Confessions of a reformed stringer

During the past several months a major epiphany has come to light.  I have been guilty, very guilty of stringing poly-based strings at a level of tension at which they can not offer optimal performance.  I have done this on my own racquets as well as the racquets of hundreds of customers.  It is only after a journey of personal discovery that I have been able to accept what key figures have been telling me for years.  Poly-based strings perform best at low tensions.  Really it’s just that simple.  I was too stubborn, close-minded, egotistical, and mule-headed to open myself to that possibility.  Finally I have.  The epiphany, though much time in the making, is powerful and will definitely change the way I service customers and do business in the coming year.

Today I sit here shaking my head and wondering how many out there are like me?  How many are not open to stringing racquets at tension levels below the manufacturers range?  How many would never consider using poly-based strings strung in the 40’s and/or low 50’s?  I suspect there are many.  And I want to help them. I want to reform them.  I want to empower them to go to places where they never dreamed they could go.  I desperately want to spread the gospel of lower tensions being essential to get the most out of poly-based strings.

In the USA high tensions have been preferred for years.  In fact, high tensions are king!  However, these tensions were used for natural gut and synthetic gut setups.  The new poly-based strings are differently constructed.  Essentially they represent a new paradigm for tennis players and racquet stringers.  A paradigm that requires a shift in thinking about how we string racquets in order to get the optimal performance from the string and the frame.

For years Mauve Sports has advised for optimal performance string no higher than 52 mains and 48 crosses.  WeissCANNON is always stressing to drop tension on their poly-based offerings.  Did I heed the advice?  No.  In fact, I discarded it because I was unknowingly trapped on the high tension paradigm of the USA.  Did the strings perform acceptably at high tensions.  I believed they did.  However, today I believe differently.  While they were serviceable at these tensions, they were greatly inhibited.  The difference in performance, liveliness, spin, control and comfort is astounding.  I doubt I will ever return to playing poly-based strings at higher tensions.  I know I will do my best show my local customers the advantages of a tension change and I hope I can convince readers of this blog to do the same.

Properly strung, poly-based strings can offer playing characteristics that are unmatched by any other type of string.  Properly strung, they can be arm friendly for the vast majority of players, including older players and juniors. It is essential that they be strung properly.  Do not procrastinate.  Heed this call to action and make the change.  You will not be sorry.

Overstretching poly-based strings, stringing beyond the mid 50’s, removes the life from the string.  It kills it.  Those who are in my former place will argue that lower tensions will result in loss of control.  One would think this to be the case.  It is 100% logical.  It makes perfect sense.  The only problem is that it is faulty thinking.  In reality it is not the case.

Lower tensions actually result in more spin and control.  I know it’s hard to wrap your head around, but it is true!  This is not too say that everyone should be stringing their racquets at the exact same tension, but starting in the upper 40’s/low 50’s should be a good starting point for most.

John Elliot, who has influenced my thinking on this topic, makes the following suggestion.  When first using poly-based strings at lower tensions, focus on hitting the ball over the net at a maximum height of 2 – 3 feet.  Swing hard.  Have fun.  Do this for 20 – 30 minutes to adjust yourself to the new tension.  You will be amazed at the results.  From here if the ball tends to be landing too short or too long, note by how much.  For every three feet too long, increase tension 2 lbs.  For every 3 feet too short, decrease tension 2 pounds.

There is so much more to write on this fascinating topic, but this seems like a logical stopping point.  This blog entry is a call for action.  A call for self-reflection.  A call for change.  If you are stringing your poly-based strings above 55 pounds you are not likely getting the full benefit of the string.  Please, please please, lower the tension.  Give it an honest try.  I would bet that most of you who do will be like me and NEVER go back to stringing poly-based strings at high tensions.  They are special and magical at lower tensions, and just average or below when the life is stretched out of them.  Why not play with them at optimal performance?  It is more fun, more comfortable and will most likely result in more victories.

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11 Responses to Confessions of a reformed stringer

  1. Cris Rizutto says:

    You have raised some good points but the fact remains that the tension stability of poly strings is laughable. Racquets need to be restrung every week to play consistent.
    Is this done by design or by the limitations of the chemicals and additives of poly strings?

  2. ggtennis says:

    Cris,

    Thank you for taking the time to contribute. The tension stability of poly-based strings that are not properly strung is the real issue. Sad to say but many, many stringers do not have the proper equipment or unknowingly make the issue of tension maintenance seem worse than it really is.

    If a poly is overstretched in the stringing process or pulled too quickly it will lose resiliency and this loss results in accelerated loss of performance/tension loss. Clamp slippage is also an issue that leads to unwanted tension loss. If being strung on a constant pull electronic machine, insist that tension speed be set at lowest speed. These machines overshoot desired tension and then come back. At this point the damage is done. Also, lock-out machines are extremely tricky. I would not advise having a racquet with poly-based strings strung with a lockout machine.

    That said, there are some poly-based strings that are absolutely miserable in this regard, but there are many that are not. Newer versions tend to get better and better at maintaining playing properties and tensions when strung carefully and properly.

  3. Boris Becker says:

    you are spot on.

    I love 44lbs. I tried a bit looser, but seem to like 44lbs as the lowest using an electric machine and taking my time. This might be equal to a lock out 50lbs. I dont think any machine using full poly should go over 54lbs unless its a gut hybrid

    low tension poly is heaven

  4. matt m says:

    Would you recommend these low tensions with turbotwist? I have been playing at 55 on both mains and crosses.

  5. ggtennis says:

    Matt,

    Interesting question. I have long said that the TurboTwist is a unique creature in the world of tennis strings. I am going to need to conduct some playtesting to see if lower tensions perform better. My initial thought is that 55 is not too high for this string.

  6. HO says:

    I totally agree. I was stringing my Head Prestige MP at 56 lbs and dropped the tension as low as 47 lbs. I too was stubborn and locked into the “tighter is better mentality” for years. I also lowered the tension on the Turbo Twist but increased the tension to 52 lbs. Thanks for bringing up the subject.

  7. Eric says:

    GG:

    Can you do a post about your thoughts on the colder temps some of us are experiencing and how those atmospheric conditions can affect strings – especially polys?

  8. ggtennis says:

    Eric,

    That is an excellent suggestion for a topic. We will try to put an entry together for you.

  9. Karl says:

    John,
    you wrote a good article, but Cris makes not difference between Polyester strings of the first generation and the Co.-Polyester which is the third generation, Mauve Sports-MSV sells only the last ones.

  10. AJ says:

    In “Confessions,” you say “Poly-based strings perform best at low tensions” and “WeissCANNON is always stressing to drop tension on their poly-based offerings.” But on your page for WeissCANNON Turbotwist (a copoly), you say “In fact, because of the high level of elasticity, the manufacturer suggests stringing at the same tension as multis. No need to drop tension like you do with firmer poly-based strings. These strings, like natural gut, need a bit higher tension in order to tame the inherent power.”

    I’m considering trying Turbotwist in a ProKennex Redondo midplus (98 sq. in., a very flexible racquet.) My usual string is NRG2 17g, strung at 58. Would you advise sticking with 58 or dropping it for the Turbotwist? Thanks.

  11. ggtennis says:

    The TT is the one offering that the manufacturer does not recommend a tension drop. I have always said it is a unique animal due to the elasticity. That said, I actually do not know how to best respond to the question. I really need to playtest it at lower tensions, but that is not likely to happen as we are currently in a huge playtest with a potential new line of products. I suspect we won’t get around to testing the TT at low tensions until summer.

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