Tips for Selecting a Set of Tennis Strings
I’ve included the following tips to help you get the most out of this guide while assisting you in your string selection.
Tennis String Gauge
Once you find a set of tennis strings that you’d like to try, you may get tripped up with what gauge or thickness makes the most sense for them. There are two key factors to consider when thinking about string gauge:
All else equal, a thicker string will be more durable and offer less spin potential, while a thinner option will be less durable and provide more spin potential.
Strings are widely available at 17 or 16 gauge, with 17 being a thinner string and 16 thicker. In the spirit of keeping things simple, I suggest players start with one of those based on whether they’re looking for more durability or spin and then adjust from there.
If you’d like to dive deeper, check out my article on tennis string gauge.
Tennis String Tension
While string gauge is one of the last questions players have before buying a set of strings, tension is frequently the first question afterward.
Various strings can require slightly different considerations, but you’re typically making a tradeoff between more power with a lower tension or added control with a higher tension.
Luckily, racquet manufacturers provide players with a recommended tension range, which you’ll find printed on most frames. A good starting point is typically the middle of their recommendation.
For example, if your racquet’s tension range is 50-60 pounds, a good starting point is 55. Once you play with your racquet strung at that tension, you’ll be able to gauge whether to increase or decrease from there.
String tension can have a substantial impact on performance, so if you’d like to dive into the details of string tension, I’d recommend you check out my article on how to enhance your game with the right tension.
If you’re not already familiar, hybrid stringing is where a player uses one type of string for the mains and another for the crosses.
The result is a blend of string attributes. The string used in the mains dominates the overall feel, and the crosses influence the mains’ feel and performance, giving players even more flexibility and options when stringing.
Some string sets, such as Wilson’s Champions Choice, my pick for the best-prepackaged hybrid, include two different types of strings. In this case, Wilson combines natural gut with a polyester string.
However, you can mix any two types of strings as a hybrid. For example, some players will combine two different gauges of the same string for added durability, improved feel, or enhanced topspin.
Regardless of whether you experiment with hybrid string setups, it’s great to be aware of the option, which has become more popular over the years and, in my opinion, is highly underrated.
As you look to buy a new set of tennis strings, it pays to know how frequently you should replace them. Typically, many recreational players will wait until their strings break.
While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, it’s helpful to recognize that the performance lifespan (referred to as playability duration in the string world) is generally far shorter than the time it takes to break a set of strings.
At the end of the day, it’s entirely a personal preference, but these factors can help you determine when you should replace your strings:
- Frequency and length of play
- Style of play
- Level of competition
- Personal preference
I have an article dedicated to providing more guidance on when to replace your strings if you’d like to learn more.
As you can imagine, every set of tennis strings performs differently strung up in various tennis racquet. Like strings, manufacturers design racquets to provide players with specific attributes, i.e., spin, power, control, etc.
Assuming you’re sticking to the same frame while experimenting with various strings, which I’d recommend, you should expect a set of strings to deliver the attributes covered in this guide.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that your racquet combined with what makes you unique as a player will likely offer a slightly different experience than someone else using the same string in another racquet.
While there aren’t any rules to which strings you should use for a given tennis racquet, it’s worth keeping in mind, especially if a friend who uses an entirely different racquet recommends a specific type of string.
Your Style of Play, Preferences, and Opinion
Last but not least, one of the best tips I can offer when considering a new set of strings is to reflect on your unique attributes as a player.
First off, take into consideration your style of play. Are you a baseliner who hits with heavy topspin or perhaps a serve and volleyer?
You’ll also want to consider your personal preferences on what you’d like to get out of a new set of strings, as well as your own opinion on what you like and don’t like.
All too often, I find players swayed by what the pros are using or a teammate or friend’s advice with little or no consideration for the factors that make them unique as a player. Of course, you can learn a lot by looking for outside feedback, and I encourage you to listen to those thoughts.
However, I tend to find that players get a much better result and are happier with their string setup when they pause to consider their own needs versus what’s popular.
To that end, I can’t stress the value of experimenting to find the right set of strings. Rarely is it a one-and-done scenario to figure out what works best for a player, and while paying for restringing isn’t super cheap, I find it’s a sound investment for players who are serious about their game.
Furthermore, expect your preferences to change as your skills improve and your style of play evolves. Although I don’t recommend changing strings all the time, it’s worthwhile to consider your options periodically.