Breaking Down Tennis Strings

Photo by Maria Ly, flickr

Photo by Maria Ly, flickr

The year 1874 marked the first use of lawn tennis racquets, and therefore strings. These original tennis strings were composed of sheep’s stretchy outer intestine skin called serosa. Approximately six sheep were required to make one set of strings.

Pierre Babolat, founder of French string company Babolat (oldest company to specialize in racquet sports) began producing the first natural gut tennis strings in 1875. Thirty-six to thirty seven feet of string are necessary to string one racquet. However, sheep intestines are typically only 26-feet long. Two strings were necessary for each racquet, which increased the number of labor hours required.

But cow gut—longer than sheep gut—allowed racquets to be strung using only one string, thus cutting down production time. (The industry experimented with other animal guts, namely horse and pig, but found cow to be the best.) Transforming animal entrails into tennis strings involved letting the guts soak in a chemical bath in order to draw out contaminants before bleaching, spinning, and slowly drying.

Two main problems with strings made from natural gut led to the creation of synthetic tennis strings. Natural gut is more expensive and not as durable in regards to moisture resistance and wear. However, natural gut strings are still on the market today, but synthetic is much more widely used.

There are several classifications of synthetic tennis strings: nylon, polyester and Kevlar, multifilament, and textured strings. Nylon is often the cheapest choice and therefore one of the most popular strings on the market. Due to its crisper feel, nylon is harder on the arms when making contact with the ball, but is durable, holds tension well and is good for those seeking control and power.

If you have the tendency to break tennis strings, then you may want to consider polyester and Kevlar (hybrid). The material Kevlar is very durable—which anyone who’s heard of Kevlar vests is aware—thus said strings are tough and also hold tension well. The combination of poly and Kevlar allows you to really wail on the ball without string breakage while also providing good control.

However, if you’d like to add more spin to your tennis game, then focus your attention on textured strings. A raised band is added to the strings in order to give the ball more spin as it rolls off your racquet. Multifilament strings are the most expensive category—second to natural gut. Considered to provide the best overall play experience, multifilament strings are gentler on the arm but fray more easily.

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