All About Racquets, Strings And Stringing

How to Pick a Tennis Racket for Your Needs

Strings may be the soul of a racquet, but to many tennis players they are just an afterthought. It is important to spend some time choosing the right string, the very thing which makes contact with the ball and greatly determines what the player feels.

Without strings on your racquet, you will not be able to hit a tennis ball, and as you may know, tennis strings can break often, resulting in expensive stringing if you get it fixed at a shop every time. Tennis racquets are built to withstand intense activity on the court, absorbing sunshine, sweat, water and the force of tennis balls traveling at high speeds.

The strings are the most important part of a tennis racquet and maintaining them will increase the life of your racquet and the level of your game. It is important to restring a racquet at least twice a year, depending on the frequency of use and your style of play.

Here you can learn how to prepare your racquet for restringing and how to approach the task with the proper technique. Here are a few tips you should consider on how to choose and to make your string and tension selection easier.

Playability

It is very difficult to agree on what makes a string playable. Some players like a crisp, firm playing string while others equate playability with softness and comfort. Historically, a playable string is one that is gut-like in its feel and resilience.

Natural gut is the only string made from a natural product, thin ribbons made from beef intestines, which, when twisted into a tennis string, creates a comfortable crisp feel that is simply unmatched. Natural Gut is the oldest tennis string and remains the benchmark for playability.

Durability

Most of the players want a string that offers everything. Unfortunately, increased durability in tennis strings is usually at the expense of playability, especially on shorter strokes which feel stiff and dead. Thicker gauges and abrasion resistant materials will be more durable, but they are less elastic and resilient than their thinner counterparts.

Prince has some “comfort strings” in thicker gauges, like Premier Touch 15L and Premier Control 15. The next option would be a nylon durability string, such as Gosen AK Pro CX, Gamma Marathon DPC or Wilson Synthetic DuraMax. After that, we recommend trying a polyester hybrid like Volkl Psycho.

If you are sawing through your crosses, a full string bed of polyester is recommended where you can select a firm one like Kirschbaum Reel Super Smash Tennis String or a softer one like Polyfibre TCS. Finally, for the advanced (5.0+) player who blows through the strings listed above, a Kevlar hybrid is suggested, which is the end of the road for chronic string breakers. Proceed with caution as Kevlar sends a lot of shock to the tendons.

String Gauge

Generally speaking, thinner strings offer improved playability while thicker strings offer enhanced durability. Tennis string gauges range from 15 (thickest) to 19 (thinnest), with half-gauges identified with an L (15L, 16L, etc), which is short for “light”. A 15L string is thinner than a 15 gauge but thicker than a 16 gauge string. Thinner strings also provide more spin potential by allowing the strings to embed into the ball more.

Materials

Nylon – Most synthetic guts are made with nylon which is sometimes referred to as polyamides. There are different grades of nylon, with varying levels of feel. Synthetic gut delivers a good combination of playability and durability at a great price. Nylon multifilaments offer truly impressive comfort and power. Unlike the more basic synthetic guts (which have a single, solid core), multifilaments are comprised of hundreds or thousands of ultra pliable, elbow-friendly fibers, and bundled together with flexible resins like polyurethane.

Natural Gut is the ultimate in playability, feel and tension maintenance. Often overlooked due to it’s cost, natural gut is the best choice for play. Natural gut offers maximum feel and control due to its ultra low stiffness, which provides phenomenal ball “pocketing”.

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 graphite era. Another way to get the benefits of polyester is through a hybrid, also very popular on the pro tour. This is typically done by combining polyester with natural gut or multifilament crosses.

This setup provides the durability, control and spin of polyester with the comfort, power and touch of a softer string – otherwise known as the best of both worlds. Due to its high stiffness and relatively low power, polyester is not recommended for beginners or players with arm injuries.

Kevlar is 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.

Fortunately, the non-gut synthetic string universe which is mostly nylon and poly based has improved dramatically over the last few decades. Today, there is so much diversity in the string market that any player, with a little research, can settle on a desired feature set.

However, learning how to string a tennis racquet is not as easy as it sounds. You will need a tennis stringing machine and some special tools to help you out. What a stringing machine does is: tensions the strings while holding the racquet in place, allowing you to string your racquet to your personal preferences.

Most shops charge upto $20 and up to string your racquet with strings costing $6-$10, which can add up very quickly if you break strings often.

By purchasing a stringing machine and stringing racquets yourself, on average, you will easily be able to pay off a basic stringing machine within a year with nothing but savings after that. But if you play tennis infrequently, it might not make sense to invest in your own stringing machine.

Besides saving money and avoiding the frustration of visiting a shop, you will also be saving lots of time by stringing racquets yourself. Although the first few times might take longer as you get used to your machine and the actual process of stringing, it gets progressively easier after that.

How To String a Racquet

Whereas beginning stringers might take an hour or so learning the ropes, intermediate and advanced stringers can often do it in under 30 minutes. Here is how to string a tennis racquet;

Mount Your Racquet

First mount your racquet onto your stringing machine.For example, the mounting system will have either 2, 4, or 6 contact points that hold the racquet in place. So, place your racquet on the machine and make sure all the mounts are securing it properly, especially the head and throat.

Make sure the mounts are tight enough that the racquet doesn’t move but not too tight that the frame gets damaged. Remember not to block any of the grommets when mounting your racquet, since you won’t be able to insert your strings into blocked holes.

Find Your Starting Point And Insert The Main String

You will need to find where to start. To do so, you will need to look at the throat of the racquet and count how many holes there are. If the racquet has 6 holes at the throat, you will start at the throat; if your racquet has 8 holes at the throat, you will start at the top.

You should also find which holes on the opposite side of the racquet align with your starting holes and make a mental note of it.

Grab one of the two halves of string you cut and insert them into your starting holes. Slide each end of the string through their opposing holes as well, making sure there are equal amounts of string on both sides.

The best way to do this is to have the two ends of the string put through the holes so that just the tips are showing. You can then pull on both ends of the string at the same time, giving you equal lengths so that you don’t have to worry about running out of string as you each the end.

Tighten The Main Strings

Start by clamping one of the main strings at the end you started at, making sure to clamp as close to the grommet as possible to minimize tension loss. You can then pull tension on your other main string at this point.

How you pull tension on your strings will depend on what type of machine you have: drop weights require the rod to be fully parallel with a level, horizontal surface for correct tension.

Manual machines are cranked each time you tension a string and engaged with the lockout system. Electronic machines are fully automated and only requires the click of a button to pull tension.

Make sure that the string is tightly secured or else you will lose some tension. Insert the string into the gripper, pull until the correct tension is reached, clamp it in place, repeat the process on the opposite string, and continue until all your mains are finished.

Tying The Knot And Beginning The Cross Strings

To tie the knot, bring the end of the string down one side of the main string and up the other, going through the loop you just created. You can use your pliers or insert the end of the string into the gripper to tighten it, and repeat the process again for a strong double knot.

The main strings are now finished so we can move on to the cross strings. At this point, you can reposition your clamps to accommodate the cross strings if your machine requires it. To start off, take your other half of the string you reserved for cross strings and insert it into one of the shared holes at the top.

Once your starting knot is secure, you will need to weave the string over and under the mains to reach the opposite aligning hole. This is done easiest by having one hand under the racquet and the other on the top, guiding the string’s end with both of your middle fingers through the weaves.

If you ended with the string under the main for the first cross, that means you will start with an over for the second. Basically, if you started with an over for the first cross, you will continue with an over for each new cross until you have finished.

You can choose to tension the string after the first cross or wait until you’ve done a few and tension them all at once. If you choose to tension the string after the first cross, just insert it into the gripper to pull the correct tension and clamp it as close to the grommet as possible.

Tying The Main Knot And Removing The Racquet

Now that your crosses are finished, you will need to tie a knot. This is very similar to the knot we created for the main strings. Simply find the closest hole that allows two strings to fit through. To make the hole bigger, use your awl but do it gently to prevent damage to the racquet’s frame and strings. The final step is to remove the clamp and dismount the racquet.

Inspect your work carefully, making sure there are no missing weaves, kinks, or any damage to the racquet. Once everything looks good, you can clip the extra string, but just make sure you do not cut the knot in all of this excitement. You have just learned how to string a tennis racquet!

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