Many people invest a great deal of time in choosing the perfect racquet without giving much thought to the type of strings they’ll use. The truth is that the type of string you choose, along with the tension, can have a massive impact on how you play.
If you’re totally new to the idea of string tension, the first thing to understand is that you’ll need to find the right balance between control and power. If you pick up a reasonably good quality novice or an intermediate racquet it should come with a recommended range of tension.
It should go without saying that you don’t want to go outside of this range, as it could void any warranty you have and it could even break the frame.
The rule for choosing tension is – Tight for control, loose for power.
The best way to find what works for you is to experiment with different tensions and see what you’re most comfortable with. Increments of around 2lbs should provide just enough of a difference for you to notice the change. It all comes down to the transfer of energy between the racket and the ball.
When a tennis ball collides with an object it returns just over 50% of its impact energy. Strings return closer to 90%. When the ball and the strings collide, both undergo a slight change of shape. The ball absorbs this energy by flattening out, while the strings absorb this energy by deforming like a trampoline.
To return the maximum amount of energy we need the strings to store as much energy as they can, as they are far more efficient at transferring the energy than the ball is. If the strings are looser they will change shape much more easily, and as a result they will store more energy. The amount of energy lost vi the ball is therefore reduced substantially.
As the string bed compresses, the ball stays on the strings more, which means that any slight movement in your racket can dramatically change the direction the ball will take. The additional time on the strings is fractions of a second, certainly not enough time to consciously adjust the direction of the frame, but it’s enough time for any unintended motions to occur.
This is amplified when the ball is stuck outside the centre of the racket, as it can cause the racket head to turn during impact. String tension has a huge effect on the way a tennis racket performs. The same racket can feel like a terrible fit for you at one tension, then feel like the best you’ve ever used at another.
As we said earlier, the best thing to do is try out a few different tensions to see what suits you. You’d think studying the pro players would help find a good fit for your style of play, but even players with similar styles often have wildly different rackets and string tension.
If you don’t hit particularly hard or with much spin, and you want more power or your arm hurts, looser strings make sense. When looser strings compress more, the impact of the ball occurs over a longer period of time, thus making the shock less severe at any one moment. If you like to hit quite hard or with a lot of spin, tighter strings are probably your better choice.
As noted, you’ll have more control, and you’ll get more spin because the ball will flatten out more on your strings, giving each string a better bite on the ball.If you don’t have a naturally powerful game, or you can’t generate a lot of your own spin, looser string tension is probably the best thing for you.
If you prefer to hit the ball hard or if you like to put a lot of spin on the ball, go for something tighter. Tighter strings offer more control, as the ball will flatten out more and the strings will be able to ‘grip’ the ball a lot better.