Dunlop Black Widow 16 Tennis String Review
A shaped co-polyester designed designed for a blend of comfort and liveliness. How does it play?
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
Check Latest Dunlop Black Widow Price
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.
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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.
Nice review, I have used Black Widow for about 4 years on and off. The thing bout this string to me is it’s versatility. It just does everything well, which is not the case for most polys.
Cheers. In fact this is the string I’ve tried in the widest range of racquet types. It gives great pop and control on classical heavier frames and also on these modern “tweeners”. On softer and lighter frames, the power absorbed is too much.
Hey Rui, Nice article! Thanks.
Oh, and go Shapo! Anyone watching him play this week? Thank you Youzhny, he seems to be getting his aggressive playing style under control.
Sad to see Andreescu and Felix AA out with injury.
I thought Shapo would have a good week in Paris when I did my draw post. Just saw he was playing doubles quite late, needs to have high energy levels vs Rafa
I think the doubles with Bopanna has helped his game. But now, how much energy is left. See how it goes.
Nadal has just pulled out. Winner Shapovalov by walkover…wtf ?
Physical issues is the dish of the week. How many retirements were there in the WTA finals?…
What are these players doing to their bodies?
The court in Shenzhen is a joke though, I haven’t seen CPI speeds for it but it’s insanely slow, creating pure grind fests. No wonder they are dropping like flies.
Nadal has an abdominal tear, did it when serving during practice. I guess his ATP Finals is now in doubt.
Djoker looking good, didn’t see him against Dimitrov but was solid against Shapo.
Djoker hasn’t played Shapo yet. 🙂
Yes, what a shame about the women.
Cheers for writing Rui.
I have not tried Black Widow but I should give it a go. I’ve strung with RPM Blast many times and enjoy it. But this sounds like you get a a bit more feel and comfort.
When I was testing those Asics Court FF’s I used a Toalson Angel Film multifilament string and have to say I liked it. Was a pack I had lying around from a bundle I bought a while ago so going to be testing more of their stuff. Joker Core is another soft poly, be a good comparison to Black Widow.
Toalson frames are highly regarded too. They seem to on the antipodes of the current trend (not so current now) of stiffness. They have some strange and ugly ones but the S Mach 97 (maybe it’s a pun for “smack”) seems very good. And good looking too (similar to the best looking frame that I didn’t buy, the Dunlop Force 98 Tour).
I think they white label quite a few strings for the main brands. Never looked much at their racquets, but Japanese, usually means good quality manufacturing.
I am thinking of getting a reel of this. Do you recommend using another string alongside it in the mains or crosses? Or all Black Widow?
Black Widow is quite soft as it is. I never tried hybrids but I read elsewhere that BW is very aggressive on the other string because of its sharp edges, so if pairing it with a soft nylon sounds like a logical option, the latter’s durability might be compromised.
If you go full bed with it, it’s fine at 25 kg on a 100 sq in frame, 24 on a 95 and so on as a rule of thumb: that’s 1-3 kgf higher than with stiffer polyesters.
Experienced players like the TW staff suggested going even higher on tension and it’s easy to see why once you try it…
Might get some more durability if you put in some string savers to stop the black widow notching the gut.
Thanks. I was thinking of trying it with a natural gut like Roger.
Tension is the most important thing to get right with Black Widow IMO. Too many people string it way too high.
Hi Rui, nice write up!
Am using the RPM blast myself, how does the BW compare to that? I enjoy the spin and the (relative, for a poly) power on the RPM, but feels a little stiff? How would you compare durability with the RPM?
I am not sure Rui has used RPM from what I seem to remember him saying before in the comments but could be wrong so can wait for him to reply 😀
I am the opposite, I use RPM Blast but have never tried Black Widow. What sort of playtime do you get out of RPM Blast? I find it very durable, so based on Rui’s review I can’t see Black Widow getting close to it.
Thanks for both of your answers!
I play until I break (I know I shouldn’t, don’t have time to restring these days…) and I get a good 2 months playing 3ish hours a week on the rpm? I feel like playability gradually decreases though, and am never sure when I should cut them out. I usually tend to blame myself more than the racket… Might want to change that xD
Jon, how much play do you get from the RPM?
Given that I have no physical problem with the stiffness, might stick with the RPM then 🙂
Thanks for answers and feedback!
Similar to be honest. I would say I get 20 hours of it. At the moment I have been taking my racquet abroad so it has to last the duration and I have played with it when it’s clearly dead and time for a restring. But tbh even when it’s close to the end, it is still pretty good. It does lose tension quite quick though so I would say 10-12 hours is where it drops off.
Black Widow is fairly cheap though, I linked to tennispoint in the review and it goes for 7 euros or something so not a bad one to experiment with as a one-off.
Hi. That’s correct. I never used RPM blast (but might give it a go one of these days!)
From other people’s written experience it seems to be stiff and durable, much more than Black Widow.
I think that Black Widow falls very close to a stiff nylon, with better spin and feel, only slightly worse comfort, but lousy durability.
By the way, I’m working on a test report of Tecnifibre’s Black Code 4S, so if it is of any interest to you, I’ll submit it soon.
This is the best soft poly string around, , grabs the ball as well as Cyclone and gives me way more power.
I put the BW on the main and the Head Velocity Blue strings on the cross and strung it at 52. Really good feel. At first it feels very strange, but you have to get used to it.
Serves are very very powerful with these strings, like most other polys. Also I would recommend the 16 gauge as it’s not as tight for your arm.
Cool, thanks for the comment.
Have you tried the standard Velocity? It seems to be general consensus that coloured strings are slightly stiffer than the natural looking ones…