|Joe's Experiences with Tennis Strings
- Main Document (Jan 1997)
- First Addendum (May1997)
- Second Addendum (Feb 1998)
- Third Addendum (Jan 1999)
- Fourth Addendum (Nov 1999)
- Fifth Addendum (Nov 2000)
I've been playing tennis at a tennis club since 1991. I've
destroyed many a string in that period, sometimes fast, sometimes not so
fast. From the time I got my stringing machine (1994) I'm
searching for the perfect string.
What makes a string "perfect"?
- high durability
- high elasticity (flexibility)
- low tension loss
- low price
Soon I found out that those four points aren't consistent: the more
elasticity, the less durability, and the higher the tension loss. Or in
another way: the more durability, the more thickness, and the less elasticity.
Once a manufacturer claimed to have all good features combined in
one string you couldn't afford it. Even testing such a string was out of
the question. If I had a string with superb feel and high durability the
200 meters would be enough for 3 years. I don't think strings should lie
around for more than a season. And buying 11 meter sets is too expensive.
So the point was to find a middle course between the above criteria.
A durable string with less elasticity - compared to a less durable string
with little more elasticity - has in most cases the higher price. The cost
should be the primary guideline for most people. Strings with the lowest
price mostly lose tension very fast and snap after few hours. Strings for
about 120 DM per 200m are okay.
There is one thing I want to make clear: the relation between tension,
power and control.
There's a general rule: tension and power are inversely related.
So are power and control. You can say "the more tension, the less power,
the more control" or the other way round.
But I have to admit that less tension increases feel, especially
at the volley. Feel and control are not the same. It is control
when you hit hard and are still able to place the ball where you want to.
It is feel when you hit very softly and are able to place the ball
where you want to. It is power when you hit normally and the ball
reaches a high speed.
To increase power playing the same string you have to string softer.
At the same time control decreases. A string with higher elasticity naturally
has more power. Either you string it with the same tension to get more
power, or rather string it slightly harder (e.g. 1/2 kg) to get more control
at the same power (at least that has been my impression). Because of that
advantage most of the strings with high elasticity cost a lot of money
(just consider natural gut - couldn't be more elastic - nor more expensive).
So much about theory.
Well, I picked all strings that I could afford (200m up to 200
DM, 11m up to 20 DM) and ordered test packages where possible. In this
price category it is mostly Nylon strings with one or more coatings, or
Polyester strings. So-called Multifilament-strings which have high elasticity
are too expensive.
Carefully I wrote down every single hour I played with each string.
Just saying "this string lasted 3 weeks" is a poor way of describing the
durability of a string if you're not playing the same amount of hours every
week. Sorting out the strings with unacceptable playability I was able
to compare the durability of the remaining strings.
Every player has different demands on his/her string depending on
the playing style. Please note that my test results only reflect my personal
view. My favorite string is not likely to be the favorite string of many
other players. But take this as a general advice for your own search for
the "perfect string" (I am currently playing a Pro Kennex Pilic Mold and
string this racket - depending on the string - with 27/26 kg or 27.5/26.5
From my point of view Polyester strings are the best. In fact they
are stiff and difficult to string, but their superb durability exceeds
the durability of other strings in the same price category. I string Polyester
strings with 1/2 kg less than "normal" strings to compensate the lacking
elasticity. There aren't large differences between the various Polyester
brands. Important is the gauge (1.20mm - 1.35mm): the thicker, the less
elasticity, the more durability. I suggest a 1.25mm gauge. It has good
playability and can be strung better, too.
Polystar has the best playability, but is relatively expensive.
So I decided to play Babolat's Polymono 1.25mm (about 150 DM). It
has higher durability than cheap Polyester strings.
I think Polyester strings are not suitable for every player. I would
only recommend them for hard-hitting topspin players. Those players have
a high string consumption. With Polymono, I play about 18 hours
on an average.
Soft-hitting players like seniors or women should play a string
with more elasticity.
I am warning topspin players against buying special topspin strings
with structured surface. Those strings don't last very long. And I didn't
notice an improvement in spin or control. I highly recommend the usage
of elastocross. It gives me more control, and I think it adds durability
to your strings. I never compared durability with and without elastocross
because I'm not able to play without it - I feel really helpless.
I don't think much of Prince strings. I have tried some of
the cheaper Duraflex strings and they all snapped after few hours.
I'm also disappointed of the playability of Pacific Futura TS.
Right now I'm testing Gamma strings, and I must say that
I'm really impressed by them.
I have strung Marathon and Infinity in autumn 1996,
and didn't make it to destroy them up to now. Especially Infinity
makes me wonder how many years it could last until it snaps.
Infinity is a hybrid string (Aramid). The elasticity of the down
strings is near zero. Thus you have to string them one kg softer than usually.
But then it has really good playability, for my surprise! Of course I will
tell you as soon as it snaps.
If you are an aggressive player and haven't yet played with Polyester
strings: try it!
If you need a really durable string I suggest a hybrid string (blend),
for example Kevlar and Nylon.
Soft hitters should try a 1.30mm string with good elasticity and
And for all the people where money doesn't matter... hey! Why are
you reading this?
|First Addendum (May 6, 1997)|
After playing the Gamma strings few hours this year they
snapped. Okay, for the part of Gamma Infinity I have to admit that
it wasn't the mains that tore, but a cross string. I think this is normal
for hybrid strings. But all in all it wasn't worth the price. I've had
Polyester strings that lasted as long as Gamma Infinity and were slightly
Well, my testing still goes on. This year I'm extensively testing
Polystar 1.20mm. The price went down near the price of Babolat
Polymono, so I decided to take Polystar this time. I still have one
more Gamma string, Gut 2, and Babolat Powertwist to
|Second Addendum (Jan 4, 1998)|
There's not much positive to be told about Gamma Gut 2 HD
and Babolat ZF Powertwist, they both tore after a few hours. They
had average playability. The Powertwist, which is designed for topspin
players, had no remarkable spin advantage; the slight roughness of the
Gut 2's surface, however, had a positive effect on my play. I had
a little more control compared to a "smooth" string. But after a few hours
of play, the roughness and thus the effect had vanished.
I wasn't able to test the Polystar 1.20mm a lot; it surprised
me a little with its enormous durability - despite its small diameter.
Never did it tear below 20 hours of play. Because of the slightly increased
elasticity compared to the Babolat Polymono 1.25mm I had a better
feel. I tend to string the Polystar 1.20 half a kilo harder than
the 1.25mm Polymono to get more control.
Looks like I can only recommend Polyester strings once again...
but beware! Do not use Polyester strings with a diameter below 1.30mm on
Widebody or Oversize racquets; otherwise you won't have the durability
I am talking about.
Last season something happened which has not much to do with strings,
but I'll tell you anyway: near the end of the season - I must have forgotten
to change the overgrip for a long time - my racquet slipped out of my hand
while I was serving. It went directly into the ground, maximum speed. Crrrc!
There were two opposite cracks in the frame. Broken. Never had I malevolently
thrown a racquet on the ground, then something like that! Now my advice:
do not only change your overgrip regularly, but change it when it starts
to get slippery. You can save a lot of money by doing that.
Of course I will test new strings next season, so please stop by
for a minute!
|Third Addendum (Jan 4, 1999)|
It's been a pretty long time since my last report, exactly one year
has passed. In the meantime I've been trying to test as many strings as
possible. In the end I had 6 strings I would like to briefly comment on
First I devoted my attention to strings of a hardly known brand,
High Power. Why that? Well, such
"no name" strings are cheap and are mostly produced in the same factories
as the strings of the famous brands (Prince, Pacific, Head, etc.). So I
wanted to know if the quality of the cheaper strings could compare to the
quality of the big brands. I tested the HP SynNatur, HP Big Aura,
and HP Durasystem. These strings lasted about half the time as a
Polystar or Polymono, for example, but that didn't surprise
me. In turn, they all played pretty nice. After having played Polyester
for a longer time before, and then switching over to the Big Aura,
I had the impression that I could feel that the ball had longer contact
with the strings (because of the higher elasticity). I will test the Big
Aura a few more times because I'm even considering to switch over to
I also tried another Polyester string, the Pacific Power Star
2. There's not much to tell about - there are better Polyester strings.
Next there's the Babolat Fine Play. The name suggests a
good playability, but I couldn't find anything special about that string.
Close to the end of the season I ordered myself some sets of the
Kirschbaum Super Smash Spiky (1.25mm). That's the first textured
Polyester string. "Duh", I thought at first, for I could imagine that the
durability was fairly decreased. During stringing one has to be very careful
not to burn notches into the string. The textured surface gave me more
control in the first 2 hours, but then the surface got smoother and smoother
(which is normal for topspin strings). But also the remaining "normal"
Polyester string I had fun playing with (the Super Smash is a quite soft
Polyester string). And as far as the durability is concerned: no difference
from the Polystar or Polymono (note that I'm using Elastocross).
In my string forum the positive ratings for the Super Smash are
adding up. I guess the Super Smash is a string one must have played once.
Till the next update! :)
|Fourth Addendum (Nov 1, 1999)|
This season I managed to test 6 new strings again. Especially in the polyester area there were
a lot of innovations. I would like to present two of these now.
Before that please note that I "got away" from using Elastocross this season, because I found out
that it does indeed reduce the feel of your strings. For gaining more feel I can accept the lower
durability. So I tested most of the strings without string savers this season, and when I did I will
First, Polyfibre came up with a polyester string called "Polyhightec",
which is also distributed under different names in Germany. I tested the 1.20mm and the 1.10mm gauge
(the first polyester string with such a small diameter). The 1.20mm were nice, about as soft as the Super Smash,
maybe a little bit softer. The durability was within the normal polyester range. The 1.10mm had a nylon-like
elasticity, and the thin gauge provided a lot of "bite". But the durability was extremely bad. Recommendable only
for players who previously missed the liveliness in polyester strings.
The second novelty belongs to the category "textured polyester strings". Last time I wrote about the
Super Smash Spiky. The new polyester strings with a flower-like cross-section provide an even better grip. Those
strings are also distributed by various German mail order shops under different names. I tested the KTS Poly Power Spin with a 1.28mm diameter.
Just like with the Super Smash Spiky, I enjoyed improved spin and control for the first two hours, then the surface got smooth.
The Poly Power Spin lasted relatively long, but I thought it was quite inelastic. That's why I would prefer the
Super Smash Spiky, which still left a good impression after my second test.
To also get an impression of "the" standard string, Prince Tournament Nylon, I gave it a chance this season. The string is indeed
"extremely average" in any aspect. But it's also one of the cheapest strings, so I would recommend it to people who don't have
a high demand on their string. The Tournament Nylon is a frequently copied string, so you could save additional money if you don't buy it from
A string of a totally different quality is the Pacific Power Line 1, what is of course reflected in its price. Playing it, I enjoyed its
high elasticity. The durability wasn't high, but tolerable. It's something for players with a high demand who don't use much spin.
A highlight of the season was the first time I played natural gut, the Babolat VS Power (thanks Ole!).
Natural gut is extremely sensitive, already during stringing you have to be very careful. I strung at one pound higher than usual, which turned out
to be a mistake afterwards. A resilient string isn't necessarily elastic. Additionally, I used string savers. That's why my strings seemed quite hard,
but on the other hand I had more control. I was surprised about the durability, the VS Power lasted about as long as a standard nylon string. One just has
to make sure the strings don't get wet, because that's fatal for natural gut. All in all I have to say that
the little advantage in playability over multifilament strings doesn't really justify the extremely high price you have to pay for natural gut. Nevertheless,
whoever can afford natural gut is of course free to enjoy its superb liveliness.
Last but not least I want to get to my currently favorite string. It's the Babolat Syntronic 900 Zylon, which was released this year.
It's a very thin (1.15mm) multifiber string made of kevlar-like material. The string hardly stretches when you string it. Use one pound less tension than usual.
For its thin gauge (more spin), the string has a remarkable durability. The low elasticity provides more control. The soft coating wears soon, and the string
starts to fray. By inserting Elastocross platelets into the critical intersections one can increase the durability even more. My recommendation for all hard-hitters.
The Syntronic is not suitable for players who have a sensitive arm. Every polyester fan should at least try this string.
I hope my hints were of some help again this time. My string box is crowded with test strings, so I will definitely have
a lot to say in my next report.
|Fifth Addendum (Nov 2, 2000)|
I managed to test 7 strings in 2000, more than one would expect looking back at that unbelievably rainy summer - yuck!
Additionally, I had to deal with my study exams this fall, forcing me to cut down my time on the court. Hence, to be able to
test many strings, I had to switch to different strings a lot of times, so that I could hardly play one string more than once.
But now to my impressions. I didn't focus on Polyester strings this season. But I did want to find out whether cheaper Polyester
strings differ from the famous brands (e.g. Kirschbaum). They don't. You can also buy minor brands which are significantly cheaper
than the major brands. I did not find any difference regarding playability or durability.
I played two new Babolat strings: The ATP Tour Prospeed and the ATP Tour Extreme. These strings have been designed
to serve totally different purposes: the ATP Tour Prospeed should provide good playability and the ATP Tour Extreme durability.
The ATP Tour Prospeed left an average impression, with no special features. Compared to the Prince Tournament Nylon
it provides a little better feel.
However, I found the durability of the ATP Tour Extreme extremely remarkable. I haven't played a more durable string yet. Consisting
of the same material as the Syntronic 900, only a little thicker, it plays a little "duller", respectively. I recommend this string
to hard hitters who can deal well with missing touch - compared to the Syntronic 900 you get the ATP Tour Extreme for half the money.
Another Prince string had to face my test: the Prince Response. A closeout string, relatively expensive, with no special features.
The Alpha Gut 2000, quite popular in the US, played very nice, with a lot of touch and power. It had average durability. Nevertheless
I would prefer the Toalson Bio-Logic Soft. The Bio-Logic Soft is - as the name says - a relatively soft string that provides great
feel which I would spontaneously describe as "crispy". The durability is also normal. Another TOA string I've played this season is the Toalson Titanium.
An elastic string that lasted about as long as each of the two strings previously described.
Besides the strings I've tested there was another event worth mentioning: After a long search I finally found a new racquet and switched over. Now I
am using the Babolat VS Control Woofer. Especially, I enjoy the great amount of control it provides without losing power. Despite its relatively heavy
weight it has great handling. I'm playing much more successful since I switched to this racquet. :)
Alright, so far about the past season. I'll be back next year with another report about my experiences.
Until then! Joe
E-Mail me: email@example.com