Question of the Day: Tension Loss and Hiatuses
TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.
Justin, How long do you think I can legitimately leave my racket lying around, without adversely affecting its string tension and quality? I play with a Babolat AeroPro Drive Cortex. The stick remains unused throughout a two month-long vacation period, following which it immediately sees some pretty hard use.—Varun
It really depends on several factors, Varun. For starters, what level player are you? Typically, beginner players (2.5 to 3.0) can tolerate larger changes in tension than intermediate to advanced players (3.5 to 4.5+), simply because beginners are less proficient at perceiving changes in their stringbed. (Remember, we’re talking in relative terms here; advanced rec. players’ “stringbed sense” is nowhere near as acute as that of a professional.) So if you’re just starting out, two month-old strings may be fine to knock the ball around with. But if you’ve been playing for some time—which I imagine you have—you would do well to restring before hitting the court post-vacation.
Why? What’s the rationale? Put simply, the longer strings stay in a racquet, the more tension they will lose. And the more tension that’s lost, the more unfamiliar your racquet—as well as your game—will feel. “If a racquet is strung with a nylon string at a tension of 60 pounds,” Rod Cross and Crawford Lindsey write in Technical Tennis, “then the tension will have dropped to around 55 pounds by the time the racquet arrives on the court. The tension drops rapidly in the first half hour after stringing and will drop further as the weeks go by, even without hitting a ball. Hitting a ball many times acts to decrease the tension even further.”
The upshot here is that, by the time those two months pass, your strings are likely to have lost at least half their initial reference tension—more if you string with polyester, which is notoriously inept at remaining taut. (If, however, you play with natural gut, you may be okay, as gut remains elastic and holds tension extremely well.)
So before entering back into the fold, Varun, get that racquet restrung. And restring regularly thereafter—about every 10 to 15 hours of play if you use polyester, and a few hours longer if you string with a nylon or multifilament. Trust me. Your game will thank you.