How-to-Buy Tennis String
The strings are the one part of the racquet that makes direct contact with the ball and determines what you feel at impact. Many players spend hours trying new racquets before determining their frame of choice but spend a few minutes selecting their strings. While the number of string brands and types can definitely be overwhelming, it is important to understand some key points in choosing the string that meets your needs. Luckily, we break it down for you here.
Types of String
- Natural Gut: The most playable string available is the natural gut, but it is typically less durable than synthetic materials. Natural gut is comprised of twisted animal intestine fibers, which is softer than any synthetic material used for tennis strings. Because of this, this string can be sensitive to water and weather changes, causing it to unravel. Frequently overlooked because of its high cost, natural gut is the premier option for players with arm trouble or seeking the utmost in playability and tension maintenance.
- Synthetic Gut/Nylon: Good for all-around performance at lower price points. These strings are typically made of a solid monofilament core surrounded by one or multiple layers of smaller filaments. Synthetic gut strings provide improved tension maintenance and provide a crisp feeling off the string bed. These strings are offered at a great price point, and several manufacturers offer these in several color options.
- Multifilament strings: Multifilament string offer gut-like playability at lower price. These are created by having numerous string filaments, usually made of nylon, wrapped and braided similar to natural gut. Multifilament strings offer a soft and forgiving option great for players with arm trouble who don't want to pay the price tag of natural gut. These strings are most popular among non-professionals for their playability and improved tension maintenance.
- Polyester strings: A durable option and great for those seeking more control and help generating spin, these strings are the most popular option with professionals because it allows them to maintain control of their shots with aggressive swings. Polyester strings are also typically offered with "spin" options that feature shaped edges or textured surfaces to grip the ball more effectively and create more spin on the ball. Polyester strings are stiffer and less forgiving than synthetic and natural gut, so they are not recommended for beginners or players with arm pain. Because of the stiffness, we suggest stringing polyester strings at 5-10% lower tension than a synthetic or natural gut.
- Hybrid strings: A blend of two different strings, usually polyester (on the mains) and synthetic or natural gut (on the crosses). Hybrid string options are becoming more popular because you get the control, spin-potential and durability of a polyester, combined with the comfort, power and feel of a gut string. Several manufacturers now offer prepackaged hybrid sets of their most popular options.
Choosing the correct string tension is almost as important as selecting the right string for one's playing style. Most recreational players don't understand how tension affects the way a racquet performs. As a generalization, lower tensions provide more power and tighter tensions provide more control. Because different players have different needs to achieve the feeling of more power or more control, it is important to understand your specific needs to determine what tension is ideal for you. Each racquet has a manufacturer-recommended tension range that we proivde as a starting point, and make any adjustments based on specific needs.
How often should I string my racquet?
One of the most common misconceptions players have is that they only need to restring their racquet once the strings break. Because racquet strings hold tension, tension loss accumulates over time, causing the strings to lose elasticity and making the strings feel "dead," or the feeling when the strings have lost their playability and feel. The problem with continuing to play with "dead" strings is a player may begin to adjust their technique to compensate for loss in tension in their strings. The general rule of thumb is to restring your racquets at least as often per year as you play per week. So if you play three times per week, you should get them strung at least once every three months. Keep in mind that professionals restring their racquets every day. Because strings play such a large part in their ability to perform, it speaks lengths to the importance of having a fresh set of strings!
Playability vs. Durability
- Playability: Qualities that make a string playable vary from player to player. Traditionally, the string that provides the utmost in playability is natural gut. Natural gut provides the most energy return, which lowers impact shock, making it a great option for players with elbow and joint pain. While other materials aren't able to match the phenomenal playability of natural gut, synthetic strings are able to mimic the qualities of natural gut at a more affordable price.
- Durability: Playability and durability are typically a trade-off situation. While certain qualities of a string can increase playability, these same qualities typically come at the expense of durability. Different materials such as polyester, as well as thicker string gauges, will be more durable than their synthetic/natural gut and thinner string counterparts. The downside of strings focused on durability is that they are less elastic, which will feel stiff and lacking in power.
- String Gauge: String gauge refers to the thickness of the string, ranging from 15 (thickest) to 19 (thinnest), with half-gauges identified with an L ("light"). For example, a 16L string is thinner than a 16 gauge, but thicker than a 17 gauge. Thinner strings typically provide improved performance, while thicker strings provide better durability. It is recommended to play with the thinnest string until breakage becomes too frequent.