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KNOW YOUR RACQUET

I get asked alot of questions about racquets and strings. My friends and students know I have been involved in tennis for over 30 years and have been a stringer for a good many of those years. I have also been an avid collector of tennis racquets and tennis memorabilia. This is just some of the fun we can have off the court with tennis. As a stringer and a racquet tech I have learned an awful lot about frames and how to customize them. I have done everything but cut down racquets. I just don't like this practice. I always suggest a different frame if the length doesn't suit you.

Question Number One:
Which strings are best?

There is no such thing as the best string or all the pros would be using it. First the basics. Lower string tensions generate more power provided that excessive string movement doesn't occur. Higher tensions give you more control and less power. A longer string, or string area, gives you more power. Decreased string density (string pattern) generates more power. Thinner strings generate more power and spin. More elastic strings generate more power and absorb more shock. Softer strings or strings with a softer coating tend to vibrate less. The more elastic the more tension loss in the racquet.

Matching string types to the player is essential. If you are a big hitter who needs more power you might try natural gut or a multifilament string like Sensation or even a thinner gauge. If you need control use gut or a solid core string like Strong Play or Polyon. If you need more touch try natural gut or a multifilament string with thinner gauge. For less shock and vibration try natural gut and multifilament. For durability I recommend Polyester or Kevlar.

After reading this you may wonder, well isn't natural gut the best? Well it is for most pros. BUT not every pro plays with natural gut and some use combinations. Agassi uses two different types of string in the same racquet. Pete uses, and has forever, natural gut 17g strung very tight. There as many different combinations of strings and tensions as there are pros. The ONLY drawback in using real gut is the price. You may pay as much as $50 a set for the Babolat natural gut. There are now other companies trying to produce cheaper gut strings, but I have not used them and can't say anyhing great about them.

Question Number Two:
I've been playing with this racquet for years and it just doesn't feel the way it used to. Do racquets die like strings do?

This I can answer from my direct experience with the frames I play with. I have used the Prince Ripstick for as many years as it has been around, about 10. I have broken more then 7 during that time and I am always trying to find more. But some of them haven't broken and have been in my bag for years. Do these play the same as the newer models I now have? Absolutely not. In time they, and all racquets, lose their structural integrity. Have you ever seen, in slow motion, what happens when we strike the ball? I have. The racquet flexes, or bends. In time the frame just wears out and the racquet just becomes more "whippy". I love getting a new frame because they are still relatively rigid and my serve and my game just have more "pop". This flexing also weakens the frame to the point where I have just shattered them on a hard hit return.

So, ask questions of your racquet technician and expect real answers. Your tennis professional should know you and your game and have all the answers you need to fine tune your game. The racquet and string combination I use may not be suitable for your game. It may even surprise you to know that not all pros use natural gut strings. They have their reasons and so have you. I am happy with the racquet and strings I use, but you may find it unplayable. Know yourself and trust your tennis professional to find the right combination that works for you.

As Scott would say "Good Luck on the Court!!!"

M. Paul Sanchez
Maranatha Tennis 2000
Tennis85023@cs.com