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Selecting the right tennis strings can be an extremely confusing process. There are a variety of different types of tennis strings, multiple brands to choose from and even when you’ve found a string you like, there are various gauges (the thickness of the tennis string) and a wide range of tensions that you can string your racquet.
It’s enough to leave just about any player’s head spinning, especially if you’ve recently taken the time to choose a new tennis racquet. The good news is that armed with a little extra knowledge, selecting tennis strings doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing.
In fact, finding the right tennis string can be a fun process once you get the hang of the basics. Perhaps, more importantly, taking the time to do so can pay big dividends for both your game and your wallet.
The Two Categories of Tennis Strings
Without a doubt, the easiest place to start is with the different types of tennis strings. While there are quite a few string brands and types on the market they all fall into one of two categories: natural gut or synthetic.
Natural Gut Strings
The first time you hear the phrase natural gut, you may do a double take and then quickly question what the heck natural gut means. They’re not made out of actual gut, are they?
The truth is yes, natural gut strings are actually made from a rather complex process that transforms the gut of a cow into tennis strings. However, once you get past the rather surprising material used for natural gut tennis strings, you’ll be pleased to know that they are some of the best tennis strings on the market and a popular choice among many professional players.
The main benefits of natural gut strings are the superior feel and control they provide players. There’s just enough texture that translates into great spin, and they do a great job at maintaining their tension due to their elasticity. However, they’re not nearly as durable as synthetic gut tennis strings, and they are without a doubt the most expensive to purchase.
As a result, natural gut strings typically aren’t recommended for club and recreational players simply because they’re expensive to maintain and ultimately there is a wide variety of synthetic gut strings on the market that will provide players with similar characteristics while being more durable and less expensive.
Natural Gut Advantages
- Elasticity and tension stability
- Playability and feel
- Spin and control
Natural Gut Disadvantages
- Relatively fragile and prone to breakage
- Susceptible to moisture
If you’re an extremely competitive player working intensely on all aspects of your game and looking to find the edge anywhere you can, then natural gut tennis strings might be a great fit for you. With a high level of skill and experience you’re likely to recognize and appreciate the added feel of these types of strings if you can afford to shell out the money to purchase them.
The following table lists three of favorite natural gut tennis strings:
|Babolat VS Touch||$$$$$|
|Pacific Tough Gut||$$$$$|
|Wilson Natural Gut||$$$$$|
Synthetic Tennis Strings
While natural gut strings can be a fantastic option for some, most players will find the variety and price of synthetic strings significantly more appealing. As the name implies, this type of tennis string uses various synthetic materials to provide players with more options and features, such as durability, spin and power.
However, before we review the different construction of synthetic strings let’s take a look at the types of synthetic string materials that are used in creating synthetic strings.
Without a doubt, the most popular and common material of the synthetic string family are nylon strings, which are commonly referred to as “synthetic gut” strings. However, nylon tennis strings are not made from your standard nylon you might associate with an article of clothing. Rather, nylon strings are made from high-quality nylon fibers that can provide players with great feel and added durability that you wouldn’t find with natural gut strings.
Multifilament tennis strings are incredibly popular, and they’re most commonly made out of nylon. The table below lists three of our favorites:
|Tecnifibre X-One Biphase||$$$|
If players are looking for added durability than polyester tennis strings can be a solid option; however, due to its more durable construction, polyester can be quite hard on a player’s arm. As a result, it’s not typically a string that would be recommended to players fighting an arm injury.
Still, polyester strings do have some popularity with players who frequently break strings. However, even in this case, polyester strings are typically combined with natural gut or nylon strings to provide players with durability while maintaining a more soft, natural feel.
In recent years, polyester tennis strings have become hugely popular in large part due to players like Rafael Nadal who strings his racquet with a full bed of polyester. Here are a few of our favorites from three different manufacturers:
|Luxilon ALU Power||$$$|
|Babolat RPM Blast||$$$|
Providing players with maximum durability, Kevlar strings are strongest yet most harsh strings on the market. Kevlar strings are most frequently used by chronic string breakers in combination with nylon strings to reduce the harsh feel that accompanies kevlar. Similarly to polyester, Kevlar strings are not recommended for players with arm injuries.
Synthetic String Construction
To provide players with more variety and different features, string manufacturers have developed various types of string construction. Let’s take a look at some of the more common types of string construction being used today.
Solid Core & Outer Wrap(s)
One of the most common string construction is a solid core with a single layer of outer wraps. Often, these strings are described as having a crisp feel, especially when compared to multifilament (described below) or natural gut strings. In most cases, the quality of this type of string is a direct result of the level or grade of material used, which most frequently is nylon such as Wilson Extreme Synthetic Gut.
Similarly, you can also purchase solid core strings with multiple outer wraps, which provide much of the same characteristics with the added benefit of increased durability and a slightly softer or cushioned feel.
Monofilament is the most basic construction of the bunch, which consists of a single solid filament. Monofilament strings are typically made of polyester or Kevlar, which makes this type of construction some of the most durable strings on the market. In addition, since these strings provide a stiff feel with less pop they tend to provide a level of control above and beyond other strings. Alien Diamond strings are an example of monofilament strings.
However, due to the harsh feel associated with kevlar, you won’t find a full set of strings on the market today that are purely kevlar. Instead, you’ll find polyester, which provides a relatively softer more flexible feel, while still providing added durability. Even so, monofilament tennis strings are still most typically found as part of a hybrid set of strings, which combines two types of strings within a single racquet.
All in all, the use of these strings as the only string in a racquet is typically limited to chronic string breakers and not recommended for players with arm injuries.
Multifilament tennis strings have become quite popular over the years and is considered by some to be the top category of string construction after natural gut. Multifilament strings are created through the process similar to natural gut by weaving hundreds or thousands of microfibers together as you’ll find with Babolat Xcel Premium tennis strings.
The result is a string with that provides a soft almost cushion like feel. As a result, these strings have become a great option for players suffering from arm injuries. Some players might be surprised or slightly turned off by the fraying that occurs with multifilament strings as they wear down, which is a result of the breakage of the tiny fibers used to create these strings.
Due to their added durability multifilament strings are also frequently found as part of hybrid strings sets, such as Gamma TNT2 Fusion Plus.
Textured tennis strings are frequently constructed through the addition of an outer wrap or by incorporating a larger wrap within the outer layer of wraps, which creates a raised band and gives texture to the strings. In some cases, this approach is flipped by adding groves to strings, which produces a similar effect. Another approach that is sometimes used create textured strings is by morphing the shape of the string to provide texture.
One example of a textured string is the Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough.
Composite tennis strings are produced through a process where multiple types or grades of string materials are combined in an attempt to produce a string that shares the benefits of each string material used.
The construction varies among these strings, but most frequently involves a single core with one or multiple layers of outer wraps. Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex has been a popular nylon composite, which combines multiple grades of nylon.
Synthetic String Advantages
- Wide selection of options and features
- Less expensive with a wide range of prices
- Added durability
Synthetic String Disadvantages
- Arguably less playability and feel than natural gut
- More choices can make selecting strings more challenging
Hybrid Tennis Strings
Similar to composite strings, hybrid strings combine the benefits of two different types of tennis string by using them both within a racquet. For example, it’s popular to use stronger more durable strings as the mains (the strings that run from the bottom of the racquet head to the top) and then incorporate a softer more playable string as the crosses, which experience significantly less friction and movement. One of the most popular examples of this type of string are the Wilson Ultimate Duo Hybrid strings.
The result is a string combination that seeks to find a balance between a comfortable feel and control, while providing players with the durability that would be hard to come by through the use of one string type throughout the entire racquet.
In many cases, players and string manufacturers have often opted to combine natural gut strings with synthetic as a more affordable and durable option to purely natural gut strings, such as Wilson’s Champions Choice Hybrid String.
Tennis String Gauge or Thickness
Now that you have a good understanding of the different materials and construction used to build tennis strings there is one last variable worth considering when buying or testing a new set of strings. In most cases, different styles of tennis string will come in various gauge or thickness providing players with even more options.
Below you’ll find a list of currently available string gauges.
- 19 / 1.00-1.10 mm
- 18 / 1.10-1.16 mm
- 17L / 1.16-1.20 mm
- 17 / 1.20-1.24 mm
- 16L / 1.22-1.26 mm
- 16 / 1.26-1.33 mm
- 15L / 1.34-1.40 mm
- 15 / 1.41-1.49 mm
For most players, the main benefit of a thinner string such as 18 would be to increase the potential for spin on their shots. It’s important to note the distinction between the potential for spin and the ability to produce more spin. For example, if you hit very flat shots with little spin to begin with then you may not notice much of a difference with thinner strings.
On the other hand, if you hit with a ton of topspin and move from an 15L gauge string to 18 there’s a high likelihood you’ll notice that you have a greater ability to generate additional spin, which is due to the fact that on contact with the ball the strings embed more easily and therefore “grab” the ball helping produce more spin.
Beyond the increased potential for spin players will often go with a thicker string such as an 15L gauge string for added durability. Hard hitters and chronic string breakers will often opt for a higher string gauge to help prolong the life of their strings.
So Which Strings Are Best for Me?
As with selecting a tennis racquet, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to tennis strings. However, here are some things to consider to help you find and select a great set of strings.
Your Level of Play
If you’re just getting started with tennis, then it probably won’t make sense to spring for an expensive set of tennis strings. When you’re just starting out it can be tough to recognize the benefits that a more expensive set of strings like natural gut provide.
As a result, synthetic strings with a solid core and single or multiple wraps are a great option since you’re likely to find a great string that’s durable at a price that makes sense.
Frequency of Play
The more you play, the more quickly your strings will lose their tension or break. If you’re competing at a high level, you may be able to justify the higher cost associated with a more expensive set of high-quality strings. However, most recreational players who step out on the court frequently may opt for a more durable set of strings that will hold up, while at the same providing you with great feel and playability without breaking the bank.
Multifilament and hybrid strings can be a great option for people who hit the court frequently.
If you’re experiencing arm injuries, then the best set of strings will be multifilament or a hybrid that incorporates multifilament. This will help reduce the stress on your arm, while still providing you with a string that is durable and plays great.
A popular option is Gammas Live Wire strings.
Style of Play & Personal Preference
It can also be extremely beneficial when selecting a tennis string to consider your style of play. If you spend most of your time on the baseline hitting big groundstrokes with a ton of topspin, then you may want to consider a low gauge string for increased spin potential.
Additionally, you may want to consider a more durable multifilament string for your mains (the vertical strings that receive a ton of friction with players that hit with topspin) and a high-end solid core string with multiple outer wraps for added durability, such as the Gamma Infinity 15L hybrid string set.
The reality is, there is no wrong or right answer to which types of strings you should use. However, by spending the extra time to ensure your strings compliment your style of play and meet your personal preferences you can gain an edge on other players who overlook their strings.
As you can see, there are many different types of tennis strings, which while daunting at first provides every player with a wide range of options to find something that works great for them. The good news is that strings don’t last forever, so try and select one you think will be a great fit and if they don’t work out or they’re not your favorite it won’t be too long before you can give it another shot.
Just be sure when you’re trying out new strings that you have plenty of time to test them before a tennis match. I’ve seen players on many occasions string up their racquet with a new set of strings only to cut them out the very same day because they hated the feel.
Have questions or looking for a specific type of tennis string or recommendation? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to help.
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