Loosen up!

OK, now that you have seen the wide range of tensions in my previous post, I wanted to tell you about my own thoughts and experiences.

I only found out by accident that I enjoy lower tensions. I once grabbed a Wilson Hammer 7.2 demo racket from my sports store, and on court I realized how loose the string was. The string itself looked very cheap too, so it almost seemed not worth to trying at all. I wanted to see how the racket swings though, so I started hitting a few balls. To my surprise, it felt amazing! I felt I could do anything I wanted in a very natural way, and all of a sudden most of my previous 15+ years of tennis felt like a big struggle against the game. 

I kept on playing with the racket for the next days. The racket was nice, but it was the tension I wanted to enjoy as long as possible. When the string finally broke, I tried to make the racket feel the same again, but I couldn't get close. I used to string my rackets between 25 and 28 kg (~55 and 63 lbs), so I decreased the tension by a few kg, down to 24/23 (52/51 lbs). It did feel a little looser than I was used to, but even with a simple Prince Tournament string I felt I had too much power and not enough feel. 

Only later I realized that there is a tension that gives the maximum bounce, and as you go lower you can take away a bit of power again and gain even more feel.  This is where I felt comfortable. For the next 5 years or so, I ended up playing an elastic monofilament string at 23/22, and recently went down to 21/21 with the same string on my new racket. 

So what felt so good about playing a loose string for the first time? Well, it just feels easy. You can hit right through the ball, easily apply spin, and play with depth and power without much effort. A lot of people say that you lose control as you go lower, however I *feel* more control, and play so much better overall that playing it loose is a no-brainer for me. 

If you ever felt that you had to work hard to get good pace on the ball, or had no "touch", or tightened up in anticipation of making contact with the ball, you might want to give it a shot. Drop your tension to the low 20s (kg) or mid 40s (lbs), and see what happens. Do this when you feel like experimenting, and when you have some time off from competition.

A little heads-up: Playing might suddenly feel very easy and you might have a lot more power than you're used to. With that, you might tighten up your arm to keep the ball in. This obviously defeats the purpose of making playing more effortless and more fun! Remember, if you loosen up your string, stay loose as well. You might also become a bit lazy on your ground strokes because you don't have to work that hard. Just keep an eye on the amount of spin you're applying - that should keep you swinging right and produce more effective and safe shots.

If you're ready to play around with your tension, here's what I would track and compare:

Brand    Model    Type    Link    Racket?    Gauge    Cost    Date    Tension mains    Tension crosses    Power    Feel    Control    Spin    Easy to string?    Overall love    Comment

Happy loose hitting, and let us know how you find it!


  1. So I have been playing traditional nylon strings (multi and single filament) all my life, and on perhaps the most classic of all racquets, the Prince Original Graphite. I string it in the mid 60s (lbs). However, I'm trying out newer, lighter and stiffer racquets and the polyester based strings. What I liked about my old setup was the firm but springy feel I got from hitting the ball, and wonder if stringing as low as you suggest will make the ball feel very mushy with polyesters.

  2. Nice racket and good point :)

    If you've played all your life and never tried to string loosely, I'd definitely give it a shot so you know how it feels. Maybe this will also put your good old Graphite in yet another light :)

    Also, if you're thinking of using Luxilons for both mains and crosses, you definitely have to go a bit lower or there's a good chance your arm will hurt and you won't get a lot of power. Personally, I still prefer more elastic monofilament strings, but that's a different post :)

    Finally, if you like a firm feel and have quick, short swings, there's a chance you might not like low tensions as much as players who have long swings and who like to play effortlessly. But you won't find out unless you try :)