Question of the Day: Tensioning Outermost Strings
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.
Your recent piece about how to tie stringing knots was helpful, but it left me wondering how to tension final mains and crosses. For example, when pulling the last cross of a one-piece stringing job, right before clamping and tying off the knot, do you advise increasing the reference tension (in order compensate for potential knot-related tension losses)? Or should last strings be pulled at the same tension as all the others?—Bill V.
On this question, Bill, I’ve seen stringers go both ways. Some will pull an extra few pounds of tension on those strings immediately preceding knots—so as to make up for lost tension when that knot is tied and the clamps are released—while others keep the tension consistent with the rest of the stringbed. Often, the stringer’s technique depends on the preference of the player he or she’s stringing for; many players don’t like their outermost mains and/or crosses to move, in which case a stringer will crank up the tension on those strings to keep them in place.
That said, the smartest approach to this question is, most likely, to not pull that extra tension. As the U.S. Racquet Stringing Association argues, with a good deal of persuasion in their Techniques Manual, “[We do] not recommend this procedure because shorter outside mains [and crosses] don’t require as much pull-tension to be as tight as longer, center [ones]…In short, we suggest normal tensions on tie-offs, which may result in some tension loss on the outermost main (or cross). If customers complain about this string being too loose, you can explain that these strings are far away from the racquet’s sweetspot. Also, mis-hits will actually be less jarring if outer mains are not tensioned as high as the center mains. Stringers who are intent on increasing tension on tie-offs should not go higher than 5 pounds above normal tension.”
In my opinion, it’s this last bit—on the positive correlation between high tensions and jarring mishits—that’s the most compelling reason not to overtighten outside strings. So keep your tension in a normal (i.e., consistently low) range. The next time you frame a shot, your arm will thank you.