| By Roman Prokes

Stringing tennis racquets is a true art form. The stringing process is not as uniform and simple as it may seem. Players often believe that stringing is a non-differentiated good/service like milk or gasoline. If the octane of gas or style of milk is the same, then there is no real difference from company to company other than price. This could not be any further from the truth with racquet stringing. As there are mammoth differences in end product when dealing with a top chef versus a fast food worker, stringers are similarly an integral force of how your racquet plays. A stringer’s knowledge, experience, technique, skill, etc. all play a fundamental role in the end product. Here are some key factors to consider when getting your racquet serviced:

The stringing machine
Stringing machines vary in price, and can range anywhere from $100 to upwards of $10,000. With such a vast range comes a hefty discrepancy in quality. Stringing machines must have sufficient mounts to stabilize a racquet during the stringing process. The mounts prevent racquet cracking and warping, and not all machines provide the same number of mounts. The power behind the tension head differs as well. Electronic machines provide higher accuracy as crank and drop weight machines are largely subject to human imprecision. The most advanced stringing machine to date is the Wilson Baiardo which I was fortunate enough to be a part of the design process. This machine is so unique because it is ergonomically built with hydraulics, features superior clamps, has six balanced mounts, and a fully computerized tensioning system for stunningly precise stringing. As the saying goes, “You can tell a lot about a person from their shoes,” well check your stringer’s machine because they walk around in it every day.

The pattern
The most undervalued and unknown part of stringing is the pattern. The pattern refers to the order in which a stringer weaves string throughout the racquet. Most people do not realize that the only pattern a racquet should be strung is from the head to the throat (i.e. top to bottom). Most people also don’t realize that this does not happen naturally with a standard string pattern. Ninety-five percent of stringers perform a standard pattern on the racquet, and thus 95 percent of stringers do not do the job properly. The problem with standard patterns is that it can cause racket warping, significant loss of tension, uneven tension, string shearing, frame cracking at the throat, off-center string breakage, and several other problems. Numerous companies consider stringing in that pattern as a void of warranty because it can be so damaging. The other five percent of professional stringers are educated in avoiding harmful patterns. I am still baffled that such a chief part of stringing is unfamiliar to a large part of the tennis community. Check with your stringer the next time you go in for service that they utilize the correct pattern or you may be surprised at the damage already occurring in your racquet.

The stringer’s consistency
A stringer’s consistency is simply defined at how reproducible their results are. Stringing a racquet is a series of hundreds of little steps. Professional stringers are best at methodically recreating the steps in the same exact way to produce machinelike results. Professional stringers make a science of systematically ordering everything. They clean the machine routinely for consistent output, adjust the clamps for minimal wear, repair grommets for optimal string life, apply pads/tubing and use efficiency to eliminate damage to the overall frame. With the utmost feel, playability, durability and performance why would you have your racquet serviced any other way?
Professional stringers spend years to learn their craft for the benefit of the player. Players need only find a professional stringer to make sure that their racquet is serviced correctly. You probably already use this care when buying cars, food, clothes, electronics, etc. Why not be a knowledgeable consumer and do the same when it comes to tennis.


RPNY Tennis at the 2011 U.S. Open


At the 2011 U.S. Open, the world’s record was set as 490 tennis racquets were strung in one day