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Tennis Strings 101



With so many different types of strings on the market, picking a string can be confusing and overwhelming. There are hundreds of strings to choose from. To further complicate things, you must next choose a guage and a tension.

This article was made to help tennis players:

1. Learn more about the different types of tennis strings and to understand their advantages and disavantages. With this information, choosing a string will be less guess work and will help you narrow your choices down to a few strings. Hopefully this will save you time and money.

2. Understand the importance of the guage (thickness) of a string and to help you choose one that best fits your game.

3. Understand the difference tension makes and to choose a tension that will help you improve your game.

To begin understanding the many types of strings, we must first classify them into groups. All strings basically fit into two groups, Gut or Synthetic Gut.

Gut

Gut strings made from cows gut in a complex process. Because of this, gut is the most expensive string on the market. Gut strings are very popular among professional players because of its elasticity, tension stability and liveliness. Because of the high price, gut is not recommended for the average recreational player. Not to mention it is not very durable. Gut is also very sensitive to moisture.

Synthetic Gut

Synthetic Gut strings are strings are the many other strings produced to give the user different charateristics such as durabiliy, spin, feel, power etc.. Synthetic gut strings can be classified in the following areas:

Nylon Stings

A good all-around string category. This is the basic, and most popular string choice in tennis. It also happens to be one of the cheapest. It has a crisper feel compared with Multifilaments, good, but not as gentle on the arm as Multi or Gut. It's reasonably durable and holds tension well. A good category of string when you're looking for power and control. Examples: Gamma Synthetic Gut and Prince Tournament Nylon.

Polyester & Kevlar


This is the durability category; the choice for hard hitters, string breakers, and people without arm problems. Expect harsher hits (very harsh with Kevlar) with above average control. Kevlar (aramid fiber) is extremely durable and holds tension very good, but I would never recommend it as the only string in your racquet - hybrid use only. Poly has much more playability, it's use is not limited to hybrid applications like Kevlar, and Poly holds tension fair. A good category of string when you're looking for maximum durability and control. Examples: Kirchbaum Super Smashy Honey (polyester) and Ashaway Kevlar.

Multifilament

The top category after natural gut. Best overall playability, gentle on the arm, but punishing to your opponent. The fraying (as they wear) may annoy some. Holds tension fair. Second most expensive string after gut. A good category of string when you're looking for arm friendly, power and control. Examples: Wilson NXT and Babolat Fibertour.

Textured Strings

These are the strings that have an added raised band to give the string tecture. The idea of the this tecture, is to produce more spin on the tennis ball. Other strings such as Gamma Gut 2, have tiny groves that give the string more texture. I have had customers clip off polyester strings after having them only a few days because they couldn't get any spin with them. Examples: Gamma Ruff and Prince Topspin Plus.

Tension

Tension has the most effect on "feel" and control; and some effect on power. You're looking for ideal ball-pocket and snap-back with a crisp feel in your tension choice. It's all dependent on your swing speed, the speed of the balls you receive, and string choice. Let's pick a reference number of 60 lbs. and Nylon string - the ball pockets perfect and snaps back with power and control. If you switch to Poly it'll feel stiff . You'll also probably wonder where all your power went. (Yes, it is a stiffer string that returns little power, but by adjusting the tension down you'll improve feel and power somewhat.) Now you switch from Nylon to Multifilament. Where did all that rebound come from? Why are my deep baseline shots now going long? I've had customers mess up their game because they subconsciously shorten their strokes trying to keep the ball in, and when they swing with the proper stroke (long and full), criticize themselves for hitting long. It's your string/tension choice... not you, I tell them!

Picking a Tension
The range stenciled on the side of your racket is a rough starting point... it's for ALL players, men, women, young, old, hard hitters, moonballers, college aces, flat balls and spinners. My two cents? Start in the bottom third of the range. Need more depth on your ground strokes and pop on your serve, or does a hit feel stiff or harsh? Drop down 3 pounds. Shortening your ground stroke follow-through to keep it in the court, or does it simply feel mushy? Increase it 3 pounds. Did you know that some famous professionals (John McEnroe for one) have strung 10 lbs. or more below the tension range?

The Science of Tension
When picking a lower tension - or your strings lose tension - more energy (power) is actually given back to the ball. Lower tension - or a loss of tension - may result in a loss of control... the ball goes further than your aim point. Speaking only of aging strings that have lost tension... to keep control, you subconsciously back off stroke speed and length, which lessens the "crisp feel at impact" (that oomph you got from the new strings) even more... this feedback is why players call aging strings "dead." The biggest problem - loss of control - is due to two factors; 1) the trampoline effect of aging strings, and 2) a lower tension results in longer ball dwell time on the racquet... the ball stays on the strings and releases later in your stroke... when this new angle of release (launch angle) is not tuned to your speed and stroke style, you'll shoot that darn ball all over the place.

String Tension Power Control Durability Comfort Feel
Higher Less More Less Less Less
Lower More Less More More More


Guage

Gauge has the most effect on feel and spin. Go thin! At least as thin as you can without breaking a string every month. Thinner gauges play better, and deliver more power, more control and/or spin (better bite on the ball). They simply feel better... and are less stressful on your arm. Start with a 17 ga. Breaks too soon? Try another brand. Breaks too soon again? Move up to a thicker 16 gauge. But if the 17 ga. lasts... you're in luck now... move down to a thinner 18 gauge which will give you even more of a good thing! My experience? Most recreational playing men should use a 16 ga., and most women a 17ga. Keep in mind that some racquets (widebody's) are "string breakers" no matter what your style or power... start with 16 ga.

String Guage Spin Elasticity Durability Comfort Feel
Thicker Less Less More Less Less
Thinner More More Less More More


Aproximate Guage diameters:

Gauge Diameter
15 1.43 mm
15L 1.38 mm
16 1.32 mm
16L 1.28 mm
17 1.25 mm
17L 1.20 mm
18 1.10 mm


Hybrids

What is a Hybrid?
Hybrid stringing consists of using different strings in the main and cross strings of a racquet. Hybrid stringing can be as simple as varying string thickness between the main and cross string, to using completely different string materials.

Why Should I use a Hybrid String?
Hybrid stringing is gaining popularity as more players are looking for a blend of string qualities. By selecting different hybrid combinations of string, players can fine-tune the playability, comfort, durability, liveliness and control offered by the stringbed. For instance, heavy hitting players can find a good combination of durability and playability with a polyester main string and natural gut or premium synthetic cross string hybrid.

Selecting the Main String
When choosing a hybrid, note that the main string will dominate the overall feel and playability of the two strings. For example, if you are seeking durability, then the most durable of the two strings selected should be chosen as the main string. If your overall goal is playability, then the string with the most desirable playing characteristics should be chosen as the main string. For playability, select a thinner gauge as the main string such as 17 or 18 gauge. For durability, select a thicker main string such 15L or 16 gauge. You can mix gauges between mains and crosses.

Selecting the Cross String
Think of the cross string as having an influence on the main string. While you will not get the full benefit of the string's playing characteristics, the overall feel of the stringbed will be altered. For example, a soft and forgiving cross string, such as natural gut or multifilament synthetic, can soften-up a stiff and durable main string, such as polyester.

Selecting a Tenison
To further customize your hybrid selection, you can vary the tension between strings. As a general rule, main strings should be strung tighter than cross strings. This is a popular set-up with professional players and is a good way of increasing the size of the sweetspot. We recommend a tension variance of 2-3lbs and have a maximum tension variance of 5lbs on hybrid stringing.

Popular Hybrid Combinations:

Andy Roddick Mara Safin Budget Durable Feel
Hurricane Mains Ballistic 16 Mains Rip Control Mains
VS Gut Crosses VS Gut 16 Crosses  Gamma TNT Crosses
Roger Federer Tour Blend  Wilson Durable Feel
VS Gut Mains Banger Orginal Mains Enduro Mains
ALU Power Rough Crosses VS Gut Crosses NXT Max Crosses
Maria Sharapova Gut Durability Babolat Durable/Feel
Pro Hurricane 17 Mains VS Gut 15L Mains Hurricane Mains
VS Gut 16 Crosses VS Gut 17 Crosses X-Cel Crosses
Jennifer Capriati Gut/Multi Gamma Durable Feel
VS Gut 16 Mains VS Gut Mains Zo Power Mains
BB ALU Power Crosses NRG/NXT/X-Cel Crosses XP 17 Crosses
Tim Henman Budget Gut/Multi Vintage Aggasi
BB Timo 17 Mains Legend Gut Mains Ashaway Kevlar Mains
VS Gut 17 Crosses Sensation Crosses VS Gut Crosses
Leyton Hewitt  NXT Durability Budget Aggasi
VS Gut 17 Mains NXT Max Mains Ashaway Kevlar Mains
BB ALU Power Crosses NXT (Orig) Crosses Prince Original Cross
Mara Safin Tecnifibre Ultimate  
Ballistic 16 Mains X-One 17 Mains  
VS Gut 16 Crosses  NRG 18 Crosses  


Best Regards,
Trevor Meier
www.GlobalTennisNetwork.com