“What tension would you like?” Asked the pro-shop technician at the local sports store, as I handed in my tennis racquet for restringing. The question caught me off-guard a bit. My club pro who normally did the restringing for me had not asked me the question in years. “Somewhere in the middle” I answered nonchalantly.” I was not about to be perceived as a novice by the attractive young girl behind the counter! My string choice – Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour 16 Gauge – was largely driven by a combination of price and description on the package, rather than any technological advantage that I was hoping to gain by my choice. Exiting the store, I realized how little attention club players pay to their strings, the most critical component of a racquet. Inspired by this little exchange, I decided to write a quick post dedicated to some key aspects of racquets and strings.
The primary principles of racquets apply to all three sports – Tennis, Squash and Badminton. For example, if you are looking for power, the tension of your racquet strings should be kept on the lower side of the specified range for your racquet. On the other hand, if you are all about control, you should string your racquet at the higher end of the spectrum. The materials used to manufacture strings have also evolved from natural gut to nylon to polyester and combinations thereof. While natural gut offers more playability and feel, strings of the synthetic variety are more affordable and are available in various constructs like mono-filament, multi-filament, textured etc. Before the advent of polyester, Kevlar and other combinations, amateur players unsure of their requirements chose to string their racquets on the higher end of the range for control. The commonly accepted ranges for string-tensions for tennis, squash, and badminton are 50-70 lbs, 20-40 lbs and 18-30 lbs respectively. To understand squash strings and their impact to your game, check out this site called Squash Strings.
A recent trend in tennis shows that more and more professional tennis players, and to a lesser extend squash players, are choosing to string their racquets at the lowest end of the specified range and sometimes below it. The advancements in polyester strings allow players to generate power while maintaining control at lower string tensions without players having to choose one at the expense of the other. A quick search on the web will show that Canada’s own tennis star Milos Raonic uses string tensions bordering on 40 lbs. That is almost squash territory!
Taking the advantages derived from advancements in racquets and strings one step further, some professional tennis players have started using silicone sprays on their strings to generate heavier spin shots during a game. This practice, considered acceptable in professional tennis, has raised concerns among some of its former legends who have called for its ban to maintain some of the natural characteristics of strings during play. The prospect of a spray that helps with the game is tempting. However, you may want to make sure that the string on your racquet is optimized for your game, before reaching out for the silicone bottle!
If nothing else, you can blame your next loss at the squash club on the improper tension of your multi-filament poly gut combo 17 gauge strings!