Racquet Stringing for Dummies

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You hit a ball hard and mid-rally you hear a pop.  You look down and you have popped a string.  If this is your first time popping a string, you may be confused on the next steps.  Most tennis clubs provide stringing services and the price depends on the club’s service fee and the type of strings you request.  In total, restringing a racquet should cost anywhere between $30-$60 in total.  Below is Tennis Warehouse’s explanation on the various string types and how they affect your game in different ways.

types-of-tennis-string

Nylon

Synthetic gut or nylon? Truth be told, most synthetic guts are made with nylon (sometimes referred to as polyamides). There are different grades of nylon, with varying levels of feel, so don’t be afraid to try different synthetic guts until you find the right fit. All in all, synthetic gut delivers a good combination of playability and durability at a great price. Nylon filaments offer truly impressive comfort and power.

Natural Gut 

The ultimate in playability, feel, and tension maintenance. Often overlooked due to it’s cost, natural gut is the best choice for players with arm problems or those who crave its sublime, comfortable, crisp feel. It used to be the number one choice of ATP and WTA tour players across the world. Now used more in hybrids, combining polyester mains with natural gut crosses (with some players using gut in the mains for more power and feel). Natural gut offers maximum feel and control due to its ultra low stiffness, which provides phenomenal ball “pocketing”.

Polyester

Polyester is a very durable string designed to provide control and durability to players with long, fast strokes. Polyester is the number one choice on the pro tour because it allows advanced ball strikers to maintain surgical control on their fastest, most aggressive strokes. The incredible stroke speed enabled by polyester also translated into categorically higher level of spin, which literally changed the trajectories and angles available to the player. Polyester also served to harness the immense power that came with the graphite era. Due to its high stiffness and relatively low power, polyester is not recommended for beginners or players with arm injuries.

Kevlar

The most durable string available. Kevlar is very stiff and strings up very tight. Therefore, it is usually combined with a soft nylon cross to reduce stringbed stiffness. Ultimately, kevlar hybrids are the least powerful and least comfortable strings currently available. Players trying kevlar hybrids for the first time (from nylon strings) are recommended to reduce tension by 10% to compensate for the added stiffness. Not recommended for beginners or players with arm injuries.

After you choose a string, tension is the next most important component to consider.  Different levels of tension suit different styles of players.  Tennis Warehouse’s explanation on string tension, which is provided below, is a great outline of the varying effects of tension on how players play.

Power

If a player is seeking more power from his racquet, he should try dropping tension a few pounds. The stringbed will deflect more (and the ball less), returning greater energy to the ball. There is a point of diminishing returns where the string bed turns into a butterfly net, but it’s well below any racquet’s recommended tension range.

Control

A tighter stringbed deflects less and deforms the ball more, providing less energy than looser strings. This means the ball won’t fly as far when you hit it. Beginners who are shanking the ball in every direction won’t gain any advantage by increasing tension, but intermediate and advanced players who are hitting a lot of long balls will be able to reduce the depth of their shots without changing their swing. It is also generally accepted that spin potential is enhanced with higher tensions, which provides even more control for topspin and slice players.

Here are other considerations for players with different circumstances:

Arm Injuries – lower tensions result in a softer stringbed and a larger sweet spot, reducing the amount of shock and vibration transmitted to the hand and elbow.

Switching Racquets – too many players are stuck on a tension (“I always string my racquet at 60 pounds”) and don’t make allowances when changing racquets. Whether changing head sizes, brands, or buying a new titanium racquet, a player will need to make the corresponding tension change. If 60 pounds was mid-range on his old racquet and the new racquet’s tension range is 50-60 pounds he should start at 55 pounds with the new racquet.

Switching Strings – if a player changes from a soft string (natural gut, synthetic gut, multi) to a poly-based string, we suggest reducing tension 5 to 10 percent to compensate for the higher stiffness. This is more art than science and may require trial and error to get the feel exactly right. When switching to kevlar be advised that this material is much stiffer than nylon synthetics and quite a bit stiffer than most ploy-based strings – so adjust the tension accordingly.

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