If you're looking for a string that helps put some Nadal like topspin on the ball, without the harshness of a stiffer poly like the Spaniard's famed Babolat RPM Blast, then Dunlop's Black Widow string is one for the shortlist.
Black Widow's heptagonal shape is designed to grip the ball, allowing for excellent spin potential but what else does this string have to offer and how do I rate it? Find out in this Dunlop Black Widow review.
Dunlop Black Widow Specification
- Construction: High-tensile, mono filament premium polyester
- Gauge: 16 / 1.31mm or 17 / 1.26mm
- Profile: Hexagonal outer profile
Thoughts on Dunlop Black Widow
Quite a few years have passed since Dunlop launched this polyester string and it has been regularly greeted with very positive opinions. Look online and you'll rarely see a bitter remark.
Let’s start by being clear on this string: it’s polyester. By that, I mean that a beginner may not enjoy it due to the relative stiffness and — how to put it? A plasticky impact on the ball.
Contrary to nylons strings, there is not that ready, smooth pop on every stroke, neither is there the sensation that if you swing the racquet hard enough you can send the ball at any arbitrarily big distance at any speed you like. You would run out of court space, anyway.
However, for a player who is used to “classic” nylon strings (be it multifilament or single-core), Dunlop Black Widow seems to be one of the closest things you can get to try polyester with minimum risk of disappointment.
Sure enough, being a monofilament string, the shock waves travel more unimpeded from the string bed to the frame, down the handle and you will feel a more considerable shock on every hit. But it’s much less than with other stiffer polyester strings, especially on stiffer frames and even more so on off-centre hits.
At one time I had Dunlop Black Widow and Volkl Cyclone strung on two identical Pure Drives and in spite of being strung at 23 kgf, the Volkl was noticeably more uncomfortable, transmitting a terrible rattle to the handle.
The Black Widow was at 24 kgf and not once did I feel any glimpse of discomfort, and this is possibly its main distinctive attribute: Black Widow is a very soft and comfortable polyester string.
If you tend to hit a flatter ball, the string’s elasticity means that you don’t have to go all out on every stroke. This also means that you can be a bit more relaxed on your strokes and don’t need to squeeze the grip so hard. Your tendons and muscles thank you for that. But make no mistake: it is not as elastic or comfortable as a nylon string.
I had also tried it on a lighter racquet, a cheap 270g (unstrung) Dunlop and, while the lower mass made the shock more apparent, it was still not uncomfortable. The fun part of it was that on this frame the ball impact was much louder and I had literally a blast hitting with it. I still call this racquet the “Psychopath”. The balls were a bit harmless, though 🙂
Now, if you hit with more spin, we enter a new planet: Black Widow allows those with the proper technique to place endless rotation on the ball.
I repeat the “proper technique”. If you can really brush, slice (or any other household-inspired term) the ball with a fast whip, it can leave the racquet with any curbed path you designed in advance.
Slice serves with Black Widow are particularly nasty. I cannot elaborate much further on this since my strokes are not that developed, but for what it’s worth, I think that Black Widow is there for the spin freaks. And for the not so freak, it will help you in keeping more balls in; just try to put some moderate topspin, and that’s it.
A Heptagonal Shape To Aid With Topspin?
It can also be argued that this spin potential is due to the string’s heptagonal cross-section (it’s quite easy to extrude polyester into any desired shape) and the grab that the sharp edges have on the ball. Maybe. Or maybe that’s plain marketing gobbledygook.
What really helps is that the polyester string’s surface is very slick. This allows the strings to slide back immediately as the ball is leaving the string bed.
This makes the racquet look nice all the time (and who doesn’t appreciate that? Really?) but more importantly, as they snapback, the strings will put a bit more spin on the ball. If you don’t hit flat, that is. It’s common to virtually all polyester strings, so I wouldn’t emphasise the exotic cross-section heptagonal shape much.
The Downside of Dunlop Black Widow
Now, there is a downside: being so soft, Black Widow notches onto itself quite fast. You cannot have the best of both worlds.
After 5 or 6 hitting sessions (or much sooner if you hit really hard), the strings will stop snapping back so easily because the dents on the cross strings will almost lock them in place. And when they slide, there will be an ugly “kraaak” sound as the mains enter/leave those markings. Try to move them sideways with your fingers, and you will perceive it immediately.
The tension will also drop noticeably faster than with other strings, even among polyesters. In my case, they did not reach the point of becoming unplayable, but the cue to end the show was when the notching became too much, and it felt like I was hitting the ball with a rack of hair combs.
But while it lasts, Black Widow will give you a very interesting experience, especially if you have never tried polyester before. You don’t even need to string it more loosely than nylon. 25 kgf (or 55 lbf) is perfectly fine, just don’t string it in too light a racquet.
Final Thoughts on Dunlop Black Widow
Dunlop Black Widow is a polyester worth trying. While you can't call it a ‘starter' string directly, it's certainly a good starting point for testing out polyester for the first time. It is also as good choice as any for players who may have used poly in the past and found it too stiff.
In my testing, Dunlop Black Widow offered above-average power (7/10 on my score below) which is unusually high for a polyester while still offering high levels of control. Of course, it doesn't excel when it comes to touch & feedback but this not any polyester’s primary asset, so no miracles. Still, it's decent, anyway.
The area it surprises is comfort (again 7/10) as this is not your typical polyester. As a result, it's not the most durable with notching visible relatively quickly, but this is a convenient way of knowing the poly is dead and it's time for a restring.
Have you used Dunlop Black Widow? Got any questions about it or this review? Let me know in the comments.