel of this string is best described as something resembling a long, thin, (extruded) crayon. The texture was rather waxy, smooth, but a little bit sticky. The amount of stretch was surprising, it was a rather large amount, but it felt very smooth, natural, and "light" for a lack of a better way to describe it. Weaving was a delight, the waxy texture allowed the string to "glide" over itself. Pulling was surprisingly difficult, though. Although it was no major disaster, it stuck to itself a little more than I was accustomed to. Nothing to be alarmed about, but definitely something to note.

Leopard Plus Control: my brief, initial thoughts were "stiff, thick (feeling), and harder to weave than the TCS (for reference, I strung it second). This string was obviously a co-poly type construction; the stretch was noticeable, but nothing major. I string on a True Constant Pull machine, so the stretch is noticeable, since I drop a weight from the beginning to the end of the stretch. This string seemed to settle in and hold very "deliberately." The stretch was consistent and felt very smooth. Weaving the string was a little more frustrating than the TCS, but about average for a poly. I work with polys quite a bit at work, so I have no major complaints typically. It was a little stiff, but pulling the crosses through was nice and easy.

Power

Both these strings exhibited a transformation in the power category (among others) during the life of their play. I found the Leopard Plus Control very, very (too) low powered at first, but it ended up at just about the right power level at the end of my test, whereas the Polyfibre TCS started out just right, and balls started to sail on me at the very end of my test. Finally, please note my ratings for this section is how close the string comes to my desired or ideal power levels. I will try my best to rate the string on an actual power level scheme at the end. (100 being gut, 50 or so being a tight, basic poly or Kevlar).

Polyfibre TCS: initial(9/10), final(7/10).

As with the Leopard Plus Control, I really had no clue what to expect of the TCS. Seeing as how it is a very, very new addition to the TW lineup, not many reviews/feedback have popped up on the forums. I decided in my mind that I would leave any preconceived notions via stringing or other similar string types behind me. I picked up my frame not expecting anything, and after my hitting session that night, I left the court feeling just about as confident as I have for a long, long while. The power level was just right straight off the machine. Depth control, as well as adding a little "pop" when I needed it was effortless and natural. It almost seemed as if the TCS knew what I wanted to do, and responded appropriately. The initial results were very impressive indeed! However, after about 7-8 hours, the same strokes proved to be a little too aggressive, or a little out of control. Balls started to sail about 6 inches out, and the loss of control got worse as time progressed. After about 12 hours I gave up on the string. I give the "final" power level a respectable 7 because I think if a player takes the manufacturer recommendation and bumps the tension up 2-4 lbs, youll hit the sweet spot in power performance throughout the majority of the play time. In fact, if you bump it up in the higher range (3-4 lbs), you may see a similar power response curve as the Leopard Plus Control.

Leopard Plus Control: initial(5/10), final(8.5/10).

I wasnt sure what to expect with this string. I had heard a few decent things about it, but nothing stood out to me as a great feature of this string. When I hit with it for the first time, I was tempted to cut it out immediately. This thought was affected by the performance of the TCS, but I decided to stick it out, and Im very glad I did. At first, the power level was low. Im sure you ask yourself: "Why is this a bad thing? Low power means more control!" This wasnt necessarily the case with the LPC. I hit a full western forehand, and at times, hitting with enough depth is a problem. With the Leopard Plus Control string, my first hitting session out (about 2 hours or so), it seemed no matter how I tried to hit the ball, it just would not land past the service line. This changed after about 6-8 hours, though. I let the racquet sit and focused on getting more detailed comments about the Polyfibre string (shame on me), I figured if the Leopard Plus Control played this terribly, it may be more suited for a different type of player. I set it aside for about two hitting sessions (also knowing many people are interested in the performance of the "new kid on the block" string), when I picked it up again, it seemed as if I was playing with a completely different string. The power level was just right, and I could place the ball deep, and naturally with no "added" effort, as before.

Control

Along with power comes control. In my eyes they seem to be somewhat inversely proportional. However, it is not this simple, I give my comments on an initial-final basis as power due to this. Ill talk about spin control, directional control, and depth control in the following comments! My scores are obviously all three of these "averaged." Obviously, take this rating with a grain of salt, and try and understand where the rating comes from via my comments.

Polyfibre TCS: initial(9.5/10), final(7).

This is one of the cases where I find the Power/Control contrast hold true. Instead of rating my power levels as how powerful the string actually is, I rate them based on how close to my "optimal" value it comes. The Polyfibre impressed me very, very much in the synergy between its different elements. The spin control was not out of this world, but it felt very natural (more on this later). The ball would drop in even if I over swung, but I still managed to get an excellent sense of range in my depth. As mentioned before, the string became a little too powerful near the end of its life, but I believe that stringing up a little bit per manufacturer recommendations would be perfect.

Leopard Plus Control: initial (5.5), final(8.5/10).

Surprisingly, although the power level was very, very low at first, I rated the initial control aspect also as poor. Normally I experience an increase in directional and spin control with a lower powered string bed. Depth control may suffer, but often times also sees a slight increase. This was not my opinion of the "initial" feel of the LPC. I found that the spin production was excellent, however the control of said spin was negated by the fact that the depth control was so impossible to manage. With this said, though, I feel that the LPC might be right up a flatter hitters alley. I think the response off the string bed, coupled with a little added spin would complement a flatter stroke path well. After the string broke in, control was just right in all categories. Directional control was excellent, partially due to the increase in power (which reduced the decrease in depth control). I found spin control was much better after this break in. I was very satisfied with the performance of LPC after about 6-8 hours (maybe even as little as 3-4).

Comfort

I will rate the comfort level of both strings on a single number scale. Although the play characteristics of each string changed relatively much during the duration of the play test, comfort seemed to be fairly constant.

Polyfibre TCS (8.5/10)

The feel of this string was less muted (slightly) than normal copoly strings, but also gave the excellent response and comfort of one. I felt more "aware" of where the ball was being struck, and how the ball was being struck, but instead of "bad vibes," I seemed to just have a better feel without sacrificing comfort (wrist pain/shock). It is a very unique feel, one that I recommend (co)poly fans to try!

Leopard Plus Control: (8/10)

Although the string was a little stiff, and lower powered at first, I never felt any wrist twinges or pains when playing with it. I am rather sensitive to this, as I have slight wrist problems to begin with. The feel of the string was a little too muted for my tastes, as is the case with many co-polys, but I found this to be especially true with the LPC.

Spin

As above, the actual spin production did not change much throughout the job, I think the loss of control was mostly affected by the increase in power. With this said, I give a single rating to both. Luckily, I have positive things to say about both.

Polyfibre TCS: (9/10)

Spin production was not quite as impressive as the LPC, but this string by far outstripped it in spin control and overall feel of the spin. The packaging/TW site advertises this string to be textured via a "lemon-peel"esque design, and although I couldnt see the texture with my naked eye, I had a feeling that this special texturing had something to do with my very positive initial feelings. If you take a close look at the string, it is rather "shiny" like a normal co-poly would be, but it is much more dull compared to other polys. There is that slight sheen, but I think that the added micro-texturing makes the string appear a little dull, as the light isnt reflected as cleanly. My initial thought on the spin of the TCS was "natural," even to the point where Id describe it as something that felt "organic." I felt that playing with the TCS (even with no break in!) was so natural, it was like re-visiting an old friend. Im sure many of you have experienced this by picking up your ex-favorite racquet, and feeling as if youre more alive for a day or two. The TCS kept up for at least 4-6 hours, and then started to go out on me.

Leopard Plus Control: (9/10)

Youll notice that both strings get the same rating, but there is much more beneath the single number rating. I found that Leopard Plus Control was an excellent generator of spin, but the actual control of it was less than the Polyfibre. I felt at ease looping groundstrokes from the baseline, I could swing away with no reservations and still feel confident that the ball was going to drop in. I was especially aware of the generous spin production at first, before the string broke in. I could hardly get a ball past the service line, even after attempts to flatten out my stroke and/or adding pace to my swing. Leopard Plus Control rates very high on spin production.

Feel

The feel of both strings stayed fairly consistent throughout the string life as well. My definition of feel is closely related to comfort, and the transmission of vibrations to your arm. I find that many times comfort is chosen over good feel, and that many copolys are slightly muted. Comments below (single rating).

Polyfibre TCS: (9/10)

The feel of TCS surprised me. Like I mentioned before, the feel of TCS is a very natural one. I found although it was slightly, slightly muted (as most any copoly now is) the transmitted feel was also excellent. It filtered out the bad vibrations, but left all the good ones. I felt the ball well on my strings, but didnt have the misfortune of having my arm fall half off when I mis-struck a ball (which happens a little too often with a full-western grip). I was pleased at the response at the net. I play all over the court when it strikes my fancy, and being able to place the ball, and feel the response of the strings is a positive in my opinion.

Leopard Plus Control: (8/10)

I felt that the comfort of the LPC was very admirable. I was surprised at the comfort level of the string. It felt muted as expected, but the response when striking the ball was slightly unusual. It felt as if the ball was dwelling on my strings, but the ball turned out to be already halfway to the net. It seemed like the ball struck the strings and made them vibrate back and forth much like a harp string would. I liked this feel, it gave a positive response to whether or not I was striking the sweet spot. I wouldnt call it springy, but the feel closely resembled this. I found touch volleys to be challenging with the LPC, but they improved later on in the life.

String Movement

As with all (co)poly strings, the intersections tend to dimple into each other and the strings stay put extremely well. This was no different with the following strings. The LPC seemed to shift a tiny bit at first, but once broken in, I never had to adjust strings much. The TCS seemed to shift a minute amount every now and then throughout the entire string life.

Polyfibre TCS: (9.5/10)

See above comments.

Leopard Plus Control: (9.5/10)

See above comments.

Tension Maintenance

Neither string performed very strongly in this category, although I think they were both designed to be played with over a longer period of time. Both strings "broke-in," and lost a little bit of tension, and the playability and characteristics of each string changed drastically over the play period. I think that stringing the TCS 2-4 lbs higher, and keeping the Leopard Pro Control the same would give a mean comparison. I believe I would be happy to play with either if this was the case.

Polyfibre TCS: (6/10)

TCS, although a very good string in many other categories suffered a little too much in the tension maintenance category for me. I felt that the string played great for the first 6-8 hours, but after this, it became a slight bit uncontrollable for me. I think that with a tension bump, this would perform much like the LPC, after an initial drop, the tension would stabilize at just the right point.

Leopard Plus Control: (7/10)

I would give this a higher score, but it simply astounds me as to how much the string changed, seemingly overnight. I felt that the tension consistency after the (relatively) small break in period was pretty darn good. Low rating for the initial drop, otherwise an admirable performer.

Durability

As with all co-polys that find their way into my frame(s), I usually end up cutting them out due to tension and/or playability problems. These both were no different, although I felt that the LPC still had a bit of life left in them after the end of my play period. I ended up cutting both sets out due to the test period being over, and my wrist twinging more than I could handle.

Polyfibre TCS: (8/10)

This was similar, although there was a little more dimpling/notching during the end of my play test. The tension maintenance also factors in slightly here.

Leopard Plus Control: (9/10)

I cant comment on the long, long term durability of the leopard, but the first 5-10 hours were very promising. Normally, co-poly strings show noticeable dimpling, even after the first hour or two. The Leopard plus control had slight bends from the intersection(s) of the string, but didnt have much (if any) notching! I think this would be a good choice for string breakers looking for a more comfortable alternative.

Weather/Temperature:

Cold, wet, cold. And wet. I played exclusively indoors during the duration of this play test, although the cold weather seemed to affect the balls. They bounced lower, skidded more, and seemed slightly heavier. (Just a note, in case this affects your view on my ratings).

Court Surface:

Hard court, medium bounce, medium-fast speed.

Overall Summary:

Polyfibre TCS: Excellent overall feel/stroke response. A natural, organic, comfortable feel and response upon striking the ball. Power is just right, right off the machine. I strongly suggest taking the manufacturers advice on stringing this up 2-4 lbs compared to your normal tension. I think spin doctors will like the natural spin production this string gives.

Leopard Plus Control: Discouraging first hit should not deter you from breaking this string in. Once it breaks in, the response is consistent and predictable. An excellent overall feel. After break-in, the string becomes very user friendly and an admirable all around performer. Flatter hitters may like this string fresh.



Comfort
Polyfibre TCS 17 81
Leopard Plus Control 17 78
Control
Polyfibre TCS 17 93
Leopard Plus Control 17 83
Feel
Polyfibre TCS 17 88
Leopard Plus Control 17 80
Power
Polyfibre TCS 17 86
Leopard Plus Control 17 75
Spin
Polyfibre TCS 17 96
Leopard Plus Control 17 87
String Movement
Leopard Plus Control 17 95
Polyfibre TCS 17 93
Tension Maintenance
Leopard Plus Control 17 77
Polyfibre TCS 17 63
Overall Playability
Polyfibre TCS 17 91
Leopard Plus Control 17 83
Playtest date: January, 2007.
All content copyright 2007 Tennis Warehouse.

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