Tennis String Options: An Overview

Tennis String : An Overview

There are many things that go into tennis – a racket, shoes, skill, the court. When discussing the racket, there are strings, a grip, head size – so many things. Let’s focus on the strings.

Picking the right kind of strings may seem a little daunting as there are a number of options.

Synthetic? Synthetic gut? Natural gut? Kevlar? 15-gauge? 17-gauge? String tension? Hybrid pattern?

What does all of this mean?

We’ll break it down for you so when you’re picking out your next set of strings, you’ll be better informed.

We’ve already covered the soup to nuts of how to string a racket and scratched the surface on string types and gauges there, but here we’ll get into more detail about the string being used.


Natural Gut Tennis Strings

Using natural gut strings is an investment in your racket. It can be pricey compared to other string materials out there.

You definitely get what you pay for, and natural gut is known as a very high-quality tennis string.

Most natural gut string is made from a cow’s gut. Yes – it’s made from a natural material and that material is sourced from a cow. It’s aptly named.

Producing this type of string is expensive as it requires quite a bit of labor. The finished product is very elastic which provides greater power potential than a less elastic material.

Due to the elasticity, there’s more give which is less taxing on the arm. Using natural gut strings is in line with adding a vibration dampener as much of the vibrations aren’t felt by the player.

As a non-synthetic substance, the durability of natural gut strings isn’t as high.

Synthetic Tennis Strings

threading crosses while stringing tennis racket

Strings that aren’t made of a natural material are synthetic. It’s pretty straightforward with the names… There are many types of synthetic string.

Synthetic string is for most non-professional players.  It’s more cost-effective and us club players don’t really need natural gut strings.

Keep in mind that within the category of synthetic strings, there is a lot of variety available and many price points. These are lower end strings that are less expensive to manufacture, but can still provide a great playing experience.

They’re of a lower quality (as compared to natural gut), but are no means low quality tennis string.

Nylon String

There are many different varieties of synthetic gut strings in the market that you can choose from.

The most popular choice on the list of synthetic gut strings are nylon strings. They are an inexpensive choice compared to other tennis racket strings.

In fact, back in the day nylon strings were the only type that tennis players used on their rackets.

Synthetic Gut String

broken strings tennis racket

These strings are well-priced, but most options aren’t extremely durable.

They’re a solid option for those just beginning or for those players who play once in a while.

Polyester String

Polyester tennis strings are known to have stiffness and durability.  They can be produced at much thinner gauges yet still remain durable.

They do tend to lose tension and are unforgiving to your arm. If you have arm/tennis elbow issues, I’d recommend staying away from polyester strings.

Kevlar String

Kevlar is known as a harsh string without much feel.  If you hit the ball hard and break your strings a lot, Kevlar might be for you.

Super stiff and the most durable. Holds tension well.

Features Recap

Durable Nylon, Polyester and Kevlar
Playability / Control Natural Gut, Synthetic Gut
Cost Effective Nylon, Synthetic Gut
Tension Retention Natural Gut, Kevlar

String Gauges

String Gauge and Performance

There are many different types of string gauges for your tennis racquet. The string gauge tells you how thick or thin it is. Gauges run from 15 to 19.

A 16-gauge is a very common string gauge for tennis rackets. The higher the number the thinner the strings will be. Yes, the numbering sequence works in reverse order.

A gauge of 15 is actually the thickest (1.51 mm to 1.49 mm), while 19 is the thinnest (1.00 mm to 1.10 mm).

Thinner string tends to be less durable, but they provide much more feel when striking the ball. A thicker string (15-gauge) will last for a long time, but you won’t have nearly the feel as with a 19-gauge string. With a 15-gauge, you may feel like you’re hitting the ball with a 2×4!

But with 15-gauge string, you should be able to hit quite a bit of topspin and not worry about breaking strings every time you hit the court.

It’s all about personal preference. If you hit better with thinner strings, then it will positively affect your performance. If thicker strings and not having to restring as often is your preference, so be it.

Hybrid String Pattern

hybrid string pattern

Using the same type of string in the mains and crosses is referred to as “full bed.” Hybrid stringing refers to using two different string types on the main strings and cross strings.

These strings can be different in texture or even thickness. An example would be using a synthetic poly string (16-gauge) on the mains and a natural gut string (17-gauge) on the crosses.

The mains are often the workhorses of the racket.

In the instance of using a thicker, synthetic material on the mains, you’ll have greater durability.

With the crosses having a thinner, natural string, they provide the touch desired.

The best part of the hybrid string pattern is that you can get your racket customized to the strings that best fit your tennis playing needs.

Using two different types of string allows you to create your preferred manner of durability and feel rather than being constrained by choosing a single string type.

You can also combine more and less expensive strings so that you don’t bust your budget every time your racket is restrung.

Wrapping Up...

There are many different types of string and gauge combinations you can use with your tennis racket.

Just like when starting a new way of eating or workout program, there’s going to be trial and error to hone in on your preferences with your racket string.

Do your research and get the strings that best suit your tennis playing needs whether your focus is on string movement, string type, higher tension or lower tension – the combination that’s best for you is out there.

Be aware that it may take a bit of patience to find the tennis strings or combination that clicks for you. At least you’ll be playing tennis while you figure it out.