Gear Q&A: String Theory

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Jon Levey answers reader questions in Gear Q&A. Click here to submit your question.

A question about stringing these new open-frame racquets. I tried the Wilson 95S and found at low tension, the strings were constantly out of place, meaning they did not provide the snapback that is the raison d'être of co-poly strings. Yet at higher tension, the extra spin disappeared (for me at least). I used Luxilon 4G at 49/56 lbs mains.

I noticed Dimitrov and Nishikori switched to the Wilson 95S and from photos, it looks like they are using hybrid stringing. What tension and strings work best in these type of racquets? What are the trade-offs?TheFawcette

This question was posted in the comment section of a recent racquet review of the One Strings Spin Deeper 315g. Given the wide-open configurations of the new spin-friendly frames, it’s not surprising some players are having growing pains finding the right string and tension. In an earlier review I did of the Wilson Pro Staff 95S, I mentioned that string choice becomes a little trickier when using such a unique string pattern—in this case a 16x15 frame. Like TheFawcette, I tried it with Luxilon 4G, and like him, I did need to constantly readjust my strings; however I did find some impressive spin production.

One of our testers, Mark Avedikian, has become a big fan of the PS 95S. So much so that he’s considering making it his frame of choice. However, he needs to hoard a bunch of them for tournament play, because he does struggle with string durability. He has been experimenting with various options—for his PS 95S and other spin-friendly frames—and has these recommendations.

I have been hitting the PS 95S extensively, trying at least 15 different strings and combinations. Here are my views based on these tests.

Step 1: Find the correct tension. Think of the polyester like a spring in a pen: If you push or pull slightly it snaps back; if you pull too far it deforms and does not snap back in to position. In frames with more traditional string patterns I typically string polyester in a range of 36-52 lbs. I have been stringing the PS 95S at range from 48-55 lbs, and have settled on 52 lbs. The mains and crosses are typically strung the same tension for a full bed of poly, while in a hybrid you should string the non-poly about four lbs tighter. However, I do not like to string the crosses more than mains as I feel it hampers the ability of the string to snap back as fast.

Step 2: Find the proper string. I love the feel of Luxilon 4G in the PS 95S. But I believe I produce more spin with other options. From what I found round, triangle, or square strings snapped back faster and produced more spin than twisted or hexagonal strings due to less friction. The Teflon-coated or impregnated strings work very well for the same reason—less friction on the string bed. Wilson Ripspin, Solinco Tour Bite, Weiss Cannon Mosquito Bite, Luxilon 4G 17g all were good performers. Tourna Big Hitter Black 7 impressed from the standpoint of grabbing the ball, but I did not have the sensation of the strings snapping back to get that tight spin that I have grown accustomed to when using super open patterns.

If you want to hybrid, then I suggest natural gut in the mains and round poly in the crosses; or poly mains with synthetic gut or natural gut in the crosses. Multifilament strings will not last as long and don’t slide very well with polyester. The good news is, companies are realizing this and are starting to come out with strings designed to mimic polyester as well as being better cross strings. Some examples are Babolat Origin, Ashway Zyex Monogut, and Gamma Glide.

Step 3: Find the right gauge for your personal feel and style of play. I love the 17 gauge and even 18 gauge strings in the PS 95S, or any smaller head sized open pattern. (My current go-to strings are Mosquito Bite or RipSpin17g). With a 100-sq. inch frame 16 gauge is doable; with the Wilson Steam 105S I needed an even thicker Luxilon 4G 141 gauge string. However, I like the feel of the thinner gauge for touch at the net and also for the added bite and sensation of the snapback effect.

Now I know some people are going to cry out: "Thin gauges won't last in these frames!" They will last long enough in the smaller head sizes, like the PS 95S, to get the best out of the strings. I don't want dead strings in my racquet, and this way I know when to restring without having to count hours on the court or trying to get a few more matches in with a racquet that has dead strings.

Hope this helps in your quest to find the perfect combination for your game.

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