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Tension

"String Tension", measured in either pounds or kilograms, specifies the pressure by which the strings are secured to the racquet frame during stringing. Tension has a strong influence on your string-bed's and, by extension, your racket's behaviour.  The following table will help you to understand how this behaviour is affected by tension:

 

TENNIS STRING TENSION GUIDE TABLE

 

Some common questions regarding tension:

Q. How do I know what is a 'high' or 'low' tension?

A. The range of recommended tensions varies by racquet. Usually the recommended tension range will be specified by the manufacturer somewhere on your frame.

Q. Why does higher tension deliver more control?

A. First, higher tensions result in the ball spending less time on the strings for a given impact. If the ball contacts the string-bed off center, then the impact force will tend to twist the racquet during contact. If the contact time is shortened, as is the case with higher tensions, then the amount by which the racquet angle changes, due to the twisting, will tend to be minimized. In addition to potential twisting during impact, most tennis swing paths can be characterized as circular. The racquet angle changes as it travels through a circular path, so if contact time is minimized then the amount by which this angle changes during impact is also minimized.

Second, lateral string movement is minimized with higher tensions. Lateral string movement is the movement of the strings with respect to one another within the plane of the string-bed. If you've played some tennis, you've probably noticed that after a few hits your strings can become misaligned and you may have even gone to the trouble to straighten them with your fingers. This misalignment occurs due to the lateral string movement that takes place during impact. Sometimes, when a string is deflected laterally, it does not return all the way back to where it started and that is why your strings sometimes become misaligned. Lateral string movement leads to an unpredictable rebound trajectory. The more the strings move laterally during impact, the more random and unpredictable the resulting ball trajectories will become. Conversely, with less lateral string movement, the resulting ball trajectories will be more uniform and predictable.

Third, for spin shots (like a top or back spin shot) the ball actually travels/rolls along the string-bed during impact. As mentioned previously, higher tensions reduce the length of time that ball remains in contact with the string-bed. Thanks to this reduction, the ball will tend to travel a shorter distance along the string-bed and consequently increase the predictably of the resulting ball trajectory.

Q. Why does lower tension deliver more power?

A. Racquet strings absorb/waste ~5% (~95% 'efficient') of their deflection energy whereas tennis balls absorb/waste ~45% (~55% 'efficient') of their compression energy. Lower tension results in a higher proportion of impact energy being stored by the strings as opposed to the ball. At lower tensions, the ball compresses LESS for a given impact because the string-bed is softer. Furthermore, the strings will deflect/stretch MORE because the string-bed is softer at lower tensions. If more of the initial energy is stored by the strings, as is the case with a lower tension, then the resulting rebound velocity/energy will be higher thanks to the higher 'efficiency' of the strings.

Q. Why does higher tension deliver more spin?

A. For a given impact, the RPMs of the spin generated off of a tight string-bed is actually not measurably different from that of a loose string-bed. Though, as mentioned above, the resulting ball velocity DOES change for a given impact depending on the tension. Lower tension delivers a higher rebound velocity than a higher tension. Consequently, though the spin RPMs are equal, the RATIO of spin to velocity is where the important difference lies. A tightly strung racquet allows a player to swing faster to generate more spin while the lower power increases the probability that the ball will not be hit long.

Q. Why does a lower tension deliver more comfort?

A. Lower tensions result in the ball spending a longer period of time on the string-bed during impact. The longer contact time means that the average contact force at any given instant will be lower. A lower impact force results in a lower reaction force being transmitted to the player's arm.

From a different perspective, a looser string-bed offers more cushion than a tight string-bed. More cushion softens the severity of shock being transmitted to the player's arm.

Q. Why does lower tension deliver more durability?

A. First, lower tension results in lower contact pressure between the interwoven strings. Lower contact pressure reduces the rate of abrasive string wear during impact.

Second, lower tension results in a lower residual stress within a string's cross-section. Lower stresses increase the life-time of a string before fatigue effects set in.

 

 

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