How Can String Make You A Winner?

Tennis string is one of those niche areas that no one really considers when they think about tennis—it’s kind of like car tires or windows: people tell you that you’re supposed to change them every so often, so you do, but you’re not entirely sure why, and you’re tempted to just leave them alone because “they’re fine.” Admittedly, I was one of those people as recently as six months ago even though I’ve played tennis for twelve years. I only got a restring if I broke my strings, and then, I would default to the same string and tension as before, which had been initially recommended by my coach.

After an extremely rudimentary survey of local club and recreational players, most people, and as I discovered, even tennis teaching pros don’t have a complete grasp of tennis strings. This is completely understandable, since there are thousands of strings on the market, and even if you are fluent in strings, there’s a limit to how many strings one person can play with. (Also, it’s okay to have other interests outside of tennis.)

All of this is to say that tennis strings are an opaque topic, but as coaches and teaching pros, players are confident in your knowledge and ability to recommend racquets and strings in addition to improving form and technique. First, players should restring their racquets at least once every six months, even if they’re not breaking strings. The effects of any one string begin to wear off after that amount of time, especially for avid or even recreational players. If a player’s strings are brittle and have grooves, it’s time for a change. This is the aforementioned window problem, but once you get a restring, you can definitely tell. Second, you can distill the thousands of strings down into four basic families of synthetic gut, multifilament, polyester, and natural gut, and there are a few keywords and characteristics that are immensely helpful when it comes to shopping or recommending.

Synthetic gut — The most basic and cheapest option. This is the default string that comes in most prestrung racquets, and while it’s easy on your wallet, it quickly loses tension and power after a couple hours of play. It’s also quite stiff, so it can be hard on your arm, but it’s great for tennis newbies.

Multifilament — The go-to for power and comfort. They last a fairly long time, and if you’re having arm problems or just want a little extra pop on the ball, this is perfect. Prices range. Pro tip: multifilaments are more alike than they are different.

Polyester — This is the most diverse category because polys can be very different from each other. Key traits for polys are durability, control, and spin. They last forever, and really help direct shots, and the textured ones (rough or shaped) add extra spin to the ball. The big downsides are their stiffness, so not the easiest on your arm, and they can get pricey.

Natural gut — The creme de la creme of string in terms of comfort, power, and price. Gut string is made of cow intestines, but don’t let that gross you out: natural gut has the most pop and the easiest on your arm. The trade-offs are the price and durability: because of the material, these strings have a higher price tag, and they don’t last very long, especially for hard hitters or topspin balls. These strings are also highly susceptible to environmental conditions like temperature change, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Hybrid — This is a style of string rather than a category; that is, it’s a combination of two different strings. A hybrid set-up suits the more particular player who wants the best of both a polyester and a multifilament, which make up the typical hybrid. It’s also ideal for frequent string-breakers, but definitely not necessary unless you play all the time or are a string enthusiast.

Here’s the TL;DR version: synthetic gut is for beginners or extremely infrequent players; multifilament is for a nice blend of comfort and power; polyester is for durability, control, and spin; and natural gut is for highest comfort and power. It’s important to keep in mind that strings do not make up for form or weight of shot. They cannot magically make your serve go in, but they can add an extra bit of power or spin. More accurately, they are the finishing touch. However, there’s no reason for this to be limited to pro players! Everyone should take advantage of the wide world of string out there because they’re an integral part of tennis. Without them, there would be no match.