Let’s talk about re-stringing …..Part 1

What is it, this age old mystery about when to re-string a tennis racquet and just why is it such a complex subject?  No one within the industry seems to be able to agree on the subject except they obviously all agree that you re-string when the string breaks. Aside from that we actually have a plethora of opinions. Why so many people disagree on the subject might not be so hard to figure out. Think about this for a moment and then answer the following questions:

  • When choosing a string for your racquet who comes to mind first when seeking advice? Who would you ask?
  • Now, think about your answer and tell me why. Why did you choose that person to help with string?
  • If you seek answers online where do you look? What is your "go to" source that you trust?
  • Why do you trust that source? What is it about them that says "Hey, we're the experts. Trust us"
  • How do you feel when you get conflicting answers from more than one source you trust? What now?

With just a few simple questions your wheels should be turning by now and perhaps I've already created some doubt in your mind. Let's see if I can guess what your answers were to the above questions.

  1. Who comes to mind first? How many of you thought of your teaching pro?
  2. Why did you choose that person? Well, they're the pro right? Was that your rationalization?
  3. What online source do you trust? I'll wager you've found your online expert and he/she is just full of answers. However, what's their training and background on the subject. have you ever ask while you have them on the phone?
  4. How do you feel about conflicting information? I'd imagine the normal feeling would be frustration.

Now, let's look at this a little closer.

  1. If you answered that your teaching pro was your "go to" guy or gal then you're most likely in the majority. For decades this has been more or less the defacto choice but no one's really taken the time to ask why. First, let me clarify that I have absolutely nothing against teaching pros and in fact, I have many friends in this profession and was at one time a certified teaching professional myself. The thing that I take issue with is that the teaching pro profession has never felt it necessary to include anything comprehensive in their training or certification courses that covers racquet service. Their primary focus is on teaching you how to play the game and all aspects that encompass how to be the best player you can be. So here's my question for you. Why then, do you feel that your teaching pro should be your "go to" guy or gal for advice on strings or stringing? For that matter, anything connected to racquets or string? I propose that it's because you're not aware that there are professionals roaming about who have had extensive training in this area. Your task now is finding one near you to work with.
  2. That online expert, you know the one you pull up when you have questions? What, exactly, are their credentials? Where were they trained and do they have any certifications that specifically address racquet service? Just because they may be tied to a huge online retailer doesn't mean that they have the necessary training and background to give you advice on string selection. Many times those employees come and go like the wind which, IMHO, makes those companies even more reluctant to train them properly. In fact, it's been my experience that I'm finding more and more players who bought their racquet from one of these big retailers and were given absolutely horrible advice on strings. Many times they just offer a free string and it's not the right string for that player, their style of play or the racquet they're about to buy from that retailer. It's just free--that's it.
  3. When you've spent a ton of time researching strings online, asking all the questions until you finally decide in your mind that you know just the string you need only to find that an alternative source now says something like "I can't believe they recommended that string" how do you feel? Now where do you go? It's absolute shear frustration and there's nothing worse than feeling you've wasted valuable time only to have to start from square one. Problem is, now you're so confused you don't know which way to turn.

So think about this for a minute. Again, I'm not dissing the teaching pros but facts are facts. If you're going to be making recommendations then you should have the proper training to justify those recommendations. Teaching pros have various levels of certification to teach tennis but I repeat, none, nothing whatsoever that tells you that they've had extensive training to be qualified to offer you advice on strings & stringing. That needs to change and I hope there are pros out there reading this who are not offended but rather, go to their organizations and demand that this aspect of the sport be added to their certifications. Why do I know this? Because we've had countless teaching pros who have attended an IART symposium but there are literally thousands of teaching pros who have not. Having a teaching pro who is also trained as a racquet technician is a real bonus!

I have spent the better part of 10 years traveling and working for various official stringing teams at tournaments like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to name a couple. Those are experiences that money just cannot buy because you have an opportunity to work with the worlds best technicians while stringing for the worlds best players. That training is absolutely priceless and by combining that training with my experiences with reputable organizations I realized that there was a need to get those who were interested in racquet service the best training possible. It's not just the teaching pros who are not trained to do what a professional racquet technician does. That lack of training permeates throughout the sport and it was obvious to me that something needed to change. So, ten years ago I created an event to do just that called the IART training symposium. More on that in part 2.

The point here is that when you seek advice on selecting strings and tension for your racquet you would be well advised to seek out a trained technician. Ask them about their certifications and where they were trained. Ask if they have ever attended an IART training symposium. If they did you can rest assured that that person has had the best training the industry has to offer and can answer all of your questions. Not just about strings and tension but racquet selection too. Don't be afraid to ask about their background and find out exactly who you're dealing with. A professional string job is easily distinguishable from an amateur one and once you start working with a pro you'll experience that first hand.

So I'll leave you with this. We have 42 IART members worldwide that have taken the time to list themselves in our business directory HERE and many of them have attended one or more of our annual training symposiums. If you're looking for a professionally trained and responsible person to help you with your racquet service needs take a look at our directory and you just might find one near you.

Part 2 coming soon........There's no substitute for professional training and experience


Written by Tim Strawn

Executive Director, IART


  1. Very good article Tim. I suppose that I am one of few IART members that is a teaching professional.
    You are so right that the teaching organizations should include racket servicing as part of their certification process. I will try to do my part by writing a letter to Dan Santorum and John Embree. They need to realize it is not that difficult to implement and not much more effort from their membership. It’s just plain education, we all need to continue to learn.
    Thanks for all that you do for us stringers!
    Can this article be shared?

    • Thanks Brad. Sure, feel free to share but I would keep it off of social media. It’s been placed on the IART site as a “Public” post so anyone can access it.

      Articles like this just tend to stir up emotions, typically from people who were mentioned in the article. Because they feel they know what they’re doing they tend to get highly offended when challenged if you know what I mean. I’ve experienced countless times over the last 10 years at the IART symposium as well as other instances online.

  2. You are exactly right. One example of this happened to me recently. A 14 year old girl and her dad came in to get her racquet strung and saying they wanted a (considered a very harsh) poly string at a high tension. I ask them why they wanted that string and at that tension. Their reply was her coach told her what to use and at that tension because that is what he uses. I told the dad that if she was my daughter I would have serious concerns of her hurting herself and wouldn’t let her play with a set up like that. The reply was “the coach knows what he’s doing.” I did get them to try a softer poly main and a multi cross. We’ll see how that goes at the next tennis lesson!

    • and therein lies the problem Eldon. Parents are even less qualified when it comes to this and they wrongly assume that just because the coach makes a recommendation that their word is the gospel.

      What do you suppose the reaction of the coach would be if their student came to us and we gave out advice that was completely contradictory to the instruction they’d been giving to the player. “Hey, I don’t know who in the world is teaching you lessons but that’s the last way I’d recommend you hit a backhand and you should do it this way”. So now, the student goes back for their next lesson and the first backhand they hit the coach says “Hey, what’s going on here?. We’ve been working on that backhand for weeks and you’ve changed everything. Why did you do that?” The student says “Well, my racquet technician told me your way was wrong and they showed me how to do it this way. It made sense to me because he seems to know what he’s talking about.”

      I don’t ask my lawyer to make recommendations about what I eat or how often I exercise. I ask someone trained in that area, typically a medical professional. BUT, too many people don’t seem to have a problem asking a coach for advice who’s not trained in the art of racquet service. Again, it’s not their fault because they just don’t know.

  3. I once worked with a guy who was sure that “the best string on the market” was a Kevlar hybrid, and wanted me to put all of his students in it. It took serious arguing for him to agree it “may not be for everyone”. Guess what he used?

  4. We’ve been facing this dilemma since who knows when Matt. It’s typically the coaches who have no experience in our area of expertise that are convinced that they know everything. After all, they’re the pro right?. Far too often we end up having to rectify the problems they’ve created because we don’t get to the player before they do. They show up because they now have tennis elbow or wrist problems and typically the racquet was strung with a Kevlar hybrid or all poly at 60 lbs because that’s what the coach recommended.

    As I said, it’s really a systemic problem in the industry and I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life investing myself and time in an effort to provide the best possible training I could put together. I’ve made inroads but there’s still a LOT of work to do.

  5. Yea, Tim, I’ve experienced this dilemma too. It seems that teaching pros have a lot of pull with their students’ families and the families are afraid to rock the boat. One of the newer certifications the USRSA initiated (Professional Racquet Advisor certification) is an attempt to remedy this very problem isn’t it?

    • Depends on how you look at it Bob. Just because there’s a certification exam doesn’t mean people are going to line up to take it, especially teaching pros. This falls into the category of “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink”. I think the jury will be out on this one for quite some time yet.

  6. As a tennis shop owner for 27 years with a Babolat RDC and an MRT, I have 3 points:

    1 – Very few teaching pros know much about strings or racquets. They know a few string names and that’s it. Of course some teaching pros know a lot, but most do not. Example – a week ago (in December) I had a customer come in for a 26 junior saying his pro said to get a Babolat Wimbledon 26 and only that. I told the customer that the regular Pure Drive 26 was the same and the Wimbledon had a special paint job. He called the pro who disagreed.

    2 – I don’t think it is a matter of training for the pros. It is a matter of interest and predilection. Many are jocks with pleasant personalities who teach. Many are not certified (“I’m so good I don’t need training”). At two of the biggest schools in San Diego, no pro is USPTR certified – “we do our own training”.

    3 – I personally think a more powerful, big head, head heavy racquet is a lousy starter racquet for an athletic individual. Let him get a racquet he can learn to hit with. One of our go to racquets for athletic starters is the Head Microgel Radical OS. As a racquet seller you have assess where the starter will be in a few months and sell to that.

    Pardon the venting. I have no solution. Hard to educate all the masses

  7. Hi Richard

    #1 – I agree and I’ve reached out to each of the teaching organizations every year I had the IART symposium with very little enthusiasm from wither one
    #2 Yes another breakdown in our industry.
    #3 Every teacher has their own approach. The mfgr’s have specifically categorized racquets based on years of their own research and thus, the “Game Improvement” moniker as well as the others that go along with it. I agree that trying to fit a racquet initially that will allow the player to hit with it is an approach that many pros use but would point out that this is not the easiest approach for one reason. Unlike yourself, the majority of teaching pros do not have the background or the training to do that.

    Thanks for your feedback on this. Always appreciate hearing from members on the various posts on the site.


  8. Tim,
    There may be some hope as there is a stringing course offered at this year’s PTR Symposium in Hilton Head. I hope to go and will check it out. As a teaching pro that has strung for almost 40 years, most pros only recommend either what they had in “the shop” or what they use with little regard for the player’s but interests. I can’t tell you how many 45+ year old players with moderate racket head speed are told to string with stiff polyesters. We’ll lose a generation of players to arm injuries if it continues. Thanks for the articles, love reading them!


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