My first tennis racket was a wooden Bjorn Borg model by Wilson. One day, a club pro asked me what kind of strings I used. I said, “Bjorn Borg.”
She tilted her head, smiled a bit and repeated the question. I shrugged and said, “Swedish?”
My first lesson about how to find the best tennis strings began right there.
Who Knew There Was So Much To Know?
It turned out there was quite a bit to think about when it came to choosing tennis strings. Over the years, new technology and developments have made things even more complicated.
In this article, I will share some of what you need to know or should consider if you are going to change strings. As we go along, consider what type of player you are and what features might work well for your game.
It’s TED! (Tension, Elasticity and Durability)
Tennis strings come in a variety of sizes, strengths and materials. Each variation changes the dynamics of the strings, and ultimately your shot, just a bit
For instance, manufacturers limit the amount of tension you can achieve with your strings. Lower tensions allow for better feel and comfort, as well as added power.
Some players like higher tensions because it gives them better ball control. Newer players should be warned, however, that high tension can cause tennis elbow.
Elasticity is how much stretch the strings allow. Higher elasticity allows the ball to deform more and then explode out of the racket. Despite the increased power, you will also have a better feel for the shot with more elastic strings.
You might think that durability, or getting more games out of a set of strings, means value. Remember though that all strings lose tension over time. This means you will probably have to adjust long-lasting strings on occasion.
Gauge and Playability
When we break down the types of strings, you’ll see that there are some that make it easier to spin the ball with power, while others are designed to take some strain off your elbows.
One basic method of manipulating those things is with the string gauge. Gauges range from 15 (the thickest) to 19 (the thinnest) with half-sizes in between.
Thinner strings allow for better feel and touch on your shots. The thicker ones mostly just add durability.
Putting it all together
There are six basic types of strings. Any of the six may be manufactured as a monofilament or a multifilament. Monofilament strings consist of a single, solid strand that is more rigid and durable.
Multifilament strings may contain several strands of one material or a combination of two or more.
They may have a solid core with an outer wrap which allows the string to retain its tension better.
Manufacturers can also create a ridged surface to improve feel and spin. Some just mesh together different materials in an effort to improve strength or flexibility.
The Six Types of Strings
Natural Gut: Tennis strings were originally made out of dried and twisted sheep intestines. Today, cows donate their inner workings to provide natural gut tennis strings. (Don’t worry! Manufacturers use the guts of cows slaughtered for meat. No one kills cows for tennis.)
Natural gut offers the best feel and most comfortable impact of all the strings available. They can be twisted tightly for higher control and are generally regarded as the best strings available.
This explains why the cost is roughly four-to-five times higher than other strings.
Synthetic Gut: These strings attempt to mimic the feel of natural gut strings, usually by using a single filament nylon or polyester cord.
Although these are the cheapest strings out there, they tend to have great playability and durability. Players on a budget will not be at a terrible disadvantage with synthetic gut strings.
Polyester: Polyester strings are very stiff and very durable. Players who break a lot of strings tend to move to polyester for that reason.
They also allow the player to create a tremendous topspin. For that reason, a majority of pro players string their rackets with polyester.
Nylon: Multifilament nylon strings offer a low cost, high elasticity option to players. The strings are coated to improve their durability because outer strings tend to break down quicker than other strings.
These strings are very popular among amateur players for their combination of improved feel and power.
Kevlar: As you might imagine, kevlar is the stiffest and most difficult string to break. Its ability to hold its high tension over time also makes it the most dangerous string for someone prone to tennis elbow.
Kevlar is most often used in combination with another string (called a hybrid) to soften its harsh feel.
Hybrid: Hybrid is not actually a type of material. It is actually a technique of combining two strings to gain the advantages of each.
The more durable of your two choices, probably Kevlar or polyester, would be used as the vertical (or main) strings. The horizontal (or cross) strings will take a more comfortable string to soften the impact of the vertical strings.
So What Are the Best Tennis Strings?
As you can see, each type of string has its own pros and cons. Different types of players prefer different brands and styles of strings.
That being said, here is what our panel of reviewers decided were the five best tennis strings on today’s market:
1. Luxilion ALU Power 125 tennis string set. (16 ga) Luxilion says this multifilament polyester string claims to be used by more than half of the ATP’s top 100 players. Real players (our panel) tell us more:
Every member of our panel raved about the increased control and power they felt using the Luxilion ALU Power 125s.
Almost every member also said this string really helped them with topspin. Two players said it did not help their spin.
Despite the fact that Luxilion adds aluminum fibers for durability, everyone says these strings go dead after just one or two sessions of tennis.
Every person who said the strings don’t last agreed that the one or two sessions with new ALU Power 125 strings was totally worth the experience.
2. Babolat RPM Blast Tennis Strings The Babolat RPM Blast strings use an eight-sided design on its monofilament co-polyester cords. This allows for better and more natural spin control. The company also uses a silicone coating to lessen string friction and increase durability.
The manufacturer claims this is the string of choice for Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as well as anyone who likes to play from the baseline. Our panel mostly agrees:
Reviewers all raved about a more effective topspin with their natural swings thanks to the octagonal shape.
Many of our players have been using these strings for a while, stating that their durability makes them well-worth the price. Several say they use the same set of strings for two or three months in multiple sessions per week.
Large swingers like the power generated by the RPM Blast strings.
Several reviewers mentioned that the string is best-suited for strong hitters. Slow-swingers will not like this string as much.
3. Gamma Live Wire 17 strings The manufacturer says something called TNT2 technology gives this polymeric string the best combination of power and control on the market today. That sounds great, but what did our panel say?
Almost every panel member agreed that they experienced increased power and control to this string.
Several went farther in specifically citing an increased feel for the ball when it came to slices and drop shots. Every member mentioned increased playability.
Many panel members said the Live Wire 17 strings were among the most comfortable strings they used. They were very happy that the increased comfort did not cost them any noticeable loss of power and control.
Players who had used this string for a while cited its durability, which they said make these strings well worth the price.
4. Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex The manufacturer claims this is the most popular string in the whole world. They do not specify if they mean synthetic gut in general, or this particular model. Prince says their synthetic gut offers consistency and durability.
This string ranked in our panel’s top five despite the fact that less than half of our players gave it a top ranking. It achieved its status by not receiving a single average or below-average score. What exactly did our panel say?
Durability made the Prince synthetics a good value. Several players say they have used them for months without signs of wear and tear.
The majority of the panel also talked about the comfort of the strings. Several players say these strings were recommended after other strings resulted in elbow pain.
Only a small percentage of players said the control was particularly good, but no one said the control was bad.
There were a couple of players who identified themselves as aggressive, hard hitters who said the durability is good, but not as good as the other players claimed.
Almost every player mentioned the cost of these strings (averaging about $7.50) and agreed that for the price, they could not be beat.
5. Solinco Tour Bite Tennis String Solinco describes these co-polyester, monofilament string as designed to provide “extreme power and intense spin and bite.” The string has a slightly square shape to help with the spin.
Did our panel think the manufacturer succeeded in their goal?
Almost every player talked about the great spin they put on the ball with the Tour Bite strings. Several stated that the spin was more natural for them thanks to Solinco’s design.
Players who used smaller gauges (18-19 ga.) made favorable comments about the comfort level and feel. They felt the power was adequate.
At the larger gauges, players were more likely to talk about increased power and said the feel and comfort were good.
Many of the players were happy with the durability of the strings.
Players who mentioned control were positive in their comments, although control was not something mentioned often.
So There You Have It!
Our top five strings include monofilament and multifilament choices; polyester, gut and synthetic gut. There are no nylon or kevlar strings in the field, but that doesn’t mean there are not good options out there.
All the players in our panel have used many different types of strings over the years. With new techniques and combinations being introduced every year, it is not a bad idea for you to give a few different sets a tryout and see what works best for you.
As for us, we trust our panel enough to start with the five they claim are the best tennis strings on the market today.