Racquet stringing advice
Whether it be for tennis, squash or badminton, there are many considerations to take into account when choosing which strings to use and then a wide range of stringing options available to you dependent on your needs.
In order to string your racquet with the best strings for your game and requirements we can discuss what your demands are from your strings, whether it be a top level performance string, a string offering maximum durability, strings suiting players with injuries such as tennis elbow, strings depending on your budget or style of play and what string tension is going to work best for your game...then settle on the perfect stringing solution for your game.
In tennis if you play with a lot of spin from the baseline you will need a totally different string and tension to that required if you are primarily a serve and volley player.
Your racquet strings are the only point of your racquet to come in contact with the ball or shuttle (hopefully!), therefore you need to make sure you have the best strings, strung at the best tension for you and your game.
Strings lose tension and deteriorate relatively quickly, so it is important NOT TO WAIT UNTIL YOUR STRINGS BREAK BEFORE GETTING YOUR RACQUET RE-STRUNG!!
The old adage is that however many times a week you play, that is how often you should get your racquet re-strung each year. While this is a good rule-of-thumb, it is also dependent on your type of play and the strain your individual game puts on your racquet and strings.....for some, with a power game or using a lot of spin, you should re-string far more frequently, for others once a year may be enough.
Here are some basics about strings and what you should consider:
A) THE STRINGS THEMSELVES:
Players may spend hours arguing the relative merits of one racquet versus another and agonise for weeks before spending £100 or more on a new one, but surprisingly little attention is paid to the strings, which is really the most important piece of equipment from a competitive point of view. After all, you don't hit the ball or shuttlecock with your racquet (at least, not intentionally); you hit it with the string!!
Certainly, the racquet is important, because it holds the string. But the string provides the majority of the power, control, and "feel" to every stroke. The string is to tennis, squash or badminton as tyres are to motor racing or sails to sailing: you won't get far without them, and quality makes a difference. The more knowledge you can bring to bear when selecting equipment, the more competitive you will be.
The string is a surprisingly technical product, even though differences may not be easy to see. The primary variables are gauge (or thickness), materials, and construction. There are also differences in stringing tension and racquet design, both of which influence how the string performs. Then throw in different player preferences, styles of play, and budgets, and it becomes clear that selecting the right string is no simple matter......however, as complicated as it may appear it is not rocket science and while knowing about what you require from your string to optimise your racquet and your game is important, how a string 'feels' to you is equally key so the best method is always to re-string frequently and try different strings until you settle on one that is perfect for you!
B) STRING GAUGE (OR WIDTH):
String gauge is the basic factor.....every player should know the gauge of the string in his or her racquet and how it affects performance.
In general, thin strings are more powerful but less durable than thick ones, as thinner strings stretch further on impact with the ball or shuttle. As they recover from this stretch, they propel the ball forward: the more stretch, the more power.
There are two main causes of string breakage. The first is ‘notching’. During a match the cross strings (the shorter, ‘horizontal’ strings) are pounded hundreds of times against the main strings (the longer, ‘vertical’ ones). That repeated pounding cuts notches into the mains and eventually one of the notches becomes so deep that the string snaps (it’s almost always the mains that break).
The second major cause of breakage is overstretching, or tensile failure. While notching occurs gradually, tensile failure is sudden and catastrophic. Overstretching occurs most often on poorly hit shots, when the ball or shuttle contacts the stringbed near the frame. The string wants to stretch equally on both sides of the ball or shuttle, but in this situation there’s not much to work with on one side. The string stretches beyond its elastic limit and simply snaps.
Obviously, thicker strings are more resistant to breakage than thinner ones. But because thick strings tend to be less powerful, each player must decide for him or herself which factor is more important.
C) STRING TENSION (AND STRING CREEP):
Knowledge about stringing gives players a great opportunity to ‘tune’ their racket to suit their playing style by adjusting the string tension.
The basic equations are these: Higher Tension = More Control; Lower Tension = More Power.
Strings at low tension stretch more when they contact the ball or shuttle, and then quickly snap back to their initial length. This ‘trampoline effect’ (also known as resilience or rebound) adds power to the shot. If the racquet is strung at a higher tension, there’s less stretch left in the string to provide power. On the other hand, tighter strings remain flatter, so it’s easier to control the direction of the ball or shuttle and to impart spin to it.
But long strings stretch more than short ones under the same loads. Thus string tension should be in proportion to racquet head size. In general larger heads call for tighter tension than smaller ones to achieve comparable playability.
A racquet loses roughly 10 percent of its tension by the day after it was strung – and that’s if it’s not used. The tension continues to drop gradually over time, and more rapidly if it’s used often. Loss of tension is due to ‘creep,’ or stretch at the molecular level....and it’s a fact of life; work with it, don’t fight it! Think of stringing tension in terms of initial or ‘reference’ tension (ie. the tension the racquet was originally re-strung at). Learn what reference tension works best for you and go with that.
The construction of the string also affects tension and performance. Nylon monofilaments are relatively stiff, but are subject to a fair degree of creep. Multifilament strings are more flexible, but may be even more subject to tension loss.......so your choice of string and tension should be guided by many factors.
It’s always a good idea to discuss your needs with a professional stringer who understands stringing but remember that much will depend upon your personal preferences. If you’re a power player, you might want to add control to your game by stringing tight. Or you might want to make your shots even more powerful by stringing loose. Or you might choose something in between for a balance of control and power. If you’re a finesse player, you can use string tension to maximize your advantages, minimise your liabilities, or strike a happy medium!
D) THE STRING TENSION AND GAUGE BALANCE:
Much of the power in a racquet comes from the ‘trampoline effect’ – the rapid stretch and rebound of the string bed as it contacts the ball or shuttle. The more resilient the string bed, the more power it generates.
A thin string is naturally more resilient than a thick string; and strings strung at a low tension can stretch more than strings strung at a high tension. So if you want to increase power in your game, there are two ways to approach it: use a thin string, or have the racket strung at the lower end of the tension range.
The other side of the coin is control. The more the string bed stretches on impact, the harder it is to control direction and spin on the ball or shuttle. This is especially the case on off-centre hits, where the strings stretch more on one side of the impact point than the other, making an off-centre ‘trampoline’.
Control is also affected by a second phenomenon: ‘dwell time’. The more the string stretches, the longer the ball or shuttle remains in contact with the racquet face. With a stiff string bed, the ball bounces off the racket face at a single instant. The player can anticipate the instant of contact, and adjust the racquet angle accordingly. But with a stretchier string bed, the ball or shuttle is ‘carried’ by the racket as it swings through many degrees of arc. It’s difficult for the player to know exactly when the two are finally going to part company, so it’s harder to make the proper adjustments.
Using thicker string or stringing at higher tension will produce a stiffer string bed and enhance control over the ball or shuttle – just the opposite, naturally, of the recipe for power.
But here’s another factor to consider: at the same tension a thin string is stretched more than a thick one, so the thin string behaves as if it’s tighter. If you’ve been playing with a 17 gauge squash string, strung at 27lb tension, and you switch to a thinner, 18 micro-gauge, to obtain more power, you’ll probably want to reduce tension to 24lb or so. At 27lb the thinner string would feel too tight, and you’d actually sacrifice power compared to the thicker string (for jargon junkies, we’ll call this phenomenon ‘relative tension’).
By changing the tension, you can adjust the amount of power or control that you get from any string, thick or thin. But that doesn’t mean that thick and thin strings can be made to behave identically.
Thin strings penetrate the surface of the ball or shuttle a bit deeper on impact, and this tends to enhance control. Also, thinner strings generate less resistance through the air, so the racquet can be swung a bit faster, for more power.
However, neither of these factors has a big influence and generally only highly skilled players can detect them at all. On the other hand, thicker strings are more durable and they hold tension longer, so they can save you money.
Thin or thick strings; low or high tension; each variable affects the way your racquet performs. Pick the set-up that best suits your needs.
[sourced and adapted from UKRSA & 'String Matters' - Squash Player magazine]
Also, there are stringing techniques and types of strings that can be used to aid in any physical requirements you may have such as offering the best protection against playing with ongoing injuries such as tennis elbow.
The equipment you use is only as good as it's weakest link, so there is little point having an expensive racquet and not paying attention to the strings you use....it would be like having a top-of the range sportscar and then fitting cheap tyres on it, thereby compromising the whole performance of the car!
Holding the UKRSA Professional Stringer certificate, I am able to recommend the best strings and tension suited to your game based on the information you give me and to complete the racquet stringing job to a high standard.