Normally mild-mannered and benevolent, even the most patient of us have our pressure points. While I truly enjoy helping customers via our blog, message boards, direct email communication and telephone calls, there is one question that makes me grumpy. One question that is difficult to wrestle with. In short, it’s a bear of a question because it is infinitely more complicated to answer than one might expect. The question that is the bane of my internet existence…”What tension should I use?”
While it is clearly a legitimate question that many tennis players should ask, it is not one that I am always in the best position to answer. Simply there are too many variables to consider. What type of tension have you used in the past? What string type was this tension used? What racquet? What worked or could be improved based on this setup? The list goes on and on and on…
While I am in a position to advise and work with local stringing customers, I am not always able to be as precise with others. Simply put, many of the answers are instinctual based on what I have observed and what I know about the player. While I tend to know my local stringing customers, I do not have the same knowledge/experience on which to draw when trying to advise those who fire random emails at me with this question.
String choice and tension is intensely personal and what works for Player A, may not be as effective for Player B. Finding the ideal string and tension is a process. One that requires some experimentation and PATIENCE! Please remember that the same string strung at differing tensions can produce wildly different results. To dismiss the playability or lack thereof that a string displays without altering tensions is not truly giving it a fair chance.
That said, here is a process and some general advice to assist with identifying optimal tension.
1. When switching string brands/gauges/types, it is BEST to keep tension the same as where you have been playing. In other words, do not alter too many variables at a time. This way you can compare the setups on a more level playing field. IF YOUR QUESTION IS ABOUT TENSION FOR A NEW STRING, THE RECOMMENDATION IS KEEP IT THE SAME AS YOUR CURRENT TENSION.
2. Once you hit with the string take notes, either mental or written. Note how the string PERFORMS AND FEELS the first time out as well as subsequent sessions. Based on this information, you may find a need to add or reduce tension.
3. Adjust tension appropriately. ie If string is too stiff or not powerful enough, try lowering tension. If too springy or soft add some tension. The amount of tension added or dropped will vary according to the desired change. In general we are probably talking in the range of 3 – 7 pounds for most recreational and league players. Higher level players will have lower tolerance levels.
So, please take this as general advice. While I would love to be able to provide you with an exact tension for your new string, I simply can not do it with accuracy. You must understand it is process and my best advice is to start where you are currently stringing. Are there exceptions to this advice? Of course, but in general this is the best advice that can be given in terms of a starting point.