Category Archives: Tension
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.
It seems like Ashaway had this very racquet in mind when they developed their Dynamite Soft 18 string! This blue string is a perfect match to the blue accent color on the Ultra 100 CV and Ultra Tour!
And, the gauge, a very thin 18, is a perfect match to the very stiff frame (73 RDC, 70 FF stiffness).
I think the 18 gauge string may not be durable enough for hard hitters but this combination could be very good for many players.
You can be the judge of that, of course.
The string tension of 48 lbs (21.7 kg) combined with the racquet stiffness returns an effective stiffness of 30.3 which is a very comfortable number.
This stiff, 100 square inch racquet, should pack a powerful punch with a weight of 318 gr (11.2 oz) and swing weight of 318 kg/cm^ (11.2 oz).
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.
What is “soft”?
In 1994 I did a presentation for the USRSA in Atlanta. What was the topic?
It is now 2016 and we are still trying to understand string! Especially “soft” polyester based string.
In 1994 PolyStar was the only polyester based string I was familiar with. Since then there are dozens of offerings from anyone that can afford to purchase from manufacturers and market the string. If you have a desire to do it I applaud you!
In 1989 I started testing string and calculating “power potential”. Why “power potential”? Because “modulus”, “elongation” and “elasticity” didn’t get to the bottom line of string performance quickly enough! The steps to arrive at power potential are many.
For the testing, several calculations take place including “stretching” the string as in a ball impact. The difference between the first calculation and the “stretched” calculation is the power potential!
I have calculated hundreds of power potentials but have not until now quantified “soft”.
I think now is the time!
Dr. Rich Zarda has done a tremendous amount of work on this issue so we can now distill this work into the following explanation.
So, what is a “soft” tennis string?
Strings in a tennis racquet carry the ball impact load in two ways:
1) Via the pre-load string tension placed in the strings caused by a stringing machine (and the racquet frame “holding” those tensions in place) and
2) Via additional tensions that develop in the same string caused by the elongation of the strings as they deflect with ball impact.
Both of these conditions occur simultaneously and contribute to the string bed stiffness (SBS, units of lbs./in). Racquet technicians measure SBS by applying a load to the center of a supported string bed and measuring the resulting deflection. Dividing the load by the deflection provides the SBS (lbs./in). The lower the SBS, the more power you have (power here is the ability of the ball to easily rebound from the string bed), but the less control (presumably); the higher the SBS, the less power you have but the more control you have (presumably).
One more point about SBS: the lower the SBS, the less the load your body will feel for a given swing. But for an SBS too low (less than 50-80 lbs./in), balls will be flying off your racquet going over the fence; and for an SBS too high (greater than 200-240 lbs./in), the racquet will hit like a board with significantly less ball rebound. So the most common SBSs are between 100-200 lbs./in: a balance between control and power.
As already expressed, SBS is a function of the pulled string tension and the string elongation. Here is what is interesting: For large string elongations (for example, greater than 15%) and reasonably pulled string tensions (greater than 30-40 lbs.), SBS only depends on the pulled string tension and it does not depend on string elongation. Additionally, for this condition, SBS, for these high elongation strings, does not change as a ball is hit with more impact.
But for a string bed with low elongation strings (less than 5%) under low pulled tensions (less than 20 lbs., or tensions that have been reduced due to racquet deformation and/or string tension relaxing with time), the SBS additionally depends on the string elongation and will significantly increase, in a nonlinear ever-increasing way, for harder ball impacts.
In order to achieve a repetitive feel for a player when hitting with a racquet, it is best to have a SBS that is independent of an increasing ball impact force. This will lead to a more consistent playability of the racquet, which includes a more repetitive feel. This desired “feel” implies using high elongation strings (greater than 10%). If low elongation strings are used (less than 4%), the SBS will significantly increase as the ball impact force increases, resulting in a racquet feeling “boardy” for higher impact loads. And low elongation strings will cause un-proportionally increasing load into the body.
As you can see by the graph, elongation contributes to SBS in a big way. The red line indicates a stiff string, about 4%, and the blue line indicates a “soft” string, about 15% elongation. You can see the loads increase dramatically as the impact increases. So the harder the hit the higher the loads on the body.
So to the question asked at the start “What is a soft tennis string?” In the context of the SBS discussed above, I would suggest that a soft tennis string is one whose elongation is 10-15%, and a stiff tennis string is 4-6%. And any string under 4% should be categorized as ultra-stiff.
String elongation (soft, stiff, ultra-stiff), stringing machine strung tension, and string pattern(s) all contribute to SBS and SBS is an important measure of how a racquet plays and should be adjusted for an individual player, stiff and ultra-stiff strings can lead to less-repeatable racquet performance and player injury.
Soft = 10 -15% Elongation Power Potential Range = 10.0 – 16.0
Stiff = 4 – 6% Elongation Power Potential Range = 4.0 – 7.0
Ultra Stiff = Less than 4% Power Potential Range = .65 – 3.96