The relationship between your tennis strings and racket: How to pick your strings

Today I came across two people that had their own input on strings.  One person wrote an article and the other asked my opinion on which type of string to use.  After stringing rackets for over 8 years, I have picked up certain knowledge about string and its relationship to the tennis racket.  There are ENDLESS possibilities with choosing string with your personal racket.  Let me first go over the types of string.

STRINGS

Nylon – It is the cheapest kind of string out there.  Forten(Competition Nylon) and Gosen(Pro Form) have their reel of nylon string.  From my personal experience, the durability of most nylon string is lower than synthetic gut.  But it depends.  I will go over the leading factors at the end.

Synthetic Gut – The name explains what it is.  Synthetic gut was made to be the cheaper alternative to gut.  It is usually made of nylon or other plastic-like fibers wounded into a full string.  One of the most popular type of synthetic gut that is used because of its cheap price is the Gosen OG Sheep.

I feel that synthetic gut and nylon are substitutable string.  If you were to give an average tennis player one racket strung with syn gut and the other with nylon, they probably could not tell the difference.

Multifilment – Multis are made from tiny string fibers wounded up into one string.  They are pretty unique.  Such string as Head Rip Control have a gel coating that surrounds the fibers.  When you are about to break Rip Control, the gel coating breaks while the fibers are exposed.  When the fibers are exposed, the string could break more easily.  Another type of multi is Babolat Xcel.  It looks like synthetic gut, but plays very different.

Polyester and Co-polyester – These two types are practically the same thing.  This string is known for its durability with playability.  There are many types of polyesters out there on the market.  Each play differently with its own unique characteristic of softness.

Kevlar – It is made from the toughest fibers.  You may know Kevlar from the bulletproof jacket.  These strings are HARD to break.  You would never string a whole stringbed with Kevlar.  You would kill your arm because it would feel like hitting with a piece of wood.

Gut – The most expensive type of string because they actually use intestines to make it(after much refining.)  When using gut, it gives the most playability and power.  The feeling of gut is just very nice when used in a hybrid(with a poly.)  I have never used a racket with a full stringing of gut.  Maybe some of you could explain that feeling.

*Textured string* – I have this thing against using textured poly.  Of course Federer used the alu rough and he knows his equipment.  The main marketing point of a textured poly is to generate more spin.  I am not sure if they are trying to sell that the texture somehow puts more spin on the ball.  For my interpretation of using a textured poly, I believe that the texture holds the string in place on contact.  The pressure from ball onto the textured to textured string creates an etch to holds its place.  Over and over when you hit, the textured string rub on each other to create a deepen the etch.  So if you use a full set of “hexagonal” shaped string, the corners of the string act as a blade cutting into the other string.  You could think about rubbing 2 circular plastic pipes together in a 90 degree angle over and over.  Then rubbing 2 hexagonal shaped plastic pipe with rough edges over and over.  Which pipe would break the other pipe?  I would choose the hexagonal shape because of its edges.

Those string are the basic types of tennis string.  There are two different ways you could string your racket.  You could use a full string bed of the same string or a hybrid of different strings.  A full bed of the same string give the base feeling of that certain string. As for a…

Hybrid – When you use one type of string on the mains and another type on the crosses.  Popular hybrids consist of:

  • poly mains and syngut crosses
  • Multi mains and syngut crosses or vice versa
  • poly mains and multi crosses
  • Kevlar mains and syn or multi crosses
  • (the famous hybrid used by the Fed) Gut mains and poly crosses

Using a hybrid, people could customize the feeling.  If they have too much pop/power with their full set of multis, they could hybrid a poly mains/multi crosses to tone down the power.  This also would add durability to stringbed because of the poly mains.  Certain string have different characteristics.  From researching and trying new string, you would be able to find your own personal hybrid.

Gauge

15g, 15L g, 16g, 16L g,17g, 18g – That is the order from fattest to thinnest.  The L stands for “light.”  But 15L is equivalent to 16g and 16L is equivalent to 17g.  16g is the average size.  For gut, multis and synthetic gut, I would stick with 16g.  For Polys, I would recommend 17g.  If the poly does not come with 17g, just use the 16L or 16 g that is available.  I feel that an 18g poly breaks much too easily.  Why use a poly when it is not durable.

Relationship to the Racket

There are many factors that determine the right string for the racket and your playing style. These are the simple steps I take in determining the right string for my customer.

1.  Does the racket have a closed or open string bed?  Closed stringbed is made up of a dense pattern of string.  This could be 18mains and 20crosses or 16×20.  An open pattern string has “bigger boxes” between the string.  I would consider a 16×19 crosses an open string bed.  16×18 is definitely an open string bed.

2.  What is the size of the racket head?  90sq in, 95sq in, 100+sq in, etc.  A person using a big head size such as 110sq in, I would string at a higher tension with a multi or syngut.  For a smaller head size, you would string lower.  But of course it depends on the string and type of player.

3. How heavy is the racket?  Is it a light racket with an open string bed?  Is it a heavy racket with open string bed?  Light racket with closed stringbed?  Heavy racket with closed stringbed?  Anyone has their own threshold to determine the weight of the racket.  Also determine if a racket is head heavy or head light.

4. Choose strings according to steps 1, 2, and players style of play.  For example, for a baseline hard hitter that uses a heavy racket with an open stringbed, I would recommend full 16g or 17g poly string bed.  For an older person with a lighter tennis racket that plays recreationally, I would recommend a full bed if mults.  For that baseline hitter that comes to the net, I would recommend a poly/syn or multi hybrid.

Now to determine the tension:

This determines on the weight and balance of the racket.  The type of string also plays a factor.  Let me go through some examples with the factors laid out…

A baseline hitter with ~~12.5oz. racket-headlight(but fairly balanced)-open string bed-95 sq.in head-full use of poly – I would use a higher recommended tension.  If the range was 52lbs-62lbs, I would use 58-60lbs.  The heavier racket with the open string bed would just produce a lot of power!  The use of a poly at a higher tension would tone down the power.  Once again, it then depends on the brand and characteristics of the poly used.

A serve and volleyer with a ~~11.5oz racket, headlight(but fairly balanced)-closed string bed-98sqin head, prefers full poly – I would recommend two types: an all multi stringbed or poly/syn or multi hybrid.  For the all multi setup, I would string towards the higher tension.  For the hybrid, I would string towards the mid rage tension.

Just think…The key is to make the stringbed cup the ball to produce the power and spin.  For the closed stringbed with tougher polyester, a mid-lower tension should be used. For closed stringbed and full, softer multi, you would string mid to higher tensions.

*I find it harder to break strings on a closed string pattern as compared to an open pattern.

Choosing string could really get complicated.  I just named all the factors: string bed, racket head size, racket weight, racket balance, string type, string gauge, and playing style.  I am not trying to give you a headache when determining all these factors.  There are just many different possibilities to cater to your game.  The relationship between your racket an strings are a part of your tennis experience.  Choosing the right string for your racket could ultimately help you play more efficiently.

Feel free to ask me questions about your setup.  There is a comment box below for your use.  I would love to help!

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
  • Skipsonit

    I'm a 4.0 baseliner and thinking about restringing a Volkl C10 Tour Pro with Babolat VS in the mains and probably Luxilon Big Banger in the crosses (or do you have a different recommendation), what string tensions would you recommend? Thank You.

    Richard

  • Richard,

    I am sorry for not getting back to you sooner. But that is always a great setup to try! Natural Gut as mains will bring the power and poly will tone it down just a little. They pretty much offset each other(as in string type.) Since the C10 has an open pattern, you may want to string that setup at a mid-higher tension. What other string setup have you tried? Have you tried an all poly? Do you have elbow problems?

  • Richard,

    I am sorry for not getting back to you sooner. But that is always a great setup to try! Natural Gut as mains will bring the power and poly will tone it down just a little. They pretty much offset each other(as in string type.) Since the C10 has an open pattern, you may want to string that setup at a mid-higher tension. What other string setup have you tried? Have you tried an all poly? Do you have elbow problems?

  • John

    I play with a Head TiS6 and keep breaking strings whatever set up I use. I use lots of topspin and its been suggested to me its the racket that does not suit my game. Is that a posibility?

  • The Head TiS6 has a big racket face at over 100 sq.in. It is also a light racket. I am afraid that using a harder polyester to gain durability may affect your elbow with that light racket.

    If you are a 4.0 NTRP player or over, I think you should find a racket head at or under 100 sq in. Maybe try one of the popular Babolat pure drive, blx 95, or if you want to stick to Head, the Radical line. Try a racket that is 11.5oz and higher. The heavier racket will help give more mass behind the ball when you hit and help equalize the power and topspin.

  • Jakk1994

    What would be the best string for me? (I dont know too much about string)
    I’m a serve and vollyer, long fast swing for ground strokes, 2 handed backhand

  • Cedriclee24

    I’m curious about your comments on my setup. I use a prince triple threat rebel mid, 18×20, with prince top spin strings, 68lbs tension. I’m a 4.5 club player, hit topspin but an all court type that hits with good pace and long strokes. But do have issues getting balls back that I cant take full swings at while on the run. Any suggestions?

  • simon

    Great article, someone finally summarised the factors involved in choosing a string for their racket, not just choosing a string for their ego!

  • Sandrotriolo

    hi my name is Sandro
    i am a good club player, used to live in London and played indoor most of the time.
    since i live in Spain i play on clay ,but i still couldnt find a string that play good for me,which has good control and good power, i play with a babolat aero pro drive
    ( Nadal) i am a baseliner player that like to hit the groundshots.
    could you please tell me what kind of string i should use for my kind of game and wich tension?
    thank you in advance
    Sandro

  • That racket head is pretty big and light. The string pattern on that racket is very open. Have you tried a polyester/multi or polyester/synthetic gut hybrid? The durability of a poly may help. Or else you could try a slightly heavier 100sq in racket.

  • Arturo

    hey i need help on my volleys!!!!lol

  • We will go over them! Just wait…

  • Purvil

    Hello,

    Very interesting article (found it quite late!). A very important point of relation of racket with strings is mentioned here, which is seldom ignored.
    I play with Wilson Blx 2 95 sq inch. 309 g version. I am looking for new strings. I have moderate spin in my shots and a one hander backhand. Any string recommendations?