Let’s face it, choosing the right type of string for your racquet can get pretty confusing, especially with the many variations of strings in the market. To make matters worse, knowing the right time to restring your racquet can get frustrating for many Tennis players. It’s one of the most common questions asked in tennis communities and is often not given much attention. In this article, we will go deeper into knowing when's a good time to restring and some guidelines for choosing the right string so you can #PLAYMORE!
Knowing when to Change or Replace your strings
More often than not, recreational players only restring their racquets when the strings break. However, that doesn’t mean one should wait till then to change out the strings in your racket. While all types of strings lose its elasticity over time, the construction and material of the strings will affect its rate of tension loss. In addition, factors such as playing surface, playing style, playing frequency and string gauges affect the lifespan of your racquet strings.
A very common gripe players have which signals the need to change out the strings is that the ‘strings are feeling dead’. From a technical perspective, this means that the strings have lost its elasticity and is unable to produce the trampoline effect it is supposed to when the ball makes contact with the string bed. The sensation that the players feel is very dull and plank-like. Players who play with ‘dead’ strings usually complain of a loss of power and control.
Signals that players should look out for when deciding if they should change their strings:
Change in Shock : The shock created when striking the tennis ball helps a player to develop his/her strokes and build muscle memory. As strings lose tension, there is less of that familiar feel or shock during a stroke. Hence, over time you are unable to develop that muscle memory and players would have to continually compensate for that change in string tension by hitting with more force. Thus. if you’re finding yourself hitting just long and have difficulty placing the ball, it might be time for you to restring.
Sound of Strokes : When tennis strings are no longer “alive”, your strokes will often be followed by a "thud" sound rather than the familiar “pop”. This is because when your strings are no longer fresh, they tend to lose their elasticity and are less likely to snap back into place after a stroke. Hence, once you start to hear a change in the sound of your strokes, it’s probably a good time for a restring.
Decreased Spin : As your strings lose their tension, the ball will tend to sit on the string bed for about a millisecond longer, which has the potential to affect the trajectory of the ball. Even though tension has been proven to do little with spin, players tend to compensate or adjust their stroke to create more spin since the balls move deeper into the racquet. The problem arises when players continue to “adjust” their playing style. This ultimately becomes frustrating when players work hard to master their strokes but end up with many errors along the way due to adjustments in their strokes.
The Different Types of Tennis Strings
Once you have made that informed and timely decision to finally change your strings, the next obvious question starts to swing by. With over a 1000 strings out in the market, selecting a string can easily be a daunting task.
To help you navigate through the labyrinth of tennis strings, tennis strings fall into these 4 categories:
- Synthetic Guts
- Multi Filaments
- Natural Gut
The number of possible set ups for tennis strings are insurmountable, hence, you need to speak to your stringer and explain what you’re looking for in a string bed. Details like comfort, spin potential, power, control and durability should be included in your consultation. If you want a change, describe the kind of sensations you feel with your current set up. Your stringer should be able to advise you according to your budget and playing needs.
1) Polyesters / Co-Polyesters
Since the advent of polyesters and co-polyesters, it has become the most popular amongst top professionals and recreational players such as Roger Federer. The string construction is usually monofilament (1 solid core) in various shapes (hexagonal, gear shaped, squared, twisted, rounded) to create more bite on the ball and increase higher spin potential. One of the most popular polyesters on the professional tour is the Luxilon ALU Power Rough, a stiff monofilament string with rough texture.
|Enhances Spin Potential||Low powered (not suitable for beginners)|
2) Synthetic guts
Usually the cheapest option due to the low cost of the material (nylon). It is good for the budget conscious player who likes a softer feeling string bed. Its construction is usually a solid core with multifilament wraps. The (apparent) most popular synthetic gut is the Prince synthetic gut with duraflex, though even then, nothing to shout about.
|Relatively cheap||Poorer durability|
|Comfortable and soft feeling (Good for players who have history of injuries)|
Braided together from thousands of microfibers, these strings are superior in elasticity and shock absorption properties. The disadvantages of multi-filaments are in its lack of durability and higher pricing due to its tedious manufacturing process. Tecnifibre produces some of the world’s best multi-filament strings (X-ONE BIPHASE) and boasts a natural gut-like feel, at a fraction of the cost.
|Comfortable and soft feeling (Good for players who have history of injuries)||High price|
|Good tension maintenance|
4) Natural gut
Manufactured painstakingly from cow intestines, these strings are delicate but offers the best playability - the gold standard in tennis strings. In terms of power, control, comfort and tension maintenance, nothing comes close to natural gut (Pete Sampras strings his racquet in a full bed of natural gut at 62lbs). It is no surprise that natural gut strings command a high price, for it requires time and skill to string it. Main cause of damage is usually the kinking of strings during the stringing process. It is no surprise that currently, more than 50% of professionals use natural gut in a hybrid set-up.
Due to its delicate nature, natural gut strings shouldn’t be exposed to moisture - which greatly reduces its lifespan. Despite its high price, it is worth trying these strings as they don’t deteriorate as quickly as the other 3 types mentioned above.
|Extremely comfortable even at high tensions)||Premium price tag|
|Excellent tension maintenance|
Contrary to popular belief, natural gut strings can still be used in tropical countries like Singapore and Malaysia if stored properly. For example, not putting a sweaty or a damp shirt in the same compartment as the racquet
The variations of strings may often leave players spoilt for choices, but one should not be afraid to try new strings out. Who knows what may work for you? Also, if players are seriously considering to improve their skills, they should consult certified and professional stringers about the various types of strings they believe will suit their style of play. Remember, good and religious racquet maintenance definitely leads to enjoyable racquet performance.
Kenneth Leong is a USRSA certified stringer and Master Racquet Technician who runs his very own home based Tennis & Badminton Stringing Business. Check out his Facebook Page or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions on Tennis Strings or Maintenance 😄 If you ever feel like it, have a hit with him on Rovo!
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