Babolat Synthetic Gut Review and Play Test
Racket Used: Babolat AeroPro Drive (Older Model)
Tension: 58 lbs (about 26.5 kg)
Previous String in Frame: Genesis Trionic
I haven’t played with a full bed of synthetic gut in at least 10 years and I have to say I was very surprised at how well the string performed in the first couple of hours. The first thing you notice with this string is the pure sound it makes when you strike a ball cleanly. This seems like a silly thing but with tennis being such a mental game you’d be surprised just how much sound can influence your final verdict on a string. Some strings can be pretty pingy and that’s always driven me nuts in the past. I can’t compare Babolat synthetic gut to any other company’s syn gut offering at this time but this review is meant to serve more as a general info guide and less of a comparison. The variation you feel in synthetic guts is most influenced by the coating that surrounds the single core of nylon. Every company has their own blend. This can affect the overall feel of one synthetic gut to another in pretty noticeable ways.
At the end of the day there is no perfect string and every player needs to sample a variety of setups before settling on what’s best for them and their game. There will be always be tradeoffs no matter what string setup you eventually settle on.
Synthetic gut is often referred to as “budget string” but this can be misleading. The price for a set of Babolat Synthetic Gut is about $4 but you can find many synthetics for even less. The string itself is cheap but so is the lifespan. Even if you only play a couple hours a week you’d probably want to (or need to depending on breaks) restring every couple of months. If you play everyday you’d probably need to restring every few weeks to avoid compensating your stroke to keep the ball in (because of tension loss). With some multifilaments and polyesters you may only need to restring once every 4 or 5 months. Price does not equal playability.
The Fresh String Phenomena
Typically a racket will “feel the best” the first time you play after having it freshly strung. There’s a reason the pro’s restring daily and this is part of it. This is especially true with synthetic guts because the strings lose tension and wear down very quickly. If you love the fresh string phenomena but don’t want to break the bank on a more expensive multifilament (or even natural gut) synthetic gut is not a bad option… or a hybrid with synthetic gut in the crosses (horizontal) and a cheap (but more durable and greater spin potential) poly or multi in the mains (vertical).
With Babolat synthetic gut the fresh string phenomena is certainly in effect. In the first 45 minutes the experience was great on basically every shot. The feel on my serve and slice backhand was noticeably better than with the polyester string I had been using previously. The top spin potential isn’t outstanding but I generated more spin on my forehand and backhand than I was expecting.
Babolat Synthetic Gut – What I Loved
As I already mentioned the sound and feel of the ball coming off the strings was great. Serve is where this string really excelled for me. The string is soft and responsive and I found that I could locate all my serves well. Flat and slice were particularly effective. My go to serve (kick) was not as effective however. Instead of really biting and jumping off the court it sat up right in the sweet spot for an opponent. That being said this synthetic gut is much easier on the arm. Volleys were good in the first hour or so but the responsiveness (elasticity) of the strings did force many volleys long expectantly. Drop volleys are possible and can be just as effective but do require a bit more cut than with other string materials. This is a powerful string and you’re more likely to beat opponents with pace than you are with spin. This is definitely a suitable string for an all court singles player who will mostly be hitting put away volleys.
For teaching purposes I really loved using this string. Most players learning to play the game are going to struggle (understandably so) with top spin. The top spin potential on this string is low and that works out great for fed balls and rallying. I often struggle to keep a rally going for a prolonged amount of time with beginner and intermediate players because I have a tough time A) hitting with less top spin and B) getting the ball deep enough without using too much spin. Thanks to the inherent power in the synthetic gut it’s easy to push the ball deep and give students a great ball to hit. Ironically (more on this later) I felt I had a lot more control over the depth of ball. Also for return practice I was able to use my normal kick serve motion and most of my students could handle and return the serve (the ball stayed lower and didn’t move as much).
Babolat Synthetic Gut – What I Hated
Like all synthetic guts after a few sessions the string losses a lot of tension and the string itself (the coating around the nylon core) starts to wear down. Here is where you get what you pay for. That fresh string phenomenon wears off quite fast and the ball starts flying. This is especially true on volleys!
I’ve used the string roughly 4 or 5 hours (only 30 to 45 minutes of aggressive hitting) and the control on my groundstrokes is still relatively good (some small stroke compensations). When people say a string is a “control string” what they really mean is you can take a super aggressive and fast swing at the ball and it will still go in (top spin). You can’t do that with this string and as time goes on you REALLY can’t do this.
There are noticeable signs off wear on the string and my guess is it’s going to break the next time I try and hit aggressively with it. I will update the post when the strings break and where they broke. Some people have complained that this string moves a lot but I have not had this problem. I imagine if you string relatively loose in more of an open pattern racket that the strings would move around a lot (But that would be true for most synthetic guts).
Babolat Synthetic Gut – Final Verdict
If you have relatively compact strokes and play more of an all around game that relies heavily on serve this is a string worth trying. If you hit flat you’ll like the extra pop this string gives you. The downside is you really do need to restring on a fairly regular basis to prevent the dreaded trampoline effect. If you are someone who loves that fresh string feeling (you already restring regularly) also consider giving this a try. You might prefer the feel to what you are currently using.
If you spend a lot of time at net and need a lot of control on tough volleys (say for doubles) I would be on the fence with this string. It may work for you but you may have an issue of volleys flying long after you’ve played a few times.
If you’re an aggressive baseliner who relies heavily on topspin this is not the string for you. Chances are a lot of your shots will go long and/or the ones that go in won’t have the sort of lurching/jumping through the court action you’d traditionally get out of a spin friendly polyester.
This string is a lot more durable than I initially expected. After about 3 weeks of moderate play the string had not broken. However, by the end of the second week the string started moving. By the middle of the third week it got to a point where I would have to move the strings back into place after each rally. By the end of the third week the outer coating was completely worn down, the tension had dropped considerably, and the strings were moving around so much that for me the string was basically unplayable.
This is a comfortable string and if you’re OK with restringing every month I think playability wise it beats a lot of the multi filaments out there. The downside is you have to restring every month. I could see myself preferring Babolat Synthetic Gut as the cross string in a hybrid setup over many multi’s. Over the next several months I will experiment with some hybrid setups and report back on my findings.
I haven’t used this string in a hybrid setup yet but I’m really looking forward to it. I loved the feel of Babolat Synthetic Gut. I’m curious to see how it holds up in a hybrid setup.