The soul of a racquet


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“Strings are the soul of a racquet”

— Unknown

Kelly and I had been playing with same Wilson TieBreaker Titanium racquets my mother-in-law bought us for Xmas many, many years ago. (I’d link to an image or something about them but I can’t find any of our model!). Because our tennis enthusiasm and playing frequency has increased quite a bit, we agreed we’re due some new racquets. So we bought some.

Kelly got a Head Youtek 3-star, and I got a Volkl Organix 4.

Both are pretty fandangled when it comes to tech: bio-sensor shock absorption, cellulose-laden carbon nanotubes, smart materials that become stiffer and softer depending on how hard you hit the ball. All pretty impressive science-type stuff[1. If you’re into that techy stuff I recommend looking up the different tennis technologies that exist today. Some really impressive things going on. I mean, I have carbon nanotubes just sitting there in my spare room right now!].

Kelly noticed the upgrade immediately. More balls landing in, fewer balls being mis-hit, grinning more often. I noticed it too because the balls that were going in were the ones whizzing past me.

My racquet was a little different. It was definitely stiffer than the previous racquet, and almost felt ‘dead’ when the ball hit. I felt fewer of my balls were going in, a few more were going out, and many more were hitting the frame — It was the opposite to Kelly’s situation. After a some sessions I felt a bit of pain in my wrist. This was more than a little troubling — surely a racquet upgrade like this would improve my tennis, even just a little bit, not make things worse.

I had our racquets strung with Prince Synthetic Gut 16 gauge, the #1 selling string in the world. I’d never had to choose strings before, and the range is vast. So I figured the top selling string in the world must be decent, right? And I had the racquets strung at the middle of their tension range. Not too hard, not too soft. It was the most average way we could order our racquets. The safest bet. They should’ve been pretty damn good. Kelly’s were, but mine weren’t.

So a few days ago I had my racquet restrung at Topper Sports. After listening to my complaints the stringer at Topper advised me to go with a multi-fillament string which made up of lots of tiny strings twisted together resulting in a softer ‘feel’. He also suggested to lower my tension from from 58 pounds to 55. I’m no expert so I took his advice. The worst case scenario being it’d feel wrong in the opposite way, and I’d come back for something in the middle of the two setups.

What a difference that made! The best RM40 I’ve spent in a long time! The racquet now feels a bit softer, and plays much more comfortably. Science making cool shit happen again. I’ve only had one session but the difference is extraordinary!

Turns out that strings really are the soul of a racquet.

  • Michelle Park
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    Michelle Park Michelle Park

    When Craig (the Scotsman) got his ukulele he upgraded the strings and now it sounds like a harp – kinda.
    When I upgraded the ball of newspaper’s string upgraded to nylon, my kitten loved the homemade toy way more because of the extra spring and responsiveness.
    So yes, I agree that the string is the soul of the thing.

    Question: do you guys wear whites when you play tennis? Bart in white shorts and Kelly in a short white pleated skirt? cos that’s how I’m imagining you two right now.

    LOVE ALL!

  • Barto
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    Barto Barto

    Heh. No we don’t wear ‘whites’, but we do wear sporty garments. In fact, I recently bought one of those special space-age shirts which wicks the sweat from my body to the outside, then it evaporates. Sounds wanky, but it actually works.

    …and it happens to be white, only because when the sun comes out it gets hot! Kelly wears pink :)