Choosing proper string tension—how tightly the strings are pulled in a frame—is just as important to your game as your racquet. Too low a tension will leave you hitting the back fence; too tight and you’re looking at a power outage, and possibly a bad case of tennis elbow. Here are three questions to help determine the best string tension for your needs. Each builds on the one that preceded it, so be sure to answer them in order. While string tension preference can be highly subjective, answering these questions will give you a great starting point to finding the perfect tension to match your tennis—Patrick Kuhle


1. What type of string are you using?

Is it nylon/gut, polyester, or half and half with a hybrid? In general, beginners will benefit from the forgiveness of nylon strings; advanced players the durability and control of polyester; and intermediates a hybrid, to get some of the benefits of both. When it comes to the actual tension, most manufacturers recommend stringing elastic materials like nylon or natural gut around 50-60 lbs. If using a stiffer string like polyester, drop the tension to avoid arm injuries. Below are the ranges to start with for each material:

2. Do you need more power or control?

Typically, beginners with slower racquet-head speeds want their strings to add more power to their shots; advanced players with faster strokes want their strings to provide more control. Lower string tensions tend to increase the former, while higher tensions enhance the latter. Here is the chart again, but with adjusted ranges for power and control:


3. Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player?

Skill level will often impact string preferences. The key, of course, is to be honest in your self-assessment. Here is the chart one last time, but with recommended tension ranges narrowed down by ability:


Three new polyester strings that are easier on the arm:

1. Dunlop Explosive Bite Price: $17/set; $230/reel Gauges: 16, 17

Its three-sided profile is designed to grab the ball and apply heavy spin. But this premium monofilament delivers more comfort than a typical firm poly, with dependable control. It offers friendly feel, as well as a little extra punch.

2. Solinco Hyper-G Soft Price: $12/set; $160/reel Gauges: 16, 16L, 17, 18

Big-hitters in the pro and college ranks love the spin and control they can produce from the four-sided polyester monofilament with a distinctive look. The softening agent in this more flexible version provides a slightly plusher option for a wider range of users.

3. Yonex PolyTour Rev Price: $17/set; $238/reel Gauges: 16, 16L, 17

This tango-red string is a perfect complement to Yonex’s VCORE frames. It has an octagonal shape to better grip to ball for tons of spin. In addition to its sharp edges, the string is infused with a silicone oil to promote sliding and snapback.