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Guide to Tennis Strings


String Type

Natural Gut ‘Soft’ feel and able to maintain tension over the life of the string, but very costly and not as durable as other string types. Without protective coatings, very sensitive to moisture (sags).

Example: Babolat VS Team Natural Gut
Kevlar Strongest, most durable string on the market. Recommended for the very strong player who frequently breaks strings, or as a mains string in a hybrid setup.

Example: Ashaway Kevlar
Synthetic Gut Cheap, all-round option with reasonable feel and durability.

Example: Prince Synthetic Gut
Monofilament Very durable (good abrasion resistance) but quite stiff. Known for stretching and losing tension quickly after first being strung.

Example: Luxilon Big Banger ALU Power
Multifilament ‘Soft’ feel with great playability and comfort. Less durable than monofilament strings.

Example: Wilson NXT

Tension

A higher tension will give you more control over the direction the ball takes off your stringbed.

A lower tension will give greater power, but with less control.

Low Tension (40-50 Ibs) Low tensions are typically used with polyester/kevlar strings, to compensate for the stiffness of the string. A 10% reduction is recommended compared with a standard natural/synthetic gut or multifilament string.
Medium Tension (50-60 Ibs) When first choosing a tension, a good place to start is at around 55 lbs. Alternatively, select the midpoint of your racket's recommended tension range. Most rackets generally have a recommended range between 50-65 lbs.
High Tension (60-70 Ibs) High tensions decrease comfort and give the impression of having to ‘force’ shots to find length. It might lead to fewer unforced errors, but also fewer winners. Extremely high tensions (70+ lbs) used by players like Andy Roddick may be difficult to master and are not generally recommended.

Tension should be adjusted for the particular playing conditions. On soft surfaces (such as clay), the ball moves slower as more energy is absorbed from the ball by the court. Players have more time to react and therefore more control. Clay court players may wish to drop tension by 2-5 lbs to add power and depth to their shots.

At higher altitudes, balls move faster because there is less friction in thinner air. High temperatures also cause balls to move faster as the heat-softened rubber ball becomes more pliable and easier to propel. In these conditions, consider raising the tension 2-5 lbs. The opposite is true in colder, damper weather.

Type of play can dictate tension preference as well. Many baseliners will want a lower tension to give them additional power to hit deeper shots. Serve and volley players may want higher tensions for control and accuracy in their net game.

For polyester strings, it is generally recommended not to string higher than around 54 lbs.


String Gauge (Thickness)

Tennis strings are generally available in one of four gauges, or thicknesses: 15, 16, 17 and 18 gauge.

Thicker strings (15/16 gauge) are more durable, hold tension longer, offer greater control but are stiffer.

Thinner strings (17/18 gauge) tend to be less durable, but are bouncier and stretch back further on impact with the ball. This ‘trampoline’ effect generates more power.

The majority of players use either 16 or 17 gauge string. Gauge 16 is the most popular gauge for tennis, while gauge 17 gauge is considered thinner than normal. Choose the thinnest string that gives you adequate durability based on how often you are willing to restring.


Hybrid Stringing

Hybrid stringing combines the stiffness and durability of polyesters with a softer string for playability. Hybrid setups usually consist of a poly string in the mains and a synthetic string or natural gut string in the crosses. When choosing a hybrid, note that the main string will dominate the overall feel and playability of the two strings.

To further customise 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. A tension variance of 2-3 lbs (maximum 5 lbs) on hybrid stringing is recommended.


Ball Spin

Contrary to popular belief, the spin on the ball is not dependent on string tension, string type or pattern. The player has by far the larger role in generating spin. Racket head speed, angle of racket and angle of swing are more important.


Injury Prevention

If you have any elbow, wrist or shoulder issues you shouldn't get your racket strung too high (60 lbs at the highest), nor should you use a monofilament (polyester) string. Even the pros have their limits with polyesters – many are stringing at lower tensions or going to hybrid setups to reduce stiffness and impact shock.


Frequency of Restringing

If you are using synthetic gut, natural gut or a multifilament string, the conventional rule of thumb is to restring as often per year as you play per week, but no less often than twice per year. It won't hurt your racket to restring less often, but your strings might lose their responsiveness. If you use polyester string then as soon as the strings stop snapping back into place, and need to be straightened between points, you should restring.


What do the Professional Players Use?

Roger Federer Wilson Natural Gut @ 48.5 lbs (M)
Luxilon Big Banger ALU Power Rough @ 45 lbs (C)
Novak Djokovic Babolat VS Team Natural Gut @ 59 lbs (M)
Luxilon Big Banger ALU Power Rough @ 56 lbs (C)
Rafael Nadal Babolat Pure Aero Play @ 55 lbs (M)
Babolat RPM Blast @ 55 lbs (C)
Nick Kyrgios Yonex Ezone DR 98 Blue @ 53 lbs (M)
Yonex Poly Tour Pro 125 @ 53 lbs (C)
Serena Williams Wilson Natural Gut @ 66 lbs (M)
Luxilon 4G @ 66 lbs (C)
Simona Halep Wilson Burn 100 @ 55 lbs (M)
Luxilon Big Banger ALU Power @ 53 lbs (C)
Caroline Wozniacki Babolat Revenge @ 57 lbs (M)
Babolat VS Team Natural Gut @ 57 lbs (C)