String choice – Part 1 – You are different than your favorite tour player

PART 1

It's always about CHOICE

For many recreational tennis players choosing a string can be a real challenge. It's not that there aren't enough strings out there to choose from. In fact, it's the exact opposite and that's one of the things that complicates the process. Selecting a string involves looking at the big picture and assessing each and every aspect of what you might expect from the choices available. In this series of articles, I'm going to break it down in an effort to give you some valuable information on choosing strings for a racquet. Let's start by exposing one of the most misunderstood reasons for choosing a string.

WHAT THE PROS USE IS RARELY GOING TO BE RIGHT FOR YOU
Let's clear the air about this once and for all. Recreational players read where the pro uses string X and mistakenly think that if it's good for the pro it must be good for them. They also think that if Nadal can create that much spin and power with his string then the same will be true for them. Nothing, repeat NOTHING could be further from the truth. To start with, the overwhelming choice of touring pros today is polyester and in fact, at the 2018 U.S. Open 48% of all players were using Luxilon polyester strings, either as a 100% string bed or a hybrid of poly & nylon or natural gut. Poly is very stiff and that certainly benefits touring professionals but that's primarily because of the way they swing the racquet. They have incredible racquet head speed and when they hit a topspin forehand, they're also using an exaggerated low-to-high swing coupled with a looping motion and a wrist snap that most club players find difficult to mimic. Because poly is quite stiff (translation: does not stretch at ball impact and does not absorb energy) the professional player can swing extremely hard (fast) and with the motion just described, the end result is that "up and down" effect on the ball that you often hear TV announcers referring to.

A big part of the problem is that TV announcers are making misleading statements during matches. They talk about the "new" strings and the "up & down effect" that those "new" strings can create and how much more powerful the "new" strings are. First and foremost, those strings are NOT new. They're referring to polyester and polyester has been around for a very long time. Secondly, the announcers never, repeat, NEVER point out the differences between a pro and a recreational player's ability and this is a huge piece of the puzzle that's being completely left out of the conversation. My point is simple. Those analogies bantered about on the air need a much more thorough explanation than what they're getting in a short sound bite from a TV broadcaster. What's the best way to approach this? If you have questions about strings you would be well served to consult an expert in the field and pay little attention to the TV announcers.

To be clear, this is not to say that recreational players cannot use polyester strings. Quite the contrary, I have many players using polyester but for different reasons than what a touring pro might be using it for and this comes down to the application. When strung at the proper tension, which is determined via a conversation with the player about their style and level of play or better yet, observing them in play, poly can work quite well for a vast majority of players, But there are pitfalls that need to be avoided if the club player elects to go with polyester. The following advice might be very helpful when you decide you're ready for a string change.

  1. Understand that you're not going to get the same results as the pro players do with polyester
  2. Make sure you consult a qualified racquet technician who has a thorough understanding of strings
  3. Avoid stringing polyester at high tensions. Nylon at 60 lbs was once the norm; that does not apply to poly
  4. Recreational players are unlikely to break poly and therefore, won't string frequently enough. Contrast that with the fact that many pros are stringing every other day. That can be a REAL problem with any string, but in particular, polyester
  5. Refer to #4 - if you choose poly you should string more frequently than if you were using nylon or natural gut
  6. TV announcers are just that-TV announcers. Don't rely on what you hear during a match on TV and mistakenly think that you're all of a sudden going to be hitting the ball like Rafa or Roger if you start using the "new" strings

It's easy for the average recreational player to fall into the trap of thinking they can do what the pros do just because you use the same racquet and string set-up. That rarely works for anyone unless of course, you're playing on the tour yourself. Are you?

See part 2 HERE
See part 3 HERE

 

 

Written by Tim Strawn

Executive Director, IART

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