Tennis Stringing 101: Everything You Need to Know
One of the most frequent line of questions we get at our travel camps and at our facilities around the globe is when to restring a tennis racquet, what string to use, and what tension is best. There are a lot of resources on the internet that attempt to answer these questions, but unfortunately most of the time this info is purely based off of a biased personal experience, or an advertising pitch from a stringing company. So today we're going to give you the 101 of tennis stringing, and THEN we'll give you our personal racquet setups so you can compare. String Tension One main issue that club players, and even teaching pros, often face is the "recommended tension" that manufacturers put on the frame of a racquet. We do not recommend following that guidance, because tensions should vary by string type, gauge thickness, and player game-style. As a general rule, tighter tension will create more control but less power and access to spin. Lower tensions create more spin potential and easier access to power, but offer less control. A couple of ther factors that will determine these characteristics....
Gauge: Thinner gauge, 17 or 18 on most products, will create more power, feel and spin potential, but offer less durability. Thicker gauge, 15L or 16 on most products, will create more durability but less power, feel and spin. String setup: All racquets have a different string setup. The most common being 16 (mains) by 19 (crosses). If you use a more "open" string-bed, we recommend stringing at a slightly higher tension. If you use a "tighter" string-bed, such as 18x20, we recommend stringing at a slightly or event significantly lower tension. Racquet Weight: Heavier racquets should be strung at lower tensions, and lighter racquets should be strung at higher tensions to help balance power and control. Disclaimer: We are partnered with HEAD Tennis, and will be linking only to their products in this article. Many companies make tennis strings, but we love the strings HEAD produces and have found some great setups for our clients. The info you'll find in this piece can be applied to all brands! Types of String Natural Gut (Often referred to as simply "Gut"): Old school! But hanging onto relevance? Natural gut is indeed made from cow intestines, which may turn some people off, but it was the only/dominant string on the market for many decades. There is still a place for natural gut in 2024, and you might hear that a lot of pros use gut in their setups. There is truth to that, but the percentage of players is dwindling. These are the most expensive strings available, but they do provide undoubtably provide the softest feel. If you are not a string breaker, specifically a flatter hitting, then this could be an option for you as natural gut strings do hold their tension quite well. But if you are a player that hits the ball aggressively from the baseline, or with a significant amount of topspin, these will break fairly quickly. If you'd like to experiment with natural gut, our tip is to hybrid these with a polyester string in the main or crosses to help add a little more spin and durability to the string bed. Price: $$$$ (Typically around $40 per single set) Player Level Recommended: 4.0 and above
Pros: Excellent Feel and Tension Maintenance
Cons: Expensive, Breaks Easily Recommended setup: Hybrid with a polyester String of Choice: No specific brand, but try to price shop!
EXPERIENCE Rating: 6/10 Synthetic Gut: The modern (and affordable) version of gut. These are usually the cheapest option in a tennis shop or online, and it might seem like an easy choice, but we have a few disclaimers before you choose here. The synthetic nature of this string does not produce even a remotely similar feel to natural gut, or even multifilament (more on this below) strings. They also do not provide significant ball pocketing, which helps create spin. These do not break as easily as natural gut, but they do not feature great durability either. If you are going to use these, we highly recommend using a thicker gauge version, either 16 or 15L.
Price: $ (Typically between $5-12 per set, and under $100 for a reel)
Player Level Recommended: Beginners to 3.5
Pros: Affordable, marginal durability, easy access to power
Cons: Poor feel, poor ball pocketing
Recommended setup: Full bed with thick gauge, or Hybrid with a polyester
String of Choice: HEAD Synthetic Gut
EXPERIENCE Rating: 5/10
Multifilament: For players that don't rely on heavy topspin and want great feel on the string-bed, this might just be the best option for the modern game. Multifilament is made up of several small strands that are wrapped together and often coated to finish. This is also a GREAT option if you are struggling with wrist, elbow, or shoulder pain. These can range in price, and are not very durable, but they will absolutely help the game for players at the club level. These stirngs performance great on serve, return, approach shots and volleys. If you are a baseline grinder, this might not be the right option for you, but doubles players will love them. Important to note that there are lot of multifilament options, and the cheaper ones often break quite easily, so we recommend paying up for the more premium multifilament option. Price: $$$ (Typically between $15-25 per set)
Player Level Recommended: 3.0 to 4.5 (depending on game style)
Pros: Great feel, great touch, helps injury prevention
Cons: Lack of durability, lack of access to spin
Recommended setup: Full bed at a higher tension (at least 52lbs)
String of Choice: HEAD Reflex MLT
EXPERIENCE Rating: 8/10 Polyester and Co-Polyester: We are combining this into one category, because the average consumer will not be able to tell a difference. Polyester strings came to prominence in the early 2000s, and are now the dominant string in the pro game. Many expects (including us!) believe that this string technology has revolutionized tennis more than improved racquet technology. Polyester strings and their firm nature allow for players to swing much harder while also maintaining extreme control. That control is typically created due to the increased ball pocketing and spin provided by the polyester strings absorbing and easily sliding off of each other, a characteristic unique to polyester material. We believe that millions of club level players could benefit from polyester strings. The issue most recreational, and even competitive players face is the lack of power. That's due to stringing at too high of a tension. Polyester can be strung VERY low in tension, we highly encourage you to experiment in the 40-50 lbs range.
Price: $$ (Wide range, but very affordable options)
Player Level Recommended: 3.5 and above
Pros: Best access to spin, best durability, easily customizable, affordable
Cons: Stiff feel, low power, and injury problems if not setup correctly
Recommended setup: Full bed at a LOW tension and thin 17 gauge (40-50 lbs), or Hybrid with Gut/Multifilament String of Choice A: HEAD Lynx Tour (for best access to spin and ball pocketing) String of Choice B: HEAD Sonic Pro (great durability and comfort)
EXPERIENCE Rating: 9/10 My Racquet and String Setup Racquet: HEAD Speed Pro (18x20) String of Choice: HEAD Lynx Tour (full bed)
String Tension: 45lbs (if I played more often I would string lower!!)