tennis racket strings

The Ultimate Guide to Tennis Racket Strings: Unravelling the mystery


Many people would say that out of all the different types of tennis gear you need, the tennis racket strings have most impact on the ball, and we can see their point. Here Tennishead guides you through the intricate details behind a tennis racket’s strings


Why do tennis racket strings have such an impact and why are they such a mysterious product within tennis?

Firstly, the reason they effect the ball so much is that they are the material that actually touches the ball. In the same way as in Formula One motor racing, the tyres are constantly being discussed and changed because they are the material that actually links the car to the road. So in theory you should spend most money, effort and time on getting your strings the way you want them. And therefore it’s no surprise that you see professional tennis players constantly adjusting their tennis racket strings, tapping their racket to feel the strings, looking at them and then every 7 games they change their racket so they have new strings!

The reason many people see tennis racket strings as a mysterious product to be approached with caution is because they seem to change regularly of their own accord. Depending on the weather outside, strings can and do perform very differently. But that’s why Tennishead has created this simple guide to help you choose correctly.


Click here to buy tennis rackets, balls, clothes, strings and shoes with a 5% DISCOUNT on the lowest internet price PLUS a free string upgrade (worth £30) from our trusted retail partner All Things Tennis


The basics
Tight strings will give more control, while looser strings offer more power. Thinner strings will give more feel (but will break more often) while strings with a thicker gauge will last longer but won’t give the same feel. Strings that produce more power will also absorb more shock load at impact. Softer strings, or strings with a softer coating, tend to vibrate less and a stiffer stringbed tends to produce more spin.

Why do they break?
The longer vertical strings are often the first to snap after rubbing against the cross strings as a player puts spin on the ball. This rubbing causes a notch on the string, which inevitably snaps. Players that use lots of topspin are more likely to break their strings more often because the topspin causes more movement in the strings therefore more wear and tear.

A ball hit near the frame may also break the strings, no matter how old or new they are, and some break simply because they’re damaged goods or because they rub against cracked grommets (the plastic bits the string goes through in your frame).

Also, if you play on clay courts then you are more likely to break your strings because the loose granules of clay are picked up by the ball and then left on your strings when you strike the ball. These granules then work their way between your strings and cause more friction and snapping.

Why and how often should I change them?
Strings lose their elasticity and tension over time resulting in them going ‘dead’ – a lack of feel and power. Try to at least restring your racket the same number of times during a year as you play in a week.

Always test your strings before you use them and if they feel loose then get them re-strung. If you go on a long-haul flight then your strings can loose tension on the flight because of the extremes temperatures they will be exposed to in the hold of the plane.

Where should I go?
If you play at a club, the chances are there are a few members moonlighting as racket stringers. If not, you can visit a specialist racket sports shop, but if you visit your local sports shop ensure that they have a reputable stringer on staff.

Can I string my own racket?
Investing in your own machine can be a money saving scheme – especially if you’re getting a restring every few weeks, but machines don’t come cheap. It could turn into a nice little earner in these times of economic gloom.

Should I go natural?
Natural gut was the only string worth talking about before the quality man-made fibres improved with graphite frames. While nothing yet matches its resilience and elasticity, it is highly prone to breaks and loses tension once wet. Nowadays gut is often used for crosses in hybrid string jobs with something more durable used for the mains.

Keeping strings alive
Strings are mortal, but measures can be taken to lengthen their lifespan. ‘String savers’ are small plastic discs that slide between intersection points between mains and crosses. The idea is that they keep notches from deepening and snapping, and can apparently double the life of a stringing job. To increase the durability of your strings you shouldn’t expose your racket to extreme heat, cold or humidity. Try to keep it in your bag. Tape along the top of the racket can help too – it’ll stop strings snapping when the frame is scraped against the ground.

Synthetic strings?

The majority of recreational players now use synthetic strings – aramids, polyesters and nylons. Aramids have the polar opposite characteristics of gut. Highly durable – the material is used in bulletproof vests – these strings will last the distance, but on their own feel like playing tennis with piece of plywood. If you find yourself being offered syn-gut strings, you’re dealing with nylon. A nylon string comes closest to replicating the feeling of natural gut, as it is very flexible and fairly resilient. Polyesters resemble aramids in terms of durability, but are a little more forgiving when it comes to feel.

Stringing patterns
An open string pattern (14 or 16 main or vertical strings) will help you put more spin on the ball, while a denser pattern (18 mains or more) means a more solid strike of the ball.

Tension and gauge
Nearly every racket will have a recommended stringing tension range printed on the frame (typically around 50-65 lbs). The gauge of a string refers to its diameter, and the higher the number the thinner the string. Typically, strings are available in five different gauges: 15, 15L, 16, 16L and 17. As a rule, the larger a string’s diameter the greater the durability, but at the expense of feel.

String facts and stats you (probably) didn’t know…

  • Rafael Nadal goes on court with six newly strung rackets and will often have another couple strung during a match.
  • Around 40km of string was used on more than 3,400 rackets during the 2019 Aussie Open.
  • Bjorn Borg’s rackets were said to be strung higher than anyone else’s on tour – at around 80lb. They were so tight they used to snap in the night.
  • It takes about three cows to produce one set of tennis strings. It used to take about six sheep.
  • A shortage of sheep gut following World War II forced manufacturers to look for other natural gut alternatives.
  • The first rackets in the late 1800s were strung with the stretchy outer skin of sheep intestine known as serosa.
  • Between 11 and 12.2 metres of string is needed to string a tennis racket.
  • A common misconception is that ‘gut’ string is made from cats – it isn’t.

What else you should buy at the same time

Click here to buy tennis rackets, balls, clothes, strings and shoes with a 5% DISCOUNT on the lowest internet price PLUS a free string upgrade (worth £30) from our trusted retail partner All Things Tennis

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