So you have bought a tennis racket which you love - fantastic! That's only half the story though when it comes to choosing the right equipment to play with.
Many people forget about strings!
I always liken the racket and string relationship to an F1 car and its tyres. The car can perform very well, but when it has the wrong tyres on, the car will skid off the track. It is after all, the tyres which are touching the ground - or the strings which are actually making contact with the ball.
Why & When
Strings deteriorate over time meaning that you're not getting the most out of your racket. Through the course of a strings life it loses its elasticity, meaning the string does not fire back into position once the ball hits. This results in less movement, or rotation, on the ball. You may experience less control, less spin, your once perfect forehand starts sailing long and increased vibration (which does not help if you are prone to tennis elbow).
Restringing a racket isn't just for the string breakers out there!
If you care about your performance on court then you should be getting your racket restrung quite frequently.
The general rule is that you get your racket restrung as many times you play a week in the year. So, if you play 3 times a week you get your racket restrung 3 times a year. Follow this rule and you will be playing with strings that should not hamper your tennis.
Polyester: What the majority of the pros use! A single core string which tends to be durable and spin friendly. Perfect for big hitters but not those recovering from injury!
Synthetic: An all rounder string. Usually a single core with smaller string threads wrapped around before coated in a shell. More suited for the recreational player or as part of a hybrid.
Natural gut: The softest most playable string which is made from cow intestine (not cat gut which some people say, thank God!). Its a string for those who want the best of the best! Great control, power and comfort. It does come at a premium though.
Multifilament: A synthetic version of natural gut without the cost. Its for the player who wants control and touch from their racket.
Hybrid: A combination of any two strings. Usually a harder and softer string together. Most pro players these days on tour use a hybrid. One of my most asked for restrings is a Babolat RPM main and Angell Halo 3 cross hybrid - it really does play well!
String gauge is often looked over when choosing the correct string for your game. Generally strings are between 1.40mm (15 gauge) and 1.15mm (18 gauge) in diameter.
Thin String: A thinner string will give you improved playability. Its a livelier response which gives you access to more spin. It does however reduce durability, so string breakers would tend to go to a thicker string.
Thick String: A thicker string will primarily increase durability. Other than that a thick string will only decrease the power slightly.
My advice is to play with a thin string first (17 gauge). If you are happy with the durability then stick there, or even go thinner. If it breaks too quickly, less than 20 hours play, then go for a thicker string.
String tension is usually the last factor to take into account when deciding which string set up to go with. This is because the type of string, as well as the gauge of the string, will affect what tension you should choose.. A high tension is usually around 58lbs, whilst a low tension tends to be around 50lbs.
High Tension: This will give you more control but with a stiffer feel. You will also get reduced durability. High tensions tend not to be used when stringing with polyester as the string bed will be very stiff and any mishit shot will go straight to your arm!
Low Tension: This will give you more power and feel but also it will 'open up' the sweetspot of your racket. Unfortunately it does reduce the control aspect slightly.
I recommend starting with a low tension and adjusting it from there.
At the end of the day strings are a personal preference, but having strung rackets for all sorts of players over the past 15 years, I have got pretty good at figuring out which string would suit a player best.
If you're looking for a racket restring then please do get in touch. We can discuss your game and find the perfect string and tension for you!
Tom Honeywood - Tennis Coach & Racket Stringer, Brighton & Hove