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’m a club-level player, 3.5 or thereabouts. I want to know how I can stop my racquet from stinging my hand on mishits. Not that I mishit all the time, but when I do, it is not a comfortable feeling. I currently use a Babolat Pure Drive strung with RPM Blast at 60 pounds.—Bert C.
It’s never a fun day, Bert, when you’re mishitting the ball badly; not only do the resulting shots go awry and take on undesired trajectories, the impacts themselves can really jar the hand. It goes without saying that the best way to do away with this feeling is to improve your technique; learn to hit the ball on center, and the jarring will cease. As we all know, however, that’s easier said than done. So what’s there to do?
Consider the following: Lower your tensions. Physicists have established that, for a variety of reasons, stiffer (i.e., tighter) strings play a sizable part in intensifying “bad vibrations,” especially at the edges of the stringbed, where, due to the shorter lengths of the strings, tension can register even higher. Indeed, according to physicist Rodd Cross, in The Physics and Technology of Tennis, mishitting the ball with stiffer strings “cause[s] the handle to vibrate more and to slam into the hand at a higher speed,” in part because, compared to softer stringbeds, the ball rebounds more quickly.
What’s that have to do with anything? As Cross explains, when a tennis ball dwells on a stringbed for a longer period of time, it’s able to function as a gigantic vibration dampener, not just of string vibrations but frame vibrations as well. This is especially the case for stiffer racquets, like your Babolat Pure Drive.
Long story short: Try lowering your tension 10 to 15 percent. You may even want to experiment with natural gut or a high-grade multifilament string, as these tend to play much softer (i.e., less jarring) than poly blends like RPM Blast. Good luck.