Category Archives: Tips
A client just sent me the following statement and I think it has reason to be distributed amongst tennis players searching for “direction” when it comes to string and their game!
“Hah. Trying out these different strings has been very interesting. Over the past week or so, trying the different strings has given me some insight into what my game should be. I think usually people do it in reverse. They try to find the string that tailors to their game. By experimenting with the strings, I realize the direction my game should be going.”
“I’ve been coming to realize that my game is better with control and feel rather than power. Experimenting with different strings have helped me recognize this.”
Do you think this applies to you?
Monofilament string can be easily produced in almost any shape. Round, square, triangular, hexagonal, octagonal etc. So, on the surface that seems like a good thing. Who wouldn’t want the sharp edges digging into the ball creating even more spin!
But, there may be a side to the shape that needs considering and that is tension as it is applied to the string vs tension as it is in the racquet. Those can be two very different things!
When the main strings (the long ones usually) are installed they are free to move and will normally be only slightly “twisted”. This is more obvious with square and triangular strings.
This image shows one of the lower cross strings and the “twist” is obvious. So what?
So the tension on these strings will be considerably lower than expected.
Why? The machine tension head is set to pull each string to the desired setting, say 50 pounds. When the machine “feels” 50 pounds the tension head stops. The cross string will twist, just like a screw, as it passes over and under the main string. A twisted string will not pull through the adjacent main strings easily so the tension will, in this area, be less than desired.
This variation in “tension” can affect the way a ball comes off the racquet.
We use string spreading devices for every racquet and every type and shape of string. The “spreaders” raise and lower the main strings so there is no friction (twisting) between the cross string and the main string.
Not all racquet technicians use this type of device, so, the twisting can be mitigated by weaving the appropriate cross stings over and under the main string one at a time making sure they are not twisted and then apply the machine tension. This will result in a more consistent result.
If your racquet has cross strings that look like the image be sure to mention it to the stringer so it can be remedied.
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.
Racquet Quest sells only a few high performance racquet brands so it is not unusual for us to receive racquets purchased from on-line sources. These can be dropped shipped to us or brought in by the client.
That’s great. But here is the problem!
If you have a racquet technician in your neighborhood do not have the racquets strung by the online source! Take the racquet(s) to someone you trust, and, can be there if there is ever an issue, and this is an issue! The knot actually came untied! This is rare but is particularly likely when using a really “cheap” string and not knowing how to tie a proper knot!
Two things are happening here. The knot on the top is a “tie off” knot. While the tail may become loose it is not likely the knot will totally untie itself. The knot on the bottom is a “starting knot” and was subjected to the tension of the first cross string and, as you see, became a “not knot”.
This was very likely a “free” or “discounted” stringing so why not take advantage of the offer!
In this case, it is impossible to play with the racquet so what was saved by the cheap stringing?
This happens because the source knows that the racquet will probably not be returned for correcting the error(s) so who cares!
I care and you should care!
That is my “rant” for the day!
Has this ever happened to you? The string just breaks! For no reason, it just breaks!
Well, a closer look will tell a different story. The failure is referred to as a “mis-hit”, or “shank”, and is caused by hitting the ball at the junction of the string bed and racquet frame.
If look closely you will see a little yellow ball fuzz on the first broken string. So, if you are going to try to “sell” your story that it “just broke” be sure to clean off the ball fuzz before taking it back to the racquet technician. Keep in mind, however, that most racquet technicians have seen this failure before. Don’t try to fool them! 😉
All string materials are subject to this failure but some stand out as potential easy breakers. Thin gauge natural gut, probably the best racquet string ever, will fail at a load like this. Thin gauge PEEK string is likely to fail, as is some thin polyester based string. The point is almost any string will give up when encountered with massive head speed and a “mis-hit”.
As always be certain the grommets are in good condition especially around this area of the racquet.
When we think of “tolerance” we think of traffic, noise, and generally putting up with things, but normally we don’t think of tennis racquets!
However, we should! Tolerance means “what are the allowable variations between racquets of the same model”. Not all racquet manufacturers are the same but it would be a good guess the tolerance will be plus or minus 7 grams for example in total weight and maybe plus or minus 2 points for balance. A “point” is ⅛ of an inch so that is potentially a ½ inch difference! You can see in the picture why there can be variations. A lot of parts!
While “swing weight” is a very important characteristic it is difficult for manufacturers to match that so they will generally add a little weight in the rear end of the racquet to make the static balance the same.
In case you don’t recognize it plus or minus 7 grams adds up to about half an ounce!
For example one racquet can weigh 300 grams and another 314 grams with the specification of 307 grams showing up on header cards and advertising! Please know that racquet manufactures try their best to make all “performance” racquets the same. They do not purposefully make out of spec racquets!
But if they miss the mark…
This is where “customization” comes in handy. So don’t worry too much if your “tolerance” is “intolerable”. It can be fixed!
As a stringer you may, on occasion, clamp the string on the outside of the racquet frame.
This clamping can cause stress on the string right where it needs to bend or near the tie off area. This is not good!
The Offset Tube protects not only the racquet, but, more importantly, the string, by clamping about 2 inches away from the bending, or tie off, area of the string. The design and specific material properties of the protection pad assures proper protection without “tension loosing” softness.
This “quick and easy” to use device is a must for the serious racquet technician, and, if you are player be sure your “stringer” has an Offset Tube to protect your string!
The Offset Tube will be shipping starting the first week of November.
Each Offset Tube is $9.95 plus $2.00 shipping for up to two (2) in the US.
Your payment will be processed via our PayPal account but you do not have to have a PayPal account in order to pay. You can use any credit card.
As most of you know I am a big fan of Ashaway Monogut ZX (16g) and ZX Pro (17G) string. These models are PEEK mono filament strings that resemble polyester strings but these contain no polyester!
Here is the latest PR from Ashaway for your review.
Please let me know if you have any questions, and of course if you want to try this string.
Why did my very expensive gut string break when I wasn’t even using it?
You open your tennis bag; pull out your favorite racquet, and…what the heck, (or something like that)!
Natural gut is still considered the best of all string materials and performs beautifully in most racquets. However, natural gut is pretty expensive at about $70.00 per set, installed.
So, it makes sense that one would like for it to last a long, long time, and, of course play well for that entire time.
The perfect failure is when the string breaks around the middle of the string bed, then, why, when you pull the racquet out of the bag, the string is broken at the top and/or bottom!
If you look at this failure you will, or should, notice where the string breaks. The first reaction is “the grommets are bad”. This is not the case here. But why does this happen?
We need to understand a little about the racquet instead of the string right now.
The strongest, and stiffest, portion of the racquet is where the throat piece joins the head shape.
When the string is installed in this area it is “tighter” than the other strings. That is number 1. Number 2 is that natural gut string “moves”, actually contracts and relaxes, quite a bit, naturally. When natural gut moves, especially in this area, at the top and bottom, a lot of stress is caused at the bending points, which can contribute to the failure!
So, the string in that area is stretching and relaxing over and over again until it cannot endure and simply breaks!
So, what can you do to mitigate this failure mode?
- Avoid huge and sudden temperature changes.
- Consider tension changes on strings in this area
- Consider thicker natural gut string. Use 130 instead of 125, for example
- Avoid really wet conditions
- Be certain the string is installed using the appropriate “care”
Natural gut is good…
I see a lot of tennis racquets that come from any number of shops, on-line outlets, home stringers and others and I need to know what you, the customer, expect from the person you use for stringing and/or buy your racquets from.
I see racquets that are not properly, professionally strung and I wonder “what are you thinking!” Do you, the customer, simply don’t know what to expect or you just don’t care. I am not picking on recreational players here because I see this from tournament players that are trying to make a living playing tennis!
I see racquets that are badly distorted due to improper setup, improper pattern, and stringer error. This, to me, is unacceptable and I need to know why it is acceptable to you.
If you see a problem such as distortion, misweave, crossovers, long knot tails, and other stuff, you should simply not accept the racquet and demand that it be made right.
But, here is the problem…do you know what is right? If you don’t please take the time to ask! You can ask me or some other professional stringers. Send a picture if you can, or, take a look at some images below to see what is unacceptable.
Not only is this a bad knot it is a bad knot usually called a “half hitch”, or “double half hitch”. You will notice a small scrape on the string which is caused by using a “starting clamp” on the outside of the racquet. You will see a picture of this unacceptable procedure a little later on.
The knot tail is much longer than necessary. This is just sloppy.
The “double half hitch” is a big and “loose” knot. The tail can be pushed back through the knot but this may not cause the total knot to come loose. There are much better, and smaller knots.
A “cross over” is when a string actually goes over another string. This can cause premature breakage if this area is exposed to impact and/or abrasion.
A mis-weave is probably the worst error that sometimes goes un-noticed by the stringer and the customer. This is a total failure and should not be tolerated.
You can see the strings are not straight in the racquet head. Not only is this poor craftsmanship it can also contribute to low string bed stiffness. If the strings are not straightened as they are installed some tension will be lost. If the strings on your freshly strung racquet are not straight do not accept it.
Using a starting clamp in this manner is unacceptable for a couple of reasons. One major reason is the potential scraping of the string where the clamp is placed. You can see this in the first picture. Another, depending on the string, can cause crushing right where the string is going to bend and be tied off. If you see your racquet being strung using a starting clamp in this manner be sure the string is not damaged, and suggest the stringer cease this procedure. There is a tool available that keeps the starting clamp far away from the critical bending area.
Some issues that are unacceptable to me may not be harmful to your playing but should not tolerated. It is your money! You should get the best product for your money. Of course it is possible to get a “value” string job and if a few dollars are more important than a good job then keep on doing what you are doing!
If you think this issue is important to me you are correct! It should be important to you!