Playing with natural gut is for many, the ultimate tennis experience. The power, feel, ball pocketing, liveliness are the properties that many synthetics (excepting poly-based strings) attempt to emulate. Natural gut is extremely resilient and there is probably nothing better at absorbing shock which makes it ideal for those with a tendency toward tennis elbow.
So, why then, don’t more people play with it? First off, gut tends to be expensive compared to synthetic string products. Secondly it can be temperamental. It does require some extra care. However, properly taken care of, it will outlast synthetics in terms of overall playability many times over. Thus the added cost may be justified, except for when it is finicky.
While friction durability is pretty solid, and the newer sealed coatings have reduced moisture issues, natural gut is still more prone to snapping while sitting in ones tennis bag. The main reason, as I perceive it, is because of temperature variations. Natural gut does not like and will not tolerate extreme heat or extreme changes in temperature. Thus during the summer months those using it must not leave it in the car, (even if just running to pick up a few groceries), or even leave it in your tennis bag that is sitting in the sun. These are no-no’s.
Amazing that I have already babbled as much as I have without even getting close to the original point of today’s blog entry. I started this entry to share a tip/observation. I have noted through the years that natural gut users tend to experience breaks at the knot. This pattern occurs much more frequently with natural gut than other strings. The main reason, I suspect, is because the knot is really nothing more than a controlled kink. Kinks are weak spots and natural gut is more prone to break at this weak spot than man-made string products. That said, I am wondering about another possibility. While I observe many breaks at the knot area, just had a racquet yesterday with this exact issue, I have noted that very few of my customers ever have a break at this point. Why is that? My knots are not much different than others…just a basic Parnell knot. BUT, I do take one extra step. Does it make a difference? I am not at all sure, but will describe and look for input.
After the string job is complete I always take a drop of “hard as nails” clear polish and dab it on each cut end of natural gut. I started this for cosmetic reasons. I did not like how the cut ends would expand, unwrap and fan out over time. This step prevented that from occurring. But the question is, has it made the knot less prone to breakage? I suppose without the polish there is no active sealant and moisture could attack the knot area further weakening it. As the moisture attacks and the fibers get looser, it is possible the knot area weakens and becomes more susceptible to breakage. While I do not have any research to support this theory, I have not that disputes it either. I wonder of this little cosmetic touch actually protects the knot area? And that, my friends, is the point of today’s entry. Please let me know what you think. Does the dab of “hard as nails” polish decrease chances of premature breakage at the knot area? I wonder???