Polyester strings have become the popular choice on both the ATP and WTA tours. In fact, at the recent combined ATP-WTA tour event in Rome, of 138 men’s and women’s players, 135 of them were either using a full set of polyester or were using it in a hybrid setup with a softer string. Only three players were using a full set of natural gut, which was the popular choice in the days of McEnroe and Connors. So, what are polyester strings? Why are they popular? Will they work for you?
Polyester strings are typically “monofilament” (made from a single, solid strand of material) as opposed to natural gut or “multifilament” strings that are composed of multiple strands woven together. The single strand is often made of polyester blended with some other substances that can affect the playability of the string in a variety of ways. This monofilament design lends itself to very stiff strings, which means more control and durability, but less power and comfort. They have more of a “dead” feel to them, making it hard to generate power and often being the cause of arm problems in tennis players. So why have they become so popular?
As racquet technology has improved, players are able to take longer, faster swings at the ball, and the collision between racquet and ball has become increasingly violent. The traditional natural gut strings were providing too much power and not enough control for these large swings, not to mention not giving the pros enough durability. Personally, I could go through a full set of natural gut within a couple of hours. So players began experimenting with polyester strings.
What people found was that the polyester strings were providing much more control for the longer, faster strokes. Since players didn’t have to worry about controlling the stroke themselves (due to the polyester being much less powerful), they could exert even more effort into the swing, generating tremendous racquet speed. With the added racquet speed, players were able to gain tons of spin. With increased spin and control, you could hit EVEN HARDER while remaining confident that the ball would stay in play. Furthermore, the string was much more durable, which is always a welcomed bonus.
As more and more players caught on, the popularity of polyester strings took off on the pro tour. Now, they’ve taken over the tour, and like I previously stated, 98% of the players in Rome are using some type of polyester setup in their racquets. The way the modern game has evolved, it has become almost a necessity to use “polys” for their added control, access to spin and durability. Most players would be unable to compete on the tour without them.
What about you? Since polys are so popular on the professional level, does this mean that we would recommend them to everyone? Well, not necessarily. First of all, since they are very stiff, they tend to create a lot of shock at contact that gets transferred into the hand and arm. This can cause arm problems in people who are susceptible. If you are someone who tends you have arm problems and you still want to try polyesters, I would suggest using a “hybrid” setup, by mixing the polyester with a softer multifilament or natural gut string. This will help you get the feel for the polyester and see if you like it, while reducing the harsh impact on your arm. Secondly, because of the stiffness, it is difficult to generate power with the polyester strings. You must have long, fast strokes, otherwise the ball won’t go anywhere when you hit it. If you have shorter, slower strokes, you might want the comfort, power and feel of a natural gut or multifilament instead.
Just because polyesters are popular on the pro tour doesn’t mean that they are right for everyone. But if you’re an intermediate to advanced level player with long, fast strokes looking for a little more durability and control out of your strings, then give them a try! Remember, if you’ve got a history of arm problems, just mix the polyester with a softer natural gut or multifilament, giving you that controlled feel and added durability but reducing some of the harshness on your arm. Take those big cuts at the ball without fear of your shots sailing long, and you’ll be hitting harder and heavier in no time!
Thanks for reading!