One of the most asked questions I get is: do tennis strings really make a difference? And if so, which type of strings should I get? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple yes or no. Instead, it depends on a few factors that we will explore in this blog post.
Foremost, strings are definitely a very important factor to consider, as they can make a significant difference when you play. However, if you are a beginner tennis player you definitely don’t need to spend a lot to get the fanciest string that’s out there, as most beginners barely notice any difference between strings. Nevertheless, if you are an intermediate to advanced player, there are several string types to consider depending on your budget, playing style, technique and how prone you are to injury.
In this blog post you will find information on:
- String types
- Combining different string types
- Overview table with pros and cons of each string type
1. Tennis string categories
Tennis strings can be categorized in the following types:
- Natural gut
- Synthetic gut
- Polyester (a.k.a. Monofilament strings)
Natural gut is by far the best tennis string out there in terms of playability. Before we go any further, it is important to describe what “playability” means, since it’s a term very commonly used to describe tennis strings. Playability simply put, generally refers to the combination of the feel when the strings make contact with the ball, feedback and controllable power. The more playability a string has, generally the more comfortable, softer and controllable power it has. This is where Natural gut excels. Its material composition might sound a bit shocking, since they are actually made out of cow intestines. However, after a complex manufacturing process, they become great tennis string with highly elastic properties which provide great power and comfort without compromising feel and control. There are two downsides to this type of strings. One, they are the priciest out of all categories; and two, they break rather quickly. So, unless you are a professional player, or have a very flexible budget, it is recommended to stick with some of the other choices. Moreover, it is also coming down to preferences. Some players may actually not like the feel/playability of Natural gut strings and prefer a string that is a bit more stiff.
This is a highly recommended string for most beginners and intermediate players, due to its overall moderate characteristics, decent playability and good comfort. However, if you are looking for a string that gives you a lot of spin or if you seek durability in your strings you might want to look elsewhere. Another positive of synthetic strings is that they are not too heavy on your pocket, but still provide a good quality relative to its pricing.
Like the name suggests, these types of strings are made up of micro-synthetic fibers that intertwist together in different ways to make-up a single string. They are great in absorbing the shock of impact. This makes them a great option for those players who are looking for a “soft” string, who have elbow problems or who are just looking to reduce the risk of injuries. Overall, they provide great power, comfort and playability and are a much cheaper alternative to natural gut. One of its downsides is that relatively they lack control.
This is a string type that provides an excellent combination of power, control, spin and durability and is very popular among advanced and even pro players. Players will be able to take bigger swings while still maintaining a relatively good level of control. Due to their composition, polyesters are much stiffer than their counterparts. This stiffness decreases their comfort and explains their relatively quick tension loss.
Gauge refers to the thickness of the string. The thicker the string, the more durable it is and the less spin it provides. The thinner it is, the less durability it has but the more spin it provides. This is because a thinner string will have more bite and/or go deeper into the ball at contact. While a thicker string will have less bite, but it will be able to sustain more impact due to its wider composition.
Generally, most players will find either 16 gauge (1.22 – 1.33mm) or 17 gauge (1.16 -1.25mm) to suit their needs best. Note: 17 gauge is thinner so it will provide you with more spin but break a bit faster. How soon? That can vary significantly depending on your level, amount of spin you play with, how hard you hit and how often you play.
Previously it was thought that tension has a huge impact on the amount of power and control over the ball that one gets. However, more and more studies now show that tension is not a huge factor. Instead, racket balance and weight properties will have a much bigger impact on these power and control factors. So, if you are looking for a lot more power or control you are better off switching or customizing you own racket. However, this is not to say tension doesn’t make any difference: it certainly does!
Therefore, if you just want a minor adjustment, then adjusting the tension is the way to go. Tension is measured in kilograms or pounds. Again, there is a tradeoff between power and control. The higher the tension, the less power – but more control you will have. It also is harder on your muscles and joints. The average tension most players play with is somewhere between 50 and 60 lbs. (a.k.a. between 22 and 27kg). Anything lower or higher than this is considered extreme and is not generally recommended for most players.
4. Combining String Types
As you will probably realize by now, there is always a tradeoff and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. One alternative that is very popular amongst players of all levels is to combine two types of strings: one for for the main (vertical) strings and a different one for the crosses. For example, one could use a polyester for the mains and a multifilament for the crosses. This way you would get the power and spin benefits ofthe polyester strings, and the playability and comfort of the multifilament strings. Of course, it won’t provide the same comfort of using a multifilament string alone, or the power of using a polyester alone, but both strings would definitely provide their own benefits (to a lesser degree) and thus; resulting in a nice balance and mix of all their own benefits in one.
In the table below you can see a summary of the different string types with their pros and cons and its recommendations.
|Natural Gut||Soft on the arm – Great playability/feel Good power & spin||Most expensive string type – Breaks very quickly||-Professional players -Players with elbow pain or prone to injury -Flexible budget|
|Synthetic gut||Moderately priced -Overall decent in all categories||Not for string breakers –|
Average spin & power
|Beginner to Intermediate players|
|Multifilament||Great comfort – Good power & good playability||Less control||-Intermediate to advanced players|
|Polyester||Great spin, power and control – Good durability||-Loses tension quickly -Stiff string (not soft on the arm)||Intermediate to advanced players – String breakers -Choice of many professionals|
*Note: Section of “Recommended for” is only a suggestion to provide you with an option. Players may choose a string of their choice from any category and can have many different preferences.