Babolat VS Team is the most popular natural gut string of all time. Legends of the game have strung it up in all kinds of rackets in both the past and present, from Pete Sampras in his iconic Wilson Pro Staff to current players, such as Novak Djokovic in his Head Graphene.
In the tennis community, just mentioning the words “Babolat VS Team” immediately conjures up images of magical touch and feel, delighting all kinds of players of all abilities worldwide.
Not only is it’s touch unbeatable, the explosive power this string delivers is also huge. Due to its thin gauge (17-gauge) and fibrous, elastic qualities VS Team remains the most powerful string on the market today. It’s no wonder that this was the string of choice for “Pistol” Pete Sampras in his day; supplying him with an abundance of mph on serve, complimented by the delicate touch he needed upon rushing into the net to kill the point.
Such is the versatility of the string, even baseline grinders like Lleyton Hewitt and Novak Djokovic have and continue to use VS Team. When combined with a polyester string in a hybrid setup, the string delivers an exceptional level of spin, power and consistency.
For our technical director, Tom, this is his string of choice in his Wilson RF 97 Pro Staff. This compliments his racket and game perfectly; enhancing the low powered frame of the Pro Staff with an additional power boost. Tom combines Babolat VS Team as his main string, with Luxilon Alu Power in the crosses. The main string contributes most of the power to his setup; the polyester string offering some control and extra spin potential as the natural gut string is able to slide against its slick surface.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, Tom took this playtest! Since he’s played with this string for some time, we felt that makes him the perfect candidate to evaluate what it could do for your game.
He’s going to tell you exactly how the string plays as well as providing some technical advice along the way. Over to Tom!
Power – 9/10
This is hands down the most powerful string that I’ve ever used. The natural elastic properties of the string lend themselves to immense rebound effect and an mph level that is unsurpassed. I tried VS Team out in two different rackets. Both rackets were the Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 (as I feel this that is the perfect racket to use in conjunction with natural gut), but one racket had a combination of gut in the mains and poly in the crosses and the other racket was a full bed of natural gut. This way, those of you who are unsure how best to string the gut can find insight into the best way to do this for your game.
As I began rallying from the baseline, I was generating excellent ball speed with both rackets. In my hybrid combination, I strung the VS Team (mains) at 57lbs and the Alu Power (crosses) at 55lbs.
***QUICK TIP*** Some people prefer not to do this, but I’ve always found it’s good to string the polyester string a little lower than the gut in order to add some comfort. Polyester strings are already very stiff to begin with, so there’s no need to make it stiffer than it needs to be!
In my second racket, I had VS Team strung up in a full bed at 60lbs. Now, 60lbs may sound a little alarming to some of you who are used to lower tensions, but you must factor in the physical properties of natural gut and how different it is to other strings.
You can go super tight in tension with natural gut and still maintain excellent comfort and power in your set-up. VS Team is so powerful to begin with, that it’s essential for most players to string it tight in order to keep the ball inside the court rather than over the back fence!
There are always exceptions, of course. Canadian and Former World’s Fastest Server, Greg Rusedski, used to string VS Team at 48lbs in his Dunlop racket. Considering Pete Sampras used to string it at a racket straining 70lbs, that’s very low indeed! We would also like to point out that TheTennisBros.com would never recommend either of these extremes to most players! In fact, if you try out Pete’s tension, you might find your racket cracks during the stringing process before you get chance to play! If you’re unsure, start at 55lbs and see how it feels.
I was really enjoying the huge pop I was getting on my serve with Babolat VS Team, but I was also delighted to find that my balls were finding their spots in the service boxes. Often with powerful strings, it comes at the expense of huge trampoline effect and no control. However, this wasn’t an issue at all as I continued to blast aces past my opponent with effortless ease and precision.
I didn’t notice much of a power difference between the two rackets I was testing the strings in. On serve, there may have been slightly more power with the full gut setup, but it wasn’t particularly noticeable.
It had to be a 9/10 rating for power for Babolat VS Team. As I keep mentioning, it’s currently the most powerful string on the planet!
Control – 8/10
If fine-tuned correctly, VS Team can offer exceptional levels of control without sacrificing its famous power potential. Since I was sensible about the tension I chose, stringing it tight at 57lbs and 60lbs respectively, I didn’t experience any excessive trampoline effect or loss of control.
I’ve mentioned about serving with this string in the previous section, but groundstrokes were equally enjoyable. Due to the 12-points headlight balance of my RF 97, sometimes it’s difficult to generate pace on the backhand side unless you manage to transfer all your weight into the ball every time. Obviously, we can’t be in the perfect position at every moment on the tennis court, so this can lead to overswinging and a loss of control.
I was pleased to discover that I was able to still maintain good control of the ball in these difficult moments, where I was pushed out wide. The extra pace I was able to access from VS Team in these difficult moments stopped me from overswinging and thus maintaining control.
On the forehand, I was able to swing big and still find the court. I did experience less control with the full gut set up compared to the hybrid set up, but control was still very good on this front.
I gave a very fair 8/10 for control. Players who string VS Team at a silly tension like 40lbs will regret it! But those who string higher will find excellent levels of control for such a powerful string.
Spin – 7/10
I found best access to spin in my usual hybrid string set up with VS Team in the main strings. It wasn’t quite the level of spin that I’d be able to access with a full bed of polyester like RPM Blast, but it was still very good indeed!
Considering a natural gut string isn’t designed to rip the ball like a shaped polyester, I’m always pleasantly surprised to find the ample amount of spin it does actually provide! There was an adequate amount of spin in the full bed setup, but in the hybrid setup I really felt the snap back effect on the string bed; the ball fizzing away and kicking hard into my opponent.
On my slice and kick serve I certainly tapped into some movement on the ball. My slices carved, and my kicks fizzed and jumped like a buckaroo. I particularly enjoyed hitting the spin serves over the flat serve for this playtest. When you hit a ball with spin, it naturally loses mph as you are hitting around the ball and converting the energy potential into revolutions rather than flat power. Therefore, it was great to see some good mph on my ball whilst also getting great spin!
I’ve rated Babolat VS Team a 7/10 for spin. It has good spin potential, but there are definitely better options, like Babolat RPM Blast if your game is all about extreme topspin.
Comfort – 9/10
Natural gut strings and multifilaments are the most arm friendly of strings on the market. Volleying feels like a dream and touch shots feel heavenly.
For older players or players struggling with injury, Babolat VS Team will come as a welcome relief to your aches and pains!
The string comes as a stark contrast to the hard, polyester strings of today’s game. Injuries are at an all-time high and part of that has happened due to the developments in string technology. The game has changed. The old school touch game of the past has now evolved into a game of physicality and power. The development of co-polyester strings meant plays could swing hard at the ball and keep it in the court, but this has come with a price.
Polyester strings don’t have much give and depending on the string, can be very stiff indeed. For those with the physical capabilities to benefit from them, polyester strings may be the best option to maximise performance potential. For those who aren’t as physically gifted or those who simply prefer a different response (like Federer) you can’t go wrong with natural gut!
Durability – 5/10
We would never advise you to do this, but if you are the guy who likes to keep the same string in his racket for 6 months, unless you play once a month, we probably wouldn’t recommend VS Team.
When a string has exceptional playability like natural gut does, it isn’t going to last all that long. If you are a hard hitter, then the gut is going to fray and eventually snap pretty quickly as you impart spin to it. If you’re not a big swinger, then it may last a little longer.
The good news is, gut plays well right until it breaks! A polyester string also has exceptional playability to begin with, but then dies quite quickly and loses tension before breaking.
Contrastingly, according to scientific studies in the lab, natural gut maintains tension the best out of any string.
One downside you may want to consider is that VS Team can’t get wet or absorb moisture in any way. If it does, the string will break within minutes. For a professional player who has 8-12 rackets freshly strung for one match, this is not an issue. But for the club level player playing outdoor all winter, this would get very expensive very quickly.
Conclusion – 9/10
This is an unbelievable string. I’m not surprised that it’s the go-to choice for so many players on tour, as it offers unmatched power and fantasy-like levels of touch and feel.
It comes in a little pricier than some of the other strings out there, but in my opinion that is an investment I’m willing to make, such are the string’s abilities.
Do you have a low powered racket and want a power boost? Then try this string.
Are you getting tired of all these aches and pains in your arms and wrists? Then try this string.
Do you want to serve 5-10 mph faster? Then try this string!
Do you play with a Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus racket? Maybe don’t try this string! (Unless you want to put a hole in the back fence!)
Review by: Tom