How to Choose Tennis Strings - Buying Guide by tennisnuts.com

The strings on a racket are the life a soul of the racket,  but for most people, racket strings are just an after thought, we spend months researching rackets, but 2 seconds choosing strings. We're not saying you should spend months trying out every string under the sun, but you should spend a few minutes just reading through this, you may learn a lot about the strings in your racket. Not all strings (and string tensions) are correct for every player. Each player has different needs and preferences. Here are a few guidelines to make selection easier.

There are now hundreds of strings available on the market...so how do you decide which ones to go for? Click on the link below to discover our complete guide to strings. We have arranged the strings into different types to help you navigate through all the marketing jargon:

  • Natural Gut - the original and most playable, but not the most durable.
  • Synthetic Gut / Nylon - for good all round performance.
  • Multifilament strings - for gut like characteristics.
  • Durable Polyesters and Kevlars - The most popular and best for stringbreakers.
  • The latest "softer" Polyesters and Multifilament Polyesters - the latest innovation, less harsh on the arm.


Playability

  • Generally, a playable string snaps back quickly upon ball impact.
  • The material, construction, and thickness of a string will all affect the playability of a string.
  • The best string at this time is still natural gut.
  • This is the only string made from a natural product - beef intestines.
  • It is the oldest tennis string made and remains the benchmark for playability.
  • Some of the most popular playability strings include: Babolat X-Cel, Tecnifibre NRG2, Tecnifibre X-One BiPhase and Wilson K-Gut.


Durability

  • Unfortunately, increased durability in tennis strings is usually at the expense of playability.
  • Thicker gauges and abrasion resistant materials will be more durable, but they are less elastic and resilient than their thinner, nylon-based counterparts.
  • If a player is breaking a 16 gauge synthetic gut, we might suggest they switch to a 15 gauge version of that same string, if available, for more durability.
  • If that fails the next step would be a polyester string, such as Babolat Ballistic or one of the popular Luxilon strings.
  • Finally, for players who blow through all of the strings listed above, Kevlar hybrids are the final alternative.
  • The best abrasion resistance of Kevlar makes it the most durable string available.


String Gauge

  • Generally speaking, thinner strings offer improved playability while thicker strings offer enhanced durability.
  • Tennis string gauges range from 15 (thickest) to 19 (thinnest), with half-gauges identified with an L (15L, 16L, etc), which is short for “light”.
  • Thinner strings also provide more spin potential by allowing the strings to embed into the ball more.
  • Obviously, the thinner the gauge, the more powerful the string, with lots of spin potential. BUT...the string will be less durable, but you could allow for that by going for a really thin, durable string.
  • Gauge 15 (1.35 mm) is the standard gauge for tennis.
  • Gauge 16 (1.30 mm) is the most popular gauge for tennis (optimum level of durability and power)
  • Gauge 17 (1.25 mm) is "thinner than normal" gauge for tennis and standard for squash.
  • Gauge 18 (1.20 mm) is the thinnest gauge for tennis and "thinner than normal" for squash.
  • Gauge 21 (0.70 mm) is the standard gauge for badminton.
  • Gauge 22 (0.67 mm) is the thinner gauge for badminton. There will be minor variations from the different manufacturers, but basically that is how the strings should be classified. 

NATURAL GUT 

As the name would suggest, this is a natural product, literally from the gut (mainly of sheep) of animals. This type of string is still favoured by the purists for its optimum mixture of power, control and spin. The best modern examples are made by Wilson and Babolat. It is, however the most expensive and least durable of all the strings. It is also susceptible to extremes in temperature and is especially liable to break under damp or wet conditions. There is no man made string exactly like natural gut..but some of the "multifilament" strings come close (eg Tecnifibre X-One Biphase or NRG and any of the Wilson multifilaments like K Gut, NXT or Sensation).

SYNTHETIC GUT
These are an extension (and improvement) on nylon strings, which were brought out few years ago, to compensate for the lack of durability from natural gut. The classic example is Prince Synthetic Gut. The majority of factory strung rackets are strung with synthetic guts, and are a good choice for most people. They give a good mixture of power and control with a "crisp feel and sound". They do not offer much potential for spin, however, unless you go for a "textured or spin" type like Prince Topspin, or Head RIP Control, or tennisnuts Twizon. They are also available in a variety of different colours. Strings like "titanium strings" are basically synthetic strings coloured silver! Synthetic strings are good on their own, or in combination with more durable kevlars and polyesters.

MULTIFILAMENTS
These are the best examples of using technology to replicate a product that has been successful over a number of years (natural gut). Thin strands are wound around (just like natural gut) to create different variations of SPIN, power, control and durability. WILSON, with Sensation and NXT, were one of the first companies to produce these strings, followed by Babolat (Xcel, Addiction and Attraction) and Tecnifibre (with X-ONE Biphase and NRG).
Multifilaments are also a good choice for the majority of players as they offer the optimum mixture of playability and durability. They are not as durable as our next category (the polyesters), but are definitely better on the arm. In fact, for anyone suffering from tennis elbow or any kind of arm problems, multifilaments are the best thing to go for...

DURABLE POLYESTERS and KEVLARS
The latest development over the last few years has been the plethora of polyester strings, in a category created by Luxilon Big Banger. This string was originally used by a number of PRO's looking for durability and tension retention during matches. These types of strings are all the rage at the moment as they provide the optimum level of power, control and spin (a la Nadal). The majority of people now use the polyesters as a HYBRID by combining with a Synthetic gut or multifilament, but some chronic string breakers use them on their own. Watch out for that impact on the arm though, especially in the case of youngsters. We would also recommend reducing the tension when stringing with polyesters on the mains and crosses. Luxilon still make the widest variety of polyester strings, with a number of different offshoots of colour, texture and gauge. Babolat make the best selling Pro Hurricane, which is incredibly durable and playable. Federer uses a Hybrid Luxilon/Wilson mixture called Champions Choice, which is basically Luxilon Alu Power rough PLUS Natural Gut. Most people use polyesters on the MAIN strings and anything else on the crosses. Federer does it the other way around...with natural gut mains and Alu Power Rough crosses...but hey he can do what he likes and he does not have to pay for his strings. We would always recommend that the tougher string be used for the mains.
We only stock one Kevlar string (Ashaway) as it is not too harsh or hard and its rough texture makes it a favourite as a hybrid main (eg Crossfire) with a lot of our customers.

The latest Softer POLYESTERS and Multifilament Polyesters.
The latest idea in strings is that people want polyester strings that are not that are not as harsh on the arm, but have all the other best characteristics of polyester strings, without necessarily being as durable as the normal, original polyester strings. These strings can also be used on their own without the need to combine them with anything else in a hybrid. A number of strings have come out very recently that fit this bill....

  • Babolat RPM Blast (Nadals new strings)
  • Head Sonic Pro
  • Luxilon M2 Pro and M2 Plus.
  • Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour
  • Tecnifibre X-Code
  • Tecnifibre Duramix HD

HYBRID COMBINATIONS
The majority of people now use the polyesters as a HYBRID by combining with a Synthetic gut or multifilament. Federer uses a Hybrid Luxilon/Wilson mixture called Champions Choice, which is basically Luxilon Alu Power rough PLUS Natural Gut. Most people use polyesters on the MAIN strings and anything else on the crosses. Federer does it the other way around...with natural gut mains and Alu Power Rough crosses...but hey he can do what he likes and he does not have to pay for his strings. We would always recommend that the tougher string be used for the mains.