Stringing Report from 2015 NCAA Division 1 Tennis Championships

As noted previously (here and here), I recently spent 2 weeks as one of the official on-site stringers for the NCAA tennis tournament at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Although we had some competition from off-site stringers who aggressively solicited business away from us, the four members of the MOZI Tennis team still strung several hundred rackets. This included the women’s doubles champions from Alabama, and the men’s singles, women’s singles, and men’s doubles finalists (from Wake Forest, Stanford, and Texas).

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men's singles finalist

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men’s singles finalist

I personally worked on rackets for 49 different players from 27 teams. This included 18 women from 12 teams and 31 men from 15 teams. Although this is not a random sample of all players in the tournament, it is a fairly diverse group of players.

For these 49 rackets, the string tensions I observed were:

  • Overall: 43 pounds to 63 pounds
  • Men: 43 pounds to 59 pounds
  • Women: 46 pounds to 63 pounds
  • Overall average: 53.3 pounds
  • Men’s average: 52.25 pounds
  • Women’s average: 55.2 pounds

I find it interesting that even though men can generate more power on their own than women, women tend to string tighter than men. Part of this may be due to women generally using more open string patterns than men, but it is also the case that each player develops their own feeling for the optimal string tension for their particular racket and game. To wit: the highest recorded tension in our stringing room was 69 pound mains and 68 pound crosses.

Head Speed with RPM

Almost all of the players, men and women, used all polyester monofilament strings – 44 of 49 players. 4 players used hybrid stringing (monofilament mains and synthetic gut/multifilament crosses), and 1 player used all multifilament string.

A few string brands were most common:

  1. Luxilon – 31%
  2. Solinco – 20%
  3. Babolat – 16%
  4. Pacific – 12%
  5. Wilson – 6%
  6. Prince, Tecnifibre – 4%
  7. Head, Kirschbaum, Pros Pro – 2%

Pacific was overrepresented because I strung all of the rackets for Wake Forest men’s tennis team which has an agreement with Pacific.

NCAA Rackets

Racket brands are even more concentrated than string brands:

  1. Babolat – 41%
  2. Wilson – 29%
  3. Head – 24%
  4. Dunlop, Prince, Tecnifibre – 2%

An amazing 94% of players used one of three brands.

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The Pre-Packaged Poly-Poly Hybrid

Courtesy of Head and the United States Racquet Stringers Association (USRSA), I received a sample pack of a new string from Head recently. Actually, Head Gravity is not a “new” string, per se, but a new combination of strings, which is what caught my attention. It is a pre-packaged “hybrid” that contains 22 feet of a 1.25mm (17 gauge) triangular co-polyester monofilament and 18 feet of a 1.20mm (18 gauge) traditional round co-polyester monofilament. (As the string lengths suggest, the triangular poly is designed for the mains and the round poly for the crosses — on only a few of the rackets I string could I do all of the mains with only 18 feet of string.) By the way,Head Gravity is reviewed in the February 2015 issue of Tennis Industry Magazine.

Head Gravity

What caught my attention is that Head Gravity is a “poly-poly” hybrid. As I note on my “additional string information” page, hybrid stringing capitalizes on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of different types of string. Typically, a hybrid string job will use a polyester monofilament on the main strings for firmness and durability, and a synthetic gut, multifilament, or natural gut on the cross strings for power and feel. These mains and crosses can also be reversed, though, for a different effect. Roger Federer and some others, for example, do use natural gut on the main strings and a monofilament on the cross strings for more feel and power — and obviously the reduced durability of a such a set-up is not an issue for Federer.

The fact that not all polyester monofilament strings are made the same makes the “poly-poly hybrid” a good option for those who want the durability of a monofilament string but a bit more “pop.” For example, with Wake Forest’s men’s tennis team, we have taken advantage of the range of Pacific’s monofilaments to provide the players with optimal poly-poly combinations. Pacific’s Poly Power Pro is one of the softest monofilaments we have found (stiffness rating of 222 according to the USRSA), and we hybrid it with Pacific’s stiffer Poly Force (294 stiffness) and X Cite (271 stiffness) strings.  Poly Power ProBecause Poly Power Pro is a monofilament, we can use it as a main string for better feel and power without sacrificing much in the way of durability. This has been a popular option for players using rackets with 18 mains and 20 crosses (a tight string pattern), with 17 gauge Pacific Poly Force in the crosses. Poly Power Pro also makes a nice compliment in the cross strings when using Pacific X Cite in the mains.

When someone says “hybrid,” I do still think of someone who combines a monofilament string with a synthetic gun, multifilament, or gut, but Head’s Gravity reminds us that as monofilament technologies evolve, we should all consider the poly-poly hybrid as an option.