I did it. I went out today and played with a racquet strung at 10lbs.
Let me start by writing that, yes, it is possible to hit with a racquet strung at 10lbs. Very possible, in fact. During my hit today I was finding the groove with this tension.
My topspin shots were working well right off the bat. The only time I got in trouble was when Kana, my hitting partner today, hit a ball deep to my feet. When trying to pick the ball up in that situation and roll it back deep to her side of the court, it was easy to hit the ball long. However, when I had time to set up, I was able to hit a very hard and heavy ball. My topspin forehands and backhands were really jumping off the court and throwing Kana’s timing off.
At first my slice shots were floating a little and I was getting too much depth on drop shots. I switched back to my 30lbs racquet and immediately found my range again. Once I felt more dialed in, I went back to the 10lbs racquet and stuck with it for the rest of the hit. The more I hit, the more feel I found on touch shots and lobs etc and I was able to make the adjustment to where they were working as normal.
The big difference, and I mean BIG difference at 10lbs was on serve. Whereas my first serve was clicking at 30lbs, lost at 20lbs, it was found again at 10lbs. With 10lbs, I was finding pace I haven’t hit since my late teens/early twenties. My first serves were just zinging. Adding a little spin to them made them pretty nasty for Kana to return. I hit a couple of nice wide slice serves, some bombs down the ‘T’ and also some fast serves to the body. On second serves I was kicking the ball higher than usual. As with groundstrokes, Kana mentioned my serves were heavier, with more pace and spin than usual.
No doubt about it, serving at 10lbs was a blast.
Amazingly, even at 10lbs, Cyclone 16 STILL remained aligned in my racquet after a long rally. I never had to adjust my strings. I thought I would be adjusting strings at 30lbs, definitely at 20lbs and at 10lbs I was worried that the ball might just move the strings out of the way and come out the back of my racquet. As unbelievable as it seems, string movement was never an issue.
Now, there were some downsides to playing with 10lbs. As I mentioned, it took me longer to adjust on slice shots and touch shots before I found my range, but I managed to dial it all in within an hour of hitting. Again, picking up deep shots landing near my feet was tougher and easier for me to over hit. Most interestingly though, the racquet vibrated a lot at 10lbs. There was some buzz coming from the stringbed during play and when I tapped the frame against my hand, the frame had some buzz that’s not normally there. I didn’t find any discomfort from the racquet, but this is all based on one hit. I told our TW professor about the buzzing and he immediately went into professor mode and started talking about finding the cause of the buzz and eliminating it.
Although I could feel the buzzing, I couldn’t really hear it, as the stringbed was just so quiet. Yesterday I found my racquet to play quietly at 20lbs, but at 10lbs the racquet is in all out stealth mode. There’s none of the loud crack I get when really laying into a shot with a poly type string. No matter how hard I swung, the sound remained deep and soft. I’ll put it this way, 10lbs is the Barry White of string tensions.
What have I learned from this fun little experiment? Well, there’s definitely some advantage of dropping to a low tension. I’m going to be playing around between 25 and 35lbs over the next few weeks to find the sweetspot for me. Right now I’m really enjoying 30lbs due to the spin off the ground and the extra pace on serve. With 30lbs I’m very close to the pace and spin I get at 10lbs and I don’t have to make as much of an adjustment. I found 20lbs a bit of a no man’s land with some adjustment needed and no obvious benefit. At 30lbs I also prefer the feel, because at 10lbs the buzzing was a bit annoying. I just have no idea if it could lead to elbow issues or aggravate some wrist issues I have from time to time. Frankly, I don’t care to find out the hard way on that one.
As for my original question of how low can I go? Well, it turns out it is 10lbs on the stringing machine. The Prince NEOS 1000 stringing machines we use only adjust down to 10lbs, something I’d never really looked at until today.
The only thing left is hand-pulling tension. Hey, don’t laugh. I might just try it!