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

The strings on a racket are the life and soul of the racket. However, for most people, racket strings are just an after thought, as they spend months researching rackets, but only a few 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? Over the years, strings have evolved from natural gut via synthetic gut and multi-filaments to the latest polyester strings. 

  • 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.

There is always a compromise between playability and durability, with natural gut and multifilament strings being the most playable and Poly strings being the most durable. This has led to the current fashion for combining different strings on the mains (vertical) and crosses (horizontal). The classic example of this is Roger Federer, whose Champions Choice strings consist of a strong poly and natural gut. Rafa Nadal uses a soft poly string all round (Babolat RPM Blast).

Playability (Natural Gut and Multifilaments)

  • 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 for playability at this time is still natural gut (natural product made from beef intestines).
  • Some of the latest Multifilament strings are a more than adequate substitute and given that they are more durable than Natural Gut...they are a better alternative to Natural gut for the majority of players.
  • Some of the most popular playability strings include: Babolat X-Cel, Tecnifibre NRG2, Tecnifibre X-One BiPhase and Wilson Sensation or NXT. These are also a good choice in combination with Poly strings to provide the best of both worlds.

Durability (Poly and Kevlar strings)

  • 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.

All round Strings (Synthetic Gut and Soft poly's)

  • These are a good choice if you are not sure what you would like or require.
  • Prince Synthetic Gut is atill one of our best selling strings after all these years.
  • Soft polys are a relatively new direction for string manufacturers, but are a great choice for those that like the power, restitution and durability of poly strings, but not the harshness on the arm.

String Gauge Guide

  • 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.

Stringing Tensions Guidelines (Mains & Crosses)

  • Each racket has its own tension range (shown in the technical spec of each racket).
  • The optimum tension for the majority of people is mid-tension. We would recommend picking a tension 1 or 2 lbs more than mid...as rackets lose tension fairly quickly.
  • You can then adjust your requirement appropriately to even tighter or looser (towards the upper or lower end of the range).
  • Generally speaking, the higher the tension, you get more control (less power). The lower the tension, ou get more power (less control).
  • The higher the tension, the more impact on your arm.
  • If you go for a durable POLY string for both mains and crosses, you should reduce the tension by up to 10% as poly strings have no give in them...and can cause arm issues.
  • For the majority of people, the SAME mains and crosses are ideal, but you can ask for custom mains and crosses ie a Hybrid selection.
  • Or you can pick from a selection of Pre-selected Hybrid sets.