How often should I restring my racquet?
For decades now, the adage has been to restring your racquet “as many times per year as you play per week”. Some time back, I had the opportunity to discuss this with the man who came up with it. Even he agrees now that this is not sufficient.
Since the phrase was coined, we’ve learned a lot about how strings react under use, and it’s not always pretty. Even gut strings — which maintain playability longer than anything man-made — will lose their tension and resilience, becoming inefficient for your game. Synthetic gut and, especially, polyester strings will do so much faster.
A good restringing schedule for most club players would be to replace gut strings after 50-60 hours of play, synthetic gut or multi-filaments after 40 hours of use, and polyester before 40 hours of playing time has elapsed. As a minimum.
I don’t have the exact numbers, but I’m quite confident that the average tennis player spends more money every year on coffee, beer, wine or ice cream than they do on strings. Rearrange the budget a little if you must, but do yourself and your game a favor by getting on a good stringing schedule.
My strings aren’t broken. They’re still OK. Right?
Probably not. If your usage has approached or exceeded the hours of play noted above, you should replace them. Most players who wait for strings to break before restringing are not doing themselves any favors. Loss of string playability and tension are major culprits in bad play and injury for racquet sports players.
Only the biggest-hitting spin players should be waiting for strings to break. And maybe not all of them, either.
I don’t need to replace my grip. I always use an overgrip. Right?
I get this one a lot these days. Virtually everyone (except me) uses an overgrip now, and the replacement grip underneath gets ignored. However, it does serve a purpose, and does wear out.
Every time you hit a shot, you squeeze down on the handle of the racquet, compressing the padding in the grip. Over time, the padding wears down, and the grip reduces in size. I get many racquets in the shop that are a full grip size smaller than they were when new, and this is not good for the player.
Smaller grips mean less cushion and shock absorption, and that the player must grip tighter to keep the racquet from twisting in their hands. Both are causes of various arm/wrist/shoulder problems.
In a perfect world, racquets would be restrung and regripped at the same time (when you hit a ball with the strings, you’re also squeezing the grip. Right?). Even if you don’t do that, you should change your replacement grip at least a couplhttps://imagecolorizer.com/e of times per year.
I have tennis elbow. Do I need a lighter racquet?
No, and maybe just the opposite. Technique problems cause injuries more often than equipment woes, but racquet weight can be an issue, but it works differently than you might think.
Mass is a great shock absorber, and a lighter racquet will not “defend” against the ball very well, especially if you play against people who hit hard. A heavier, more head light frame will have a higher “recoil weight”, which would keep it from “kicking back” in your hands (which is especially valuable at net if you’re a doubles player). You can add weight at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions in the head if you need more torsional stability, which is a common customization move.
It is possible to use a racquet that is too heavy, but the opposite is much more common. We could check your racquet’s specs against your style of play to get the answers you need.
My child is starting tennis. Can they use my old racquet?
Probably not a good idea. Our kids are usually smaller than we are, and should use smaller racquets. Since the introduction of the USTA’s 10-and-under tennis initiative, the racquet companies have flooded the market with kid’s racquets. Varying from 19 to 26 inches, there is a good choice for almost any kid.
My best advice is to get them a good one. I know you would start them with an inexpensive, pre-strung aluminum racquet but, once they show an interest, make an investment in a quality graphite racquet for them. They’ll play better and enjoy their tennis more.
How often should I get a new racquet?
Most manufacturers are now recommending every couple of years or so. If you don’t hit hard or string a lot, you could probably get by for awhile longer but, if your racquet is over 5 years old, I’d consider replacing it. Not only are the frame fibers weaker from the stresses of stringing and play, but there has most likely been a change in your game due to age, injury, improvement or decline in skills, etc, that should prompt an equipment review, at least.
I sweat a lot. Should I get the tackiest grip I can find?
I think just the opposite: get an absorbent, “dry” type grip.
Most grips and overgrips are made to be tacky, which works well for most players. However, if you sweat a lot, that tacky layer seems (to me, anyway) to force sweat to “pool up” on it and not be absorbed away from your hands. A “dry” grip will absorb the sweat better, letting you hands stay dry.
Also, try rosin bags or a number of other products available to help with sweaty hands.
How can I make sure I’m using the right grip size?
There are a couple of ways to check. First, measure your dominant playing hand (forehand) from the second crease down the palm to the tip of your ring finger (in as straight a line as possible). That number is most likely a good fit for you. Secondly, you could hold the racquet in a normal grip, then take the index finger of your (not someone else’s) other hand and stick in between your fingers and thumb. If there is just a little pressure needed to get it in there, the size is probably OK. If you have to force it in, it’s most likely too small. If there is a gap between them, you may be using too large of a grip.
The second method is not as accurate as the first, in my experience.
I hear the pros are using small grips. Should I try it too?
Most likely not. While the trend toward smaller grips on tour does have some truth to it, not everyone is following along. In my time stringing for some of the best players in the world, I haven’t noticed many using an “extreme” small grip. 4 3/8 is the most common size on tour, in my experience, just like it’s the most popular one amongst club players. The main difference is that they have most likely done exhaustive testing to make sure it works for them (I believe Venus and Serena use 4 5/8!).
You could experiment to see if a handle size change would help you, but only under the supervision of a qualified technician. Just like a worn grip, one that’s too small out of the box can lead to injuries.
I need some of those new strings that will help me hit with more spin.
Sorry, but you’re out of luck.
While modern polyester-based strings are promoted as being more “spin-friendly”, they will only help you increase your RPMs of topspin if you swing on the proper path with a lot of speed.
The “snap back” effect from poly strings is real, but only if you swing from low to high quite quickly. Since most of don’t do one or both of these, poly strings won’t help with spin generation and may, in fact, hurt our games: being quite a bit stiffer in most cases, power and comfort are much reduced.
If you want to know, when someone asks me how they can get more spin, my answer is always “lessons”. Strings aren’t the “miracle pill”.
Why should I listen to you? My pro says something else, and they know my game.
Fair enough. But, there is a difference between “knowing your game” and “knowing your equipment”. Most teaching pros I encounter haven’t taken the time to become educated about equipment and its role in a player’s development. Also, most only deal in one company’s product (the one that sponsors them) and, while they may offer nice things, it may not be what’s best for you.
Consulting with an experienced racquet technician isn’t an insult to your coach. In fact, it may help them to teach you better, since you can get any equipment problems you have sorted out. I urge pros to work with me: I’m not out to steal students, just help them play better.
Is there anyone better than Neil Diamond? Absolutely not. End of discussion.