The Baseline is an ongoing series from Rackets and Runners diving into the tech side of tennis.
What if I were to tell you that your racket frame only contributes to 50% of your tennis playing performance. The other 50%? It comes from the strings! After all, the strings are the part of the setup that is actually contacting the ball. That’s why choosing the right string, and tension, is pivotal to your tennis game. Luckily we’re here to help.
Never underestimate the difference a fresh stringbed can make. We recommend re-stringing your tennis racket at least once a year. For the best performance possible, we recommend restringing as many times as you play per week. For example, if you play 3 times a week, get your racket restrung 3 times a year.
The first step in choosing a string is identifying the characteristics you are looking for. These characteristics are best identified by the sensations you feel when you contact the ball. Words like power, control, stiff, and soft are all helpful. The descriptors can be anything, the most important thing is to be able to identify what you’re looking to get out of the string.
It is worth noting, there is no miracle string. A lot of playing characteristics exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. This means getting more of something usually means getting less of something else. Look for the right balance that suits your game, and know that there will always be a certain amount of trade-off.
Once you’ve identified the playing characteristics and sensations you are seeking, it’s important to understand the different types of strings and the characteristics they have on offer.
Natural Gut Tennis Strings
The O.G. string. Older than Wimbledon itself. Babolat invented natural gut strings in 1875 - that's two years prior to the very first Wimbledon Championship. I also feel the need to dispel one long standing myth surrounding this type of string. It has never been made from cat gut. It is and always has been a natural product derived from cows. To the best of my knowledge, the term cat gut may have originated from the shortening of the term cattle gut.
Natural gut offers the best combination of power, feel, comfort, and durability. No other string can really compete or emulate the playing experience it offers. This is why it continues to be a mainstay both on tour, as well clubs and public courts worldwide.
However, this performance does come at a price. Babolat VS Touch natural gut continues to be made in France by hand. For a complete set of string, the manufacturing process takes roughly 3 months from start to finish. But believe me, it's worth the wait and price! If you are someone who values comfort, power, and feel above all else (and you are not a frequent string breaker) there is no other string that compares to natural gut.
Some store offerings:
Babolat VS 1.30mm/ 1.25mm (in-store only)
Babolat Tonic + Longevity >1.35mm (in-store only)
Multifilament Tennis Strings
Multifilaments (multis) are designed to most closely resemble the sensations of a natural gut string. Multi strings can be made up of thousands of microfilament polyamides. Think towels and bedding here. The higher the thread count, the softer the string. The main benefit to multis is that they offer a good level of power and comfort due to their high thread count and elasticity. This means that they will offer shock absorption, but tend to lack durability and longevity. It is not uncommon for multifilament strings to fray and lose tension faster than natural gut.
The type of player interested in multis is someone looking for a soft, comfortable feeling string, that is not worried about durability. While these strings tend to not offer the playability or durability of natural gut, they come in at a lower price making them an attractive option.
Some store offerings include:
Synthetic Tennis Strings
Synthetic gut or syn guts come in a vast variety of construction styles. They consist of a solid central core, wrapped in filament fibers. A jack of all trades string, syn guts provide a nice balance of comfort, power, control, and durability without excelling in any one areas.
Often syn guts provide the best value. Players just getting into the sport and or seeking a more crisp feeling stringbed, with some added durability when compared to multifilaments, should give syn guts a try.
Some store offerings include:
Gosen OG Sheep Micro 1.29mm/ 1.22mm (in-store only)
Polyester Tennis Strings
Lastly, we will look at a string construction that can go by a couple of different names but for the sake of simplicity we will refer to it as polyester (poly) strings. Poly strings are generally constructed as one solid piece of string. This is what separates them from other string types and what gives them their unique properties. Their general characteristics are that they are stiff, low-powered, and durable. Durability is their main objective. These strings are designed for players to take big swings at the ball that tend to break other strings very quickly.
However, they are not designed for all types of players. Their stiff nature means they are unforgiving for players who cannot generate the necessary racket head speed in order to flex the stringbed at impact. This is why if one is to play with poly strings, it is often recommended that they be strung at lower tensions.
One other consideration is that while poly strings will not break as quickly as other types, they do lose their playability much quicker. Poly’s are the worst string when it comes to tension maintenance. While we don’t always recommend polys for everyone, the most important thing is that if you do play with them, it is critical that you replace them more frequently. As the strings go dead and lose their playability, that is when they are at their most unforgiving and could potentially lend themselves to an injury.
As you can see each string construction will have pros and cons. I know there is a lot to take into consideration, and we haven’t even begun to discuss all the other factors that come in to play —string gauge, tension, and hybrid set-ups. In the end, it’s up to you to decide what’s right for you.
In the next instalment of The Baseline, we will break down more of the technical aspects of racket restringing to help you get the most out of your game!