The tennis racket strings are a crucial part of the tennis game.
They influence your shots largely. That is why professional tennis players arrive at games with more than 10 pre-strung rackets and change rackets every few points.
They want to ensure they have the appropriate tension and string type for the type of shots they need to perform every time.
But, with so many types of strings, thicknesses and tensions, how do you know what the best setup for your play style is?
We’ve got you covered.
First, the type of string.
There are multiple string materials for you to choose from, each with its particularities. Getting the string type right for your gameplay and expected durability would be best.
Your first choice is to opt for synthetic or organic materials.
Here are the key differences.
Natural Gut tennis strings are the staple of tennis strings.
They provide incredible elasticity and overall playability – however, be prepared to invest heavily and replace your strings every few games, as they only last a little while.
Natural gut strings get their name from the material they are made of – real animal guts. Back in the day, they were made from sheep guts and, more recently, from cow guts.
The high cost / low durability combination strays tennis players away from natural gut strings, especially when talking about recreational players who generally watch their costs when choosing tennis equipment.
On the other hand, given that professional tennis players have their “costs fully covered” by the brands that sponsor them, it is prevalent to see natural gut tennis strings in the ATP and WTA tennis circuits.
Synthetic tennis strings are made from artificial materials, as contraposed to the organic materials used to create natural gut tennis strings.
There are many synthetic materials to choose from, each with its particularities regarding playability, price and durability.
Below is a breakdown of the most popular synthetic materials and use cases for when to choose each one.
Polyester tennis strings are one of the most popular materials.
They are relatively cheap when compared to other materials. Also, their nature allows powerful spins – polyester strings can deform and snap back into place, allowing for more exacerbated topspins and enhancing overall shot power.
However, due to the “deforming” nature of the strings, they lose their tension rather quickly, resulting in frequent string replacements. They don’t break easily but get unplayable with time.
Another disadvantage of polyester strings is that they are not very comfortable to play with – the stiffness you feel is, most likely, the effect of your arm absorbing the racket’s vibrations. This makes it a no-go for people with the typical “tennis arm syndrome”.
Synthetic gut tennis strings are the perfect all-around strings, ideal for those still determining what strings will suit them best.
This is the kind of string that usually comes equipped when you buy a pre-strung tennis racket.
They provide a stable, all-round performance – perfect for beginner to intermediate players who desire to equip a somewhat comfortable string and do not wish to break the bank doing so.
Multifilament strings are, generally speaking, synthetic gut strings with a better construction technology – they are made by joining multiple micro nylon fibers to create each individual string.
Multifilament strings do better at maintaining tension than their synthetic gut counterparts while allowing for more power and overall comfort.
However, they do not generate much topspin alone and can “overpower” the player.
They are incredibly comfortable to play with and are an excellent choice for those with arm problems – and they are generally not very expensive. This synthetic material is the most similar to natural gut strings.
Kevlar strings are the string material that will last the longest. They are made with aramid fibers and are incredibly durable- breaking this kind of string is tough.
However, they are the stiffest and least comfortable type of strings to play with – for this reason, we do not recommend this kind of strings on themselves. Suppose you consider an advanced setup, like a hybrid one (with different string materials on mains and crosses). In that case, kevlar strings can be an exciting option to add stiffness to softer string materials, like multifilament or natural gut.
The tennis strings gauge refers to the thickness of an individual string.
Thinner strings allow for more topspin and are more comfortable to play with – the tradeoff is that the thinner the string, the less they can hold tension and the more likely they are to break.
Tennis strings gauge vary between 0.60 and 1.80 millimetres.
We usually recommend beginner players try something between 1.26 mm and 1.49mm, which translates to 15 to 16 (US sizes).
After that, players should experiment with upping or decreasing their strings gauge to find the one that better fits their overall playing style and preferences.
Remember that the string material significantly impacts overall feel, durability and spin.
So, if you choose a more durable string material, like polyester, you can decrease the string thickness to increase their comfort and spin ability. Conversely, if you choose natural gut strings with a low gauge, they will break very easily.
It is a tradeoff you should keep in mind to find the perfect fit for you in terms of spin, comfort and durability. Generally speaking, lower string gauges increases the cost to restring your tennis racket in the long term, because you will have to restring it more often.
We recommend picking the string material that you think will suit you best and its thickness afterwards. And do so, keeping in mind how resistant and durable is the material you have chosen, as well as how much topspin you apply to your shots.
The last thing to consider when choosing a string setup is its tension.
String tension relates to how tight or loose your strings are wrapped in the racket frame.
It is measured in kilograms (or pounds, in the US) – meaning the force applied to the racket frame to hold the strings in their place.
Typical string tensions vary between 15 to 32 kg (roughly 35 to 70 pounds). However, it is common to see professional tennis players deviating from this interval to achieve a particular feel.
If you own a tennis racquet stringing machine, you can experiment with different string tensions and see which one suits you best. Professional stringing machines, like the Gamma X-ELS, allow much higher or lower tensions than those presented here.
Think of string tension as a trampoline – the tighter it is wrapped, the less you bounce.
The same logic applies to tennis strings.
On the lighter end of the spectrum, the ball will bounce easily from the strings, allowing you to generate those powerful shots to the baseline. However, you are sacrificing ball control when you don’t apply much tension to your strings.
If you apply a lot of tension to your strings, it will be harder to generate power from your shots, but they will be much easier to control.
If you are a beginner, choose an intermediate tension – somewhere between 24 to 26 kilograms (roughly 50 to 55 pounds) and try it out.
If you feel you need to generate more power, decrease the tension of the strings.
Increasing string tension is the way to go if you wish for more control.
Keep in mind that there is a correlation between higher string tensions and decreased durability.
Since higher-tension strings are under more pressure than when they are strung loosely, they are more likely to break. And the cost of stringing a tennis racket in not cheap, so that is something to take into account as an amateur tennis player.