TENNIS STRINGS EXPLAINED
Selecting the right tennis strings can be an extremely confusing process. There are a variety of different types of tennis strings, and even when you’ve found a string you like, there are various gauges (the thickness of the tennis string) and a wide range of tensions that you can string your racquet at.
It’s enough to leave just about any player’s head spinning, especially if you’ve recently taken the time to choose a new tennis racquet. The good news is that armed with a little extra knowledge, selecting tennis strings doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing.
In fact, finding the right tennis string can be a fun process once you get the hang of the basics. Perhaps, more importantly, taking the time to do so can pay big dividends for both your game and your wallet.
Synthetic Tennis Strings
While natural gut strings can be a fantastic option for some, most players will find the variety and price of synthetic strings significantly more appealing. As the name implies, this type of tennis string uses various synthetic materials to provide players with more options and features, such as durability, spin and power.
However, before we review the different construction of synthetic strings let’s take a look at the types of synthetic string materials that are used in creating synthetic strings.
Without a doubt the most popular and common material of the synthetic string family are nylon strings. However, nylon tennis strings are not made from your standard nylon you might associate with an article of clothing. Rather, nylon strings are made from high quality nylon fibers that can provide players with great feel and added durability that you wouldn’t find with natural gut strings.
Nylon strings are among the most reasonable tennis strings and are normally made of a single nylon core and various resistant wraps. Due to its excellent dynamic properties nylon (polyamide) is well suited as a material for tennis strings. The high number of different types of constructions (wrap material and wrap angle) influence the string’s playing characteristics significantly.
As a rule of thumb, nylon strings with multiple wraps can be considered higher grade than single wrap nylon strings. The wraps reduce the tension loss usually experienced with nylon strings. Nylon strings are suitable for players who have a normal or high string consumption.
Polyester strings show a fairly simple structure: they consist of a single polyester fiber with a thin coating. This type of construction is termed “monofilament”. They come in different gauges (1.10-1.35mm) which enables you to choose among different elasticity/durability levels.
Polyester strings have little elasticity and feel quite stiff compared to nylon, synthetic or multifilament strings, but on the other hand they provide significantly better durability, allowing for thinner gauges. Pure polyester strings like the one main downside: They tend to lose their tension quite quickly, so control decreases and the string feels dead after a short time of play. Thus polyester strings are only recommendable for players with high string consumption. For these players, polyester strings offer a great price/performance ratio.
During the past few years, tremendous effort has been put into the advancement of monofilament strings and the elimination of their major weaknesses (tension loss and lack of elasticity).
If players are looking for added durability than polyester tennis strings can be a solid option; however, due to its more durable construction, polyester can be quite hard on a player’s arm. As a result, it’s not typically a string that would be recommended to players fighting an arm injury.
Polyester strings though do have some popularity with players who frequently break strings. However, even in this case, polyester strings are typically combined with natural gut or nylon strings to provide players with durability while maintaining a more soft, natural feel.
Kevlar (not used so much nowadays)
Providing players with maximum durability, Kevlar strings are strongest yet most harsh strings on the market. Kevlar strings are used by chronic string breakers in combination with nylon strings to reduce the harsh feel that accompanies Kevlar. Kevlar strings are not recommended for players with arm injuries. Kevlar strings provide little or no dampening features and can become extremely harsh on the wrist, arm or elbow.
Synthetic String Construction
In order to provide players with more variety and different features, string manufacturers have developed various types of string construction. Let’s take a look at some of the more common types of string construction being used today.
Solid Core & Outer Wrap(s)
One of the most common string construction is a solid core with a single or double layer of outer wraps. These strings are described as having a crisp feel and in most cases, the quality of this type of string is a direct result of the level or grade of material used, which most frequently is wrapped nylon.
Similarly, you can also purchase solid core strings with multiple outer wraps, which provide much of the same characteristics with the added benefit of increased durability and a slightly softer or cushioned feel, such as our SYNERGIE Synthetic Gut.
Monofilament is the most basic construction of the bunch, which consists of a single solid filament. Monofilament strings are typically made of polyester either a single extrusion or a multiple extrusion consisting of 3 or more single polyesters extruded together which is typically called a Co-Poly. The co-poly makes for a durable string but with a softer feel. These types of construction offer some of the most durable strings on the market. In addition, since these strings provide a stiffer feel they tend to provide a level of control above and beyond other strings. Our TURBO POWER strings are an example of co-polyester strings.
All in all, the use of these strings as the only string in a racquet is typically limited to string breakers and not recommended for players with arm injuries.
Multifilament tennis strings have become quite popular over the years and is considered by some to be the top category of string construction after natural gut. Multifilament strings are created through the process similar to natural gut by weaving hundreds or thousands of microfibers together. They are not cheap, but provide a genuine alternative to natural gut strings. We at QTS are going to be introducing such a Multifilament string to our range shortly.
The result is a string with that provides a soft almost cushion like feel. As a result, these strings have become a great option for players suffering from arm injuries. Some players might be surprised or slightly turned off by the fraying that occurs with multifilament strings as they wear down, which is a result of the breakage of the tiny fibres used to create these strings.
Co-Polyester strings are used to create profile strings by morphing the shape of the string to provide this profile.
Hybrid Tennis Strings
Hybrid strings combine the benefits of two different types of tennis string by using them both within a racquet. For example, it’s popular to use stronger more durable strings in the mains (the strings that run from the bottom of the racquet head to the top) and then incorporate a softer more playable string in the crosses, which experience significantly less friction and movement. One of the most popular examples of this type of string are our TURBO POWER or any of our PROFILE strings for the mains, combined with our SYNERGIE Synthetic Gut in the crosses.
The result is a string combination that seeks to find a balance between a comfortable feel and control and if using one of our profile strings gives you extra spin, while still providing players with the durability that would be hard to come by through the use of one string type throughout the entire racquet.
The “gauge” number determines the thickness of the string. A string rated with a high gauge number is a thinner string; some gauge ratings also have a “Light” version, which is referred to by placing an “L” after the original rating’s number (e.g., “15L”). Strings are usually rated at one of five common gauges; 15 (thickest), 15L, 16, 16L, and 17 (thinnest).
String gauge is usually not of much concern to beginner tennis players, but can be very important to advanced and professional players. Typically, a higher gauged string performs better. For example, the thinner 16-, 16L-, 17-, and 18 gauge strings are more lively and elastic than the thicker 15 or 15L. Thin strings are also known for better performance and providing better feel. However, high-gauge strings also break faster, simply because there is less material to wear out.
To increase the durability of your strings you should not expose your racket to extreme heat, cold or humidity. Therefore you should always keep your racket in its bag. Strings lose elasticity with time, one type of string faster, another type of string slower. In general you shouldn’t play a string longer than 2 to 3 months. Then it’s about time to cut out the strings and restring your racket. Often the diameter of a string is not given in millimeters but in the old “gauge”.
The following table helps you convert between these two measurements.
So Which Strings Are Best for Me?
As with selecting a tennis racquet there isn’t a one size fits all approach to tennis strings. However, here are some things to consider to help you find and select a great set of strings.
Your Level of Play
If you’re just getting started with tennis, then it probably won’t make sense to go for an expensive set of tennis strings. When you’re just starting out it can be tough to recognize the benefits that a more expensive set of strings like natural gut provide.
As a result, synthetic strings with a solid core and single or multiple wraps are a great option since you’re likely to find a great string that’s durable at a price that makes sense.
Frequency of Play
The more you play the more quickly your strings will lose their tension or break. If you’re competing at a high level, you may be able to justify the higher cost associated with a more expensive set of high quality strings. However, most recreational players who step out on the court frequently opt for a more durable set of strings that will hold up, while at the same providing you with great feel and playability without breaking the bank.
Hybrid strings can be a great option for people who hit the court frequently.
If you’re experiencing arm injuries, then the best set of strings will be a multifilament or synthetic gut or a hybrid that incorporates either. This will help reduce the stress on your arm, while still providing you with a string that is durable and plays great.
Style of Play & Personal Preference
The reality is, there is no wrong or right answer to which types of strings you should use. However, by spending the extra time to ensure your strings compliment your style of play and meet your personal preferences you can gain an edge on other players who overlook their strings, after all, Rackets are only string holders !
As you can see there are many different types of tennis strings, which while daunting at first provides every player with a wide range of options to find something that works great for them. The good news is that strings don’t last forever, so try and select one you think will be a great fit and if they don’t work out or they’re not your favourite it won’t be too long before you can give it another shot.
Just be sure when you’re trying out new strings that you have plenty of time to test them before a tennis match. I’ve seen players on many occasions string up their racket with a new set of strings only to cut them out the very same day because they hated the feel.