There are all kinds of factors that can influence your performance on the tennis court, but what often goes overlooked is the impact that your racquet strings can have on your game. Although this might seem like a minor detail, you would be surprised at how much of a difference a small adjustment in string tension can make, or how choosing the right gauge (thickness) can noticeably boost the responsiveness of your racquet. You wouldn't want something so seemingly innocuous as your racquet strings to hold your game back, so keep the following points in mind to ensure that your string setup will work in your favor.
Choosing the Right Tennis Strings: Three Main Factors to Consider
When choosing the type of strings you want to use, there are three main factors to consider: Material,
- Material: Without getting mind-numbingly technical, suffice it to say that all tennis strings loosely fit into one of two categories: Natural gut or synthetic gut. As the name implies, natural gut strings are actually made from the intestines of a cow (very appealing, we know). Natural gut strings are typically quite high in price, and they are a popular choice for professional players due to their stability and elasticity. Because the price of natural gut strings is somewhat prohibitive, they are not often recommended for recreational or non-professional players. Synthetic gut, on the other hand, can be made from a wide range of materials including nylon,
and polyester, and they can come in a variety of textures as well. For the average recreational player, kevlar multifilamentsynthetic gut is the most popular choice due to its versatility and playability.
Gauge: This is the diameter or thickness of the string, which typically ranges from about 1.00-1.10 mm (a.k.a., "19 Gauge") to 1.41-1.49 mm (a.k.a. "15 Gauge"). Just to make things a little more confusing, as the gauge number goes up, the actual thickness of the string gets smaller. Gauge plays a big part in terms of producing feel and spin, and as a general rule, thinner gauges tend to deliver more power,
controland playability. The most popular gauge size for recreational players is arguably 16, but if you want to try a different size, it is recommended that you err on the thinner side instead of going for thicker strings.
Tension: This is one of the most important decisions you'll make in terms of how your strings can affect your game. String tension is measured in terms of the pounds of pressure that must be applied in order to stretch the strings (much like a hunting bow), with the typical range being anywhere between 40 to 70 pounds. A lower level of string tension actually provides more rebound for the ball, which translates into more power and range for your strokes. The trade-off is that you will sacrifice a little bit of control over your racquet.
A high level of string tension offers you more control and "crispness" to your shots, and you are better able to control the speed and direction of the ball due to minimal string movement. Keep in mind that when your strings are tighter, they will absorb less impact from your strokes, which means that the shock will be transferred to your arm. This can produce soreness or injury over the long run, especially if you are prone to tennis elbow. So the bottom line is that if you want more power, choose a lower string tension; if you want more control, choose a higher string tension. The typical beginning or recreational tennis player can benefit more from a looser string tension, as it gives them the ability to produce power for their shots without having to swing too hard.
Discovering the best tennis string setup for you is largely a personal choice, and it is much more an art than a science. Keep the above information in mind to help you make an informed decision, and once you make the appropriate adjustments to your strings, it just might give you that edge you're looking for out on the court!