High or low the tension question?


For players in cold weather climates the best time of the year is coming…spring. Time to put away your cold weather clothes get out you short sleeves and play tennis outdoors! With the change from indoors to out, it is a great time to try lowering the tension in your racquets.

When you play indoors there are no elements to contend with, no sun, no wind, and no weather at all. As you move outdoors for the new season, the first thing you realize is that it is harder to get the ball deeper in the court. One quick and easy fix is to try dropping the tension in your racquet

With advances in string and racquet technology, players are able to take bigger and faster swings while still being able to control the ball. Many players have copied the pros and taken to using some form of polyester and co-polyester strings. The advantage of polyester fibers is the ability to create tremendous amounts of spin and power without losing control of the ball.

The main issues with polyester type strings are shoulder, elbow, and wrist pain. In addition to arm issues, polyester strings are their most dynamic at lower tensions, most companies recommend stringing polyester strings at 10% lower tensions than your normal string.

For many of the players I work with, especially juniors, they do not know what tension they should be stringing their racquets at for optimum performance. Many follow the recommend tension levels which tend to be on the high side. I feel than once a player achieves a competent playing level the more they can drop their tension the better they will play.

The best way to approach this change is gradually, I discuss it with the client, let them know it’s not going to be anything major, and that we can always change back. Start by dropping 2-5 pounds, 60 to 56 is my favorite drop. Once they have gotten used to 56 try 54 or a hybrid tension such as 53/57. Than continue to play with the tensions until you find the perfect spot. For top level players I would see how low you can go while still keeping the control. I have a former touring professional who I string a 16/19 98 sq in racquet with a poly/synthetic blend at 44/48 and he feels that he doesn’t even have to swing to generate power on the ball.

The three main reasons to lower tension are the dynamic increase of the string, decreasing the chances of arm pain, and added power when moving outdoors.

The dynamic power of polyester is wasted at high tensions. Many players sour quickly on polyester strings because they feel pain which can easily be avoided by lower the string tension to a more manageable level. Finally, in the move from climate controlled indoor courts to more variable outdoor courts you will find the added power and feel a welcomed benefit to lowering the tension in your racquets. In the years since I graduated college I have dropped my personal tension from 60/62 to 51/53 with similar string set ups and I cannot be happier.


2 Responses to “High or low the tension question?”

  1. David W. Hume Says:

    I agree with the tension reduction. You string the mains with polyester approx two pounds less than the synthetic crosses. I usually string the opposite, but am not sure that is best. I string alot of racquets with this hybrid, poly/synthetic, or lux/synthetic. I should string the mains a bit looser than the crosses since the synthetic will stretch more? What is your advice?

  2. sunray1985 Says:


    Definitely string the polyester strings looser. For two reasons, first to combat the stiffness of the polyester strings on the elbow and shoulder. Secondly, to achieve the highest output from polyester strings it the string needs to be strung at lower tensions.

    If you notice when you have polyester in your racquet you rarely need to straighten the strings. The reason behind that, is poly strings have the ability to separate when the ball impacts the string to create a space for the ball to come into the racquet, they then snap back into place propelling the ball off the strings with maximum power. Because of this ability the lower the string is tensioned at the more it has the ability to separate and the ball with explode off the string bed. Let me know if you have any other questions.


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