April 7, 2016
Owning my own tennis stringer for the last 10+ years has allowed me to string different types of strings of various combinations and tensions. Remember that the only part of the racquet that should touch the ball are the strings (and yes unfortunately my frame has caught the ball more than I would like to admit) so string selection, combination and tension are all very important.
Types of Strings
Multi and Monofilament strings are the cheaper copy cats of natural gut. They provide great touch and control that the natural gut does at a cheaper price. They tend to last longer than natural gut but also lose their tension faster. High end tennis players that play regularly commonly use these strings. Synthetic guts are the economical choice for recreational players. They provide a crisp and lively feel to the ball without breaking the bank. This was my choice as a high school tennis player.
If arm problems are a factor, stay away from anything that has kevlar in it. This material, often used in bulletproof vests, will make the impact of the ball go into your arm instead of the strings. Try multifilament strings that are easy on the arm. Another popular choice that I have done myself is doing a hybrid of two types of strings. The mains (strings going vertically) will be strings that are designed for high performance and high durability while the crosses (strings going horizontally) will be a softer string to lesson the impact on the arm. I personally use Tecnifibre Red Code for the mains and Prince Synthetic Gut for the crosses. The Red Code is designed to give more spin and durability while the Synthetic Gut allows the impact to be absorbed more by the strings than my arm.
Gauge of Strings
The three main gauge sizes for tennis are 17, 16 and 15. The most common gauge is 16. I would recommend that over any other gauge because it gives you a combination of spin, feel and control. However, the other two gauges might be a benefit for you. The 17 gauge string is a skinner string (so it has less durability) that will give you more feel. Serve and volley players always used this string (Such as Pete Sampras) since they were at the net a lot and required more feel on the ball, which the 17 gauge string does. I play more at the baseline and the lack of control the strings give you at the baseline makes it a gauge I shy away from. The 15 gauge (sometimes in a 15L size, meaning a bit bigger than 16 but smaller than 15) is more for the baseline players that do not require touch. The string does not give a lot of power like the 17 gauge string so heavy swingers tend to use this. It has high durability but low playability, meaning you are not going to get much action on the ball with your swing. The best way to experiment with the gauges of string is to have the same string with the 3 different sizes to see which one you like the most. When in doubt, choose 16 gauge string.
Tension is very important as it can give you different combinations of power and control as well as put less strain on your arm. In general, a higher tension will give you more control but put more strain on your arm with less power while a lower tension gives you more power and comfort but less control. Racquet technology has really changed how we tighten up the strings. For example, Pete Sampras had a tension of 72lbs while Rafael Nadal has a string tension in the low 40s! How is this possible? With today's racquet and string technology, we can hit the ball hard with topspin and allow the ball to still stay in. Nadal hits with so much spin that he can afford to have more power in his strings while still controlling the ball with the amount of topspin he puts on the ball. If you hit flat and swing hard, stick to a higher tension while if you hit with a lot of spin, try a lower tension. Also, the seasons play a role in your tension. I will string my racquet at a lower tension in the winter because the ball is not as lively at low temperatures, requiring me to have more power while in the summer the ball is very lively, requiring me to have a higher tension.
The priority list for you is to figure out what string you want first. Then the gauge and finally the tension. Being very observant with your play on the tennis court can help you determine what is the best string for you without doing too many different combinations. Want to know what the pros use? Click here! Happy hitting!