Whether a beginner, recreational player or a professional, the one aspect of playing tennis you cannot get away from is stringing your rackets.
Depending on the level of tennis you play, you might have to string your tennis racket anywhere between once before every match to once every few months.
In this article, we discuss the factors you need to consider before stringing your tennis racket, which invariably will decide the frequency at which you will have to string the most important piece of tennis equipment a player has!
It’s important to note every player is unique, and finding the right stringing setup often involves a process of trial and error.
Experimenting with different combinations and seeking advice from professional stringers or coaches can help you discover the ideal stringing configuration that enhances your game.
What a player or anyone associated with the decision-making process behind racket stringing can also do is to buy a racket stringing machine oneself and experiment with stringing one’s own equipment with it till one thinks one’s got it right.
As a tennis player at any level, there are several important factors to consider before stringing your tennis racket. In this tennis stringing guide, we look at all these factors that will help you gauge the same.
Professional players have the access to extensive testing and experimentation to find the ideal stringing setup that maximizes their performance and suits their individual needs, something that players at other levels might not.
While professional tennis players will have access to expert stringers, coaches as well as equipment sponsors, this isn’t the same for those at other levels. This guide is for those players who cannot afford the personalized advice and assistance provided by the aforementioned experts.
In a way this is a stepping stone before a tennis player can zero down on what exactly he or she needs to focus on before stringing their tennis rackets. Or even a guide which helps beginners or intermediate players get armed with information to be able to ask the right questions of the experts.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’re the various factors you might want to look at before getting your rackets strung.
What Should I Consider Before Stringing My Tennis Racket?
Here are the various aspects of racket stringing you must look at before going ahead with it:
- String Tension
- String Gauge
- String Material
- Playing Surface
- String Pattern
- Stringing Frequency
- Stringing Technique
- Stringing Tolerance
- Stringing Preferences
- Injury Prevention
- Weather Conditions
- Stringing History
We explain these factors in greater detail in the section below.
The typical tennis racket string tension ranges from 40-60 lbs and it’s important to understand what’s your sweet spot. Those represent two extreme values and most players don’t operate at them but at the same time you need to find your most optimum number.
This is because the racket’s string tension can significantly affect your racket’s performance.
Lower tension provides more power and a larger sweet spot, but sacrifices control. Higher tension offers better control but reduces power. Consider your playing style and preferences when deciding on the appropriate tension.
The string gauge refers to the thickness of the string. These typically range from a thickness of 1.15 mm to 1.4 mm with thinner gauges offering more spin potential and feel and thicker strings ensuring durability and control.
If you are starting out on a budget, you might want to look at a medium thickness string, like the 1.25 mm gauge which will endure for long enough without sacrificing a lot of power and control.
The 1.4 mm gauges are typically good for advanced players because they are playing tennis on a more regular basis and need their strings to last longer. You don’t want your racket strings breaking every five games now, do you?
Tennis strings are made from various materials like natural gut, synthetic gut, nylon, polyester, or a hybrid combination.
Each material offers different characteristics in terms of power, control, durability, and feel. Experimenting with different materials can help you find the one that suits your game best.
The general rule of the thumb is that tennis beginners opt to use nylon strings, intermediate players look to hop on to hybrids, and advanced players get comfortable with full bed of polyester.
It also depends on how much money you have to spend on the strings, especially if you are a beginner. You could use natural gut too at that level but it comes at a premium cost.
One of the more important factors that needs to be considered before buying your tennis string is the surface on which you would be playing.
Playing on clay requires a different skill-set than playing on hardcourt and grass and as a result of that, will need you to tweak things around with your racket string.
Clay courts are slower and offer a lot more bounce which makes it imperative to use topspin. This could prompt you to go for strings that provide better grip and spin potential and polyester is one of the materials you could consider using for your strings on this surface.
On hard courts, durability and control might be more important.
The one other factor to consider here is the actual speed of the surface, irrespective of whether it’s clay or hardcourt. Some hardcourt surfaces, at times, play as slow as clay like was the case when Daniil Medvedev complained about the slow courts of Indian Wells in 2023!
I cannot get enough. pic.twitter.com/uJzWOgQhvR
— Blair Henley (@BlairHenley) March 14, 2023
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To give you a gist of what a tennis racket string pattern is, it’s the number of strings that are used vertically and horizontally. The vertical strings in a tennis racket do most of the work and are called the mains while those running horizontally are called crosses.
One of most commonly used tennis racket string patterns is 16X19, which implies there are 16 mains and 19 crosses in the racket. This is a more open variation of string patterns which allows more power and spin.
An even more open string patter is the 14X18 one which means there are 14 mains and 18 crosses. It gives a more loopy shot with a much larger sweet spot and makes it a much more forgiving racket.
More strings in the racket, like is the case with a 18X20 string pattern gives a much firmer feel and less loopy return. It gives a better control but the sweet spot is much lesser in area. This isn’t to say that an 18X20 string doesn’t allow for spin – it does and gives the slice shot a good workout.
There’s another pattern, 16X20, a good blend between the aforementioned stringing patterns. It mixes the advantages of both without a lot of downside to it.
In short, the string pattern of your racket affects the feel, power, and control of your shots.
Dense string patterns (more strings) generally provide better control, while open string patterns (fewer strings) offer more power and spin potential. Again, consider your playing style and desired performance attributes.
Depending on the string material, how often you play and your playing style, tennis strings could lose tension and performance more or less frequently.
As you grow into your game, you will get a good feel about how often you need restring your racket but before you get to those levels, you could decide on your frequency.
Professional players often restring their rackets every few matches or at least every few weeks to maintain optimal performance while as a beginner you could look to restring your racket every three months.
A good starting point for this could be to get your tennis racket restrung annually the number of times you play every week as a beginner. If you are playing at a level above beginner, then add one or two more restringing visits to the above figure.
So, for instance, you are a beginner playing twice a week. You need to look at getting your racket strung twice a year, or every six months. Similarly if you are an intermediate player with the same frequency, you could increase that to thrice a year or four times for an advanced player.
If you do not own your own racket stringing machine and are relying on an expert to do the stringing for you, then one of the factors that you might want to consider is the technique they might be using to do the same.
The way the strings are installed on the racket can make a difference to their performance and you must have a fair idea about what these techniques are before you restring your racket.
Some of the commonly used racket stringing techniques include:
- Two-Piece Stringing: The mains and crosses are installed separately. The main strings are strung first, and then the cross strings are woven through them. This method allows for more customization of string tension and provides better control.
- One-Piece Stringing: A single, continuous string is used for both the mains and crosses. This technique is faster and simpler than two-piece stringing, but it may limit customization options for string tension.
- Pre-Stretching: Pre-stretching involves stretching the strings before they are installed on the racket. This technique helps reduce the string’s initial tension loss and increases its overall tension stability.
- Lockout Knot: The lockout knot is used to secure the strings at the bottom of the racket. It prevents the strings from moving or sliding during play and helps maintain consistent string tension.
- Hybrid Stringing: Hybrid stringing involves using different types/gauges of strings for the mains and crosses. For example, there might be polyester strings for the mains to enhance durability and control, and synthetic gut strings for the cross strings to provide more power and comfort.
- String Damping: String dampeners or vibration dampeners can be added between the strings to absorb some of the vibrations and reduce string bed stiffness. This technique can help improve comfort and feel during play. Here’s our article on the best tennis dampeners for beginners and intermediate players.
Tennis racket stringing is as much art as it’s science. While everything we have discussed in our racket stringing guide so far will affect how the racket feels, there’s no way to get a racket to feel in an exact way you want at times.
Similarly, a racket string’s characteristics will change with time and play.
Some players could feel this variance a lot more than others and depending on your sensitivity to the changes in the string characteristics, you might want to restring your racket at a given point.
Professional players often have specific preferences when it comes to stringing.
They may have a preferred stringing machine, stringer, or even a particular stringing pattern that they believe enhances their performance. Or some players might want to do their own restringing, in which case they will know the type of racket stringing machine they prefer as well.
It’s important to communicate these preferences to the stringer to ensure they are met.
In some cases, players may have specific injuries or physical conditions or arm issues and this will necessitate them to take a decision around their stringing setup in a particular way.
If a player has arm or shoulder issues, they might opt for softer, more arm-friendly strings or lower string tension to reduce the risk of discomfort or injury.
According to famous tennis coach, Patrick Mouratoglou (on his coaching site, mouratoglou.com), a racket with stiffer strings could prove to be harsher on the arm. So you might look to go for less stiff strings.
Similarly, different materials used in the string could have different bearing on how the arm or the elbow reacts. Players with such issues should look for the softer nylon strings instead of polyester.
Lower tension on a tennis racket is also more preferred by those with such fitness concerns.
According to Tennis Warehouse University, an experiment was performed to determine the effect of environmental factors like temperature and humidity on string performance.
Multiple factors were taken into consideration including the effects of the weather on various string materials and their effect on tension. The long and short of the experiment is as follows:
Avoid exposure to hot temperatures than usual if you prefer your tennis strings to remain stiff after having had them restrung.
Also, cold strings play stiffer and hot strings are usually softer which means that in colder weather, you could string lower while in hotter court conditions the same can be higher.
Take the example of the 2020 edition of the French Open which was played in September-October that year instead of its usual month of May-June. The weather was a lot cooler and the players had to make a big change to their racket stringing.
Take the example of Alexander Zverev who spoke about his racket tension:
“I’m stringing three kilos less than I did in New York [for the US Open]. That’s quite a lot.”
Even John Isner made a drastic change to his rackets that tournament, bringing it down from his usual 38 pounds to around 30 for that French Open edition.
Journaling or keeping a record of your stringing history can be helpful in determining what combination of tennis strings has worked well for you in the past.
It allows you to assess the performance of different string setups that you might have used based on the aforementioned factors and help you make informed decisions for future stringing.
Final Words on Factors to Consider Before Tennis Racket Stringing
As we had mentioned earlier, the above guide can be used as a precursor to the actual stringing process to be able to understand the factors that could influence your stringing decision or to arm you with the same knowledge before you take help from an expert for your racket stringing needs.
Either ways, it’s important to note that stringing rackets is an important aspect of tennis and as you grow into the sport, you must take proper care about ensuring you are on top of this.
Also, if you have begun to understand racket stringing to a greater role, you might want to consider stringing your own tennis rackets. In that case, here’s our guide on who should (and shouldn’t) buy a tennis racket stringing machine!