The tension at which a tennis racket is strung has an enormous impact on the way it plays. Most who have played the game for any significant time have an established preference as to how tightly the racket should be strung. Newcomers, however, might find it difficult to know which string tension is right for their skill level. Educate yourself on some of the basics, and the decision should become clearer.
How String Tension Works
The string tension on a tennis racket is created evenly across all the strings. Each of the main strings that run from top to bottom and the cross strings that run from side to side are pulled to a set tension on a racket-stringing machine. String tension is measured in pounds, with a higher pound tension resulting in tighter strings. It's common for rackets to be strung as low as 55 pounds or as high as 80 pounds.
Tighter Vs. Looser Tensions
Tighter string tension, 70 pounds and above, provides greater control in shot making, but requires more exertion from the player to generate power. Looser tensions result in just the opposite. Rackets strung below 65 pounds make it easier to generate pace but more difficult to control the ball. The average string tension tends to be between 64 and 67 pounds. A happy medium can be found there for adequate control and desirable power.
There was a time when the face size of rackets was about the same on all models and brands. The advent of composite materials, including graphite, brought greater variety in size. Rackets with 90 square inches of face, commonly called mid size, strung at 70 pounds have a different feel and play than oversize rackets, which are 110 square inches, strung at the same tension. The pro shop or sporting goods store that strings your racket should be able to provide you with estimations about the most effective string tensions for different size rackets.
Types of Tennis String
Tennis string used to be only natural gut, mostly from cows and sheep. Less expensive options have been developed. Synthetic gut, nylon and kevlar have all enjoyed success as durable, reasonably priced alternatives to natural gut.
Synthetic gut is the most popular alternative. It can maintain the desired string tension longer than nylon or kevlar string. It tends to break more quickly, but any string loses tension over time. There comes a point at which durability is a less desirable quality.
Ideal String Tension
If you are not confident in choosing the best string tension for your skill level and style of play, begin with a tension of around 65 pounds. Playing with that string tension should provide an indication about whether 65 pounds is too tight, too loose or optimal for your game. Should you choose to raise or lower the string tension, do so in moderate amounts, about 3 or 4 pounds at a time.