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: My son, age 40, is coming off surgery to repair his elbow. He hopes to get back on the court by the first of the year. Is natural gut the easiest string on your elbow? Or would a combo of gut and another string, like you recently discussed, be about as good and much more economical? Also, we have been told that Völkl racquets are very easy on the elbow. Any opinion? Thanks for your thoughts.—Michael C.
Thanks for writing in, Michael. Natural gut is, without a doubt, the most elbow-friendly string available on the market today. Of course, other types of strings are loads cheaper. But nothing else—not multifilaments, not polyester—even comes close to gut in terms of pliancy and shock absorption. Given that your son’s major goal, at least for now, is arm protection, it’d be ideal for him to string full stringbeds of gut offered in a thin gauge. Toward this end, Babolat VS Team 17 is a good choice, as is Wilson Natural 17, Pacific Prime Gut 17, or Klip Legend 17.
Of course, these diameters of gut won’t last too long if your son swings longer, faster, and/or with any measure of spin. If this is the case, going to a thicker and more durable gut, like Babolat VS Touch 16, would be acceptable. However, while it’s certainly understandable to worry about price, I wouldn’t recommend installing a gut substitute or hybriding with a cheaper synthetic string. Doing so will raise the stringbed stiffness substantially—a bad move for a fragile elbow.
(Regarding my own string setup, it’s really immaterial to your son’s situation; I hybrid gut and a monofilament for a combination of softness and performance consideration—i.e. spin production—the latter of which should not be a factor in your son’s string choices.)
As for Völkl racquets, I wouldn’t say that they’re exclusively elbow-friendly, but they do offer a number of frames constructed with vibration-dampening technologies and the proper weight/balance ratios that should be kind to ailing arms. For more information about picking out elbow-friendly equipment, read “Tackling Tennis Elbow,” a post I wrote back in October on this topic.