Tennis rackets have evolved massively over the years.
Wooden rackets were common place until Jimmy Connors started using a steel racket in the 1970s. Seeing the power he could generate, including his comprehensive victory over Ken Rosewall in 1974, led to many more players switching to metal rackets.
Aluminium was the material of choice for many players, and in the early 1980s graphite appeared on the scene, which is still common place today.
Modern rackets are lighter and have larger head sizes than their predecessors which provide a larger sweet spot, but they also allow more room to apply spin.
It’s really with the evolution of the tennis racket that has led to advancements in string technology.
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Polyester strings and string tension
These days polyester strings have changed the game and so have the ideas around string tension.
Go back a few years when natural gut strings were common place and you would always see players straightening their strings in between points.
This was because they would move after contact, especially if you applied topspin.
Now with polyester strings, this is no longer the case. Although the string can move slightly during contact with the ball, it snaps back into place straight away. This results in adding more spin to the ball.
Why should you loosen your tennis strings?
Traditionally rackets used to be strung at 60 or 65 lbs. The old train of thought is that the ball would stay on the string for longer, compress and give you better feel.
However, if you lower the tension, you can generate more power and spin because the ball is in contact with racket for longer and the polyester strings enhance this.
Another reason to loosen the strings is that you’re less likely to have elbow and shoulder problems.
My racket is strung at 48lbs after switching to a Luxilon Savage string last autumn and not only do I get more power, I can generate more spin. My kick serves and topspin forehands bounce higher, and my slice backhand skids and stays lower after it hits the ground. I also feel like I have enough control on my shots and feel around the net so I’m quite happy with the string tension.
So try experimenting with string tension to find that sweet spot. However, if you lower it too much you may start hitting your ground strokes long because of the added power and have less control on your shots.
How to loosen tennis strings
So you’ve just had your tennis strings restrung and enthusiastically you step onto the court, only to find your shots are going all over the place, and you want to loosen them.
What can you do?
Step on it!
One of the most common strategies is to lay the racket face down on the ground and step on the strings. If you decide to try this, it’s better to place a towel under the racket to protect the frame.
Make sure you don’t bounce on the strings though, just gently apply a bit of pressure for a few seconds and let go. This may loosen the strings by 2-3lbs and your shots should improve as a result.
Expose the strings to heat
I’m personally not keen on this, as I think it can warp the tennis racket frame, but applying heat to the strings can lower the tension. On various forums I’ve heard people suggest applying a hairdryer to the strings, or leaving the racket in your car on a hot day.
I can’t say I’m a fan of this approach and wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it with my racket.
Get your racket restrung at a lower tension
This is probably the best option. It’s not that expensive to restring a racket, and although you might feel frustrated paying for this service again, put it down to a learning experience and take the positives from it.
At least, you know what string tension you shouldn’t be using from now on!
Once a tennis racket has been restrung it loses tension almost straight away, sometimes up to 10%. Then it gradually decreases over time at a much slower rate, depending on how often you play and your playing style.
So if you don’t like the feel of your restrung racket on day 1, give it a couple of days and try again, you might be surprised by the result.