Tennis Strings. Where to Begin?

If you’ve ever had the arduous task of going to the grocery store, then you understand that in 2011, there are way too many choices for everything you want. Need some bread? Would you like white, wheat, whole grain, 9 grain, potato, or buttermilk?  Take a stroll down the juice isle and you’re be bombarded with cartons that read: No Pulp, Less Pulp, Calcium Added, and Extra Pulp.

And don’t even get me started on the types of ice creams and flavors that are available. What in the world is a Dippin Dot?!

So I can relate to those of you who take one look at our string page and think, as the kids say, “WTF.” I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I get to try out so many types and brands of strings that I know what to look for and I’m not intimidated by the vastness of the selection. Let me help you by breaking it down as simply and easily as possible.

Before we even get into string types, we should talk about tension. Every racquet has a recommended tension range and it usually lies between 50 and 60 pounds. As a general rule of thumb, the lower the tension, the more power and the higher the tension, the more control. Not sure what tension to go with? I recommend stringing at mid, and then making adjustments from there. Feeling like you’re slightly over hitting? Dial up the tension a couple pounds. Vice versa if you feel your shots are landing shorter than usual.

Now onto the string types. There are 4 basic string categories: nylon, multifilament, natural gut and polyester.

Nylon (AKA synthetic gut or syn gut):
Price Range: Less than $5.00
Pros: Cheap, does everything decently well.
Cons: Does nothing spectacularly well.
Examples: Babolat Synthetic Gut, Prince Duraflex, Gamma Synthetic Gut, Wilson Extreme
The most basic string type is also the cheapest. A jack of all trades, it provides decent spin, power, control and durability. This is ideal for the casual player and those looking for all around performance in an economical offering.

Multi-filament:
Prince Range: $5.00-$20.00
Pros: Soft feeling, arm-friendly, wide selection, powerful
Cons: Durability
Examples: Wilson NXT, Gamma TNT2, Babolat XCel Premium, Tecnifibre NRG2
Generally speaking, these types of strings are softer and better for the arm (those suffering from any arm injuries take note: These strings are for you!). They are made up of thousands of little fibers all wound together and provide great elasticity for power and ball pocketing. This is a great cheaper alternate to natural gut and offers all weather performance.

Natural Gut:
Prince Range: $20.00-$43.00
Pros: Comfort, arm-friendly, ultimate feel and insane ball pocketing.
Cons: Durability, price, doesn’t like damp or wet conditions.
Examples: Babolat VS, Wilson Natural Gut, Pacific Natural Gut, Klip Legend
Whether you’re recovering from an arm injury or trying to prevent one, this is the best possible string you can get for your arm. Provides a very soft and forgiving stringbed with plenty of power. Natural gut used to be used by just about every pro player until the invention of polyester strings (see next section). Natural gut is seeing a resurgence on the pro tour as part of a hybrid set up (different types of string used in the stringbed — one in the mains, the other in the crosses) as it adds comfort, pocketing and power to whatever string you combine it with. Natural gut alone has to be strung very tightly for big hitters to still have control, but because of its unique natural fiber construction it plays softer at higher tensions. Made from a cow’s intestine, this is not the string for members of PETA.

Polyester:
Price Range: $4.00-$20.00
Pros: Large selection, control, durability, spin
Cons: Stiff, lack of power, tension maintenance
Examples: Luxilon ALU Power, Babolat RPM Blast, Polyfibre TCS, Solinco Revolution, Becker Bomber, Signum Pro Poly Plasma
The hottest thing to hit the tennis world since graphite racquets or Anna Kournikova, take your pick. Most of the pro tour has already made the switch. The question is, is it right for you? What’s all the hype about? And it really boils down to two words: spin and control. Because it is so low powered, players are able to take full, big cuts at the ball, imparting more spin than ever before. The big downside is how harsh it can be on your arm. This is not an issue for the pros as they find the sweetspot more than the rest of us, but off-center hits can be very jarring. The high stiffness level does very little to help absorb all the shock and vibration. Avoid this one if you have arm, wrist or shoulder issues.

That is a very quick break down of the 4 main categories of strings. If you really want to dive deeper into the world of strings, I suggest you head over to our TW University. I hope this clears some things up for you and you are now able to narrow down the types of strings you want to try in the future.

And if not, there’s always Dippin Dots.

Jason, TW

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