Category Archives: Tips
I was just going through some older posts and came across this “E” Book post and believe it is more relevant now that when I originally posted it!
Take a look because this is important!
If you have been around Racquet Quest for a while, you know we talk a lot about Ashaway MonoGut ZX and ZX Pro, with ZX Pro being the 17 gauge version. During this post when I use MonoGut ZX it will include the ZX Pro Version, to save pixels!
A few questions need to be answered before we begin:
1. Do you get paid to talk about Ashaway MonoGut ZX?………. No
2. Do you get Ashaway MonoGut ZX free?………. No
3. Do get to spend the summer at a lavish resort in Ashaway R.I. ………. No
4. Why do you do it, then?
The short answer is MonoGut ZX works in so many applications that it is impossible not to talk about it whenever talking about tennis racquet string, arm issues, durability, and performance!
The first thing we need to know about MonoGut ZX is that is not polyester. It is Polyetheretherketone, or PEEK, for short. MonoGut ZX can look exactly like many common polyester strings due to the monofilament format. Monofilament means it is one strand of material and is typically very smooth and shiny.
The appearance is where the similarities end. Without going into a lot of detail, the stiffness of the base material dictates the stiffness of the string, especially in monofilament formats. Every string we get is tested for “stiffness” and entered into our database. This stiffness is converted to Power Potential using proprietary software. Power Potential is easy to understand…the higher the number, the more powerful the string is.
To get to the meat of this topic, we need to know the relative values of these materials.
MonoGut ZX has a power potential of 14.62
Babolat RPM Blast has a power potential of 4.29
LaserFibre Silverline 2 has a power potential of 4.59
Luxilon ALU Power has a power potential of 4.42
Luxilon ALU Power Soft has a power potential of 5.72
There are hundreds of polyester based string, but this gives you some idea as to where they stack up vis-a-vis MonoGut ZX.
Why does this matter? Strings with very low elongation (power potential) get stiffer the harder the ball is hit! So what? So, if you have low power potential, you need to swing harder to get the ball to go as far as it needs to go especially if you are trying to hit with huge topspin.
MonoGut ZX is suited to many playing styles, racquets, and string patterns. That is why so many really good players are currently using it and winning with it. That is why it is important that we continue to talk about MonoGut ZX!
Maybe it is time to try MonoGut ZX yourself.
I have often wondered what players know about the “stringing” process and in particular what goes on after the “string is strung”. So, while Madelyn was here she decided to video me doing what we do after each racquet is strung and just coming off the machine.
Had I known we were going to do this I might have dressed up a little, emptied the trash and fixed the crack in the wall behind the RDC! But I didn’t.
This video is offered as a “real-time” view of what we do with every racquet and is intended for information and fun only. If you have any questions please let us know…now enjoy the movie!
In the words of Lord Kelvin (May 1883) “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.”
That is why every racquet we do has over fifty (50) numbers attached to the finished data. Most of these numbers will remain unknown to the client, but for us, it is imperative that we know them.
Which leads me, again, to this very important discussion.
Every day we see a statement from tennis string manufactures claiming, or suggesting, their string is the “softest ever tested” and other claims. What the heck is “soft” anyway? There is a lot more to it than meets the eye so we have done significant analysis on bunches of string and can now quantify “soft” as it relates to tennis string.
What is “soft”?
In 1994 I did a presentation for the USRSA in Atlanta. What was the topic?
It is now 2016, and we are still trying to understand string! Especially “soft” polyester based string.
In 1994 PolyStar was the only polyester based string I was familiar with. Since then there are dozens of offerings from anyone that can afford to purchase from manufacturers and market the string. If you have a desire to do it, I applaud you!
In 1989 I started testing string and calculating “power potential.” Why “power potential”? Because “modulus,” “elongation” and “elasticity” didn’t get to the bottom line of string performance quickly enough! The steps to arrive at power potential are many.
For the testing, several calculations take place including “stretching” the string as in a ball impact. The difference between the first calculation and the “stretched” calculation is the power potential!
I have calculated hundreds of power potentials but have not until now quantified “soft.”
I think now is the time!
Under the direction of Dr. Rich Zarda, we have done a tremendous amount of work on this issue so we can now distill this work into the following explanation.
So, what is a “soft” tennis string?
Strings in a tennis racquet carry the ball impact load in two ways:
1) Via the pre-load string tension placed in the strings caused by a stringing machine (and the racquet frame “holding” those tensions in place) and
2) Via additional tensions that develop in the same string caused by the elongation of the strings as they deflect with ball impact.
Both of these conditions occur simultaneously and contribute to the string bed stiffness (SBS, units of lbs./in). Racquet technicians measure SBS by applying a load to the center of a supported string bed and measuring the resulting deflection. Dividing the load by the deflection provides the SBS (lbs./in). The lower the SBS, the more power you have (power here is the ability of the ball to easily rebound from the string bed), but the less control (presumably); the higher the SBS, the less power you have but, the more control you have (presumably).
One more point about SBS: the lower the SBS, the less the load your body will feel for a given swing. But for an SBS too low (less than 50-80 lbs./in), balls will be flying off your racquet going over the fence; and for an SBS too high (greater than 200-240 lbs./in), the racquet will hit like a board with significantly less ball rebound. So the most common SBSs are between 100-200 lbs./in: a balance between control and power.
As already expressed, SBS is a function of the pulled string tension and the string elongation. Here is what is interesting: For large string elongations (for example, greater than 15%) and reasonably pulled string tensions (greater than 30-40 lbs.), SBS only depends on the pulled string tension, and it does not depend on string elongation. Additionally, for this condition, SBS, for these high elongation strings, does not change as a ball is hit with more impact.
But for a string bed with low elongation strings (less than 5%) under low pulled tensions (less than 20 lbs., or tensions that have been reduced due to racquet deformation and/or string tension relaxing with time), the SBS additionally depends on the string elongation and will significantly increase, in a nonlinear ever-increasing way, for harder ball impacts.
In order to achieve a repetitive feel for a player when hitting with a racquet, it is best to have an SBS that is independent of an increasing ball impact force. This will lead to a more consistent playability of the racquet, which includes a more repetitive feel. This desired “feel” implies using high elongation strings (greater than 10%). If low elongation strings are used (less than 4%), the SBS will significantly increase as the ball impact force increases, resulting in a racquet feeling “boardy” for higher impact loads. And low elongation strings will cause un-proportionally increasing load into the body.
As you can see by the graph, elongation contributes to SBS in a big way. The red line indicates a stiff string, about 4%, and the blue line indicates a “soft” string, about 15% elongation. You can see the loads increase dramatically as the impact increases. So the harder the hit the higher the loads on the body.
So to the question asked at the start “What is a soft tennis string?” In the context of the SBS discussed above, I would suggest that a soft tennis string is one whose elongation is 10-15%, and a stiff tennis string is 4-6%. And any string under 4% should be categorized as ultra-stiff.
String elongation (soft, stiff, ultra-stiff), stringing machine strung tension, and string pattern(s) all contribute to SBS and SBS is an important measure of how a racquet plays and should be adjusted for an individual player, stiff and ultra-stiff strings can lead to less-repeatable racquet performance and player injury.
Soft = 10 -15% Elongation Power Potential Range = 10.0 – 16.0
Stiff = 4 – 6% Elongation Power Potential Range = 4.0 – 7.0
Ultra Stiff = Less than 4% Power Potential Range = .65 – 3.96
A client just sent me the following statement and I think it has reason to be distributed amongst tennis players searching for “direction” when it comes to string and their game!
“Hah. Trying out these different strings has been very interesting. Over the past week or so, trying the different strings has given me some insight into what my game should be. I think usually people do it in reverse. They try to find the string that tailors to their game. By experimenting with the strings, I realize the direction my game should be going.”
“I’ve been coming to realize that my game is better with control and feel rather than power. Experimenting with different strings have helped me recognize this.”
Do you think this applies to you?
Monofilament string can be easily produced in almost any shape. Round, square, triangular, hexagonal, octagonal etc. So, on the surface that seems like a good thing. Who wouldn’t want the sharp edges digging into the ball creating even more spin!
But, there may be a side to the shape that needs considering and that is tension as it is applied to the string vs tension as it is in the racquet. Those can be two very different things!
When the main strings (the long ones usually) are installed they are free to move and will normally be only slightly “twisted”. This is more obvious with square and triangular strings.
This image shows one of the lower cross strings and the “twist” is obvious. So what?
So the tension on these strings will be considerably lower than expected.
Why? The machine tension head is set to pull each string to the desired setting, say 50 pounds. When the machine “feels” 50 pounds the tension head stops. The cross string will twist, just like a screw, as it passes over and under the main string. A twisted string will not pull through the adjacent main strings easily so the tension will, in this area, be less than desired.
This variation in “tension” can affect the way a ball comes off the racquet.
We use string spreading devices for every racquet and every type and shape of string. The “spreaders” raise and lower the main strings so there is no friction (twisting) between the cross string and the main string.
Not all racquet technicians use this type of device, so, the twisting can be mitigated by weaving the appropriate cross stings over and under the main string one at a time making sure they are not twisted and then apply the machine tension. This will result in a more consistent result.
If your racquet has cross strings that look like the image be sure to mention it to the stringer so it can be remedied.
When the discussion is about stiff polyester string, it will always include the word “hybrid”! Typically this word is used to convince players that by putting a “soft” multi-filament string in the cross position the string bed will be easier on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Intuitively this makes sense, but in reality, the reverse could be true!
I began analyzing hybrid string beds years ago and did many just to test the theory. At the time it did not seem so important because, frankly, the use of polyester based string did not approach the usage of current times.
I have nothing against the polyester string(s)! I do have an issue with bad applications of polyester string(s).
I am bringing this up again because recently an “interviewee” stated that that replacing the polyester cross string with a multi-filament would cure the ills of a very stiff string bed.
The bottom line:
A high elongation string of any material can increase the string bed stiffness of a hybrid string bed!
How can this be?
Stiff (polyester) strings are “stiff” and the tension applied to them during stringing is low. However, high elongation (multi-filament) strings will be influenced more by tension and become “stiffer”. The cross stings are typically shorter, and there are more of them, so the combined affect is stiffness.
The initial reaction to this conundrum is to automatically reduce tension on the cross string by a certain amount. Again this raises another issue, and that is racquet distortion.
During the installation of the main strings most stringing machines will allow the racquet to become wider, sometimes a lot wider! So, reducing the cross string tension may not return the racquet to the designed shape. What happens then is the racquet will continue to move around trying to find a “safe” place and therefore the string bed stiffness changes.
In summary, the hybrid string bed will not be statistically different than the full string bed of polyester. This is even truer if the initial string tensions of the polyester are very low, such as 35 to 40 pounds.
So if you feel the need to use polyester just go with lower, lower, tensions.
Racquet Quest sells only a few high performance racquet brands so it is not unusual for us to receive racquets purchased from on-line sources. These can be dropped shipped to us or brought in by the client.
That’s great. But here is the problem!
If you have a racquet technician in your neighborhood do not have the racquets strung by the online source! Take the racquet(s) to someone you trust, and, can be there if there is ever an issue, and this is an issue! The knot actually came untied! This is rare but is particularly likely when using a really “cheap” string and not knowing how to tie a proper knot!
Two things are happening here. The knot on the top is a “tie off” knot. While the tail may become loose it is not likely the knot will totally untie itself. The knot on the bottom is a “starting knot” and was subjected to the tension of the first cross string and, as you see, became a “not knot”.
This was very likely a “free” or “discounted” stringing so why not take advantage of the offer!
In this case, it is impossible to play with the racquet so what was saved by the cheap stringing?
This happens because the source knows that the racquet will probably not be returned for correcting the error(s) so who cares!
I care and you should care!
That is my “rant” for the day!
Has this ever happened to you? The string just breaks! For no reason, it just breaks!
Well, a closer look will tell a different story. The failure is referred to as a “mis-hit”, or “shank”, and is caused by hitting the ball at the junction of the string bed and racquet frame.
If look closely you will see a little yellow ball fuzz on the first broken string. So, if you are going to try to “sell” your story that it “just broke” be sure to clean off the ball fuzz before taking it back to the racquet technician. Keep in mind, however, that most racquet technicians have seen this failure before. Don’t try to fool them! 😉
All string materials are subject to this failure but some stand out as potential easy breakers. Thin gauge natural gut, probably the best racquet string ever, will fail at a load like this. Thin gauge PEEK string is likely to fail, as is some thin polyester based string. The point is almost any string will give up when encountered with massive head speed and a “mis-hit”.
As always be certain the grommets are in good condition especially around this area of the racquet.
When we think of “tolerance” we think of traffic, noise, and generally putting up with things, but normally we don’t think of tennis racquets!
However, we should! Tolerance means “what are the allowable variations between racquets of the same model”. Not all racquet manufacturers are the same but it would be a good guess the tolerance will be plus or minus 7 grams for example in total weight and maybe plus or minus 2 points for balance. A “point” is ⅛ of an inch so that is potentially a ½ inch difference! You can see in the picture why there can be variations. A lot of parts!
While “swing weight” is a very important characteristic it is difficult for manufacturers to match that so they will generally add a little weight in the rear end of the racquet to make the static balance the same.
In case you don’t recognize it plus or minus 7 grams adds up to about half an ounce!
For example one racquet can weigh 300 grams and another 314 grams with the specification of 307 grams showing up on header cards and advertising! Please know that racquet manufactures try their best to make all “performance” racquets the same. They do not purposefully make out of spec racquets!
But if they miss the mark…
This is where “customization” comes in handy. So don’t worry too much if your “tolerance” is “intolerable”. It can be fixed!