Question of the Day: String Lengths, Stringing Technique, and Tension Loss
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.
I just read your article about Roger Federer’s string tensions. At the end of the piece, you talked about longer strings being softer than shorter ones. My question is: Will it be softer and better for my arm if I string my racquet with a one-piece or two-piece method? I typically string in two pieces, mainly because it’s easier. I use Luxilon, and string the mains at 53 and the crosses at 52 lbs.—John Moak
Thanks for writing in, John. On principle alone, you’re right to say that, when pulled once and at the same reference tension (i.e., how many pounds the stringing machine displays), a longer string will always play “looser” than a shorter string. For example, if you use a stringer to pull 60 lbs. on the ends of two lengths of the same string—say, one five feet long and another five inches long—the five-foot-long string won’t be nearly as taut (read: stiff) as the five-inch one; upon impact, the former will “give” much more than the latter.
All else being equal, that’s why tensions installed in racquets with smaller head sizes, like Federer’s Wilson Six.One Tour, play slightly tighter (viz., one to two pounds) than equivalent tensions in bigger-headed racquets: Midsized stringbeds, compared to those in mid-plus and oversized sticks, comprise shorter main and cross strings.
But with respect to your question: Some stringers do claim that installing string in two pieces results in more tension loss (in order of ~one to two lb.) than just using one piece—but not because of the above case. (Remember, if you’re stringing properly, you won’t just pull tension on the racquet once; you’ll be tensioning and clamping off each main/cross, which makes the total length of string in the racquet irrelevant to how stiff your stringbed plays.)
Really, when it comes to tension loss, the main difference between one- and two-piece jobs is the number of knots—two knots for one-piece, four knots for two-piece. Unless your knot technique is impeccable, tying off the last main or cross is where you’re most likely to lose tension.
For all practical purposes, John, if you’re looking to protect your arm, the easiest and most sensible path to take is to just drop your reference tension. Try playing with your Luxilon in the high 40s, and don’t sweat going to a one-piece job. Two-piecing is, indeed, much faster. And besides, your time would be better spent focusing on stringing each of your racquets correctly and consistently. Toward that end, consider becoming a member of the United States Racquet Stringing Association. For more information, visit their website at www.racquettech.com.