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If you have ever gotten a tennis racket strung, odds are high the stringer asked what tension you wanted. Finding the right tension for the racket, string, and player is crucial in taking full advantage of your equipment.

The Basics

For those who don’t know, string tension is the amount of weight that is pulled on the string in your tennis racket. Every player, racket, and string will react differently to certain tensions. The basic rule of thumb when discussing tension is the lower the tension the more power, and the higher the tension the more control. When I explain this to new tennis players, I always use a trampoline as an example. The looser the trampoline, the higher you will bounce, and vice versa. Scientifically: the lower the string tension, the more the strings will stretch upon impact, storing more energy. Then that energy is rebounded when the ball leaves the stringbed. Lower tension=more energy coming from the stringbed.

The String

String is arguably the most important factor when discussing tension, because of the drastic differences of each one. Polyester is a stiffer string meaning for most players dropping the tension into the low 50s and high 40s will help take advantage of it and prevent arm injuries. Synthetic gut, multifilaments, and natural gut all stretch significantly more than polyester, so tensions may need to be higher. These types of strings typically excel at lower tensions because of their elasticity and ball pocketing ability. If you are using these types of strings, keep in mind that you should not be going above 65lbs, and I recommend not going over 58lbs. Once tensions reach that high, the benefits of these high elasticity strings go away. Gauges are also important specifically with polyester. When using thinner gauges, it's important to note that the higher tensions become riskier during the stringing process.

The Player

Looking at the player and their style of play is incredibly important when reviewing string tension, even though it is often overlooked. The first thing I always consider is the speed at which the player plays. The harder someone hits, the higher their tension may need to be. If the player hits softer and requires a little extra power from their equipment, lower tensions will suit them well. When looking at club-level players (USTA 2.5-3.5 or UTR 3-5.0) tensions typically range about 48lbs to 55lbs. The younger players will probably have higher tensions due to needing control from their hard shots, while older players will benefit from the lower tensions. When looking at Division 1 college players typically see 53+lbs due to how hard they hit the ball. Being aware of yourself as a player and your style will help when finding your perfect tension.

The Racket

The power level of the racket needs to be taken into consideration before choosing tensions. High power level frames such as the: Babolat Pure Drive, Wilson Ultra, Yonex Ezone, and Head Extreme, need to have higher tensions to keep the power in check. To take full advantage of your equipment, you need to balance out the levels of power, spin, and control. Low Power level frames such as the: Babolat Pure Strike, Wilson Blade, Yonex Vcore Pro, and Head Prestige, should have lower tensions to help boost the power level. Keeping a good balance with your string tension and your racket power levels is important to prevent hitting uncontrollable shots, or low-powered ones.

For Stringers

Stringers, it is our job to try to provide the best possible information we can for our customers. Every player, racket, and string is different and will react differently to tensions. Trying to stay informed about the latest string and racket technology is pivotal in keeping our customers happy. While some players know what they want when it comes time to string up their frames, many do not know what might work best for them. As a stringer try to find out about their level, playstyle, and racket so you can suggest the best equipment for them.

Bottom Line

If you haven’t learned by now, string tension has a lot of different factors. It may seem overwhelming at first, but the best way to find out what works for you is to try, try, try. Pick a certain tension, to begin with, try it out, and adjust as needed. When I am playtesting strings, I always start at 51lbs and just adjust if I feel like the string may play better at a different tension. try to pick a good starting tension for yourself, and just test! If you ever want some advice or need anything, you can reach me at the “contact” tab, or on Instagram @10sJunkies.

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What is a String Pattern?

A string pattern is the number of mains (vertical) and crosses (horizontal) in each racket. These string patterns are unique to every racket and are a determining factor when choosing both rackets and strings. As I will elaborate more on this post, string patterns will determine the potential spin and control of a racket. It is important to keep in mind that oftentimes rackets that are a part of the same line may have different options with different string patterns. For example, the “Head Speed” line of rackets may look the same, but the “MP” and “Pro” both have differing string patterns making them different rackets.

The Purpose of String Patterns

String patterns control the ball’s reaction to being hit. String patterns determine the size of the “boxes” in your racket. When you hit a tennis ball it will react differently depending on the size of these boxes. Having a more open string pattern (16x19) will help have more “bite” into the ball creating more spin and power. The downside to this more open pattern is possible losing control and overhitting. Due to the amount of power that is obtainable with this string pattern, the player using it must put spin on the ball to keep control of it. The other more common string pattern is 18x20. This pattern is going to provide more control and significantly less power. The downside to this pattern is the low spin potential, which is why this pattern benefits more advanced players. This pattern would also help those who tend to hit the ball out often.

The Most Common String Patterns

The most common string patterns are 16x19 and 18x20. The first number represents the mains and the second number represents the crosses. So, 16x19 means there are 16 main strings and 19 cross strings. These two string patterns dominate the racket market. The 16x19 pattern will provide more access to spin, while the 18x20 pattern will help with control and keep power levels low. The reason these two patterns are so prominent in the industry is due to their complete opposite traits. While the 16x19 is going to be for your average player who wants access to easy power and spin, the 18x20 is for players who want a frame with more of a point and shoot aspect.

The Outliers (Wilson Spin)

In an attempt to create rackets that would provide an insane amount of free spin Wilson came out with their line of spin rackets. For example, the Wilson Ultra 105S has a 16x15 string pattern in hopes of creating such an open string pattern that spin would naturally be created. While these are not common now, a few years ago this idea was very popular among older players in particular. This 16x15 pattern allowed those who struggle with swing speed to really create spin and power effortlessly. The 18x16 pattern was even used by Grigor Dimitrov for a short period of time. This pattern would help provide a little more control than the 16x15. While these are not popular anymore if you tend to struggle with swing speed and producing power, these Wilson Spin rackets may work out well for you.

How to Pick a Pattern

Picking a pattern is really going to be up to each individual player. The best way to pick which one will work well for your game is to just try each one out. Take some time to play matches and hit each kind of shot with each type of pattern. Experimenting with strings will also help with this.

Happy testing!

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"Why can't I make that? I do that all the time during practice!!" We have all said this to ourselves at one point or another during a match. After we go for a huge forehand or backhand up the line and miss by a few inches, we all wonder "why can't I make that when it matters?" The reality in this is that for most tennis players the confidence and playing level is very different between practice and real matches. In this post, I want to talk about the way we tennis players unintentionally play differently during practice than we do during real matches.

To get started, we must first look at the way we practice. When tennis players go out to train (not just mess around for fun) the whole goal is to learn, improve, and become a better player. During these training sessions, many people put in the effort but know that if they miss there is no consequence. Missing is just a way of learning. For most players, while practicing, you are naturally more calm and relaxed making your shots more consistent and effective. This confidence and comfortability make us play with a clear mind, explaining all the "good" shots we hit during practice. When you go to practice and hit 1000 balls, you expect to miss some. Having this expectation is normal, we will miss balls! Now, why don't we go into tennis matches with the same expectation?

When we go into matches, whether they are USTA, UTR, or high school matches, they always apply added pressure. Many go into the match with the fear of losing in their minds. This fear prohibits us from playing at the same level we do during practice. Getting over this fear is the big difference between players at a recreational level and players at a college/pro level. To hit good tennis strokes, you need to be in control of your body, and if it scares you to mess up or overthink, it becomes easy to make basic mistakes.

To overcome this match fear, we need to go into matches with a different mindset. I personally have been working on competing in my matches with the mindset of "what can I learn?". Playing a match and thinking critically, treating the points as though I am playing practice points with my coach. I constantly ask myself, "How can I solve this problem? What can I learn from the shot I just missed?". This seems easy, but it takes loads of practice. It will take me many tournaments and matches to make that mindset by default.

So I want to challenge you, other tennis players, to go out on the court during your next match and treat it like a private lesson. Pay close attention to why you may have made the wrong shot selection and think of how to fix it. Do not dwell on the missed shot, but dwell on the solution to the missed shot. This requires a large amount of focus, but when you don't treat the match like a match, it can clear your head and help you make clear decisions.

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