Why Do the Strings Matter
Strings are one of the most important parts of the total racquet, and in fact are the only piece of the racquet that is intended to make contact with the ball. Players spend immense resources testing and demoing tennis racquets. Then invest hundreds of dollars on the frames, but then when it comes time to choose a string to install into their new racquets, just ask their stringer, “What is the cheapest string you have?”. The strings do matter, and here is some information that might help in understanding that “the strings do matter!”.
String Materials - Today strings are made of four predominate materials:
Other things to consider:
Tension - There is an old adage – tight for control and loose for power. Tests have shown that ten pound change in tension will change ball speed (i.e.: power) by about a couple miles an hour (does not sound like a lot); but this will make a difference of 6-10 inches in how far the ball travels.
Elasticity - What is very important about strings is their elasticity. This is how much they stretch when hit and how fast they recover. (How is your trampoline today). A high elasticity strings (like natural gut and multifilament) gives both more power and more control.
Loss of Tension and Elasticity - As strings age, they slowly lose both tension and elasticity, and you really should restring your racquet. Think of a rubber band that has been stretched. After a period of time, the rubber band will lose its elasticity and does not return as much energy as when it was first stretched. When this happens the string stretches back as a ball hits the string bed and does not snap back with the same energy as fresh strings. This is a subtle and gradual change you typically cannot feel. But, once you restring your racquet you will notice the sudden improvement in both control and power.
Restringing - A good rule of thumb is that you should restring about every 40 hours of play, or about 4 times a year if you play a couple times a week. For many players we just recommend at the beginning of each of your USTA seasons. Another reason to restring is that the strings over time begin to get notched and frayed, and may break at a key point in an important match. This is especially true if a player only has one racquet.
String Gauge – There is a general rule that with two identical types of string, the thinner gauge string will give more control, without giving up any power. Typically, strings come in either 16 or the thinner 17 gauge. Thinner strings bite into the ball, which will give the player a little bit more control. Thinner strings also have more elasticity which is what makes a string play better. If you are not a string breaker, we typically recommend 17 gauge, otherwise use 16 gauge for a little more durability.
String Breakage - Usually strings break because the mains slide across the cross strings and develop notches. The notches deepen and the stings break. The more top spin and the harder your serve, the more the mains move and the sooner the strings will break. Almost all string breakage is the mains; a broken cross string is not so common. Though poly based strings are typically very durable, solid poly based strings are very prone to shear breakage, if someone frames the ball at the edge of the frame. This can happen at any time, and is typically easy to tell, since the break will be near the edge of the frame and not in the middle of the racquet.
Closing Thoughts - It is our hope that this information helps you to understand “the strings do matter”, and how a fresh string job will help you to play better. In closing, I do find it ironic that the same player, who insists on opening new can of tennis balls every time they play, has a hard time understanding the benefit of fresh new strings every 2-3 months?
Cathy & Gordie Lehman