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 recently bought a new Head Graphene Speed MP, which my stringer just laced up with Luxilon Timo 18 gauge at 55 pounds. The factory-strung demo played like a dream. But with this set of strings, my racquet’s playing really stiff with very little feel. Is my racquet strung too tight for these strings?—Chris
If your Speed is playing stiffer than that “dream” demo, Chris, it’s a good bet that the stick is indeed strung too tight for your tastes. Even though you’re playing with the thinner, 18-gauge Timo—which should offer a slightly softer feel, compared to, say, Alu Power 16—it’s still a good idea to string it like other monofilaments. Which means lower tensions. As I’ve learned over the past year, the general consensus among stringers seems to be that recreational players should first try poly at a tension somewhere in the high 40s to low 50s, in lbs., and then tweak from there as your tastes dictate.
Accordingly, try dropping your tension five to seven lbs. If the racquet plays to your liking, great. If not, drop it another five lbs. Today, as monofilaments become more and more prevalent, there’s no shame in stringing at super-low tensions. The strings become more playable and less rigid; indeed, according to some reports, it’s not uncommon for touring pros to string poly in the 40s, or even the 30s. Having said that, if you’re approaching the 30s and the stick still feels board-like, it might be time to consider hybriding that Timo with a softer string, like a multifilament or natural gut, or switching away from poly altogether.
(Of course, the string itself also affects how the racquet plays and feels. Do you remember what the factory demo was strung with? A monofilament? Multifilament? Surely it wasn’t Luxilon. When I playtested the Graphene Speed Prototype MP last December, Head shipped it to us strung with Sonic Pro at what felt like 40-something lbs. I recall the stick playing pretty plush.)
As you determine which string set-up plays best for you, keep in mind that stringers usually don’t string alike. Tensions can vary depending on the stringer’s technique and competency, the type of machine he or she uses, how that machine is calibrated, as well as a host of other variables. Because of this, it’s prudent to pick and stick with a skilled stringer; doing so will allow you to focus on the variables that count, like string type and tension.
To find a knowledgeable stringer in your, speak with knowledgeable pro, visit a reputable pro shop, or check out the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association’s racquet technician database here.