Ask the Pro Shop: Enhancing Spin Without Polyester
Question: I wish I could switch to a monofilament for more spin, but I find the stiffness of the string causes my arm to be overly tired and sore. What other equipment changes can I make to impart more spin on the ball?
Answer: According to Adam Queen, of Your Serve Tennis, in Atlanta, players searching for more spin, sans polyester, should look to wider string patterns and thinner gauges. “Polyester strings can be very harsh on the arm, because they simply do not absorb vibration and lose their resiliency very quickly,” says Queen. “For more spin, use as thin a string as you can. The downfall to thinner strings is decreased durability, so find a balance between spin and durability that you can afford. Also try using a racquet that has an open strings pattern (such as 16x18 or 16x19) with as much spacing between strings as possible. Oversized racquets can help you generate more spin, because the string spacing is typically wider; however, it can become difficult to control the power in most oversize frames.”
Answer: Roman Prokes, of RPNY Tennis, in New York, agrees that narrower string diameters and more open patterns can allow for additional RPMs. But before abandoning polyester completely, he advises players to first try hybriding it with natural gut or a multifilament. “With monofilaments, players have access to great spin and control. However, the strings are pretty dead and hard. Blending polyester with gut will still give you spin and control, but it’ll also give you feel and touch.” (For a more durable stringbed, install the poly in the mains and gut in the crosses; for a softer, more comfortable feel, reverse the strings’ orientations, installing gut in the mains.)
Answer: Joe Heydt, of Racquet Corner, in Omaha, also recommends adjusting your stringbed as a way to increase spin without diminishing comfort. But remember, Heydt says, “the string is only there to accentuate the spin that your technique allows. If Nadal switched to a Continental grip for his forehand instead of a full Western, his topspin would diminish drastically. Polyester is pretty durable compared to the other families of strings, so unless you’re having problems with strings breaking too quickly, I'm not convinced that you necessarily need a poly to get the spin that you are looking for.”
Bottom Line: To maximize your spin production minus polyester, try thinner strings and/or a more open string pattern. Also consider hybriding poly with a multifilament or natural gut for greater comfort. As always, consult with a qualified racquet technician or tennis professional; they should be able to help you determine the racquet and string setup that’s best for you.
*Originally published in the November 15th, 2012 issue of Tennis 15-30