Take it Easy on the Tension!

For nearly thirty (30) years I have been stringing racquets using tension settings much lower than the prevailing “normal”.  There are a few reason for this.  I use a totally unique stringing machine(s), I pre-stretch every string, and I use vario tensions within the total racquet pattern.  Now it is becoming the “norm” to use lower tensions.  Why?

During the past fifteen (15) years string materials have changed to the extent that lower tension settings are virtually required!  This requirement has been met with disdain, reluctance, disbelief, animosity and other thoughts and actions!   In most cases, therefore, the racquet technician continued to use the same tensions regardless of string material.  Well, that is changing and none to soon!  But why is it important?

In the past strings were very elastic and exhibited high elongation which means the string will stretch as the ball hits it and absorb some of the shock associated with high tensions.  Most of the “newer” materials exhibit substantially less elongation and in fact become stiffer as the load is applied meaning the shock associated is going to be higher.  This can lead to “uncomfortable” and possibly damaging impact over time.

If you are considering using polyester based string please be prepared to “take it easy on the tension” and lower your tension request to the fifty (50) pound range (22.6kg).  Also, ask your racquet technician to pre-stretch the string.  This will increase the elongation and stability of polyester based string.  There is no scientific data to support the fear that pre-stretching will damage polyester based string as long as the elastic limit of the string is not exceeded.

Of course the object of the stringing procedure is to provide a racquet that will compliment the needs of the player.  Period!  So any technique you use must satisfy that requirement.

My advice is to try several string and tension combinations and decide for yourself.  Your racquet technician should be in a position to help with your transition to a new string and tension.  Please call me if you have any questions.

Posted on January 11, 2012, in Good News!, Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. John – I do not believe that prestretching polys is advisable and is not a method I choose to follow. However, as you correctly point out, the danger of prestretching is in overstretching and I believe you must be suggesting a manual pre-stretch, correct? If you are suggesting a machine pre-stretch it is possible the elastic limit may be exceeded depending on settings.

  2. John, thanks for the comment! Why do you think pre-stretching is not advisable if done properly, i.e. total length? I am just searching for input and not suggesting your preference is not valid for your customers. I would not necessarily pre-stretch some polyesters on the stringing machine because you loose control over the “tension” that can be felt when pre-stretching by hand.

    Anyway, you know what works for you and that is the main thing.

  3. Yes this is certainly the case. I have just finished stringing at an ATP/WTA event and it is the case that lower tensions is the go.
    I think players are wanting to go as low as they can for power and within reason to keep ball control.

  4. John Youngblood

    If done properly I do not see harm. However, if it is not properly stretched there is potential for damage to the string. If the word on the street is to pre-stretch poly, God only knows how it may be interpreted when filtered through internet message boards and with stringers who may be somewhat inexperienced especially with the proper handling of polys. They may not get the nuances and just use a machine prestretch. I view this as a very real possibility.

    I do not “prestretch” the way you suggest. Rather when I am working with poly I prefer to keep it under the set reference tension for an extended period of time before clamping. I believe this technique likely has a similar effect of your prestretching method, but is how I choose to tackle the issue when working with poly strings. I think we both are attempting to accomplish the same result, yet we choose different paths of getting there. That’s why the symposium and resources such as your blog are so valuable. It is a place to explore, discuss and learn from one another.

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