Tennis String Guide

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.” Even 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.

How do I know when to restring my racquet?

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.

I need a restring. What string do I pick?

What string should I put in my new racquet?

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.

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.

What is string gauge?

Gauge is the thickness of a string and it ranges from 15 (about 1.41 - 1.49mm) to 19 (1.00 - 1.10mm) with 15 being the thickest and 19 being the thinnest. This measuring convention is contradictory, but just think opposites: a smaller number means a thicker string and a larger number means a thinner string. A half gauge is denoted by an "L," so anything marked 16L is in between a 16 and 17 gauge.

The rule of thumb is that thinner strings allow for more feel and spin because there's more space to grip the ball while thicker strings provide a little more power and durability. These differences are very subtle though, and even many experienced players can have trouble discerning between different gauges of the same string.

What does it mean when a string has texture?

Texutred string has some kind of ridged pattern around the outside that adds spin to the ball. Different shapes have the potential to give you more or less amounts of extra spin. If a string is marked as textured, then it's usually a polyester, so you'll lose a bit of 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.