ETI 026 | Loose Strings – Very Loose Strings

The game has changed from the old wooden racquet era. Next was graphite composite racquets. Then stronger and stronger players. Followed by more and more topspin (unfortunately from further and further behind the baseline).

The next era in our game’s development occurs from the new “copoly” strings – essentially a polymer material, but somehow little or no friction between the strings.

You will note, no longer do the players walk around between points straightening their strings. That is because those strings move back and forth when meeting the ball – imparting much much more spin.

If you want to magnify this effect, try stringing a racquet at 40 lbs or even lower. Really!

You may have never heard of Nate Ferguson, but if you’ve watched pro tennis during the past quarter-century, you’ve witnessed his work.

Ferguson, founder of the Tampa-based and racquet customizer to the stars, has tailored the frames that have produced some of the most sensational shots in Open Era history.

Roger Federer hit his two U.S. Open tweeners with a Wilson frame strung by Ferguson. John Isner edged Nicolas Mahut in the longest tennis match in history wielding a Prince frame Ferguson customized. Ferguson strung racquets for Hall of Famer Pete Sampras—at exactly 75 pounds, using 1.22 gauge gut. Sampras was as attuned to his Wilson Pro Staff as a classically-trained violinist is in tune with a Stradivarius.

“Certainly, Pete has had great success with that 85 square-inch head, 27-inch long Pro Staff racquet, weighing just over 390 grams,” Ferguson says. “Pete never changed length, weight, balance or swing weight in all those years. Pete is aware of the slightest change or difference in a racquet.”

A native of Glastonbury, Conn., Ferguson was already working with future Hall of Famers when a then-unheralded and skinny teenager from L.A. scored successive upsets over Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi in 1990 to capture his first U.S. Open title. With the victories, Sampras became the youngest Flushing Meadows men’s champion at 19 years, 28 days.

Sampras was still a few years away from reaching No. 1, but Ferguson was already at the top of his field, refining racquets for Lendl and Martina Navratilova. The former high school and college tennis player had little indication that his initial phone conversation with the soft-spoken star would prove to be a life-altering event for both of them.

“The company I was with in Connecticut was almost strictly custom-building racquets, so we had a great list of clients, including Lendl and Navratilova, and along comes this 19-year-old kid named Pete Sampras,” Ferguson says. “He called and had a lot of questions about racquets and I explained to him what the process was of duplicating a favorite racquet. He had a real genuine interest in racquets and how they’re customized. I could tell the handle, head, and feel of the racquets were very important to him right off the bat.”

Sampras and Ferguson formed a friendship and partnership. Working exclusively with Sampras, Ferguson launched P1 in 1998. Today, Ferguson and his team—Ron Yu, Glynn Roberts and Mike Ludwig—travel to the top tournaments in the world with their own stringing machine and equipment, customizing frames for notable names including Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Robin Soderling and John Isner.

The P1 team re-strings, re-grips, and balances each racquet to suit each client’s specifications. The man who makes the strings sing for several of tennis’ top players is busy working behind-the-scenes at the Australian Open, which is where we found him for this interview.

Nate, given the variables of Melbourne—players can face extreme heat, or the roof can be closed shut—what are the biggest challenges of stringing and customizing at the Australian Open? Is this major different from the others in your line of work?

Being honest, there is no difference in customizing for this event and the rest of the year. Although we pay very close attention to the weather forecast, there are no racquet-building differences incorporated into our work leading up to the Australian Open. That being said, the fact that there can be a huge difference in ambient temperature from day to day, and even within a given day, means we are always looking ahead and are anticipating what the weather will be like. It could be 65 degrees if the wind is from the south, and it could be 100 degrees if it is from the north. These temperature differences cause us to adjust string tensions, but not the racquets themselves.

At the 2002 U.S. Open, when you were working with Pete Sampras, you told me during the first week that you thought Pete would win. You were right. Who are your clients now?

Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling, Fernando Gonzalez, Lleyton Hewitt, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey, John Isner, Gael Monfils, Marcos Baghdatis and Stan Wawrinka.

I notice there are no women on that list. Why don’t more women pros customize their frames?

Men care and they notice the difference in their racquets when they are customized. And it’s not that I say women don’t care about customization at all because there are exceptions, but generally, in my experience, women get the racquet they’re given and play with that. I heard a story about a lady who played all the way through the quarters of Wimbledon with one string job. Women pros are perhaps not as technically orientated as men. There are exceptions, don’t get me wrong, but in my experience, it’s extremely limited.

I was told that early in her career, Serena was playing with a game-improvement racquet you could buy off the shelves of a Modell’s or a retail store.

I’ve heard the same thing. Serena kicked everyone’s ass playing with essentially retail racquets, and Venus was the same way for a while. They were not using elite player frames so they had to string it very tight, using all gut, or they would break their strings. It makes you wonder if Serena would have won even more, had she been playing with a frame best suited for her game.

You have a family. How challenging is traveling all over the world to tournaments, and how often are you on the road?

Home for me is Tampa, Fla., and I’m on the road about 22 weeks a year. It’s still hard but it’s something my kids have grown up with, so they’re used to it. It used to be Ron and I doing it all, and then three years ago we hired Glynn Roberts from England and Mike Ludwig from the University of Florida. So now it’s not just Ron and me stringing for 13 guys. Also, with the four of us, there’s a duplication of effort, which helps in that not everyone has to be at the courts all day. We can have a guy working at the hotel, so it’s getting easier, thank God.

Who is the pickiest player you’ve ever worked with—someone just super sensitive and picky about their strings and frame? Do you mind revealing that?

I don’t mind revealing it. Pete Sampras was, without a doubt, the pickiest client ever. Pete could tell around the butt cap flare with his leather grip. If it had compressed the thickness of two hair widths, Pete could feel it and tell. It was unbelievable and uncanny.

In recent memory has any pro strung his racquet ridiculously low?

Lleyton Hewitt was into the 30s (pounds) at Wimbledon using half poly and half gut. The poly allows players to play so loose, and they are swinging so hard with low tension and getting more of that cupping effect. And equally as important, they can really swing out and keep the ball in the court with poly.

People know the story about Goran Ivanisevic smashing so many frames that he actually ran out of racquets during a match. Have any of your players ever experienced racquet emergencies due to destructive tendencies?

Fernando Gonzalez, when he lost to Guillermo Coria in the 2004 Key Biscayne semis, smashed a few racquets during the match and gave the rest of his frames to a few kids after the match. The next day I get a call from Fernando: “Nate, I gotta start practicing to play Davis Cup next week, can you help me out?” These guys are professionals, but they’re human, too, and they get emotional sometimes. But the fact they work with a customizer tells you they do take their equipment and their jobs seriously.

A broad question: How has string technology impacted the game?

Polyester has really, really changed the game and the way it’s played. A few weeks ago, Tennis Channel replayed the Pete Sampras vs. Guga match from the 2000 Tennis Masters Cup. After 10 minutes of play, Pete had already broken a string. People don’t break strings during matches anymore.

I was at that match, and watching it again on TV, I noticed, number one, what a tremendous volleyer Pete was, and number two, how many volleys Pete had to hit off his shoe tops in that match. Guga was one of the first to go to Luxilon strings, and if you watch that match, notice how Guga is hitting normal looking forehands that dip tremendously at Pete’s feet. What we’re looking at when we watch that match is the earliest evolution of the game changing right before our eyes, because of the strings. Though at the time, no one realized what was happening.

Technology has impacted the game, particularly for players who have grown up with that string technology. It’s tough if you just try to take a great ball striker like an Andre Agassi and give him the new strings, though he did use them and they did help. But when you’ve got a young kid named Rafael Nadal who grew up with this stuff, then you’ve got a guy who can accentuate the benefit of the string and a guy whose game has truly evolved playing with the string.

What are your favorite customization tools?

  1. Lead tape.
  2. Double face tape—you can use it for a variety of things, including grips.
  3. A variety of grips at different thicknesses, both synthetic and leather.
  4. A powerful staple gun.
  5. Lighter fuel. I’m not sure so many people know about the benefits of lighter fuel, but I find it’s effective to take any residual residue off when working with lead tape or grips on the handle.

74 Comments

  • Rog

    Reply Reply May 13, 2017

    20kg is 44 lbs

  • nic

    Reply Reply August 27, 2014

    in the video when you said the pros are stringing there strings around high 20 to 30 are you meaning in pound or kg

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply August 27, 2014

      Nic – as far as I know that is in pounds 20 kilos would be way too loose
      Jim

      • Don

        Reply Reply December 11, 2016

        I don’t understand Jim’s reply. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds, so 20 kg would be 40.4 pounds of pressure, which is more than double 20 pounds. This doesn’t make much sense for someone who is supposedly a sophisticate about tennis racket stringing!

        • Jim McLennan

          Reply Reply December 13, 2016

          Don – with apologies let me take a look at the post – and I hope I never did suggest I am sophisticated about tennis stringing – I have strung hundreds of racquets – but mostly I was trying to do a post where players could see how loose many players are stringing their racquets – sometimes extremely loose
          best
          Jim

  • jcruz

    Reply Reply June 5, 2014

    God bless you, thanks for all the good info on tennis technology, I understand using stiff (high tensions) poly it could hurt you arm, shoulder, but dose copoly falls in the same category as poly? Knowing is based on poly but is a softer string, Is multifilament strings better? Im using copoly strings 18 g at 48lb and I love it, people should try going lower and trying new thinner strings.
    Thanks ….
    God bless you….. Jesus

  • Joe

    Reply Reply March 27, 2014

    I had severe tennis elbow issues when I first started playing the game when very stiff racquets were the rage ~15 years ago. I then found my way (with good advice from the guys at a local tennis shop) to a heavier, more flexible, but very head-light racquet– a Prokennex 7G. Amusingly, the specs on this old (but still available) racquet are very similar to many the newest “player” models from other manufacturers that are much more highly advertised (and more highly priced). I was advised to use thin multi-filament synthetic gut (NRG17, then X-One Biphase) as the most arm friendly, strung at 60 pounds (recommended mid-range for the racquet). After some shoulder discomfort while playing more frequently, I started reducing the tension by 2 pounds at every re-string. The racquet felt softer, a bit more powerful on serves, and didn’t seem to lose much in the way of control until I hit 50 pounds. It seems like 52 pounds is the lowest (and, as it happens, the bottom of the recommended range). I’m tempted to try some of the new co-polymer strings at low tensions, but I worry about arm problems. I asked at the local shop about hybrid stringing as a way of getting my toes wet, but I was told that the newer strings would quickly eat through the multi-filament strung together. Any more thoughts on or experience with this, Jim?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply March 28, 2014

      Joe – re the hybrid the mains will fray the multi filament crosses – you could experiment with co poly 17 gauge in both mains and crosses strung at 40 lbs
      Jim

  • Robert

    Reply Reply December 7, 2013

    Sorry to be so late getting to the party on this. I finally got my racket restrung at a much lower tension. I had been stringing my less than 90 sq.in., 12+ oz racket in the upper middle 50s, kind of an old habit, and this time restrung it at 46. Not SUPER low, but way looser than before. In my short warmup (not my choice!) I found that noticeably less from me still got the ball to the baseline with very nice top spin, slices had a good bit more bite, and in serving I had to move my arm even slower. After two hours I realized that the thick pad of muscles above the head of the ulna near my elbow ached. Quite a new sensation, that went away by the next evening. Obviously I need to work with this more and under lower demand conditions, but I am pleasantly surprised by the results so far.

  • Richard Irwin

    Reply Reply November 9, 2013

    Hi,
    Thank you for your free first video on short sitter forehands. I like your comments about getting to the ball early, striving to hit the ball when it is above the net, and spacing away from the ball. I don’t understand what the left elbow has to do with that. It seems you can have that elbow anywhere, and still hit the ball too close to you. Could you please explain.
    Thanks

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 9, 2013

      Richard – there is tennis on today from London – watch the men turn into the forehand – the left side has a definite role on all of this – same thing with baseball pitchers – even quarterbacks – has to do with the overhand throwing motion – keep watching on tv – and when our product comes out it will include a stroke review of your forehand
      Jim

  • Francisco Barahona

    Reply Reply November 3, 2013

    Jim, I am using luxilon strings at 32 pounds. It feels nice. How much lower can I go?
    Thanks.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 3, 2013

      Francisco – depends on the gauge and how it feels – 32 is pretty low however – some on the email stream indicated even the high 20’s
      Jim

  • ann

    Reply Reply September 26, 2013

    Really interesting. I had previously thought the “new strings” we’re only for pros who could generate enormous racquet head speed.

  • Franco

    Reply Reply September 25, 2013

    Hi coach, I’ve tried it, 40 lbs. So far I played only once with that racquet, and took turns with the junior I was hitting with. We’re both heavy topspin players. On the forehand, the effect is fantastic: everything becomes easier, effortless, and the spin on the ball actually increases. I had to adapt to the different sound coming from the racquet, more subdued. On my one-handed backhand, initially the ball tended to fly up and out, until I realised it was my mistake, not the strings: I was hitting flat. So the string “forced” me to hit the ball with more consistent topspin. After 15 minutes of heavy hitting, I wasn’t even breaking a sweat. But the true surprise came with the slices, volleys and drop shots. AMAZING feel. Incredible response. Finally my slice is a weapon! the feel on volleys is not to be believed. Flat serves are also faster. All in all, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to adjust to the lower tension, and I didn’t expect the control to actually improve.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 26, 2013

      Franco – my experience has been more or less the same – though it did take some time getting used to
      Jim

  • Steve

    Reply Reply September 25, 2013

    Good info Jim but I also notice that the pro’s stringing at low tensions also change rqts almost every set. It seems the low tensions soon lose their set tension, surely this is not practical for us club players. Great article,thanks again.

  • Robert

    Reply Reply September 25, 2013

    Man, did this post on stringing ever produce a blizzard of dialogue!
    A lot of comments mention strings and string tension vis-a-vis certain rackets. Rackets are rated in relation to the respective balance point, size of head and weight, and in some less visible ways like swing weight and stiffness. Each of those factors, after you account for individual technique, relates to shoulder and wrist problems and TE. The Babolat factory model that Nadal models, for example, has a stiffness rating of 72, which is near the top. Federer’s Wilsons are close to that. Obviously factors like these demonstrate that string type and tension function as pieces of a system. We want to make it simple, but it is not a simple equation. Just a thought to add to the mix.

  • Sasha

    Reply Reply September 22, 2013

    I like your game analitical assesments
    Finaly this is very cool
    Thanks

  • James Rath

    Reply Reply September 21, 2013

    Jim
    I tried your suggestion on loose strings. I strung at 35 lbs with Big Banger Ace 112mm Luxilon.(I usually string at 65 lbs with the same string) My stringer said he would string it TRUE at 35 lb. . I had never heard this term before but apparently the pro’s string only with the special Babolat stringing machine that strings different from the rest of the world. My question is when reading these articles like yours (and the similar one on playing with loose strings that was printed in the WSJ last year) are they speaking about 35 lbs TRUE or the standard stringing tension that everyone (non pro ) generally uses. I am not clear on exactly what the conversion is between the Babolat stringing system and all other stringing systems but apparently it is significant. Either way so far I like the results and I may even go to 25 TRUE next time. Thanks for the podcast.
    James R

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 22, 2013

      James – sorry but I cannot answer the question about tension re the pro’s or standard – that one (as are many others) is over my head
      Jim

  • Yuval Brontman

    Reply Reply September 19, 2013

    As always thanks for improving our game, relative to subject, looseness, how dose it relate to accuracy, power, racquet size and spaces size bit win strings? Yuval

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 19, 2013

      Yuval – in some ways accuracy must be readjusted with looser strings, but equally they create more bounce of the racquet so sometimes the adjustments are in swing speed – but if you are a heavy spin type player then the trick is to add yet more spin with more racquet speed
      Jim

  • Lefty Steve

    Reply Reply September 19, 2013

    I wanted to try poly for more pop on my Babolat Pure Drive, but I knew of the dangers of possible injury due to the “wall” effect from poly strings, so the only thing that made sense to me was a suggestion to loosen the strings….suggestion came from Jim, courtesy of his ETI Network series from about a year and a half ago. ..I see more pop on serve using 42 lbs K’Baum Proline 1.25, I imagine it’s loosened since I last strung (here in the Northeast we’re already in the expensive indoor season, I really don’t play that much for six months out of the year)…… No elbow or other problems, for me, I’m a weekend warrior 3.5 player…I might consider loosening further.

  • Mike

    Reply Reply September 19, 2013

    If I have polys on the verticals and synthetic gut on the crosses and string the polys really low as you recommend, should I then string the crosses very high to bring the overall tension nearer to the racquet’s recommended tension range?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 19, 2013

      Mike – hard for me to say, I have seen stringers experiment in a number of ways with the cross tension, even where the polys are on the crosses and the syn gut on the mains – best to ask you local stringer
      Jim

  • George

    Reply Reply September 18, 2013

    I went to my local stringer to get my racket rigged up like this (as an experiment), but I wasn’t sure what particular string to use. Could you mention some examples?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 18, 2013

      George
      truly it is best that they recommend – depends on your age, ability, your racquet and more – they are the experts
      Jim

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply September 18, 2013

    Hello Fsiber, I don’t understand how adding string savers raises your tension from 30 to 55 lbs, nor how you measured that????

    I can understand how string savers prevent string movement so strings last longer. I have no doubt that at 30 lbs, the strings would move all over the place without the string savers. Makes sense the strings would last a long time without breaking at the low tension.

    I think I will take an old racquet of mine and follow your instructions…I’m absolutely curious how it will compare to what I normally use. If I could legally hit with spagetti strings, I would love to try that as well! 🙂 I might take some of my poly and string it extremely low as well. What fun having my own string machine.

  • Freddie Asis

    Reply Reply September 18, 2013

    This is a sequel to my comments yesterday and I agree that there are benefits to lowering the string tension significantly when using co-poly. I would think this is more beneficial for those folks who has chronic elbow or shoulder problems or folks predominantly used natural or synthetic gut. However, please note that not all co-polys are created equal – some would lose tension after hitting a few hours or right after the racquet is strung, some retains string tension better than others. So it boils down to the quality of the co-poly string.

    It is also true that stringing co-poly at the low-end (loose) tends to provide more power but can be overcome by more spin. The player’s skill level also plays a vital role in adapting to the new set-up.

  • fsilber

    Reply Reply September 18, 2013

    Unfortunately, they won’t slide if you use lots of string savers, and if you don’t do that then the strings saw through and break.

    For example, after two string jobs last year which broke within weeks I asked for a very durable synthetic gut strung at 30 pounds. I inserted string savers until I got the tension I was used to (e.g. 55 pounds), and continued to insert more as the strings stretched out (and as old string savers popped out). I use a lot more topspin than most people at my level (3.0), but it’s been nearly a year since I’ve had to restring.

  • Mike

    Reply Reply September 18, 2013

    Thanks. That was great info. I’ll take my racket down to the stringer and try it. Mike

  • Brian Taylor

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Very good insights, Jim. I must confess I’m a bit confused about strings with my great fear being aggravating arm and elbow problems (I’m currently managing an ongoing “golfer’s elbow”). I’ve recently had my racquet strung with natural gut which is easier on the arm but “catapults” the ball
    resulting in less control. I may try co-poly nest time at a low tension as you suggest. What about polyester strings-are they similar to play with?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Brian – your questions about different strings are truly answered by you local pro shop – that is information I am not totally up to speed on
      Jim

  • Peter

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    I use Wilson Natural Gut 17 at 52 lbs-the most comfortable and responsive strings I have
    ever tried and they feel great right up until they break.

  • Mark

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Jim,
    I played with Prince Recoil, strings that were slick and would slide back into place. They were expensive, but I love trying out new things. What I found was the strings would move as I hit the ball and slide back after the hit. I felt I had very little spin because the cross strings would not stay in place but would give and snap back after the ball left the racket.
    I would love to see in slow motion the strings snapping back before the ball leaves the strings (about a 3 Milli-second event as Vic Braden would say).

  • Noah

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Didn’t McEnroe and Brugera(sp/) string their racquets at some ridiculously low tension?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Noah – I think that is true about Mac but I am not sure about Brugera
      Jim

  • john

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Information I didn’t know and willing to try our. Thanks jim

  • Peter Dollinger

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Hi Jim,

    I have been using poly strings which are strung at 35ish for a while now. I really love it. I think it gives me better impact when I hit the ball! Great video!

  • Jim B.

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Great “conversation starter” video Jim. I heard Martina Navratilova say during the Open Telecast, that there is a certain point, when droping string tension significantly, that you start to GAIN control again, and at the same time, retain power. Would anyone agree with that statement ??

  • OLIVER

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    My dear Jim,

    I am 65 and play daily one to two hours in the morning. I play the polys resp. co-polys for about 6 years now. I use a TOPSPIN GMBH. string called CYBERFLASH 16 and recently I tried the JUZNY string another german company SIGNOM PRO, and the string is called FIRESTORM.

    I started first to string to about 24 kg which is about 52 lbs. Then later I went down in order to have a smoother shot and bringing the ball long with a lift. On the Cyberflash it seems that 22 kg, means 48 lbs is the ideal tension, as if I would go under that level, I would risk outs when I hit harder.

    On the Yuzny FIRESTORM I put 22/21 kilos, means 48/46 lbs, the higher tension on the londer side of the racket. In fact this string can be strung even on 20 kilos, means 44 lbs. But thats the absolut lower end maximum, as under that level if somebody hits harder shots, he might be unsure. I like the feeling that whatever I hit will be INSIDE the court. I rather prefer that feeling as very powerful shots, but where I have to be careful.

    I thinki also that with the CYBERFLASH the 50 lbs could work very well, when it comes an absolute security of the shot. The relaxed the shot is, the more wrist is used, the more “waved” shots are used, the more one can string, but the range should not overgo 44 lbs on the lower side of stringing, and 50 lbs on the higher end of the stringing. It always depends what feeling the player likes.

    Thanks for the video it’s very well that you speak about this matter.

    Cordial regards,
    OLIVER

  • jody

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    I’m currently trying out ultra low tension on my Prince Response TIs. First was at 40/38 with poly, then I went down to 35/32 with a hybrid poly/syn gut. It feels great, not the “trampoline” effect I was expecting! My hitting partner commented on how much more my slice was skidding just after our first few exchanges, (I didn’t mention my tension experiment).

    There is a small adjustment due to different launch angle though but I’m getting it down quickly. For my other Response ti, I might go full Volandri and try an all poly bed in the mid/upper 20’s O_O

    How LOW can you go??

  • Picaso

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Really ???!!! …I am going to have to try that Jim although , I must confess , I am very skeptical . You know me so as you might suspect I have one racquet strung with VS gut @ 58 and one with a good multi @ 56 ( Babolat Pure Storm GT . I had TE for the last 6 weeks and have not played , I am getting ready to start again , thinking of a hybrid of pro-hurricane at 52 mains and a good multi ( NRG2 , NXT Tour , Gamma Professional or X biphase ) in the crosses at 56lbs….would very much appreciate and value your thoughts and suggestions !

    Hope all is well , my good friend
    Picaso

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Picaso – thanks for the note – I am far far from a stringing expert and really do not know about the different strings – just about the tension thing – we have a stringer (PMac) who has a massive serve a wicked forehand and Juancito would have loved to see this kid play – much better than his old man!
      Jim

  • kxyoung

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    I dropped from mid 60 lbs to 46-48 lbs with 16L poly on Head Radical Pro about 6 months ago and liking it. Mainly, the strings retains the same tensions better and longer, without stretching out unevenly while being put on. It was easier to put on and less stringing job is needed. Very little feel was lost yet now I got more pop from my racquet in return. Then once, I tried it at 34-36 lbs range, but it became very erratic. I found that, although I do generate a lot of topspin when I modified my swing path, I was spraying the ball into the back fence whenever I I tried to hit flat for the put-away. According to the commentary on TV by Martina Navratilova once during the recent U.S. Open, poly strings are strange that sometimes, in the 30s are too loose, but the same string in 20s maybe just perfect on the same racquet.

    I have yet the courage to drop the tension down to the 20s.

  • Harold

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    I string my own rackets and like to experiment with different string tensions. I started using poly strings at about 10% below recommended tension on my rackets (Donnay X black 99), but gradually reduced the tension. Now I play with poly mains and nylon crosses both at 30 pounds and find this is much easier on my arm and appears to give me a bit more spin. I find the poly is so stiff that I don’t get as much of a “trampolining” effect as I would expect from a racket strung at this low tension, and control doesn’t suffer as much as might be expected.

  • Terry

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Does loose strings mean less control?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Terry – that depends on your skill and stroke patterns – I cannot answer truthfully for it depends
      Jim

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Note:
    The art of creating full-poly hybrids that offer terrific playability is on the horizon. In other words, using two different co-polys in the stringbed.

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    The stringing tension of the poly with a soft string i.e. hybrid, is a bit of an art. I find that if the poly is the mains, I pull the sift cross string about 6 to 10 lbs tighter. Traditionally, stringers tended to add 5 pounds to the cross strings on most setups.

    In the reverse, it makes perfect sense as Freedie mentioned to pull the poly about the same or a bit more when it is used in the crosses with gut in the mains. The different strings simply pull across each other differently.

    The word out is that using poly in the crosses for the hybrids gives you a bit more control and touch. I’m guessing great for flatter soc/rec hitters.

    But I believe the polys in the mains provide more topspin, but durability is less as the ploys are rubbing the heck out of the softies.

    Another thought is that polys seem to work best under good pace conditions. I returned my wilson steam spin racquets, where you are supposed to use full poly setups, as the steam racquet is a string eater for hybrids. I returned it because I hit with a wide variety of pace and at lower pace I lost my sense of touch and feel for the ball with the full poly setups in the steam.

  • Martín

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    it would be impossible to forbide materials in racquets and strings (the spaguetti string was easily forbiden because it was’t a material question, but how racquets were strung), but one solution would be bigger balls and smaller racquets.

    Jim: yours is the best tennis site.

    (sory for my english)

  • Terry

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Does looser strings mean less control?

  • Martín

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Donald is quite right. Just one thing: rallies are not shorter.
    You talk about table tennis… Tennis, nowadays is table tennis: the australian style (and old american style) is not possible to be played anymore.
    Jim, i think that players like Mcenroe, Edberg, Rafter, or even Sampras, were left aside in this new era.
    I think that something should be done if we don’t want to see tennis degenerating in just another racquet sport.

  • Freddie Asis

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Last week I read somewhere about the same topic and confirmed by Priority 1 tennis’ Nate Ferguson. He noted that some of his clients ie Federer, Hewitt require their racquet strung low. Federer’s mains: 48-52 lbs natural gut, cross: 3 lbs less than mains, luxilon co-poly; Hewitt’s at low 30s co-poly. After reading this article I went ahead and strung my racquet at 40 mains and 37 cross (one piece co-poly); normally, I strung my racquets st 49 lbs. Went and played doubles tournament in Oak Park Stockton CA had a bye on the 1st round, won 6/2, 6/2 on the 2nd round, lost 6/2, 3/6, 4/6 in the semis. I think I’ll strung my other 2 racquets at low 30s. I hit way better and wouldn’t miss on this set-up. Although this setup is not for everyone but you have to try it.

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    So, if my poly doesn’t snap back or my DT goes down to 20%, I restring. The DT is a specific way of measurement, IMHO. And my thumb snap is a pretty good indicator of resiliency from what I have heard from other “stringers.”

    The ERT 300 devise fits onto the string bed and then it vibrates to get a reading. Costs about $200 or so as I remember – just do an internet search.

    I found, after I got it, that I had to adjust my stringing tension on my stringing machine to match up with the readings. I believe that compensated for the type of machine and vagarities in my technique so I now get consistent DT readings when I pull my racquet off the machine.

  • John Rasmussen

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    You are right about the new strings. I am investigating racket ball impact to understand the phenomenon better. Please have a look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zzyvh2oQHtY&feature=share&list=PL5172E06F04837E95.

    If the strings spring back before the ball leaved the racket, then it translated into more spin tan the racket head velocity provides on its own. Another way of interpreting this is to say that the coefficient of restitution for the spin is larger than zero, just like it is for the normal coponent of the velocity because of the trampoline effect.

    Thanks for interesting videos and points-of-view.

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    3) That wonderful characteristic of polys is known as resilience. When the resilience goes, the strings don’t snap back as aggressively. To test that, just try to snap one of the strings like you would to play a note on a guitar, before you hit the court. Most players, who play a 3 hours a day, a couple of days each weekend, will discover the resilience died after a few days and it is time to restrings. For me, about 4 or 5 outings.
    4) Many players play until a string breaks.
    5) After the resilience goes, the polys become wiry.
    6) Some polys are softer than others.
    7) Since there are many vagarities in stringing, I use a dynamic tension reader that reads out the string bed stiffness of the string bed. I use the ERT 300 from Germany. A reading of DT35 means I strung my 99 sq racquet at an average of 51 pounds to get a stringbed stiffness of 35.
    8) The DT guideline is that when my DT drops 10% or 20% max, it is time to restring.
    So, I have to ways to checking my strings before I hit the court. And yes I string my racquet about every 2 to 3 weeks.

  • Matt

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Jim, a couple of random thoughts
    I am a 5.0 player, a bit younger than u and grew up with graphite racquets and fairly modern technique, but find that when I string an aeropro drive at 55 with poly, it feels great for a couple of hits, then gets looser and hard to control.
    I can’t imagine how hard 40s,or 30s, or 20s would be and am too cheap to burn the string to try it! LOL;

    I also find it hard to believe that your more “classic” game and grips (based on videos of your groundies through the years) has enough spin to take advantage of the poly – i.e. I don’t see u hitting with open stance fh, turn the hand finish on your hip pocket or buggy whip finish, etc. FORGIVE ME if I’m wrong and have mischaracterized your game which I’m sure is excellent. How are u not sailing the ball long with your more linear swings at these low tensions?
    Best, Matt

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Matt – apt description of my old fashioned game – the looseness gives me way more pop on the serve, but control is an issue, especially aftern they become slightly looser – the podcast was just an attempt to start a dialogue on our site
      Jim

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    I have a lot of thoughts Jim, so please bear with me and please let me know if your understanding is different than mine. Note: I string my own racquet and have strung a lot of co-poly. I currently use a co-poly in my mains, and a good multi or synthetic guy in my crosses = hybrid. I have experimented with a wide variety of tensions.
    1) a good source of information on strings and stringing is stringforum.net. Good guys to chat with are at Guts and Glory. Here is one of their web articles: http://ggtennis.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/copoly-hybrids-how-to-choose-a-cross-string/
    (they are now recommending a preference for syn over multi in the crosses for a hybrid)
    2) Rodger’s Rule: just about any string job feels and works great for the first few hours and even several days of play, then the strings slowly degrade and players unwittingly compensate by adjusting their strokes. Players often use strings way beyond their useful life because players don’t know how to evaluate their strings, using rules of thumb and rough guidelines at best…and stringers can be great sources of good advice as well as great sources of misdirection (often being very limited in their research time), even if intentionally trying to be helpful.
    (More to follow)

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Rodg – well said, the strings do degrade over time – but not in a way that players can specifically measure but rather that they can feel but only if they have two racquets strung at the same tension but at different times (one older one newer) for at the end of the day this is all about “feel”
      Jim

  • Donald McDonald

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    I originally played table tennis where it was possible to hit a ball with the racquet surface parallel to the table at 50 miles per hour and have it hit the table 6 or 7 feet later. This shortened the rallies to the point they eventually had to use a bigger ball to slow things down. A few years back tennis outlawed spaghetti strings for the same reason. Are we slowly making things like the all court game and the one-handed backhand obsolete?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Donald – you might be right – the new strings are somewhat similar to the effects of the spaghetti strings – but there was no corporate interests involved producing those strings so no one could win the argument – I doubt the balls will ever be bigger in tennis, but I still think there is a John McEnroe type player out there who knows how to use the court instead of just bashing the ball
      Jim

  • Brian

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Have slowly lowered the tension of my poly string jobs in my Wilson P/S BLX 90 (Fed’s primary racquet) down to low 40’s on the mains to acheive more comfort for TE issues but can attest to the increased level of spin. Have found many pros (and a few cons) but would strongly advocate it your viewers to at least try once.

  • Bogdan

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    I read (and seen a posted tag) that Rafa strings at 55lb with RPB blast. Do you think it is still true?

    I switched to an AuroPro drive, put on RPM blast, strung at 55. My elbow hurts a bit and feels really stiff.

    I used before Wilson Six.One 95, strung at 48-49, mono-filament cross and main (and sometimes filament cross).

    I put a lot of spin in my forehand, too much spin, sometimes I wish I could hit flatter to end points.

    What would you recommend to go next? 🙂

  • Laurentiu

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Hi, Jim

    Do you recommend 40 lbs (~kg) both on mains and crosses? I use Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power.

    I’ve also read about tools, like special pincers (spin makers), that roughen the strings, supposedly creating even more spin. What do you think about this kind of string ‘treatment’?

    Laurentiu

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Laurentiu – I am unfamiliar with “pincers” – mostly this was a dialogue about players experimenting with varying string tension
      Jim

  • Robert

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Kind of off the wall, but this reminded me of a question — I have conflicting information about the tension Pete Sampras strung his (highly customized) rackets at. Do you happen to know?

  • Ken

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Jim,
    Interesting video. One of the reasons to string poly looser is that the strings themselves are quite a bit stiffer than other types of strings. Be careful with this as it can lead to injured arms. Most manufacturers suggest reducing tension on polys at least 10%. Also, polys won’t break as often BUT they lose their tension much quicker. If you watch some of the pro tournaments you will notice that some players are changing rackets as often as every 9 games. Keep in mind that just because your strings haven’t broken doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be restrung…especially with poly.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Ken – thanks and I agree about injured arms with these strings when strung too tight
      Jim

  • Marcelo

    Reply Reply September 17, 2013

    Hi Jim, here’s a fan from Brazil, we really enjoy your work down here.
    I’ve tried looser strings (not that far of 40 lbs…) but it is always same problem: balls getting too long. When I try to compensate it with more spin or changing my swing, I get elbow problems… really tricky, don’t know what to do to get more power.
    What is the range the Pros are using, nowadays??

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 17, 2013

      Marcelo – I am not sure of the answer, but truly many lose control with this type of tension, why not upload your forehand and let me look
      Jim (I had a number of friends I played with from Brazil – Joao Soares, Fernando Luna and more)

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