While tennis players put a lot of focus is on tennis racquets, its strings are equally important and a lot of study and research has gone into the various aspects of racquet restringing. If you are looking to understand why is tennis racquet restringing done, the time needed for it and the factors to consider before doing that, here’s more.
Why do You Need to Restring?
The basic mechanics of how a tennis shot is produced goes something like this. The strings produce tension when the ball impacts the racquet. The higher the tension, the less time the ball will stay on the racquet. This is because when the strings are tight, they will not stretch as much, allowing the ball to leave the surface of the strings quicker. So let’s look at some of the reasons why one may need to restring.
Retain Tension in the Strings
The moment the tension in the strings goes down, the stretching will increase. This will mean that the ball will stay longer on the strings and thus will change the trajectory and the pace at which it will be returned. Now a naked eye can’t observe the extra time that the ball will stay on the strings.
But even a difference of a few milliseconds means that you are likely to return the ball longer or with less pace then you expected.
So basically, you do not want your strings to lose tension, right? Yes, but the nature of the strings itself means that it will lose some tension every single time you hit the ball. Of course, the decrease will be proportional to the power and velocity that you hit the shot with. The strings are likely to lose the most amount of tension when they are new.
For example, brand new strings are likely to lose about 15-20% of its tension on the very first day that you use it. That too within the first 40-50 shots that you hit.
But the pace of losing the tension won’t always remain the same. Once it has lost its initial burst of tension, the level will stabilise. The strings are likely to lose very little tension once it reaches an optimum level. But as you continue playing it, eventually you will reach a stage where you will need to restring it.
Purpose of a Particular Type of String
Losing the tension in the strings is just one reason. There are many other factors as well that will tell you why you need to restring. One of them is the loss of purpose for which you got a particular string. Almost all the players who play frequently, know the very reason why they have got a particular string.
One may want more topspin in your shots and have got polyester or Kevlar strings. A player may have got natural gut strings to reduce the impact on their shoulder or tennis elbow. Or one may be using a hybrid string to maximise power and its impact on the body.
Whichever is the purpose, the more that you play with a string, the less it is likely to fulfil it. For example, to generate topspin, you need to keep resilience in the string and get the snapback effect. Now if you have got a polyester string for that, with time, it will lose its tension resulting in lower topspin, and the purpose won’t be served.
Overcompensation in Shots & Damage to Elbow/Shoulder
One of the hidden but more dangerous reasons why one should restring is overcompensation in the shots, change in hitting technique and impact on the players’ body. The tension in the string determines how hard one needs to hit the shot.
As the tension reduces, the player is likely to get less power, less topspin, less accuracy and distance in your shots. Subconsciously, one will start to hit the ball harder and overcompensate with their movements to get the same results.
So ideally one wants the same tension in the strings every time they play so that they can focus on improving the skills. But when the tension is constantly going down, what happens is that the technique keeps readjusting, which is not an ideal scenario.
One of the effects of having to change your technique and put more effort into the shot is the impact it will have on the body. The extra tension it will pass on to the player’s arm is likely to cause shoulder and tennis elbow issues as well.
How do You Know Its Time to Restring?
So now we know the reasons why restringing is needed. But what is the signs to look out for that will hint that it is time to restring. Of course, the thumb rule of tennis says that you should restring as many times as you play.
For example, if you play five times a week, you should restring five times a week. Now that is practical if you are playing professionally, and every time you step on to the court to practice or play, a lot is riding on it. But for most players, it is not a practical solution.
Following are the indicators and signs that one should be looking out for. It will help them in deciding when to replace the strings.
The more you play, the strings will notch due to the constant friction it goes through. You can look at in the middle of the racquet. The deeper the notches become, the closer it is to the time when you should reconsider replacing your strings.
Except for the polyester strings, every other gut string will fray the more you use them. That is because the material from which natural or artificial strings are made consists of tiny fibres. Repeated impacts with the ball will break them up and fray the strings.
When you see a lot of that all over your strings, it is time to replace it. This will not occur in polyester strings because it only has a single solid filament, unlike all the other strings.
The Difference in Shot Results
If you are constantly hitting the ball just long if your serving stats have dropped without reason or your opponent is comfortably reaching to the shots you thought were clear winners, the problem may not be your game. Losing power, accuracy and control are the first signs that the stretching in your strings is beyond repair. And it is time to replace them.
Lack of Bite and Spin
For certain strings like polyester and kevlar strings, a reduced tension means the snapback effect will be lower. This will result in a lack of spin or bite in your shots. If you experience this in the game, it may be a good time to restring.
Factors to Consider When Restringing
So we have looked at why does one need to restring and what are the signs that it is time to replace them. But very importantly, there are factors that one should keep in mind which will help in deciding whether to restring as well as how frequently one should do it.
Level of Tennis One Plays
For someone who plays tennis as a way of spending more time with friends, family and colleagues, how much they win and the topspin they generate is not a huge concern.
But for Rafael Nadal who may be defending his French Open title and win his 20th Grand Slam, it will be a huge deal. So the level of competition you are playing at plays a big part in determining the frequency of restringing.
Professional players have a team with them and get their strings redone after each practice session as well as each match. This is why we also see players carrying so many racquets with them during matches. But for someone who just plays the sport for fun, they may not need to replace the strings very often.
Touch players, players who like to come to the net a lot or the players with an Eastern Grip may not need to restring very frequently. This is because their game is dependent on placing the shots rather than bludgeoning them and the strings would take a lesser beating due to that.
But a hard-hitting player with a western grip will need to restring more frequently. Not only because the damage to the string will be quicker. But also because that style of play relies on power and baseline hitting to win points. A string with lower amounts of tension will negate that.
How Often do You Play
As discussed in the earlier section, the golden rule of restringing it is to do it every time you play. But that will not be a practical approach for anyone who doesn’t play the sport professionally.
One player may play for only a few minutes each day whereas another player might be playing for three hours once a week. The later will need to restring first despite playing the sport less frequently. When to restring is entirely down to each player and what they are most comfortable with.
But the best approach to restring is to do it once you have played with it for 25-30 times. This is an arbitrary number and changes according to how much one plays every time and the weather. For example, if you are playing once a week, you should get restringing done a couple of times each year.
We shall take a look at how much does it cost to restring in the next section. But of course, restringing is not something that can be done without taking into account the cost of doing it. Every single player has a budget that they would be comfortable to spend on the sport.
So replacing your string will heavily depend on how much you want to spend. It will also have an impact on the kind of string that you are using, which in turn once again changes how often you need to replace it.
Ease of playing
Some players play the sport just for fun and pleasure. For them, comfort is a priority and thus would want to change the strings more often than others.
Some players may also have elbow and shoulder conditions, and that means they want to make sure that the string gives them maximum protection against any damages or injuries. While for some, putting in a bit of extra power and stiffness isn’t a problem and they may choose not to replace the strings for a while longer.
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