Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Does your stringing tension remind you of a trampoline?

Doug Browne

Doug Browne

Okay, it is time to test your memory: Do you recall the old days when Bjorn Borg used to play with his trusty Donnay tennis rackets? Were you aware that he used to have his rackets strung at such a high tension that they would break without hitting a ball? When Bjorn Borg was traveling the World Tour, he would line up as many as twelve to fourteen frames near his bedside. Without touching his rackets, two or three frames would snap during the middle of the night because his tension was as high as 80 pounds! On the other end of the spectrum, legend John McEnroe preferred a lighter, softer tension and would string his old Dunlop frames at the 49- to 52-pound range.

To me, the best way to describe how string tension works is if one compares it to a trampoline. Usually, a friend down the street would purchase a new trampoline and then have the gang over to try it out.  Even though it was ‘cool’ to test out the new trampoline, none of us were able to jump extremely high because the device needed to be broken in. So, if you string your new racket tight, you will gain control but little power. Conversely, when young children would jump on an older, more seasoned trampoline, they could fly quite high and it could be dangerous. Therefore, the well-used trampoline is similar to a looser string pattern: power rules.

Senior tennis players beware:  High stringing tensions combined with thicker gauge strings can cause injury. In particular, if a sixty-year-old player uses the new poly 16-gauge strings and then strings a mid-size frame (96 to 100 square-inch racket head size) above 59 pounds, there is little ‘give’ and one miss-hit ball could result in a worn out elbow or shoulder. Therefore, I high recommend senior players avoid the temptation to use the new Luxilon or poly-blend 15- and 16-gauge strings as they can wear on your body. Most stringing companies offer 17- and 18-gauge synthetic strings which offer plenty of power and are much easier on the body. Specifically, mid-size rackets should not be strung above 59 or 60 pounds and over-size frames should not rise past 62 or 63 pounds of tension. Presently, I use a frame that is 100 square-inches and I now string it with 17-gauge and 53 pounds. The racket now feels lighter in my hand and I’m able to move through the air must faster. Finally, I urge all senior tennis players to re-examine their string gauges and their string tensions.  Good luck.

Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year.  Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.

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