Category Archives: String Patterns
The World Headquarters of Racquet Quest was pleased to have Erika and Federic from Head visit recently. Erika is with Head in Phoenix and Frederic is from the Headquarters in Kennelbach, Austria.
Team Head player, Jack Anthrop was on hand to provide a players perspective.
The purpose of the visit was to discuss a “grassroots” program that can effectively address, and contribute to the growth of tennis worldwide.
I was commenting on racquets and string selections, of course, when it dawned on me that Head has done an extraordinary job in designing racquets that have vast player appeal! A prime example is the Adaptive Series, introduced about a year ago, consisting of a “Speed” and “Instinct” model.
This series can go from a lightweight standard length racquet to a more substantial, longer racquet in a few minutes! Plus this series can be either a 16 x 19 or a 16x 16 string pattern!
This concept is valid, and one that allows players to maximise the performance of the racquet. And the implementation is easy. Some changes can be made at courtside!
So, while I believe more can be done to get players into the correct racquet, the Head Adaptive Series is very close to being perfect!
I spend hours each day dealing with tennis racquets, strings, machines and questions of all sorts!
By doing this I am learning what is important to tennis players but it should not require a one-on-one discussion to learn this, in my opinion.
So, what is important to you? Here is what I am discovering.
Comfort. It goes without saying that you don’t want to play tennis if you are hurting! Players are requesting racquets that are more arm friendly. But wait, the racquet really holds the string which has a huge impact on comfort. So should we begin with string? I think so!
String. Every string I have has undergone a comprehensive testing procedure to determine elongation which in turn is converted to Power Potential. The higher the elongation the higher the power potential and the less stiff the string bed will feel when the ball is hit hard, all other settings being equal. If you have a stiff racquet it is important to select a string and tension that will mitigate the racquet stiffness to some extent. Every racquet we do has the “effective stiffness” calculated which is the combined stiffness of the racquet and string bed. Once we have the preferred effective stiffness for a customer we can achieve that even if a new racquet is added to the mix.
Durability. We try to associate the cost of racquet stringing to “cost per hour” of play time. What is your threshold? $1.00 per hour or $10.00 per hour? When considering durability do not confuse “performance” with “durability”! There are several strings that may not fail for several months however the performance is gone in a few hours. This is typical of polyester based strings. So, even if the string is still intact the performance is way gone!
Cost. The cost of tennis racquets is increasing, sometimes justified, sometimes not but are rising none the less. If cost is your “driver” some navigation around the market is important, however, we do not suggest you buy the “cheapest” thing you can find without a thorough understanding of what you are getting. We can assist you in evaluating racquets from any source.
When the discussion is about stiff polyester string, it will always include the word “hybrid”! Typically this word is used to convince players that by putting a “soft” multi-filament string in the cross position the string bed will be easier on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Intuitively this makes sense, but in reality, the reverse could be true!
I began analyzing hybrid string beds years ago and did many just to test the theory. At the time it did not seem so important because, frankly, the use of polyester based string did not approach the usage of current times.
I have nothing against the polyester string(s)! I do have an issue with bad applications of polyester string(s).
I am bringing this up again because recently an “interviewee” stated that that replacing the polyester cross string with a multi-filament would cure the ills of a very stiff string bed.
The bottom line:
A high elongation string of any material can increase the string bed stiffness of a hybrid string bed!
How can this be?
Stiff (polyester) strings are “stiff” and the tension applied to them during stringing is low. However, high elongation (multi-filament) strings will be influenced more by tension and become “stiffer”. The cross stings are typically shorter, and there are more of them, so the combined affect is stiffness.
The initial reaction to this conundrum is to automatically reduce tension on the cross string by a certain amount. Again this raises another issue, and that is racquet distortion.
During the installation of the main strings most stringing machines will allow the racquet to become wider, sometimes a lot wider! So, reducing the cross string tension may not return the racquet to the designed shape. What happens then is the racquet will continue to move around trying to find a “safe” place and therefore the string bed stiffness changes.
In summary, the hybrid string bed will not be statistically different than the full string bed of polyester. This is even truer if the initial string tensions of the polyester are very low, such as 35 to 40 pounds.
So if you feel the need to use polyester just go with lower, lower, tensions.
As you know Head has made incredible strides in terms of racquet technologies and important players using them!
The racquets I received recently are the new Head Graphene XT Extreme MPA. Richard Gasquet, a talented and great player to watch, has been using the “Extreme” model for several years and has been making it into the late rounds at more tournaments!
The bright yellow finish with bright red and black certainly makes a statement! The black grip is a slight departure from the more usual white synthetic grip used on many racquets.
The new model incorporates the ASP technology that allows the racquet to be strung either in a 16 x 19 pattern or a 16 x 16 pattern! One racquet two string pattern options! Great idea, I think!
This model weighs in at 319 grams (11.25 ounces) with a swing weight of 322 (11.36 ounces) with a RDC flex of 60 (compare to 71 for the Babolat Pure Drive).
I installed a new Head string that is not polyester! The new string is Velocity MLT, a multifilament polyamide (nylon) with about 10.2% elongation. The string bed stiffness is a comfortable RDC 61 and DT of 38.
If you are considering a new racquet consider this one for sure!
This has been an incredible year filled with challenges, great rewards, learning, and teaching!
One of the greatest challenges is making sure that tennis players of all ages can continue to play without injury. This is especially true of younger players that subject themselves to many hours of training and tournaments.
Along with all that hitting comes the risk of arm and shoulder injuries so this year has been filled with research, design, formatting, and experimenting with various string material combinations.
I would like to thank the folks at Acelon Racquet Sports for their tremendous support of our research, and, of course, continuing trial and error! There are many suppliers of tennis string that have contributed but Acelon has stepped up with an extraordinary array of string materials, and configurations. Thank you Dan!
Ashaway Line & Twine Manufacturing has also played a major role in our string research and our commitment to minimize injuries. The Ashaway Monogut ZX has proven to be an outstanding product in fulfilling our commitment. Thank you Steve!
Our commitment to “injury free” tennis will continue as long as I do this and I appreciate the contribution of many suppliers and players. Without the honest and clear feedback of the players it would be impossible to make as much progress as we did this year.
2015 is going to be a very good year! We will be challenged, rewarded, taught and will teach! I am looking forward to it!
Happy New Year!
Of all my clients a small percentage, maybe up to ten (10) percent, suffer from premature string failure.
If you are one of these ten (10) percent this post may shed some light on the reason(s) or at least offer some sympathy!
First, what is premature string failure?
In the case of the ten (10) percent it is “the string broke”. Period.
Players are experiencing failure in less than ten (10) hours and some in less than two (2) hours. Unless you are a touring professional this may be too often! I understand that so we try to accommodate your desired “cost per hour” threshold.
So, premature failure is less than ten (10) hours of playing time before breaking.
Here are some contributors to this failure…
String Gauge: the thinner (higher number) the more quickly it will break, typically.
String Tension: lower tensions, or SBS, String Bed Stiffness, the more the strings will move which creates friction which causes notching, which, well you know.
String Movement: See above. There is some belief that string moving will create more top spin.
String Pattern: the fewer number of strings the more open the pattern will be and allow more movement.
Racquet Stiffness: a very stiff racquet (RDC 70+) will put more of the impact load on the string, significantly, leading to decreased string life.
Spin: to generate spin you must swing from low to high with plenty of force (harder) causing the strings to move more.
Training: if you are hitting for two (2) hours in training it may be like playing several tournaments.
Mis-Hits: hitting the ball close to the racquet frame creates increased stress on the string and results in “shearing” the string.
As you know there are many more reasons a string may break prematurely and some of it has to do with the away the strings are installed in your racquet but that is another post.
What should you do about premature string breakage?
If your situation is chronic you should consider a more dense string pattern. A pattern of 18 x 20 is a good pattern for increased durability. The dense pattern does not allow the strings to move so freely.
Of course if you are currently using a very open pattern, typically fewer cross strings, in hopes of maximum top spin then you are in for frequent stringing! I hope you enjoy the “spin”!
You may consider a hybrid format with a monofilament main string and a different cross string. Monofilaments are typically polyester based and can be a contributor to arm pain. Monogut ZX by Ashaway is a monofilament made using PEEK (no polyester) and makes a really good hybrid format, and does not put extra stress on the arm.
Consider using a larger diameter (lower number) string. It makes sense that the thicker the string the longer it will take to “saw” through it. A sacrifice in “playability may occur!
Once you determine how much per hour you are willing to spend on string we can design a string setup for you that can contribute to your tennis enjoyment and still leave some money for other things!
Respond to this post with your “cost per hour” threshold and I will respond with a possible solution. How’s that?