The world of tennis gear is complicated. Here is some general information to help you with all of the technologies.
Power vs. Control
Racquets are generally categorized into three different types: Control, Tweener, or Power. The main differences between these racquets are flexibility, size, and weight.
Control racquets are best suited to mid-level and advanced players who have a long “loopy” swing. These players usually provide most of their own power, hence the “control”. These racquets are usually heavier, more flexible, and have a narrower beam. In these racquets the weight is usually distributed more in the handle to counteract the heavier weight and provide more maneuverability. They also tend to have smaller head sizes with a small sweet spot.
Tweener (a play on “in-between”) racquets are versatile racquets that can fit all player types but are best suited to mid-level players who have a medium swing. These racquets have medium power (or flexibility) and a medium width beam.
Power (also referred to as “game improvement”) racquets are best suited for beginner to mid-level players who have a short and slow swing. This type of racquet is good for the player who has good control but wants to get more power out of their racquet. Power racquets are usually less flexible (racquet stiffness provides more power), lighter in weight, and have a larger beam.
– The higher the gauge, the thinner the string (16 & 17 gauge are the most common)
– Thinner gauges offer more resiliency and feel (grab the ball better)
– Thinner gauges can be more comfortable
– Thicker gauges are stiffer and last longer
Every racquet has a recommended tension range. For most racquets, that range usually falls within 50-70 lbs. If using a polyester string, it is recommended that you use 10% less tension than you would with a nylon synthetic gut.
Lower Tension = More Power
The lower you string your racquet the more power you get because the ball stays on the strings longer (trampoline effect). Lately the trend is to string racquets lower. For example, most tour player used to string their racquets up with a high tension (70+ lbs.). Now, Roger Federer strings his racquets at 49 lbs.
Higher Tension = More Control
Stringing at the higher end of your racquet’s recommended tension can give you more control and allow you to play with more precision.
You can divide tennis strings into two main categories: natural gut and synthetic string.
Natural gut strings are made of cow’s gut in a complex process. Their main features are superb elasticity, tension stability and “liveliness”. But they are very expensive and sensitive to weather, while one has to say that a lot of improvement has been made in this respect during the past few years.
Synthetic strings are mostly high tech products, which are constantly being improved to bring their playability into line with natural gut strings but keep the advantage of the synthetic materials’ higher durability. There’s a great diversity of different structures and materials. Here are the main categories:
The most frequently used string type, nylon strings are normally made of a single nylon core and various resistant wraps. Due to its dynamic properties (polyamide) nylon is well suited as a material for tennis strings. The high number of different types of constructions (wrap material and wrap angle) influence the string’s playing characteristics significantly. As a rule of thumb, nylon strings with multiple wraps can be considered higher grade than single wrap nylon strings. The wraps reduce the tension loss usually experienced with nylon strings. Nylon strings are suitable for players who have normal or high string consumption.
Examples: Prince Synthetic Gut, Head Synthetic PPS, Wilson Extreme Synthetic Gut
Polyester strings have a fairly simple structure: they consist of a single polyester fiber with a thin coating. This type of construction is termed “monofilament”. Polyester strings are not very elastic and feel quite stiff compared to nylon or multifilament strings but they do provide significantly better durability. They are also known to provide the user with more spin and power, especially those that are shaped (Babolat RPM Blast, Luxilon Savage). Polyester strings are recommended for players with high string consumption. String manufacturer suggest that you string polyester string at a 10% lower tension than you would a nylon or multifilament string due to its stiffness.
Examples: Luxilon Big Banger, Babolat RPM Blast, Salinco
Multifilament strings imitate the playability of natural gut and cost about half the price (compared to natural gut). They are composed of many micro-fibers twisted together and wrapped with a resistant cover. The advantages are higher elasticity, better playability, and comfort. This a good string for someone who doesn’t break strings often and wants to get good feel and comfort. They tend to be a little less durable than nylon strings.
Examples: Wilson NXT Tour, Prince Premier LT, Gamma Professional
Textured strings are designed to provide better ball bite and thus enhanced spin. These strings offer good spin potential and control.
Examples: Prince Topspin Plus, Prince Lightning Spin
Hybrid strings are a combination of two different strings for mains (vertical) and crosses (horizontal). In a uniformly strung racquet it’s almost always a main string that breaks first. The main strings move around more so the crosses “saw” into the mains, causing notches and eventually breakage. With that said, in a hybrid one usually uses a durable string in the mains (e.g. polyester) and a softer, more playable synthetic gut in the crosses. Hybrids provide good playing characteristics and usually last longer than a pure poly or pure multifilament string job. Hybrid strings are becoming very popular and there are an infinite number of possible string combinations.