May 5, 2010

Tennis Strings - What Kind Should You Use

Why can't tennis be a fun and happy sport where we just play and have a good time and don't think about the equipment too much? Like horseshoes. I'm probably wrong on that. There are probably entire web sites devoted to the analysis and purchase of professional horseshoe equipment.

Regardless.  The reality of tennis is that, for the vast majority of us, the quality of our tennis equipment can have a significant impact on how well we play the game. That means having a decent racquet, the search for which can be an exhausting process (as summarized in the post A New Tennis Racquet: Part 6 - I Finally Buy A Racquet!). It also means having that racquet strung properly since those strings are the only thing (supposedly) that actually comes into contact with the tennis ball and gets it to where you want it to go.

Just as tennis racquets have become incredibly technologically advanced in recent years, so too have tennis strings.  And while most players spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about their racquets, not too many talk about their strings. Or even know what kind of strings they're using. So what kind of strings are you using right now?  Do you know?  And what should you be using?

There are two factors to consider in a string:
  • Playability - what does it "feel" like when it hits the ball
  • Durability - how long does the string last
What you're looking for is, I think, a string that lets you feel yourself striking the ball (as opposed to something that imparts a "dead" feeling) but that doesn't break too easily.

Here's a list of the kinds of strings commonly available today and the strengths and weaknesses of each.  Hopefully this will help you pick the right string for your racquet and your game.

Nylon - The most popular string used by most recreational players, myself included, is the nylon string.  This string is also sometimes called "synthetic gut" as is has some of the playability of natural gut without the lack of durability of natural gut.  This is also the string that's most reasonably priced and widely available.

Polyester - This is a very popular string for pros as it allows them to hit really hard without breaking their strings. This string, however, gives more of a dead feel so its not as playable. This is probably not the string for most recreational players and players like me (playing nice, fun, ladies doubles).

Kevlar - Even more stiff and durable than polyester. This string is very stiff and can be strung at a really high tension because it is so strong. Dead feeling and, again, not recommended for most recreational players.

Natural Gut - This is considered the "best" string because of its playability. It is also usually the most expensive string and the most temperamental. Let me just say that I once had a racquet strung with gut to try it out.  That string job lasted less than 24 hours.  I got to play with that string one time.  I never figured out what caused my string to break.  When I took it back to the stringer to complain, I was told that I should know not to leave a natural gut string job in my car where it gets really hot.  Sorry, I didn't know that.  And I didn't think my car got that hot that day.  Anyway, I care a lot about my equipment but not enough to get my racquet restrung every few days so I've avoided natural gut since then.  Want to know all about natural gut and how its made from cow intestines? See Natural Gut 101 on the Tennis Warehouse site.  Believe me, you're going to learn way more about natural gut than you really wanted to know.


© Kim Selzman 2010
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