One of the most common questions asked about tennis strings is, “how often should they be replaced?” It’s a great question and one that isn’t always given a whole lot of consideration.
The truth is, strings wear down from play, lose their elasticity and tension and ultimately if left too long can have a negative impact on your play. Let’s take a deeper look at why and when you should change your tennis racquet strings.
Why Change Your Tennis Strings
Purchasing a new set of strings are kind of like purchasing a new car. When you drive a new car of the lot it automatically loses value.
Similarly, your tennis strings begin to lose their tension very quickly after you string. In the first 24 hours after stringing strings can lose roughly 10% of their tension and this reduction in tension continues as time goes by and you get out on the court and start hitting.
The worst thing that can happen to a player is they begin to adjust their technique or are told to adjust their technique to compensate for a loss in tension with their strings.
Since the tension of your strings can have a big impact on the power and control you generate when hitting it’s worth replacing your tennis strings on a consistent basis to make sure you can perform your best.
Rule of Thumb
Somewhere along the way there was a general rule of thumb established that said you should replace your strings as many times per year as you play per week. If you played three times per week then you should restring your racquet three times per year.
While for some players, such as a very casual recreational player that isn’t competing, this may be a decent rule it can be terribly misleading for many tennis players.
However, by evaluating a simple set of factors you can determine what’s best for you.
Factors to Consider
The truth is it’s going to be different for all players. Factors such as your frequency and style of play, level of competition, budget and personal preference all can influence when you should make the decision to restring your racquet.
Frequency & Length of Play
While the stringing your racquet as many times per year as you play per week can be misleading for many players, the concept of restring based on your frequency of play is spot on.
For example, if you’re actually lucky enough to play 7 days a week you’d only be restringing every 52 days, which is quite a long time to go at that frequency of play. Many players would break a string before they even hit the 52 day mark.
If you’re looking for a general rule purely based on frequency I’d say take the number of times you play per week and double that number to find out roughly how many times per year you should string.
That means if you’re playing 7 days a week you should restring about once a month. Based on my experience that makes a heck of a lot more sense.
Of course, if you’re playing 7 days a week for 30 minutes vs 7 days a week for 3 hours you’ll still have to make a judgement call on how fresh and consistent you want the tension of your strings to be.
Style of Play
Another factor to consider is your style of play. If you hit soft with an eastern grip and you come to the net a lot then you might not have to string your racquet all that often.
On the other hand, if you’re a hard hitting baseliner with a semi-western or western grip then you might need to string your racquet more frequently since the friction and therefore wear of your strings will be significantly greater.
Level of Competition
As the stakes increase and you compete at a higher level it becomes more and more important to control the elements of your game that you can control – stringing is one of those elements.
It’s really all about consistency. When you practice and when you play matches you’re going to want the tension of your racquet to be virtually the same every time so you’re not compensating for the loss in tension.
Yes, you may want to vary the tension of your racquet depending on conditions or how you’re playing on a given day, but it becomes more important that you know exactly what to expect from the tension change.
As such, restring your racquet tends to become more important at higher levels of competition, such as in professional tennis where racquets are continually strung.
For most players budget is simply a fact of life. You may be hitting the court 7 days a week for 3 hours a day but if you can’t afford to restring your racquet frequently then you’re simply not going to. This of course will be different for each and every player, but it’s worth considering.
If budget is a concern you may also want to consider the type of tennis strings that you’re playing with. Depending on the material, construction and gauge of your strings you can drastically impact the frequency at which you’ll need to restring.
Last but not least you’ll also want to consider your personal preferences. If you’re playing tennis and learning for fun and your coach or instructor tells you that you should restring your racquet every other week, but you’re really not all concerned with the variation in tension then wait until you’re ready to restring.
At the end of the day it’s up to you and knowing why you should restring is half the battle when making this decision.
When Will I know When To Change My Strings?
Unfortunately for most players the general rule of thumb for when to replace tennis strings based on frequency also breaks down in practicality since most players don’t play the same amount of times every week.
You might play twice one week, five times the next and not at all the following week. As a result, frequency alone isn’t usually a great way to determine when to restring.
When you first start playing tennis you might find it difficult to know when to restring and to be honest it will probably matter less for you since you’re still working on the fundamentals.
However, as you play more and you feel improves there are a few different things you can look out for that will help you know when to restring:
- Loss in control: as you’re strings wear and lose tension it can become more difficult to control the ball. This It usually won’t be drastic, but if you’re finding yourself hitting just long, hitting more unforced errors or having difficulty placing the ball then it might be time for you to restring.
- Difficulty generating spin: as your strings lose their tension the ball will sit on the strings for a fraction of a second longer, which can negatively impact the trajectory of the ball. As this happens players will sometimes feel like it’s harder to generate spin. While it has been shown that tension has little to do with spin it’s a sensation that players can look out for to help determine when to restring.
- Lack of pop: when you’re strings are fresh they’re also resilient, i.e. they snap back into place quickly. This gives you a great response or nice pop when hitting and typically comes along with a familiar “ping” sound. As time goes on your strings will lose their resilience and tension, which tends to be followed by more of a “thud” sound. At this point it may be time for a restring.
If you’re looking to get a bit more scientific ask your local pro shop or look for one that can measure stringbed deflection with a machine like the Babolat racquet diagnostic center.
By measuring stringbed deflection immediately after stringing you can get a baseline for use in comparing with your strings at a later date. This is usually done by calculating the percent loss in stringbed deflection.
While the frequency at which you decide to restring your racquet will be different for every player it’s helpful to understand why you should restring your racquet and understand the factors that contribute to when you should restring.
Have questions or want to share how frequently you string? Please feel free to add a comment in the section below.
Want to learn more about strings? Check out some of our other articles:
- The Best Tennis Strings for 2017
- The Ultimate Guide to Polyester Tennis Strings
- Natural Gut Strings: An In-depth Look at The Oldest String In Tennis
Photo Credit: Long Mai
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