Gear Q&A: Hybrid Tension
Jon Levey answers your equipment questions in Gear Q&A. Click here to submit a question of your own.
For many years I have strung with a hybrid pattern: Alu Power in the mains, natural gut in the crosses. Recently, because I have heard polyester performs better at the lower tensions, I've switched from a 54(poly)/56(gut) combination to a 52/54 combination. Since then, performance has improved a bit, but I've been breaking strings faster than ever before.
This leads me to ask a few questions:
1) Is there any relationship between tension and breakage?
2) Does stringing at multiple tensions leave strings more vulnerable? If so, what would be the best approach?—Dave Mitchell
Like many things in the racquet tech world, this is not a cut-and-dried issue. The leading cause of string breakage is rubbing between the crosses and the mains. So the looser a racquet is strung, the more the strings will move. Hence a higher probability of snapping. However, looser strings also create less friction. Movement might be greater, but it’s not as abrasive as when strung at higher tensions. That’s why it may actually come down to personal playing styles.
For instance, a heavy spin player that opts for a lower tension on a frame that has an open string pattern will experience significant string movement. String life could be shorter than if that player used a higher tension. Conversely, if that same player hits a flatter ball, the lower tension should enhance string longevity. You seem to fall in the former category.
What makes your predicament so puzzling is that such a slight drop in tension caused a noticeable bump in string breakage. The small variance in tension between the mains and crosses should not make the strings more vulnerable. According to Bob Patterson of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, it’s when a hybrid has differing tensions of at least eight pounds or more that it might become a factor. He also offers this suggestion: “If the crosses are breaking—which is not uncommon with this type of set-up—I would recommend going up slightly on the cross tension to see if that helps, even if you have to drop tension on the mains to keep the same feel.”
Since you seem content with this string combination, that’s probably your best bet. Otherwise, if it’s the mains that go first, you could try a thicker gauge, which would certainly change the playability. But unless it’s being done at a too frequent and costly rate, restringing shouldn’t be looked upon as a negative. Most players stick with dead strings for too long rather than spring for a new string job. In a way, you’re fortunate the decision is being made for you.