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Tennis Strings

This page contains information about the different types of tennis strings and which string is the appropriate for which type of player.

    The string market is large, and there's a large variety of brands offering a diversity of strings under their name. I can't describe each single string in this place. If you want to know more about certain strings, check out the string search or my own experiences with tennis strings.
    Although there are a lot of string features (material, structure, gauge, color, surface etc.) that can be altered during string production there are certain main features I want to describe below.
You can divide tennis strings into two main categories: natural gut and synthetic gut.

Natural Gut

    Natural gut strings are made of cows' gut in a complex process. Their main features are superb elasticity, tension stability and "liveliness". But they are very expensive and sensitive to weather, while one has to say that a lot of improvement has been made in this respect during the past few years. Most of the pros play natural gut, but I don't recommend natural gut for the normal club level player.
    Examples for natural gut strings: Babolat VS Power (most popular string among the pros), Dunlop Master PU, and Pacific Prime Gut.

Synthetic Strings

   Synthetic gut strings are mostly high tech products which are constantly being improved to bring their playability into line with natural gut strings but keep the advantage of synthetic gut's higher durability. There's a great diversity of different structures and materials. Let me briefly explain the main categories:

Nylon Strings

Nylon Strings

    The most frequently used string type. Nylon strings are among the most reasonable tennis strings and are normally made of a single nylon core and various resistant wraps. In most cases nylon strings leave playability to be desired, but because of their low price they are perfectly suitable for players who have a high string consumption.
    Examples: Head Nylon Pro (former Pro Star), Pacific Nyltec, TOA Leoina 66, Wilson Championship Nylon, and Prince Tournament Nylon (probably the best known nylon string).


Multifilament Strings

    To bring synthetic gut's playability more into line with natural gut's, many microfibers are twisted together to a string, which is wrapped with a resisant cover. Advantage: higher elasticity and better playability. Disadvantage: multifilament strings tend to tear soon once the outer wrap is damaged. Also these strings cost more than nylon strings because of the complex manufacturing process. Tecnifibre has sort of specialized on that type of string (for example the 625 TGV), then there are to name the Isospeed line of strings, Pacific Premium Power and the Babolat XCel Premium.

Titanium Strings

    Shortly after the titanium boom in the racquet market, a flood of "revolutionary" titanium strings entered the string market. Based on Nylon or multifilament strings, the titanium is either applied to the coat of the string, protecting the material from UV radiation and abrasion, or the titanium is integrated into the core to modify the playability of the string.
    However, the idea of using titanium in tennis strings isn't new. The Babolat VF Titanium has already been on the market for a long time. Thus I would rather view titanium strings as a trend in fashion, without intending to question the probable enhancement in durability.
    Meanwhile almost every brand sells a titanium string, for example Prince Titanium Pro, Pacific Titanium F1, Head Ti.Fiber, Wilson Sensation Ti.

Polyester Strings

Monofilament Strings

    Polyester strings show a fairly simple structure: they consist of a single polyester fiber with a thin coating. They come in different gauges (1.10-1.35mm) which enables you to choose among different elasticity/durability levels. Polyester strings are little elastic but do provide high power, high durability and weather resistance. Their price is comparable to the one of a nylon string. The classic polyester string might be the Trevira Polystar, which is played by several pros. The Kirschbaum Super Smash is probably the most popular polyester string. Also Dunlop (Plus series), Babolat (Polymono), and Pacific (Poly Power) carry polyester strings in their string program. My tip: try polyester!
    One further development of polyester strings are structured polyester strings built to provide more spin. Surprisingly, the durability is not noticeably decreased. But the longer you play these strings, the smoother they get, so that they only provide more spin at the beginning. The pioneer in this category is the Kirschbaum Super Smash Spiky.
    During the past few years, tremendous effort has been put into the advancement of monofilament strings. Luxilon has specialized in this string category. More and more polyester blends, mixed with a number of other materials like PEEK, carbon or metallic fibers, are being developed. These new Co-Polyester strings provide better elasticity and tension stability than pure polyester. Almost every manufacturer carries such strings in their program today.

Special Constructions

Topspin String

    Besides the main categories mentioned above there are several other special structures and materials which are of course reflected in the string price.
    First there are strings with textured surface designed to add spin to your shots. But unfortunately those textures become smooth with play, and they are also lowering the string durability. Examples: Pacific Gear String, Pacific Hexa String, Head Spin Plus, Babolat DF Rough, TOA Geo 66.
    To absorb string vibrations some manufacturers fill their strings with oil. Those strings have in fact a very unique performance. Whether that's positive for you or not you should find out in your own test. Examples: Rucanor PS-40, Rucanor Hy-O-Sheep Vibless, Gosen Vibless Plus.
    At last I'd like to mention the so called hybrid strings. They are a combination of two different strings for mains and crosses. Because it's almost always a main string that breaks (because there's more stress on it than on a cross string) hybrid strings always use an extremely durable string as the main string. Standard material for main strings is Aramid and its derivatives Kevlar and Technora. It is highly recommended that you string the Aramid mains softer than usual! For cross strings very elastic strings are used to compensate the lacking elasticity of the main string. Hybrid strings perform well, only the price is often a little high. Examples: Prince Pro Blend, Pacific Power Blend, TOA Zyex Blend, Gamma Infinity.

Some general stuff about strings

    To get the best out of your racquet you'll have to do a little more than just use the best string. The choice of the right tension is about as important as the choice of the racquet frame. As a general rule: the harder you string the less power you get and the more control you have. With lower tension you gain more power but also lose control. In any case you should try different tensions; if you play better - great, and if you don't, you can get back to the old tension the next time. To show you the effects different string tensions and diameters can have on your racquet's performance I created following tables:

String Tension Power Control Durability Feel Comfort
softer more less more more more
tighter less more less less less

String Gauge Elasticity Durability Spin Feel Comfort
thinner more less more more more
thicker less more less less less

    To increase the durability of your strings you should not expose your racquet to extreme heat, cold or humidity. Therefore you should always keep your racquet in its bag. To protect your racquet head you can use a head tape. This is useful if playing on clay court or if the strings are not protected enough by the racquet headguard.
    Strings lose elasticity with time, one type of string faster, another type of string slower. This has a negative effect on the playability; players with a sensitive arm will feel it soon. In general you shouldn't play a string longer than 2 to 3 months. Then it's about time to cut out the strings and restring your racquet.

Often the diameter of a string is not given in millimeters but in the old "gauge". Following table helps you convert between these two measures (without obligation):

Gauge Diameter approx.
15 1.43 mm
15L 1.38 mm
16 1.32 mm
16L 1.28 mm
17 1.25 mm
17L 1.20 mm
18 1.10 mm

© Jens Barthelmes