This page explains the different types of tennis strings, their corresponding advantages and disadvantages, and their suitability for the different player types.
The string market is large, and there is a huge
number of brands offering a diversity of strings under their label. Every string has its
unique characteristics. If you want to know more about specific strings, check out the
string search or the discussion board.
Natural gut strings are made of cows' 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. Still many of the pros play natural gut, but I don't recommend natural gut for the
normal club level player, since those players should use strings with better price/performance
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. Let me briefly explain the main categories:
The most frequently used string type. Nylon
strings are among the most reasonable tennis strings and are normally made
of a single nylon core and various resistant wraps. Due to its excellent dynamic
properties nylon (polyamide) 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 a normal or high
Polyester strings show a fairly simple structure:
they consist of a single polyester fiber with a thin coating. This type of construction
is termed "monofilament". They come in different gauges (1.10-1.35mm) which enables
you to choose among different elasticity/durability levels. Polyester strings are little elastic
and feel quite stiff compared to nylon or multifilament strings, but on the other hand they
provide significantly better durability, allowing for thinner gauges. Pure polyester strings like
the Polystar Classic or the Kirschbaum Super Smash have one main downside: They tend to
lose their tension quite quickly, so control decreases and the string feels dead after a short time
of play. Thus polyester strings are only recommendable for players with high string consumption.
For these players, polyester strings offer a great price/performance ratio.
Shortly after the titanium boom in the racquet market,
a flood of "revolutionary" titanium strings entered the string market. Based on Nylon
or multifilament strings, the titanium is either applied with the coating of the string, protecting the
material from UV radiation and abrasion, or the titanium is integrated into the filaments to modify the
playability of the string.
To bring synthetic strings' playability more into line with natural gut, many microfibers (which can be of many different materials) are twisted together to a string, which is wrapped with a resisant cover. Advantage: higher elasticity and better playability. Disadvantage: multifilament strings tend to break soon once the outer wrap is damaged (the strings "fray"). Also these strings cost more than nylon strings because of the complex manufacturing process. Tecnifibre has sort of specialized on that type of string. Other popular multifilaments are Isospeed Professional, Head FiberGel, Kirschbaum Touch Multifibre, Wilson NXT Tour and Babolat XCel Premium.
Structured (textured) strings are designed to provide better
ball bite and thus enhanced spin. Most of these strings indeed offer great spin
potential and in line with that better control, but unfortunately the texture usually
wears within a short time and the strings become smooth. Another downside is their
Hybrid strings are a combination of two different
strings for mains and crosses. In a uniformly strung racquet it's almost always a main
string that breaks. This is because the main strings move a lot more than the cross
strings so the cross strings "saw" into the main strings, causing notches and
eventually breakage. That's why in hybrid strings usually a durable string is used as
the main string (e.g. polyester or aramid/kevlar/technora). As cross strings usually
highly elastic synthetic strings or natural gut strings are used to provide comfort and feel.
Hybrids provide good playing characteristics while a poly/multi hybrid often lasts longer
than a pure poly or pure multifilament string job.
Some general stuff about strings
To get the best out of your racquet you'll have to do a little more than just use the best string. The choice of the right tension is about as important as the choice of the racquet frame. As a general rule: the harder you string the less power you get and the more control you have. With lower tension you gain more power but also lose control. In any case you should try different tensions; if you play better - great, and if you don't, you can get back to the old tension the next time. To show you the effects different string tensions and diameters can have on your racquet's performance I created following tables:
To increase the durability of your strings you
should not expose your racquet to extreme heat, cold or humidity. Therefore
you should always keep your racquet in its bag. To protect your racquet
head you can use a head tape. This is useful if playing on clay court or
if the strings are not protected enough by the racquet headguard.
Often the diameter of a string is not given in millimeters but in the old "gauge". Following table helps you convert between these two measures (without obligation):