It is my pleasure to introduce you to Huw Philips. Huw has been stringing for nearly 20 years and is qualified as a ERSA Master Racket Technician. Huw has been stringing at Professional tournaments including the Boodles championships at Stoke Park. His company, Racketspec provide a full racket matching and customisation service. If you have any questions for Huw please post below. In the meantime I hope you enjoying the first of many articles from Racketspec.
Don’t get strung along…
Have you ever thought about the strings in your racket?
When deciding on that latest greatest racket that will help you win that club tournament or help clinch promotion for your team, have you ever wondered about the strings that it will either already come with or have put in before you take it home?
After all, it’s the strings that make physical contact with the ball, not the racket.
Yes, the racket is very important and you need to choose the right one to suit your game, but pair that racket with cheap or poor quality strings or having it poorly strung can severely impact the playability of that shiny new racket!
It’s something the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Serena, Venus and Maria, and all the other touring professionals take very seriously. Federer, for example, takes it so seriously that he changes his racket every time they change the balls (every nine games!). This is so that he can have his racket playing at its optimum for the duration of a match.
Now if your name isn’t Roger or Andy, then you may not want to follow this example as it will become quite costly and you will need to employ a dedicated stringer to follow you from tournament to tournament like they do.
However, when was the last time you had your racket restrung?
The general rule of thumb should be to have your racket restrung as often per year as you play per week. So for example, if you play three times a week, you should look to restring approximately three times in a year regardless of whether the strings have broken.
But why if they’re not broken I hear you ask…
There is a common misconception that you should only look to restring when your strings break. New generation polyester strings are often seen as very durable, and they are, and used to remedy a chronic string breaker when compared to more traditional natural and synthetic gut. This is sound logic, but even these polyester strings will go “dead” after a period of time and could actually lead to arm injuries as the strings go beyond their useful life. As they lose their elasticity, they can transmit more shock to the arm as a result.
Dead strings can also impair the performance of your racket. Fresh strings can make the racket feel like new!
This is also worth bearing in mind when you buy your shiny new racket and it comes pre-strung from the factory. Those strings could have been sat in the frame, in a warehouse or shop floor, for months on end. Having a fresh string job at time of purchase will ensure you are getting the most out of that racket.
One important factor to note is that from the moment a racket leaves the stringing machine, it is losing tension. Don’t be alarmed as this is perfectly normal and cannot be avoided. The initial loss as the strings settle in the frame is where it peaks. After that, it is much more gradual but it will continue.
So, to put it in perspective, that racket you had strung last year in the latest Rafael Nadal polyester string at 55 pounds, would probably now be in the region of 25-30 pounds with little or no elasticity left.
When choosing your new racket, there are now many variables to choose from. The latest development from the manufacturers is to create more open patterned rackets with the aim to allow greater spin production.
Traditionally, we had string patterns of either 16×18 and 18×20. 16×18 was more open and gave more access to spin than 18×20 which gave you more control and a more consistent stringbed. Today we can see new patterns of 14×16, 16×19, 18×17 and so on all with the aim of allowing you to impart more spin on the ball without changing the mechanics of your game.
To compliment this, there are also new strings on the market designed to allow you to maximize the new spin rackets. These new generation polyesters now provide, in some cases, more textured surfaces, which grip the ball and allow more spin to be created.
But what tension should I choose for my new racket?
Here, I would recommend the ethos of going as low as you can control. That is, choosing a lower tension than you usually would, but one that still allows you to control the ball. This provides more power as well as comfort on the arm.
What should I look out for when getting the racket strung?
If you’ve just spent your hard earned cash on a new racket, you’ll want it to be looked after and treated as if it was a Rock Star.
The European Racket Stringers Association (ERSA) trains it’s stringers and Technicians to the highest standards so that they can guarantee a quality service and that you will be getting the most out of the racket. In return, you can have peace of mind that your racket has been strung properly to accepted methods and within the manufacturer guidelines.
You should look for your stringer to be a ERSA certified stringer as a minimum. If you can find a stringer who is qualified to ERSA Master Racket Technician level then you’ll be in luck as they will also be able to advise you on how to customize your new racket to maximize its performance for your game.
This standard is the only standard recognized by the Grand Slam tournaments like Wimbledon and Roland Garros and is a pre-requisite for any stringer looking to work at these tournaments. So if it’s what the players expect, why should you be any different!
So then, why don’t you treat yourself and your racket to some fresh strings from a professionally qualified stringer!
It might just help you get your name on the club trophy this year!
ERSA Master Racket Technician (MRT)