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Ask the Stringer: Why are some strings so much more expensive than others?

Ask the Stringer: Why are some strings so much more expensive than others?

Q: Why are some stringer so much more expensive than others?

A: There are loads of different materials and processes that can be used when creating strings. In that general sense, tennis strings are like any other commercially available product: The more expensive the raw materials and the more involved the manufacturing process, the greater the end cost of the product. That's why natural gut strings are the most expensive type of strings on the market. Not only are the raw materials expensive, but the manufacturing process is also quite complicated.

Keep in mind that there are very nice strings available at virtually every price point throughout the spectrum. A knowledgeable retailer, a teaching pro, or a stringer can certainly offer excellent guidance, but in the end choosing a string is really based largely on personal preference. Players shouldn't feel pressured to purchase the most expensive string nor should they base their assessment of a string solely on price. I advise that most players not be afraid to experiment with different strings (and different price points) during their search.

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

Ask the Stringer: Is Natural Gut String Really What It Sounds Like? Is It Worth the Higher Price?

Ask the Stringer: Is Natural Gut String Really What It Sounds Like? Is It Worth the Higher Price?

Q: Is natural gut string really what it sounds like? It is worth the higher price?

A: Yes, natural gut really is what it sounds like. To be a bit more specific, it is actually made by processing a part of a cow's intestines called the serosa. Contrary to what many people believe, natural gut tennis strings are not made from the intestines of cats and to the best of my knowledge, they never were. I'm not sure where that rumor got started but I hear it on a relatively frequent basis and as far as I know, it is not true.

So, is natural gut worth the higher price? The short answer is: It depends. In my opinion, high end synthetic multifilament strings have come a long way in recent years and a few of them even get somewhat close to gut-like playability (my personal opinion, of course—others might disagree). But, despite the progress of synthetic multifilament strings, the truth is that when it comes to playability, feel, liveliness, and elasticity, natural gut is still king. Compared to synthetic strings, gut has better tension maintenance and will continue to "feel" good much longer than synthetics. So, if you're not really a string breaker, natural gut can definitely be worth the price. It's a larger investment up front, but in the long run, natural gut strings could potentially remain viable and playable for almost twice as long as synthetic strings.

If you are a frequent string breaker, natural gut is a somewhat less practical option—at least as a stand-alone string. Despite all of its positive attributes, natural gut is still a pretty soft string and frequent string breakers will probably break it in a relatively short time. When you're breaking strings once or twice a week, strings that cost upwards of $30 a set can start adding up pretty quickly. For string breakers, natural gut can still be a viable option as part of a hybrid string job—in fact, many of the world's top players use natural gut for the cross strings of their hybrids. This allows string breakers to still enjoy natural gut's benefits while still getting some durability.

Either way, I think natural gut is something every player should try out at least once in their tennis career. It's a pretty unique experience and players of all levels and styles can benefit from it—especially if they suffer from arm pain.

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

Ask the Stringer: Better String for a Top Spin Tennis Player?

Ask the Stringer: Better String for a Top Spin Tennis Player?

Q: I am a top spin tennis player. I am using a TNT2 FUSION PLUS 19 by GAMMA. I string my racquet at 51 lbs (main) & 54 lbs (cross). Please advise if are there any other strings out there better than the one I am using or should I string my racquet at a different tension to add more spin to my hitting?

A: You might be interested in trying some polyester strings. Polyester strings have really been gaining popularity over the past 10-20 years and have really taken over the string spotlight. Aramid hybrids (commonly referred to as "Kevlar® hybrids" or just "Kevlar®") like Gamma TNT2 Fusion Plus were pretty popular amongst string breakers for a while but their popularity has declined somewhat within recent years. Aramid strings' decline in popularity is in part because of its harsh, stiff feel and in part because of the rise of modern polyester strings. Polyester strings aren't as stiff as aramids and they offer comparable durability, along with enhanced spin potential and power.

If you are interested in trying a polyester, I'd recommend starting out with some of our more popular polyester strings: Babolat RPM Blast 17, Luxilon Big Banger ALU Power 125 or Solinco Tour Bite 17. All three are pretty good choices to start with, but there are literally hundreds of choices available—and that's not even counting the dozens of prepackaged polyester hybrids, or the endless custom hybrids you could create. In the end, choosing a string is based largely on personal preference, so don't be afraid to experiment and try out different polyesters or different hybrid combinations.

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

Ask the Stringer: What Is Spaghetti Stringing?

Ask the Stringer: What Is Spaghetti Stringing?

Q: What is "spaghetti stringing?"

A: "Spaghetti stringing" is—in short—a method of stringing in which the main strings and the cross strings are not interwoven. It gained popularity in the late 1970s but was quickly banned by the International Tennis Federation.

True spaghetti-strung racquets often only had a few of the cross strings installed and had two sets of main strings, one on each side. You can think of it like a string sandwich where the main strings are the bread (on the outside on both sides) and the cross strings are the lunch meat (in the middle). During stringing, thin pieces of plastic tubing would be installed around the main strings so they could slide more freely along the cross strings. The final step was to tie all the main strings on one side together at several locations using thin pieces of cord in order to allow all of the main strings to move as one.

So that's the "what." But what about the "why?" Why did this Franken-stringing technique ever gain any popularity? Well, the answer is all about spin. When the strings of a racquet are all interwoven (as all stringbeds must be according to the official rules) there is a fair amount of friction between the mains and crosses. This friction limits how much the strings can move—or "displace"—at ball impact and how quickly they can snap back to their original position. Most of the features of spaghetti stringing are specifically designed to eliminate friction between mains and crosses, thereby allowing maximum string displacement and maximum snap back. The end result was a stringbed that was capable of generating tremendous amounts of spin.

There are a number of other technical resources out there that do a great job of explaining and detailing spaghetti stringing. If you're still interested in getting more information, it's definitely worth checking out physicist Rod Cross' work, the International Tennis Federation's official page, and TENNIS.com's blog post.

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

Ask the Stringer: After Breaking a String Do I Really Need to Cut Them All?

Ask the Stringer: After Breaking a String Do I Really Need to Cut Them All?

Q: After breaking a string, is it okay to leave it like that? Do I really need to cut all the strings?

A:  I would absolutely recommend cutting all the strings to release the tension. This is even more important if the racquet is going to be sitting for any period of time before being restrung. Once the strings are cut (and the tension is released), it is fine to just leave the bits of string in the racquet. Snipping the strings is important because of the tension on the strings and the stress placed on the frame by the strings. When a string breaks, it immediately loses tension and the strings around it loosen up as well. This results in a string bed with varying tension that exerts uneven forces on the racquet. This uneven force can ultimately cause a frame to bend or warp, which is obviously not ideal for your racquet or your game.

The best and quickest way to remove the strings without unnecessarily stressing your frame is to snip diagonally at the intersection of main and cross strings. Start in the middle of the racquet and work your way diagonally out to the edges. Make sure to snip evenly in both directions—don't just start in the middle and snip diagonally up. Snip one above where you started, then one below, then one above, and so on. You really don't need any special tools to cut the strings. Regular household scissors can do the job when there aren't alternatives, but I personally find them a bit cumbersome. The clippers included with most stringing machines or in stringing toolkits are obviously fine and, surprisingly, pruning shears make very quick work of tennis strings.

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. Do you have a question for one of our stringers? Ask it in the comments below or send it to us and we'll provide you with an answer.

Ask the Stringer: Why isn't my favorite string available in different colors?

Ask the Stringer: Why isn't my favorite string available in different colors?

Q: I see other people using cool colored strings. Why isn't my favorite string available in different colors?

A: There could be several reasons. The easy explanation is that the manufacturer doesn't think there would be enough demand for multiple colors, so they simply don't offer them.

The more complex explanation is that coloring a string requires using some sort of additive to achieve the desired color. Different colors may require the use of different additives or different processing and each can potentially modify the makeup of the string itself. The possible end result is two strings that should be the same (except for the color) but may "feel" different. The manufacturer may have tried to create a colored version and not gotten acceptable results, or simply decided not to tamper with a successful formula.

Since the color quandary is more or less an issue of feel—which really comes down to personal preference—you'll probably get a bunch of different answers if you ask a bunch of different players. One player will insist that the blue version of a string plays better than the white version. Another player will insist just the opposite, and a third player will feel no difference at all. I've experienced this exact situation in the past and none of the players are wrong, it's just their personal preference!

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

Ask the Stringer: Can I Patch My Racquet Strings?

Ask the Stringer: Can I Patch My Racquet Strings?

Q: I broke a string the other day. Do I really need to have my whole racquet restrung, or can I just have that string repaired/replaced?

A: Technically it is sometimes possible to patch a broken string, but I would strongly recommend against it. Most likely you will be hard pressed to find a stringer or pro at reputable shop or club that will agree to just patch a broken string. Patching a broken string is impractical for several reasons:

Racquets are strung with either one very long piece of string or two shorter pieces of string, depending upon the racquet's string pattern, the stringer's preference, and—in many cases—manufacturer specifications. In either case, when you break a string, the strings around it will loosen up. So, just tying off the two ends of the broken string, and patching in one new piece, leaves you with multiple strings at varying tensions. Replacing multiple strings around the broken string will probably give you more consistent tension, but by the time you've spent the time and effort doing that, you could have just gotten the whole racquet restrung.

If you've worn a string enough to break it, the other strings around it are probably pretty worn too and aren't going to last much longer. So replacing the one broken string and leaving the others around probably just means you'll be making another trip to the stringer in a day or two. If you decide to replace multiple strings around the broken one, you will probably get a bit more durability, but again, by the time you've spent the time and effort doing that, you could have just gotten the whole racquet restrung.

In the end, you are much better off simply getting your racquet completely restrung. If you're worried about the cost of getting your racquet restrung, don't be! Stringing fees are usually pretty reasonable and there are tons of strings on the market, designed to fit virtually every playing style and every budget. All told, you should be able to get your racquet restrung for as little as $20-25, depending on your choice of strings.

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

Ask the Stringer: Do Extreme Temperatures Affect My Strings?

Ask the Stringer: Do Extreme Temperatures Affect My Strings?

Q: Do extreme temperature's affect my strings?

A: Yes, extreme temperatures can negatively affect both the racquet frame and the string job. In general, extreme heat is probably the worse of the two and could damage your strings as well as potentially damaging the racquet frame itself. Extreme heat (like the trunk of your car in summer) can cause significant tension loss in your stringbed and can even cause the strings to become brittle, resulting in reduced durability and playability. Extreme cold isn't as bad, but to prevent potential damage, it's best to keep your racquets in a temperature-controled environment whenever possible.

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

Ask the Stringer: What is the Most Exciting New String Technology?

Ask the Stringer: What is the Most Exciting New String Technology?

Q: In your opinion, what is the most exciting string technology to come along lately?

A: String companies are always innovating and trying new things so you never know when the next big thing will hit. I would say that the biggest change in the last 10+ years has probably been the rise of polyester strings and their evolution. Polyester strings have actually been around in some form for quite a while, but they didn't really catch on right away. Over the years, string manufacturers were able to refine their process and improve their polyester strings. Professional players began getting on board thanks to polyester's amazing durability and increased spin potential. As more of the world's best players embraced polyester strings, the trend began to trickle down to amateur and recreational players. These days, polyester strings are more popular and more readily available than ever.

Despite their tremendous upside, polyester strings aren't for everyone. Polyester's durability is part of what makes it desirable, but it also means that the string is very stiff. Anyone who is suffering from arm pain—or anyone who has suffered in the past—should strongly consider going with a softer, multifilament string that won't be as harsh on their arm. I also try to steer younger junior players away from polyester and towards softer strings when it's possible. Most players that young aren't frequent string breakers so there's not as much need to give them a harsh, durable string that could ultimately cause arm pain. Finally, players should take a moment to think about how polyester strings will interact with their racquet. If you are using a stiff racquet, stringing with stiff polyester can be a recipe for arm discomfort or injury.

Pros and cons aside, I nearly always encourage players to go thinner when they are using polyester. Most polyester strings are available in 17 gauge and many are even available in 18 gauge. The thinner gauges provide a little bit more feel and they'll still offer plenty of durability for most players. Experimenting with polyester hybrids is also a great way to go. By blending polyester strings (usually on the mains) with a softer multifilament or natural gut (usually on the crosses), players can get the best of both worlds. The polyester string will still help enhance durability and boost spin, while the softer string will enhance comfort and feel.

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

Ask the Stringer: Do You Use a Different String Based on the Weather?

Ask the Stringer: Do You Use a Different String Based on the Weather?

Q: Do you recommend a different string/tension based on the weather?

A: Some players—and many pros—do use different tensions based on the temperature and humidity. It's a bit less practical for amateur players since they usually don't have loads of spare racquets and professional stringers on call every time they take the court; however, if you do have enough spare tennis racquets (multiple racquets of the same model are best) you can certainly have a few of them strung up at varying tensions for use in different weather conditions.

In general, strings will play a little bit stiffer on cold days so it's not a bad idea to reduce your "warm weather" tension by 2-3 pounds if you're expecting to play in cold weather. Like most other string questions, it's important to keep in mind that every situation (and player) is a little different. A 2-3 pound reduction is a good place to start, but if it feels like too much—or too little—don't be 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. Do you have a question for one of our stringers? Ask it in the comments below and we will provide with an answer as fast and accurate as our on-site stringing.

Ask the Stringer: Is There a Way to Measure Tension Loss in My Strings?

Ask the Stringer: Is There a Way to Measure Tension Loss in My Strings?

Q: Is there a way to measure tension loss in my strings?

A: There are several commercially available products that can be used to test the tension of the strings in your racquet. Some of them are simple spring-loaded "dials" that twist the strings to get a reading. More high-tech products cause the strings to vibrate, and then measure the vibration frequency to calculate tension. It's important to note that these products don't necessarily provide accurate measurements since there are a number of variables (other than string tension) that affect the readings. Things like string gauge, string stiffness, and even string pattern can have an effect on the measurements produced; the end result is readings that may or may not accurately reflect the actual tension of your strings. However, these products can help you track relative tension loss with ease. The best course of action is to use the desired instrument to measure the tension immediately after stringing. Take note of this "baseline" measurement and take readings periodically as time progresses so you can track how much tension your strings have lost over time.

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

Ask the Stringer: When Should I Replace My Strings?

Ask the Stringer: When Should I Replace My Strings?

Q: When should I replace my strings?

A: As a general rule of thumb, you should replace your strings at least once a year, even if you're only playing sporadically. Your strings lose tension and elasticity over time, even if you haven't hit a ball in a few months.

If you play more regularly, you should have your racquet restrung more frequently. The more specific rule is to get your racquet restrung as many times a year as you play—on average—in a week. So, if you play three times a week, you should get your racquet restrung three times a year.

In the end, though, every player's situation is a little different. Following these general guidelines is a great way to make sure that your strings stay fresh and don't negatively affect your performance on the court, but it's also important to try and be cognizant of how your strings "feel." If your strings feel loose or "dead," then it might just be time to get a restring.

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

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