We all know racket design is a big factor in determining how well a racket ‘feels’ when you hit your shots. However, tennis strings are also extremely important.
Some are great for spin and control, and some are better for power. So when you’re choosing a racket, you need to think about what string best suits your game. You can have polyester strings, natural gut, nylon or even a hybrid.
However, you also need to think about what gauge you should have for your tennis string.
In this post, we’ll look at what tennis gauge actually means, whether 16 or 17 is better for your game and what gauge some of the pros use.
If you have a powerful game, and you hit with a lot of spin from the baseline, a 16 gauge string will most likely be better. If you have more of a hybrid playing style, playing from the back but often attacking at the net, a 17 gauge will probably be a good option.
What Is Tennis String Gauge?
This is essentially the thickness of the string.
If you look at the market, the range is between 15 gauge (which is the thickest) to 18 gauge (which is the thinnest)
A thinner gauge will give you a lot more feel and control, but the string won’t be as durable and it can snap more easily.
A thicker gauge will be very tough and will suit you if you have a power game. But your control and feel won’t be as good.
Should I Have 16 or 17 Gauge?
As you can see, both 15 and 18 gauge are at more of the extreme ends of the spectrum.
If you love playing big shots, with fast swings from the baseline, then a 15 gauge might be right for you.
If you don’t have a ‘power’ game and enjoy being around the net, playing drop shots and volleys often, then an 18 gauge could be right for you.
However, for most players, you want something inbetween i.e. 16 or 17 gauge, and most strings on the market fall into either camp.
So which is better?
You know your game best, but I would also get the advice from a tennis coach if you can, who can assess your game and see what is right for you.
The advice I got from my tennis coach was to start with a 17 gauge. This should be the right thickness for the majority of recreational to club players.
However, he said if the string snaps within the first month of using it (if you’re playing 1 or 2 times a week) then you’ll need a thicker string, so drop to a 16 gauge.
If the tennis string lasts longer than a month, then you might want to consider going the other way and switching to an 18 gauge.
Of course, this method means you might need to buy 2 lots of strings, but you’ll find the right one for you, which will suit your game.
Fortunately for me, my strings haven’t snapped and I’ve been using them for 5 months now.
So 17 gauge is the right fit for me.
What About 16 vs 18 Gauge For Tennis Strings?
Most recreational players have a tennis gauge of either 16 or 17, and make tweaks between the two, but obviously the difference between 16 or 18 will be greater and have a bigger impact on your game if you try either option.
A gauge of 18 will give you some great feel on your shots, but you’ll be more prone to breaking a string, especially if you have a fast swing. Consider this gauge carefully, as if you’re breaking strings often it’ll also make a dent in your wallet! It’s only really suitable if you have a slower swing and play more delicate shots and volleys around the net.
A 16 gauge will be more durable, and you’ll be able to take bigger swings with your racket at the ball.
What Gauge Do The Pros Use?
I always feel it’s dangerous to copy the set up of the pros, even if you have a favourite player you like to emulate. They are finely tuned athletes who have tested and tried out many different rackets, strings, string tensions and tennis gauges to perfect their game.
That being said, here are some of the tennis gauges that some of the top players are using. You’d expect the aggressive baseline players with fast, powerful swings to have thicker strings, such as 15 or 16. Players who have more of an all round game will likely have 16 or 17.
- Rafael Nadal uses a 15 gauge polyester string called the Babolat RPM Blast. With his playing style and power he would break his strings every game if he had a thinner 17 or 18 gauge string!
- Roger Federer uses a hybrid string of Wilson Natural Gut and the Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough. The Luxilon has 16 gauge thickness and the Wilson has 17 gauge. For someone who has a strong overall game, this will give him sufficient power from the back of the court and great feel on his shots around the net.
- Novak Djokovic has a similar set up to Federer with two sets of strings on his racket. He opts for the Babolat Vs Touch with 17 gauge and the Luxilon ALU Power Rough with a 16 gauge thickness.
- Dominic Thiem is another player like Nadal who hits with a lot of topspin from the back of the court. He uses a hybrid setup with a 15 and a 16 gauge string.
- Both Serena and Venus Williams use a 16 gauge string, the Luxilon 4G. This slightly thicker string suits their powerful hitting game.
- Ashleigh Barty uses a 17 gauge string, the Head Hawk Touch, which suits her overall playing style as she has a wide array of shots with great feel.
- Simona Halep opts for the Luxilon Big Banger which is 16 gauge.
I can’t find an example of a pro who uses an 18 gauge string. If you know anyone, please leave a comment below.
Having the right string can really enhance your game.
So next time you’re thinking about what racket to buy, don’t forget to give due care to what string gauge you should be using and how it can best compliment your game.