Question of the Day: Control, Spin, and Open String Patterns

by: Justin diFeliciantonio | November 27, 2012

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Hi Justin. I play with a Prince Original Graphite Mid, which I bought from Tennis Warehouse. I bought it for its traditional and unique feel, as well as its arm friendliness. The only issue I have with the racquet is its open string pattern (14x18): It causes me to overhit if I flatten my shots out, which is my natural playing style. To solve this, I’m thinking of trying to introduce more spin into my game. Is there another string that'll help me achieve more spin? I’m currently stringing with Babolat Addiction (57 lbs), and am not a fan of the polys. Cheers!—Claude Baldachino


It’s possible, Claude, that your open string pattern is to blame for your misdirection when hitting flat. As the USRSA (U.S. Racquet Stringing Association) points out in its certification study guide: “Generally speaking”—and all else being equal—“a more open string pattern yields lower stringbed stiffness than a dense pattern. Whether either one provides more control depends on style of play…Spin players may claim increased control on an open pattern because the strings can embed deeper into the ball, whereas a flat hitter finds more control with a dense pattern due to the increased stringbed stiffness.”

Put in relevant terms: An open string pattern, like that of your 14x18, will play “looser” at a given tension than an identically strung, dense string pattern (e.g., 18x20). For certain flat-hitting players, such looseness can cause a loss of control, resulting in more shots hit deep and wide.

Obviously, the simplest solution to your problem—the one that won’t require you to change your playing style or your racquet—is to raise your string tension a few pounds. Start by going to 60 lbs., and see if that helps you reel in more shots.

If, however, you adjust for tension and find that you’re still having problems with control, it may be wise to choose a string that’ll allow for more spin. Toward this end, I’d recommend that you playtest Babolat Pro Hurricane (18 gauge). Yes, it’s polyester, but compared to the rest of the poly market, it’s pliable and relatively arm-friendly; while it’ll lose more tension, it should play pretty similarly to the Babolat Addiction you’re currently using. (According to the USRSA’s stiffness ratings, Addiction 16 measures 198 lbs./in.; Pro Hurricane measures 187 lbs./in.)

(Note: If you prioritize arm safety over spin production, you should, of course, string with natural gut instead of a nylon or monofilament.)

Above all, remember that it’s your technique, not your string, that’s the most important factor in spin production. If you swing on a completely level plane, it doesn’t matter which string is in your racquet: You'll still hit without rotation. Good luck.

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