- Tennis string tension is the measurement of how tight the strings are pulled in the frame, usually expressed in kilograms or pounds.
- The tension rate varies anywhere from 40 lbs (18 kg) being the lowest and 65 lbs (29.4 kg) at the highest.
- Different string materials have different recommended tension rates, based on power, spin, comfort, control, stability, etc.
- Beginners typically go for lower rates while advanced players stick with higher tension levels.
- Higher tensions offer increased control while lower tensions provide more power potential and extra comfort.
Learning how tennis string tension impacts a racket’s performance is one of the most beneficial skills for a player, which will help you be steps ahead on the court. In simple terms, the string tension is the measurement of how tight the strings are pulled in the frame, whether manually or by a stringing machine.
Typically, you’ll find the string tension in the specification, expressed in kilograms or pounds. The tension rate varies anywhere from 40 lbs (18 kg) being the lowest and 65 lbs (29.4 kg) at the highest. There is no right or wrong when choosing what tension level your strings should be; this is a personal choice based on your preferences and skill levels.
What you should be aware of, though, are the striking contracts on playability and performance between different strings’ tension rates. Various features, such as power, spin, comfort, control, stability, etc., might vary based on how loose or tight the strings are pulled on the frame. Let’s dive into the topic to explain how!
How to Choose a Tennis String Tension
Choosing what level your tennis racket string tension should be, is one of the most important decisions for a player. As a beginner, this process might seem even more complicated than picking the racket itself, as there are various factors that you should consider beforehand. While it might seem like too much, it’s not complicated at all.
Listed below are all the simplified instructions that will guide you on how to choose tennis string tension confidently.
Based on Tennis String Material
First thing first! Materials are crucial as they make up for the texture and structure of the strings. Not all types of string will feel the same, even if you use to put them under the same tension level. Choosing the right tennis string material has a direct impact on the frame performance and touch.
There are some general rules instructing the players on what tension rate to use for different kinds of materials; however, you can still make adjustments if you find it necessary.
- Natural gut is the most popular and expensive option on the market. They offer excellent playability and can hold tension pretty well, which allows the players to go for higher tension rates. In cases where you decide to mix natural gut with other materials, the string tension should be slightly less than usual to prevent breakage.
- Polyester naturally has a stiff construction. Many players prefer this material for its excellent durability and heavy spin. When trying it for the first time, it’s better to slightly reduce the recommended tension rate to find a comfortable zone while still taking advantage of all the features.
- Nylon strings are a cheap alternative to natural gut. Overall they offer an average but decent performance. This kind of string performs under different tension rates, so the choice is up to the player.
- Hybrid strings are a combination of two different types of material, as players try to mix different features for an all-around perfomance. While there is a recommended tension rate, strings can be adjusted depending on the material and the player’s preferences. A good example of this is polyester strings that are typically in a slightly lower tension rate when mixed with other materials.
- Multifilament mimics the features of natural gut and is very popular among players for its many features. This string material performs at best in mid to high-tension rates.
- Kevlar strings are extremely stiff but sought after for their excellent durability and heavy spin. Due to its construction, it’s better to hold kevlar at a lower tension rate for more comfort.
Here’s a tennis string tension chart based on different kinds of materials.
|Strings material||Tension rate|
|Natural Gut||50 lbs - 60 lbs ( 22.6 kg - 27.2 kg)|
|Polyester||44 - 54 lbs ( 20 - 24.5 kg)|
|Nylon||50 lbs - 60 lbs ( 22.6 kg - 27.2 kg)|
|Hybrid||46 - 56 lbs ( 21 - 25.5 kg)|
|Multifilament||50 - 60 lbs (22.7 - 27.2 kg)|
|Kevlar||40 - 55 lbs (18 - 24.9 kg)|
Based on Skill Level
Your skill levels at the game are an important factor to consider when choosing the tennis strings’ tension rate. This will make your experience on the court way more enjoyable, as you’ll be more comfortable and still be able to maximize performance.
Generally speaking, beginners go for lower rates, while advanced players stick with higher tension.
For more detailed information, here are tennis strings tension recommendations based on skill levels.
|Type of string||Beginner||Intermediate||Advanced|
|Natural gut||50 - 51 lbs (22.7 - 23kg)||52 - 53 lbs (23.6 - 24 kg)||54 - 55 lbs (24.5 - 24.9 kg)|
|Nylon||50 - 52 lbs (22.7 - 23 kg)||52 - 53 lbs (23.6 - 24 kg)||52 - 55 lbs (24.5 - 24.9 kg)|
|Polyester||44 - 45 lbs (20 - 20.4 kg)||46 - 47 lbs (21 - 21.3 kg)||48 - 49 lbs (21.8 - 22.2 kg)|
|Multifilament||50 - 51 lbs (22.7 - 23 kg)||52 - 53 lbs (23.6 - 24 kg)||52 - 55 lbs (24.5 - 24.9 kg)|
|Kevlar||44 - 45 lbs (20 - 20.4 kg)||46 - 47 lbs (21 - 21.3 kg)||48 - 49 lbs (21.8 - 22.2 kg)|
|Hybrid||46 - 47 lbs (21 - 21.3 kg)||48 - 49 lbs (21.8 - 22.2 kg)||50 - 51 lbs (22.7 - 23.1 kg)|
Control is one of the main features players look for, as it allows them to redirect the ball with confidence, adjust speed and a good rhythm, hit targets repetitively, etc. The more advanced you become in the game, the more control you seek. However, this should come gradually because a sudden increase in tension level can compromise comfortability, especially in the beginners’ phase.
Check the table below for the recommended tennis strings’ tension rate to enhance control.
|Type of string||Beginner||Intermediate||Advanced|
|Natural Gut||55 - 56 lbs (24.9 - 22.7 kg)||57 - 58 lbs (25.9 - 26.3 kg)||59 - 60 lbs (26.8 - 27.2 kg)|
|Nylon||55 - 56 lbs (24.9 - 22.7)||57 - 58 lbs (25.9 - 26.3 kg)||59 - 60 lbs (26.8 - 27.2 kg)|
|Multifilament||55 - 56 lbs (24.9 - 22.7)||57 - 58 lbs (25.9 - 26.3 kg)||59 - 60 lbs (26.8 - 27.2 kg)|
|Polyester||50 - 51 lbs (22.7 - 23.1 kg)||52 - 53 lbs (23.6 - 24 kg)||54 - 55 lbs (24.5 - 25 kg)|
|Kevlar||50 - 51 lbs (22.7 - 23.1 kg)||52 - 53 lbs (23.6 - 24 kg)||54 - 55 lbs (24.5 - 25 kg)|
|Hybrid||50 - 51 lbs (22.7 - 23.1 kg)||52 - 53 lbs (23.6 - 24 kg)||54 - 55 lbs (24.5 - 25 kg)|
Based on Game Style
There is a simple, golden rule you should remember when it comes to choosing tennis string tension based on your game of style and the features you are looking for: higher tension is for control, while lose tension is for power and comfort.
Here are tennis strings tension recommandation to enhance power or control.
|Type of string||Control Tension Rates||Power Tension Rate|
|Natural Gut||50 - 55 lbs (22.7 - 24.9 kg)||56 - 65 lbs (22.7 - 27.2 kg)|
|Nylon||50 - 55 lbs (22.7 - 24.9 kg)||56 - 60 lbs (22.7 - 27.2 kg)|
|Multifilament||50 - 55 lbs (22.7 - 24.9 kg)||56 - 60 lbs (22.7 - 27.2 kg)|
|Polyester||35 - 49 lbs (15.9 - 22.2 kg)||50 - 55 lbs (22.7 - 24.9 kg)|
|Kevlar||40 - 49 lbs (18.1 - 22.2 kg)||50 - 55 lbs (22.7 - 24.9 kg)|
|Hybrid||45 - 49 lbs (20.4 - 22.2 kg)||50 - 57 lbs (22.7 - 25.9 kg)|
What String Tension Do Pros Use
As mentioned several times, tension rates are a personal choice based on skill levels, game style, and other needs you might have in court. With that being said, many wonder what string tensions pros use. Well, we are all guilty of that, especially for the big stars that have won so many grand slams and the hearts of millions of fans.
Here is a completion of tennis string tension that some professional players use. While you might get inspired by all of them, please keep in mind that your comfort and safety in the court come first.
Professional player’s tennis string tension chart.
|Player||Racket||Type of string||Tension|
|Rafael Nadal||Babolat Pure Aero 2019||Polyester||55 lbs / 25 kg|
|Roger Federer||Wilson Pro Staff RF 97||Hybrid||55 lbs / 25 kg|
|Serena Willams||Wilson Blade 104||Natural Gut||66 lbs / 29.9 kg|
|Novak Djokovic||Head Graphene 360 Speed Pro||Hybrid||59 lbs / 26.8 kg|
|Andy Murray||Head Graphene 360 Radical Pro||Hybrid||62 lbs / 28 kg|
|Ashleigh Barty||Head Gravity Pro||Polyester||46 lbs / 20.9 kg|
|Venus William||Wilson Blade 104||Hybrid||66 lbs / 29.9 kg|
|Garbine Muguruza||Babolat Pure Drive 2012||Polyester||60 lbs / 27.2 kg|
|Nick Kyrgios||Yonex Ezone Xi 98||Polyester||51 lbs / 23.1 kg|
|Gael Monfils||Wilson Ultra Tour||Polyester||57 lbs / 25.9 kg|
How Does String Tension Affect Tennis Racket
So, how do you decide at what tension rate your strings should be? If you are a fresh beginner with no previous experience on the court or a competitive tennis star, the decision is easy. But there is a whole range of players in between these levels, who understandably might struggle with this issue.
Well, the answer to this might be a little more complicated because apart from power and control, other factors influence the response of the string and the overall racket’s performance. Let’s take a look!
Low String Tension
Lower tension rates correspond with a higher power potential for the racket. The stringbed has a soft and plush feeling, and it bends every time it comes in contact with the ball. As a result, the dwelling time lasts a fraction of a minute longer, creating the “trampoline effect”.
Naturally, all of these factors help the player to hit long shots with little effort and push the ball deeper on the other side of the court than they would with a stiffer frame. Lower tension rates also mean more comfort for the arm, as loose strings dampen the harsh vibrations and shock impact. On the downside, lower tension decreases the control level, making players struggle with hitting the target or redirecting the ball’s landing or trajectory.
- High power levels
- Extra comfort
- Added depth
- Plush feeling
- Less control
High String Tension
High string tension will make the frame feel stiffer and, as a result, provide increased levels of control. The player can accurately predict where the ball will go while being more successful at hitting targets. A tight stringbed is also able to generate heavy spin with ease; however, the power potential is significantly less.
Since the ball’s trajectory is lower, it’s harder to go for penetrating shots. even by putting a lot of energy and strength into each hit. Stiffer frames will compromise comfort levels, too, as the harsh vibrations are transmitted almost immediately on the arm, wrist, and shoulder.
- Increased control
- Heavy spin
- More accuracy
- Less power potential
- Less comfort
String Tension and Durability
Durability is an aspect that concerns all players, and rightfully so, because nobody likes to replace the strings every now and then. Tennis string tension does impact durability; however, there are controversial beliefs on how this happens.
The rule of thumb is that at lower tension rates, strings are able to move more freely, and because they notch each other frequently, they tend to break faster.
This is not a fixed statement, though, because, from our experience, lower tension rates do increase durability. This also depends on what kind of string materials you are using. A hybrid setup or polyester will definitely last longer while performing in lower tension.
As for higher tension rates, the strings will have limited movements even then. Due to the increased friction, since the dwell time is less, the strings will tend to break faster than if they were let loose.
As in many other aspects, there is not a crystal clear answer for how durable strings are at different tension rates. The best way to find out is by experimenting with yourself, to find out at which rate you feel most confident.
String Tension and Topspin
Topspin is a priority in most players’ game styles, so there is a lot of interest in what tension rates will help to maximize this feature. While many say that high tension rates increase topspin, more data must be collected for a definitive answer.
It would be more effective if you put your focus on mastering your techniques and generating more speed instead, as there are no shortcuts in this area. One thing you can do, though, is opt-out of polyester string in order to increase topspin. They have a snapback effect and can generate heavy spin even when pulled loose on the frame.
Tension loss is inevitable and will happen within the first 24 hours after stringing the racket. Actually, this process is so fast that the frame can lose up to 10% of the string tension since the first day.
The only way to prevent tension loss, especially before big games, is by seeing a racket technician pre-stretch the frame with a machine or manually. Many pros need to do the stringing process more consistently, in particular timing, especially during tournaments.
However, this is unrealistic for the average player, so it would be better to focus on the kind of strings you are using instead. Not all tennis strings lose tension at the same time, and some do a better job of holding tension.
The natural gut of multifilament would be a great choice, as they can hold tension better than other options, like polyester, for example. That’s why, before choosing your tennis strings is better to learn about their main features so that you can make an educated choice for yourself.
Weather Consideration on String Tension
The weather elements do play a role in the stringbed response when coming in contact with the ball. When playing in warm climates, the response feels much more lively compared with cold temperatures, when the ball can feel “dead.”
We recommend adjusting the tension rates slightly higher on warm, sunny days so that you can gain more control. During the winter’s cold, let the string loser than usual so that you can have added power for the shouts.
If you play in very humid climates, the presence of water molecules in the air can slow down the ball, as it increases air resistance. In this situation, try to lower the tension rates to increase the power potential. When playing in dry climates, you need a higher tension rate for more control, as the ball will fly out in the court due to the little resistance.
Best String Tension for Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow condition can cause a lot of pain and discomfort due to inflammation or even breakage of the muscles. If you are currently in active recovery from this, it would be best to lower string tension rates.
Senior players might compromise in control levels, but comfort must remain a priority in this situation. When let loose, the stringbed will also deliver a softer, plush feeling while reducing the harsh vibration and shock impact on the arm, wrist, and shoulder.
Don’t stop at low-string tension only! When dealing with tennis elbow conditions is important to switch to lightweight rackets for tennis elbow and softer string types, like the natural gut. These changes might do wonders for your recovery.
How To Check String Tension
To determine the tension of the frame, you can always use a tennis string tension tester. You can purchase this simple tool yourself or look for one in your local tennis club. The first tension measurement should be done right after the stringing process and then in periodic timing to tell the rate of tension loss. This is not very accurate, but it will do the work just fine for an average player and let you know when it’s time to restrung the frame.
Before you hit the court with your new tennis racket, you may still have questions about the tennis string tension you have chosen. Take a look at these frequently asked questions and their succinct answers to have a full understanding of the tennis racket string tension.
Q: What is the best tension for tennis strings?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best tennis string tension for you will depend on your playing style, experience level, and even the weather conditions. However, some general guidelines do exist that can help you find your ideal tension range.
Generally speaking, lower tensions offer more power, while higher tensions provide more control. Additionally, players with arm injuries or tennis elbow may find low-tension strings to be less painful and easier on the body.
Q: What tension does Rafael use?
There is no definitive answer to this question, as Rafael Nadal uses his own custom-made string patterns and tensions depending on the conditions of each match. However, some sources have reported that Nadal typically plays with a tension of around 55 pounds in warm weather conditions while using slightly higher rates in colder temperatures or when playing on clay surfaces.
Q: Do thicker strings have more tension?
Yes, thicker strings generally have a higher tension rating than thinner strings. This is because thicker strings are typically more durable and can withstand greater tension levels without breaking. However, it’s important to note that there is no direct correlation between thickness and tension; the exact tensions will vary depending on your specific string type and construction.
Q: Are there any negative effects associated with using different string tensions?
Some negative effects can be associated with using different string tensions in your racket. For example, higher tensions may increase the risk of tennis elbow or other arm injuries, while lower tension rates may lead to decreased control and power when playing.
Another potential downside is that if you use a heavy string tension and switch to a light string tension, the strings may not withstand the increased forces exerted on them, which could lead to premature breakage.
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