Tennis EquipmentTennis Strings

Babolat RPM Blast Review

Designed to offer massive spin potential and pinpoint control, it’s the string of choice for Rafael Nadal. How does RPM Blast play?

Babolat's RPM Blast first burst onto the scene back in 2010 when Rafael Nadal showed up in Melbourne with a new black octagonal string that nobody had seen before.

Although it didn't result in an immediate title for the Spaniard, he won the next three Grand Slams with his devilish forehand spin which helped build the hype from there.

Since then countless pros and recreational plays have strung up their racquets with this co-polyester, and it's currently the string of choice for players like Dominic Thiem, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fabio Fognini.

So how does it play? Is it an excellent choice for a club player or it exclusively suited to big hitters with heavier racquets seeking maximum spin? Let's take a look in this Babolat RPM Blast Review.

Babolat RPM Blast Specification

Rpm Blast Specification

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Packed with the latest technologies, this high-density co-polyester monofilament string offers a totally unique feel and a powerful, ultra-high-speed response. The octagonal section and cross-linked silicone coating allow the strings to quickly return to their original positions and “bite” the ball better for maximum spin. How Babolat Pitches RPM Blast

String Used For This Review

  • Polyester monofilament, octagonal profile.
  • Stiffness: 189 lbf/in or 3.38 kgf/mm. This is considered stiff.

Racquet Setup For Testing

  • Strung at 23 kgf (roughly 51 lbf) as one piece
  • Frame: Dunlop Force 98 Tour, 310 g unstrung, 333 g full kit.

Introductory Notes

Rpm Blast Playtest

This is the first time I get to try a string that is widely used on the ATP tour, including no less than Mr Nadal. Babolat RPM Blast comes rated as one of the most spin-friendly strings on the market.

It has been around for about a decade and has test reports abound, so this is just another personal view on a popular piece of equipment, and I hope my insights are of some usefulness.

The type-tested is the 18 Gauge (1.20 mm), which is the thinnest tennis string you'll commonly find, so it should theoretically be a little softer than the 16 G types of other similarly stiff polyesters I've tried.

A foreword about the setup: I strung this on a Dunlop Force 98 Tour, which is a medium-heavy frame: 310 g, 98 sq.in head, 31 cm balance unstrung and abnormally low swing weight (313 g.cm2 strung) for its class.

You'll find a few reviews about it on the net and not all very positive, but I'll save that for another day. It came strung with the usual and boring stock multifilament Dunlop Silk at around 23 kgf, which wasn't doing any favours to control, so I had it cut and restrung the frame with RPM Blast at 23 kgf.

How It Looks

Rpm Blast Closeup

The string itself is very slick. As is often the case with most shaped polyesters, especially with an even number of faces, mains and crosses slide and snap back against each other very easily.

The string edges are noticeable but not much: having eight of them implies that the angles are shallow, so a stringer should not have any complaints with the job.

The whole kit looks very mean indeed: a dark glossy frame with splashes of abstract cyan and grey shapes with shiny black strings is a menacing sight… if only the guy swinging it was up to the occasion!

How Babolat RPM Blast Plays

Nadal RPM

Feel

Whoa! RPM Blast is firm. A couple of groundstrokes tell you immediately that this is a heavy-duty string. The impact is so direct and substantial that it feels as if you are hitting the ball hit with a mallet, with minimal, if any, harsh post-impact vibrations that are found on stiffer polyesters.

It's as if all the feedback were concentrated where/when it should, with just the right dampening: not too muffled and not too harsh, and this is where I think the materials' engineers at Babolat stroke (pun intended) a very happy medium. But let me be clear on this: RPM Blast is not a comfortable string in absolute terms, but it's perfectly bearable provided it's strung on a sturdy frame to handle it.

In this regard, it's not that dissimilar to Tecnifibre Black Code, but while the latter yields a somewhat muted and disconnected impact, with off-centre shots feeling like hitting with a wooden plank, RPM Blast feels crisper and more tolerant. Some of this impression is possibly biased by the lower tension and string diameter, but the frame head is also smaller, so I think the comparison holds.

On slower strokes, I found a surprisingly soft side (relatively, that is) that provides just enough feedback to make touch shots much easier than expected. For a polyester string, this is quite a feat, especially considering the string firmness on heavier strokes.

Control

This may sound like a dull statement, but the control provided by RPM Blast is great.

On flat strokes, which is not quite the type of play that polyester strings are designed for, RPM Blast seems to have just the right blend of crispness and elasticity to pocket the ball and convey the sense of where it's going to and, most importantly, how far it's going to travel.

I was particularly impressed by being able to defend back fastballs on the stretch that would otherwise die at the net. Sure enough, by that time the opponent was standing at the net just to kill the point, but I'd rather not elaborate too much on that…

Add a little spin (see below), and it almost feels like driving the ball with a remote control. Of course, all of it requires proper technique: weak strokes will see the ball speed dip steeply as more spin is added.

You need to keep a constant high level of energy in the strokes (you'll read the same statement that in any review of polyester strings).

Don't ever forget the laws of physics: the more spin is put on the ball, the more linear speed is drained from it. If you relax/get tired /are not fit, you'll have fun for a while, and then it's gone, unless you are playing against your 10-year old nephew.

Power

As can be deduced from the above, the power return provided by RPM Blast is low and not too different from other polyester strings. I estimate it to be about average in the class but bear in mind that I haven't tried many.

For example, it feels less “powerful” than Dunlop Black Widow but a little more than Black Code, both the original and 4S. I usually gauge the power return from the frequency of flat forehands that sail out on me, and I have to say that I was quite happy with the statistics I got with RPM Blast.

On the other hand, I wouldn't refuse a little more power because the level of fitness this frame & string setup requires is just flirting with my limits. It's fine when I'm fresh, but after one hour the wear starts to show.

On services, flat ones posed very little difficulties, provided I swung the racquet smooth and loosely, just as I had no trouble whatsoever with its cousin stroke, the overhead. Neither had much power, just the adequate, but good placement comes first, so it's a great excuse to start doing some push-ups regularly.

However, on strokes with little or no swing to help, such as a volley, the task requires a bit more work. It's a straightforward affair to deflect the ball back with good direction but adding a little punch for a put-away volley required a strong arm and wrist because RPM Blast's low elasticity will not help you there. And neither will most polyesters, for that matter.

Spin

In a nutshell: it's a banquet at your disposal in case you have the flatware, read “I pay attention to my coach and practice all the strokes he teaches”.

Here, I cannot fully dissociate the string's properties from the frame construction because the spacing is very even, resulting in an open string pattern in the middle of the string bed.

Considering all this, it's not surprising that RPM Blast feels like it's grabbing the ball with claws, so much so that in my first practice session I did zero double faults (was it?) in a set, as my second service, mostly sliced, insisted on landing inside the service box time and again.

Sure enough, the power was having a holiday somewhere else, but the sense that the strings were doing what they were asked to was unique.

My backhand is mostly flat, so I cannot get many benefits on that side. However, if you like to slice, RPM Blast can vary quickly turn that stroke into a severe addiction.

The first time I tried it on a drop shot, my opponent found himself hopelessly chasing a ball that bounced 90 degrees away from him to his right. Needless to say, I had an enormous amount of fun on backhand service returns.

On the forehand side, since I have a semi-western forehand, I can feel the difference to a less spin-friendly string. I found a more significant safety margin on approach shots down the line – a shot I'm not particularly confident at – but the tastiest invitation was to go for short cross-court forehands, which usually account for about half my winners (and unforced errors too).

Durability

The capability of a string to keep its spin potential relies heavily on the snapback. RPM Blast is slick, stiff and has an even number of faces, so it's not a surprise that after about 8-10 hours of practice mixed with play, I noticed just a little notching and the occasional scraping sound on strokes with more spin.

A higher-level player might start to get annoyed earlier than that, but for me, the durability is perfectly fine. So far, tension seems to be holding well but, again, it takes a hard-hitting player to put this parameter to real testing.

How To Get The Most Out Of RPM Blast

Babolat Rpm Blast

Like any stiff polyester string, this one is not suited to light frames. Don't even think of putting it on a 270 g frame; you need mass to handle the ball impact so unless you want to play the drums in an industrial rock band, stay clear.

On 300g and above, start at 23 kgf maximum and work your way up or down according to your taste. I would honestly stay below 25 kgf unless I were Mr Universe waving a 330 g frame. Anyway, polyester strings perform their best at lower tensions.

Who I Think RPM Blast Is For

Rpm Blast Reels

An intermediate player/student, physically fit and starting to hit harder and with some spin, seems to be the minimum to fully appreciate and get benefit from the versatility RPM has to offer for a polyester. Beginners should pass.

Final Thoughts

Rpm Blast Notching

RPM Blast is a great polyester string, not because of some absolute measurement but because it achieves a complicated balance between mutually exclusive properties.

It's very firm without getting uncomfortable and dampened in just the right measure to kill harsh vibrations, but not so much that it takes away the feedback.

The power return is average for a polyester, perfectly complemented with copious amounts of spin at your disposal to tame harder strokes and try other fancy ball trajectories.

If you have the tools, RPM Blast will give you all the control you want.

So far, despite being a little too demanding for my level, this is the polyester string that has impressed me the most with its exquisite balance of attributes.

Keep in mind that this is nevertheless a stiff string directed to medium and high-level players. It's clearly made for hitting hard but with decent room for craftier shots.

I liked:

  • Firmness and very live/direct feedback
  • Great control with a surprising feel on slower strokes
  • Spin at will
  • Durability

I didn't like so much:

  • Requires full stroke commitment, both physical and technical.
  • The firmness can feel a bit unpleasant at first.
  • No free power

Have you tried Babolat RPM Blast? Have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments.

Babolat RPM Blast Review

Power - 6
Control - 9
Comfort - 9
Touch/Feedback - 7
Spin - 9
Snap Back - 9
Durability - 8

8.1

IMPRESSIVE

So far RPM Blast is the polyester string that has impressed me the most with its exquisite balance of attributes. Keep in mind that this is nevertheless a stiff string directed to medium and high-level players. It’s clearly made for hitting hard but with decent room for craftier shots.

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User Rating: 3.59 ( 6 votes)

Rui

Live in Lisbon, Portugal and work as a chemical engineer. Incidentally some of the materials my company produces are used for tennis gear, such as ball felts and carbon fibre for frames. I'm tennis passionate for as long as I remember and a huge Federer fan but generally of any players or teams who place sports ethics above winning greed. I started playing very late and practice twice a week and occasionally at weekends. I pay great attention to gear, which can sometimes get a bit too distracting.

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19 Comments

    1. Thank you, Interesting details, and thanks too for one of the very rare opportunities to be 1. commenter 😊. What is no less interesting who use this and why (not Roger)? Just touched, more would be appreciated

      1. I think Tsonga, Fognini and Wawrinka use RPM Blast as full bed. ALU Power seems to be the most widely used. (I’ve tried the latter just for a few minutes but it felt very “metallic”.)

      2. Interesting, thanks Rui. Makes it more entertaining to watch their technique. Why isn’t Roger on this path, you think?

      3. Roger has more of a “classical” way of hitting. Surely he can hit with way more spin that any of us, but that’s not what his game revolves around. I suppose he prefers the added elasticity and feel of a hybrid string job for a more crafty and versatile game. Even Novak uses that setup.
        That said, it’s somewhat surprising that Nadal is very good at the net when the occasion calls.
        If you look carefully, Fed’s grip is not as extreme as most players, especially the younger ones. Some of them even point the racquet hitting side almost facing backwards on the take back. See Khachanov, Sock and Tiafoe, for instance. Polyester is a better fit for physical game with lots of spin. Personally I’m not a huge fan especially stiff ones, but I’m torn between 2 worlds because I hate trampoline strings.

      4. muser,
        I have two guesses:
        1) Since this wasn’t available during the time that Federer switched to a hybrid set up, so he used Luxilon. When this became available, he either didn’t want to switch or he tested it and didn’t like it, and chose to stay with the Luxilon.
        2) Wilson didn’t want him to switch, since Luxilon is a part of Wilson, and they made it harder for him because of that.

      5. I am surprised Yonex have not produced a string for Stan. They were meant to be working on one and they do have the Poly Tour Strike which I guess is similar but he is still using RPM Blast.

        Imagine if he had won a slam with a new Yonex string a few years ago when he was making the business end at 3 of 4 slams consistently., would have sold like hotcakes.

        I would say the main reason Fed never went to a full poly setup is because he’s not a huge hitter. Someone like Stan is well suited to it as he’s using a very powerful frame and hits huge, so poly is a good way to keep it controlled.

        Did PRF once say Thiem has switched from hybrid to full poly? That makes sense too if he was struggling for control given how he hits the ball.

  1. This review captures exactly how I feel about the RPM Blast. Even though I play it hybrid with Wilson Sensation on the crosses and at 22.5kg, it completely dominates the feeling how the racket connects to the ball. The feedback is just right. It even plays well full bed although I lose bit too much on the serve since the PS90BLX is not a power oriented frame. The only reason I am trying out other polys is the price and tension retention of the RPM Blast. The former is a little too high and the latter a little too low. Also, stringing RPM on the mains and Sensation on the x-es sucks. It’s really tough sometimes to squeeze the softer string between what feels like metal wire on those places where two strands of RPM cover a grommet.

  2. Thanks for the review Rui! I have used RPM before and is a great string like you mentioned. Keep the reviews coming!!!

    #GoRoger

  3. Thanks for writing again Rui. Surprised nobody has mentioned your hitting partner in the pic 😀

    My thoughts are similar, like you say it sounds rather dull or basic, but RPM Blast is simply a very good string.

    I’ve tried it in a few different gauges and enjoyed all of them. I think 17 and 18 will be better for players who want a bit more of a response from the string bed. But they will break quicker.

    Normally the wisdom is that this poly only works for players who hit with a ton of spin, but I hit quite flat a lot of the time and still like playing with this in a hybrid or full bed.

    1. I think polyester is fine for flat hitting. Modern racquets have a tremendous power return, so a less elastic string works well provided you do not string it too tight. The best way to use polyester is to go easy on the tension. Even 20 kg seems to works fine, so they say (although I never went that low!)

  4. I do not comment much but I read all the posts here. I am more of a player who watches a lot of Tennis and Federer rather than only a huge Fed fan so I enjoy the reviews and racquet content here so thanks Rui and Jonathan.

    RPM Blast is a bit expensive for me but I have tried it and I think the same as you Rui, it is one of the best polys out there as an all rounder. While it has not made Rafa the player he is, it has surely helped.

  5. Something a bit different – Roger heartily tweeted the news Novak and Jelena Djokovic and the Novak Djokovic Foundation will donate a million euros to help the people of Serbia in the fight against the Coronavirus. The funds will be used for purchasing ventilators and medical equipment for hospitals and healthcare institutions, and the entire team of the Novak Djokovic Foundation is working on ensuring that the equipment arrives in Serbia as soon as possible.
    Saved my day ❤️
    Hope Djoke to be a rolemodel for all big-richies – and maybe even to be surpassed

  6. Very nice review. I have tried a variety of poly strings including Luxilon ALU power and ALU power rough, Luxilon 4G, Yonex Polytour pro, Volkl Cyclone, Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour and RPM Blast, and I have used these strings on a variety of rackets with different string patterns (16×19, 18×20, 16×15, 16×20) and I personally find RPM Blast the best out of the lot and I use a full bed on my racquets. When I used Luxilon ALU Power I felt elbow pain when i played consecutive days – no such problems with RPM Blast. I found strings like Volkl Cyclone and Pro Hurricane Tour to be too firm and lacking in feel. I found Yonex Polytour Pro was somewhat comparable except it was slightly firmer, more durable, but offered slightly less feel compared to RPM Blast.

    1. Thanks for reading. Of all the ones you mentioned I only used Volkl Cyclone in one of my 2 twin Pure Drives at 23 kg. I did not like it at all. The touch was very harsh and plasticky. Sure enough, the control was good, but at the cost of a very unpleasant experience. I read somewhere else that it needs to be broken in but I wasn’t in the mood for raising up strings… I used it in a couple of sessions and had it cut.
      At that time the other PD frame had Black Widow at 24 kg and it was night and day.
      Cheers and stay healthy

  7. Good review. I agree RPM Blast is a good string. Crisp feeling, plays well and quite comfortable. If it lasted longer and wasn’t so expensive, I’d happily use it more regularly.

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