Ask the Stringer: How to Choose which String & Tension to Use

Q: How should I choose which string and tension to use?

A: Everyone is always searching for the magic string and tension that will transform their game or alleviate a case of tennis elbow. I have seen virtually every type of string or string combination and tensions ranging from 35 lbs to 75 lbs (yes, these are tour professionals). The choice of string and tension is a blend of whatever an individual thinks they need from their strings.

For instance, string breakers may want to focus on durability while tennis elbow-sufferers may want shock absorption and playability. Ultimately, there is a trade-off between durability and playability that every player must consider. The more durable a string is, the less playable it is and vice versa. Fortunately, there are plenty of strings to choose from and there's certainly a string out there for every player.

Frequent string breakers looking for durability should consider monofilament strings (also generally called "polyester," even though they aren't all technically made of polyester). Monofilament strings' one-piece construction makes them very durable, but also pretty stiff. Players who hit heavy spin like them as well because they don't move around as much as softer strings. The main disadvantage to monofilament strings is their stiffness and their generally poor tension maintenance. Some monofilaments are softer than others, but they are not a great choice for young players or players who suffer from any kind of arm discomfort.

Players with arm pain or players who just don't break strings frequently should take a look at multifilament strings. Unlike monofilaments, multifilament strings are made from bundles of smaller fibers all wrapped together. Multifilament strings tend to be soft, easy on the arm, lively, and generally offer good "feel." Multifilament strings' softness doesn't make them ideal for frequent string breakers, but they offer great performance for many other players.

Players looking for a bit of both worlds can consider the increasingly-popular hybrid string job. Most commonly, hybrid string jobs combine a half set of durable string (monofilament) on the main strings with a half set of playable string (multifilament) on the crosses. Hybrid stringing provides some durability without being as harsh as stringing with a full set of monofilament string. Hybrid stringing can be a great stepping stone for juniors or any player who wants to get more durability but doesn't want to make the jump to a full monofilament string job. To make things even better, you can easily create your own hybrid blend or choose from one of the dozens of prepackaged hybrids.

Players who are just looking for an inexpensive string job should take a look at synthetic gut strings. Composed of a solid core with a few multifilament wraps around the outside, synthetic gut strings are usually under $7 and they offer a nice combination of playability and durability.

Tension is a great way to make some minor adjustments to the way your racquet plays. Higher tensions provide greater control while lower tensions offer more power. If you're not sure which one you want, try starting off in the middle of the racquet's recommended tension range. As you play with the racquet you will get a better feel for how you want to adjust the tension next time you get your racquet strung.

In the end, the most important part of picking a string and tension is finding what you like. With literally hundreds of options out there, the key is not being afraid to experiment!

Did you know that we employ two professional stringers, including a Master Racquet Technician? That’s the highest level of achievement that United States Racquet Stringers Association (U.S.R.S.A.) offers. Jim, one of our stringers, is also a member of the prestigious “Wilson Stringing Team” which comprises the exclusive on-site stringers at the U.S. Open, Australian Open, and Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. If that wasn’t enough, Jim is also recognized as one of the fastest racquet stringers in the world, with a personal best stringing time of 7 minutes flat.

Do you have a question for one of our stringers? Ask it in the comments below and we will provide an answer as fast and accurate as our on-site stringing.

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