What’s in a String?

Contributor: Jon Yeh | Owner – Precision Racquet Works 

“In these days of modern tennis a player is as strong as his weakest stroke.”

-Bill Tilden

Introduction

Big Bill certainly isn’t wrong, you’re only going to perform at your most basic level under stress.  We spend hour after hour focusing on our forehands, backhands and serves – and for what?  We put points on the board and walk away from the handshake at the net knowing we played our best.

However, one factor that many tennis players fail to consider is how well their equipment works.  When you open your bag and look in it – what’s the first thing you see?  Probably a racquet, towel, water bottle, snacks maybe an extra shirt.  Now, without looking – can you tell what strings you have in your racquet?  Better yet, can you tell when the last time they were strung was and what tension they were done at?  One of the most overlooked parts of our gear are the strings we put into our racquets.

Most recreational players stroll over to the first place they can think of, hand over their racquets and have the stringer put whatever happens to be the house special. It’s the proverbial adage of filling up your Ferrari with regular unleaded.  Getting input from a certified stringer and having a setup tailored to your needs may help you play to your full potential.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Often times, I hear a tennis player mention their tennis elbow, or that they’re feeling a lot of pain from playing with their current racquet and look at new racquets to alleviate this issue.  While many times this may be attributed to improper technique, there are just as many opportunities to examine the gear they’re using and make sure it’s not source of the pain.  Strings are reviewed on numerous factors, including spin potential, durability, comfort, longevity and power.  If you’re a player who’s suffered from tennis elbow, or have had joint pain before in the past, a recommendation of a synthetic or even natural gut may be appropriate.  Polyester strings are incredibly popular nowadays and may turn you into a mini-Nadal, but most tend to be stiff and very hard on the arm even with the right strokes.  In general, strings follow a pattern of tension retention similar to that of a car being driven off the lot.  The more you hit, the faster it loses tension.  A string job done up a year ago may still function fine, but you might be experiencing additional fatigue on the arm since the string no longer retains its original comfort characteristics.  With the recent development of string technology, there are entire lines oriented towards being arm-friendly.  Pair one of those setups with a shock absorber and you may be looking at a setup that doesn’t aggravate your arm.

The second reason for a consultation is to extract the maximum amount of performance out of your game.  From the aspiring tennis player climbing their high school ladder to the recreational player looking to put a little more pop into their strokes, there are numerous reasons to examine what string is being put into your racquet.  Power players may benefit from having a looser setup, chronic string breakers may benefit from a poly or Kevlar setup and spin doctors may benefit from a textured poly.  Unfortunately, one size does not fit all.  By stringing with one string because it’s familiar, players may be passing up potential performance gains that suite their playing style.  Outfitting a racquet with different string setups can give it completely different playing characteristics.  I’ll be discussing in separate installments the kinds of materials strings are constructed out of, as well as what sort of specific setups would be most suitable for different playing styles. The most important takeaway here is that a good string job can make you feel even more comfortable with your game.

Conclusion

So what’s the benefit to speaking with a certified stringer?  Their experience and insight into equipment may be invaluable to your enjoyment of the game, your well-being and your success on the court. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series to learn more about why having the right gear for your game is key to success.

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