Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Steffi Graf were among the more famous professional tennis players to lead the oversized racket revolution of the mid-1970s, 1980s and 1990s. An oversized racket by definition has a larger sweet spot, making it easier to avoid mishitting the ball. The stringing of your racket, however, makes all the difference in how it performs and how you play.
Definition of Oversized
It’s difficult to find a traditional wood-frame tennis racket, which had a head size of about 65 square inches. Modern rackets generally range from mid-size (85 to 95 square inches) to mid-plus (95 to 105 square inches) to what is now known as oversized, which is anything greater than 105 square inches. As of the date of publication, most frames are made of some composite of graphite, fiberglass and metal alloys.
String Tension on an Oversized Racket
Racket manufacturers recommend tension ranges for every racket they produce, and that information usually may be found on the racket frame. The general rule of thumb is less tension for more power and more tension for better control. Recommended tensions vary by head size and frame composition, and by what feels comfortable for how you play. Typical tensions generally fall between 50 and 70 pounds.
Strings and String Patterns
Tennis strings have evolved with racket size from the traditional natural cow's gut to synthetic strings, including nylon, polyester, synthetic gut, metal alloys and varying combinations. The evolution was primarily about price. As of the date of publication, you can purchase nylon strings for your racket for less than $10, while natural gut strings cost more than $40. You can use a single piece of string for your entire racket, or you can use one piece for the vertical stringing and another for the cross horizontal stringing. An open pattern requires less string and results in more space between strings. It should also result in more power and more spin. A closed pattern forms a denser string bed allowing for more control and more string durability. Manufacturers recommend string patterns for their rackets and often have like rackets with different patterns.
Most players prefer to have their rackets strung by a professional, which can cost as much as $20 per racket. But some serious players want that control and will purchase racket stringing machines. The three types of machines available are electronic, drop weight and hand crank (spring tension). Electronic machines are the most expensive and most exacting in terms of setting tension. There are also variables in terms of how frames are mounted, which is important when it comes to some oversized rackets where frames are wider. Used stringing machines can be found in the $100 range. High-end machines can cost $3,000 or more. If you're a serious stringer, you may try several before you find one that suits your needs.
How to String Your Oversized Racket
All stringing machines should include instructions on use. Secure your racket in the mounter clamp and adjust the stringing tension without exceeding the manufacturer's tension limit or you may damage the frame. Prepare the recommended amount of string -- it could be 30 to 40 feet or more depending on racket size. Insert the first main string vertically at the center of the head and clamp it at desired tension. Then apply the main strings up and down the racket to the neck. When completed, tie it off at the throat with a figure-eight knot and release the clamp and tension (two-string method) or find the closest horizontal hole to begin your cross strings (one-string method). Weave your crosses through the mains with the clamp in place at the desired tension. Apply and clamp to every cross, tying off with the figure-eight knot with the final cross. Release the clamp and tension, and cut off the leftover string. It may take several trials before you get your desired result.