Gear Q&A: Tension Headaches

by: Jon Levey | November 17, 2017

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Jon Levey answers your equipment questions in Gear Q&A. Click here to email your question, or send him a tweet at @72unforced.

I had three of my 14-year-old son’s racquets strung at the same time for a team tennis tournament in Florida, but he only used one while there. He had an injury and thus played less than expected. He is not currently a string breaker and I have been very careful to rotate his racquets based on how much he plays. He plays about four times per week and I rotate in the new racquets about once per month. How long can these racquets stay in his bag and still be considered newly strung? It might be a month or so before he rotates through them. Do they lose much tension and playability just sitting?Kevin B.


Unfortunately, the short answer is yes—you don’t need to be playing with your racquets for them to lose tension and playability. Smacking serves and forehands certainly speeds up the process, but the moment a racquet comes off the machine and into your bag its string tension continually drops. The type of string will generally determine how fast it occurs.

Polyesters are somewhat notorious for being the quickest in this regard. The earlier incarnations were particularly offensive, but manufacturers have tried to lessen the problem in newer models. Natural gut sits on the opposite end of the spectrum, as it holds its tension the longest. The rest of the string universe sits somewhere in between, depending on make and model.

That said, there’s no reason your son won’t be able to play with the racquets once he hits the court again. The strings will likely initially feel a little softer than they would normally right from the stringer. Again, the variety of string may influence how long he can play with the “older” strings before losing faith in their performance. Since he’s a frequent player, and you swap out his strings so consistently, you may just have to bump up his replacement timetable by a week or so until you get back to his regular rotation.   

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