Tennis Equipment 101
Your equipment is almost as important as your stroke. Having and maintaining the proper equipment will make a positive difference in your tennis game–proper string tension, type of strings, which racquet best suits your game.
Racquets have different widths. The wider the beam, the more distance you get with less power. You do not have to swing as hard to get distance. The thinner the frame the less distance you get and you have to swing harder. Racquet surfaces can range from 98″ to 135″.
As a general rule you should have your racquet strung as many times a year as you play per week. If you play on average three times a week, you should have your racquet strung three times a year. Even if the racquet is not being used, the elasticity and tension of the string will lessen over time. When the tension is lost, the racquet has a more “trampling” effect, which means the ball will travel farther than you want. Tennis pros are so concerned about their string tension holding that they switch racquets every nine games. At their level, string tension will drop after playing only nine games or less.
Type of strings
Strings are made of different types of materials: synthetic gut, natural gut, and polytech. Polytech is the latest in strings. It holds tension longer and gets more power. You have to string 10% less than you are accustomed to, or you will hurt your arm. Lately, non-circular polytech is the most popular string. Since it is non-circular, it grips the ball better and enhances your spin tremendously.
When a tennis pro hits the ball long, he will switch to a racquet with tighter string tension so the ball will travel less distance. If he is hitting the ball shallow, he will switch to a racquet with looser tension so the ball will travel farther. With loose tension, the string moves around more; without elasticity the string will not recoil back into its original position. This means the sweet spot on the racquet moves around and you lose control of the ball.
An unused racquet will create problems, such as brittle strings, which takes away from the “feel.” Brittle strings are also referred to as dead strings. With dead strings you swing at the ball and get no response and no feel, no matter how hard you try.
If you are a recreational or seasonal player, you should get your racquet tuned up at the beginning of each season. There are as many types of strings and string tension as there are different players, so when you tune up your racquet be sure to talk to a professional about what type of string and tension you should have. As a side note, you should also get your grip redone while you are getting your racquet restrung. There is nothing like playing tennis with a new set of strings and a brand new grip!
Tennis shoes are, of course, also important. Tennis is a game of lateral movement. It is important to have proper tennis shoes to support this kind of movement and prevent injuries. Some tennis players wear cross-trainers or running shoes to play in. This is absolutely not recommended! I have seen quite a few ankle injuries due to playing in these shoes. Cross-trainer shoes do not give support for lateral movement and will damage the tennis court surface, especially clay and grass. They also leave marks on hard court surface that are difficult to remove. Most tennis clubs will not allow a player to wear cross-trainers or running shoes, regardless of the type of court surface.