As a tennis professional I am often asked, "How often should I restring my racquet, and what type of string should I use?" I love to experiment with different types of strings and different tensions. I encourage my customers to do the same.
There is a simple rule that you restring once per year for every time you play per week. If you play once per week, you should string once per year. Playing twice per week means restringing twice per year and so on. There are three main things to think about when restringing your racquet: the type of string, the tension of the string and the thickness (gauge) of the string.
Nylon strings are one of the cheapest strings on the market today. They are less soft and have a lower playability, but they last a long time. Synthetic gut is the most popular inexpensive string as it has a better playability then nylon but doesn't last as long. This is a good string for beginners and for the casual player. Multifilament strings are a soft, higher playability string that also have better power and feel then nylon or synthetic gut. This type of strings costs a little more then nylon or synthetic and has similar durability to synthetic. Natural gut is the softest string made and has the highest playability of the soft strings. Unfortunately, natural gut has a price tag to match. Average cost of natural gut stringing is around $45 to $55 compared to $18 to $25 for nylon/synthetic and $25 to $35 for multifilament string.
The newest (and the most popular) strings on the pro tour are high level polyester-based strings. Polyester is a very firm string that plays very differently from the softer synthetic and multifilament strings. The feel is very crisp and gives a good amount of spin, power and durability. Polyester-based strings are usually better for players with larger or faster swings. Polyester is also popular right now to use in hybrid stringing - using two different types of string in your racquet. Polyester string would be used in the lengthwise strings (or mains) and a softer string in the horizontal strings (or crosses). This gives both the durability and power from the polyester coupled with the soft feel of the synthetic or multifilament.
You should string your racket based on what you are looking for out of the racket. Each racket has a recommended tension, which is usually a 10-pound range. If your racket has a recommended tension of 50 to 60 pounds you will string it at the lower end of that range for more power and at the higher range for more control.
If you aren't sure what tension to string, it is a safe bet to go right in the middle of the recommended range. One thing to keep an eye on is that after a while your strings will lose tension. This is the main reason people will get their rackets restrung. as the racket you strung at 55 pounds six months ago has probably lost 20 percent of that tension, therefore giving you a racket with a "trampoline" feeling as you hit the ball and is therefore much more difficult to control.
The gauge, or thickness, of a string is something that often gets overlooked. This is actually a very important detail that you should pay attention to. The higher the number, the thinner the string. If you don't break strings very often it is usually better to use a thinner (17 gauge) string than the thicker (16 or 15 gauge) string. Thinner strings give you better feel and power at contact and also give you the ability to get more spin on the ball. However, if you hit with a lot of power and spin and are a string breaker, you want a thicker gauge string.
•Bryan Hartley is the director of tennis at the Tega Cay Tennis Club and has strung rackets on the pro tour for many of the top professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.