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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.