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.