Let’s talk about stringing…..Part 3

So, just how often should you re-string your racquet?

This is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of the game for the typical recreational player and there are some basic elements that can help you understand what works best for you.

How often you re-string can depend on a variety of factors so consider the following:

  1. Everyone doesn't hit the ball the same way
  2. Not all strings are the same
  3. Racquets certainly are not the same
  4. Every player does not play the same amount of time each time they play
  5. Not everyone cares for their racquet properly
  6. Air travel can affect your strings

If we look at each of the above individually we can break it down to make this much easier to understand.

  1. No, everyone does not hit the ball the same way. Some of you hit with lots of spin, top & slice while some of you hit a very flat ball. What does this have to do with breaking a string? For starters, when you hit with spin you're effectively brushing up (topspin) or down (slice) on the ball and this motion causes the strings to move. When they move they will eventually form notches where the main (vertical) and cross (horizontal) strings meet. As those notches wear deeper into the string it will eventually break. There's another factor too. Some of you are going to "frame" balls or mis-hit the ball off of the side of the frame. Framing a ball causes extreme stress on the string where it exits the grommet on the inside of your racquet. This is typically referred to as "shearing". Some strings can hold up to that stress better than others and your technician will know what to recommend if you frequently mis-hit balls. Remember though, when you break a string due to a mis-hit that break is on you, not your stringer.
  2. There are basically 5 string types. While there are literally hundreds of strings on the market, they ALL fall into one of those 5 types or categories. There is a ton of information that a good technician has at their disposal when it comes to selecting a string for you. If you're a string breaker, if you have health issues (tennis elbow etc), if you prefer maximum comfort or if you're a player who actually needs the string to do more of the work for you there are strings your technician can select to meet those needs. Keep in mind that strings also have different price points. If you prefer natural gut you're going to pay a LOT more for that string than you will for a very basic nylon. Again, your technician will address price along with all other factors above.
  3. There are just about as many racquets out there as there are strings but keep this in mind. Racquets also fall into specific categories so a racquet for a beginner is going to be quite different than a racquet for a very advanced player. I think the key point for racquets as they pertain to string is to be aware of the string pattern and the head size of the racquet. Many standard racquets have a 16x19 string pattern and if that pattern is used in a 115 square inch racquet as opposed to a 100 square inch racquet your strings are going to move more, notch quicker and therefore, break sooner. Another point of fact is that those new models that are advertised as spin models are fine BUT, your strings are going to wear out much sooner. Why? Because they typically reduce the number of cross strings which in turn, opens up the holes in your racquet, making them much bigger so the ball can embed itself deeper in the string bed. This also creates a situation where your strings are going to move around much more than if that string pattern was tighter. Racquets come in all kinds of stringing patterns so be aware of this when shopping. If you're a chronic string breaker and a fairly accomplished player you might want to consider a racquet with a tighter string pattern like an 18x20. These are typically referred to as a "control" or "players" racquet. When the pattern is tighter the strings will move much less and therefore, notching is reduced significantly.
  4. Some people play once a week and in my many years of stringing, I find the most common amount of playing time is twice a week at an average of 1.5 to 2 hours each time. I also have people who play 4-5 times a week and some that play every single day. WOW! Your frequency of play is going to have a bearing on your string's performance and how long your string is going to last. Suffice to say that if you're playing a bunch then you're going to need to be re-stringing more often. Keep in mind too that if you're not playing that frequently your strings are still degrading. Your frequency of re-stringing can be worked out between you and your technician over a period of time.
  5. Heat and cold can definitely affect the life and performance of your string so that means do not keep your racquet in the car in extreme  hot or cold weather. If you have a match after work and need to take your racquet with you I would advise you take it out of the car and keep inside in a temperature controlled environment. Extreme temperatures are not going to have an adverse effect on your racquet BUT, those conditions will definitely have a negative impact on your strings.
  6. So, how can flying affect your strings? The question is not how but really why. If you take your racquet on board the plane (strongly advised) you'll be ok. However, if you check your racquet with your other baggage there's no way to tell if it's going into a temperature/pressure controlled compartment or not. If not, once that plane reaches 30,000 feet it gets extremely cold and that can have a negative effect on your strings. I've asked several people in the airlines business about this and if I've asked 10 people I've received 10 different answers. The best thing to do is to simply carry your racquet on board and put it in the overhead storage compartment.

Taking a deeper dive into this topic as opposed to just thinking of the obvious shows us that there's a LOT more to this than meets the eye. There are so many different factors involved whether it's the string type, racquet string pattern or just general care for the racquet that it makes it difficult to nail down specifics. The best thing to do is to avoid the pitfalls I've mentioned above and find a good technician to work with. Someone who keeps excellent records on the date strung and type of string is a good place to start. Chances are that person is going to be able to offer much more advice and get you steered in the right direction.

Go HERE to see part 1
Go HERE to see part 2

Written by Tim Strawn

Executive Director, IART

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