Not Sure What Tennis Strings to Play?

If you have been around the game of tennis for a while, you might have noticed that the tennis industry has witnessed a rapid inflow of tennis string companies over the past few years. One of the main reasons for such an influx was technical advances in Asia, for example, Taiwan, which allowed the development of the highest quality products ​at very affordable prices.

It is still a common myth that only the leading brands in this space offer the best products. The power of marketing mainly feeds this perception. Seeing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal represent Wilson© and Babolat© for big $ in TV commercials not only influences the tennis player in their decision-making process for buying well-branded strings but also specific razor blades. 

Consequently, the string selection process often occurs by eliminating all the "no-name" brands and paying attention to what is being advertised or by receiving a recommendation from a coach or a racquet technician, again, sponsored by those same companies.

Tennis String Sub-Culture.

As in many industries, tennis has its enthusiasts who like to go beyond the status quo and are interested in finding their ultimate tennis string independent of brand recognition.

Certain tennis forums help newcomers decipher the maze of tennis string options by following experienced string testers' advice or reading other players' product reviews.

Did you say Tennis String Maze?

If a player does not want to follow the paradigm of "This must be the best string because Federer plays it," one has to make a rather educated decision to find a new string that truly fits ones playing level, style of play, etc.

For example, it is important to understand that a 55-year-old 3.5 NTRP would benefit from playing a different string than a 19-year Div I college player. Both players demand a very different objective from each string.

So what are my options?

First and foremost, one has to decide the string material that fits best for one's situation. Different materials come with their advantages and disadvantages. Some of the questions players could ask themselves are:

  • How much do I want to pay for a string?
  • Do I want to play a string that offers feel and arm-friendliness?
  • Do I look for a string that will provide extra spin potential?
  • Is string durability an issue?
  • Do I look for extra power, or should the string offer additional ball control?

These are only some questions that influence a player's string selection.

Tennis String Types and their Advantages and Disadvantages:​

To help you better understand the selection process, we hope you will leave this article with the knowledge necessary to find a satisfying string match for your current tennis situation. Here is a brief overview of the most used string types to date. (Please note that advantages and disadvantages are usually compared to other string types! For example, synthetic gut strings are usually arm-friendly compared to polyester strings. Nevertheless, natural gut is probably the most arm-friendly string on the market).

Natural Gut Tennis Strings:

If you had a chance to read our first article, "A Brief History of Tennis Strings," you might recall that to this date, many string experts still consider this string type as the "gold standard" in many respects. The main reason is due to qualities that any synthetic string has not fully replicated.

- Advantages of Natural Gut:

  • It holds tension exceptionally well, so the player can expect a similar string response from the first minute of play to the point the string breaks.
  • The material is very arm-friendly, which can be highly important for players whose arms have not yet fully developed or for players with prior arm injuries.

- Disadvantages of Natural Gut:

  • It can break quickly when exposed to moisture. It does not offer as much access to spin as other strings do (in comparison to polyester).
  • It does not provide as much durability as other string types (compared to polyester).
  • It is often the most expensive string on the market.

Nylon Tennis Strings:

Due to its significantly lower price compared to natural gut, it is an affordable choice for recreational players. The string industry differentiates between nylon and synthetic gut although most of the time both strings are produced from the same basic material - a form of polymades. The quality and price of the string are usually defined by the quality/grade of the polymade and the structure of the string. 

- Advantages of Nylon/Synthetic Gut

  • Much cheaper (in comparison to natural gut)
  • Somewhat arm-friendly (more arm-friendly than polyester but less arm-friendly than natural gut)
  • Durable (in comparison to natural gut. Polyester is usually more durable)
  • OK playability (comparison to natural gut)
  • Usually more powerful than polyester

- Disadvantages of Nylon/Synthetic Gut

  • Less spin potential (comparison to polyester)
  • Less durability (in comparison to polyester)

Multifilament Tennis String:

Although some synthetic gut strings could be considered multi-filament strings (= multiple thin string fibers combined to one string vs. mon-filament = one single string fiber), we want to pay special attention to a nylon-based string called "multifilament strings." Those types of strings are usually constructed by hundreds or even thousands of micro-fibers, which drastically enhances the string's quality. The idea of such string production is to create a close resemblance to a natural gut string.

- Advantages of a Multifilament Tennis String​​​​​

  • Cheaper (comparison to natural gut)
  • Very arm-friendly and good feel (comparison to nylon and polyester)
  • Somewhat durable (comparison to natural gut)
  • Great playability (in comparison to nylon and polyester)
  • Great tension stability (in comparison to nylon and polyester)

- Disadvantages of a Multifilament Tennis String

  • Less spin potential (in comparison to polyester)
  • Less durability (in comparison to polyester and usually also nylon)

Polyester Tennis Strings:

Polyester is the newest string material. Over the past decade, it has quickly become the go-to string for high-level players. One can say that this string truly revolutionized the game of tennis to how it is being played today. Who would have thought 25 years back that a player could ever generate a ball spin up to 5000 RPMs?  Polyester strings are always mono-filament strings, meaning that the string is one single strand.

- Why do I often read co-polyester? It just means that the foundation is polyester and the string manufacturer uses additives to alter the characteristics of the string, for example, to soften the string, and increase durability and tension stability.

- Polyester strings often come in different shapes, hexagonal, octagonal, etc. The main reason for altering string shapes is to increase access to spin/ball bite.

- Advantages of Polyester

  • Very durable
  • Offers great access to spin
  • Supports ball control
  • Fairly cheap (in comparison to natural gut and multifilament strings)

- Disadvantages of Polyester

  • NOT arm-friendly
  • Loses string tension very quickly
  • Usually lacks feel

Other Tennis String Types:

We understand there are other string materials on the market like Kevlar but they are being represented rather insignificantly in the tennis string industry.

Other factors to consider

String material strongly defines the main string characteristics a player is looking for, nevertheless, string gauge and string tension can significantly influence a string's performance.

Tennis String Gauge

A string gauge defines the thickness of a string. If you are new to the concept of gauges, they work counterintuitively. Strings with a lower gauge number are thicker than strings with a higher gauge. For example, an 18 gauge string could be 1.2 mm in diameter, whereas a 16 gauge string could be 1.30 mm. Most popular string gauges are between 16g-18g, although you can sometimes find a 15g or 19g.

Advantages/Disadvantages of thicker vs. thinner strings:

  • 16g has higher durability than an 18g
  • 18g  should offer a better feel than a 16g
  • 18g should have better access to spin than a 16g
  • 16g will play more firm with less power than an 18g

Side Note: A string gauge selection can be essential for polyester strings due to its short-lived elasticity.  Arm-friendliness is reduced significantly after playing for more than 10 hours. Thus, we would recommend starting with a 17g string. If it lasts less than 6 hours, we recommend switching to a 16g. If the string lasts longer than 15 hours before breaking, we recommend switching to an 18 gauge.

What is a hybrid string setup?

A hybrid string setup means the racquet is being strung with two different strings in the mains and crosses. The purpose behind such a setup is an attempt to unify the best characteristics of 2 different string types in one string job. The most popular hybrid setup is to put a polyester string in the mains of the racquet and a natural gut/high end multifilament string in the crosses.

Suppose you go back and check the advantages and disadvantages of these two string types. In that case, you could theoretically conclude that such a setup will increase feel and arm-friendliness due to the natural gut/multifilament string but increases durability, control, and access to spin due to the polyester string in the mains. 


How do we give personalized string recommendations? Applying the information to practical situations...

At first, we look at age. Players under the age of 11 and above 65 usually do not receive polyester string recommendations due to its stiffness and potential harshness to the arm.

Then we ask for the 3 top characteristics the player is looking for in a string. If arm-friendliness is a priority, we will not recommend a full set of polyester. If arm-friendliness, access to spin, and durability are the three key factors, then we would most likely suggest a hybrid setup.

Then we look at the level of play. If a 25-year-old former DIV 1 college player is looking for a string recommendation, our first thought is a full set of polyester. What type of polyester string then depends on the string characteristics this player is looking for. If durability is important, we will recommend our most durable string at 16g.

String gauge recommendation is often decided by the player's age and level of play. For example, if a 55-year-old 4.5 NTRP is looking for a durable polyester string, we would usually recommend the string in 17g. On the other hand, for a 17-year-old ITF player, we would probably recommend a 16g string.

How about a 35-year 4.0 NTRP where durability is not a priority, but spin potential and power are? We would most likely recommend our triangular co-poly string in 18g.