How Low Can You Go?

Tennis players spend a lot of time talking about, researching, and testing racquets and strings; but very little mental energy goes into selecting the correct string tension for their particular game and goals.

Most players hand their racquet to their stringer and go with the tension range usually printed on the inside of their frame. But according to Rick Flach, one of the three tennis-playing Flach brothers, most string their racquets way too tight.

“Years ago, most of the pros like John McEnroe were using string tensions down in the low 40s or even into the 35 pound range,” says Rick. “But then along came Bjorn Borg and his 70 lbs. of tension, and the tennis world followed.”

The common wisdom is that the higher the tension, the greater control you have hitting the ball. And the lower the tension, the more power your strings will impart. But to me, the very factor that theoretically gives you the power, the strings forming a pocket around the ball and then “trampolining” the ball out, should also give you more control too.


Rick Flach plays with his racquet strung at 30 lbs.; and I can tell you from firsthand experience playing against him, that he has incredible control. He swings very easily and places the ball wherever he wants (out of your reach).

While most stringers would advise you, if you are interested in trying a lower string tension, to “move down gradually,” Rick recommends going “cold turkey” and going right down to your lower string tension target … And then just work at it for a couple of weeks to get used to it.

Sooooooo, I am now having one of my Volkl racquets strung at 35 lbs. and we will see if I can deal with it!

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8 thoughts on “How Low Can You Go?

  1. True true….
    But keep in mind that the racquet Mac played with, is not even a racquet compared to your Volkl.
    The lower tension in my opinion works with stiffer heavier frames….and even those are night and day compared to a wooden wilson racquet.

    I also believe that the majority of the top of the line racquets costing more than $225 are very finely calibrated as to the string tension recomended.


  2. I went to 29# tension on my two N Code racquets two years ago per Jim Landin’s suggestion for more “senior power”. Happy with result but must be careful not to overhit or the trampoline effect takes over as you suggested and the ball goes long. Kept Hyper Sledgehammer racquets at 62# and switch between them without much ado.

    Bob – I am amazed you can switch back and forth between those tensions. George

  3. I agree with Rick except for the reasoning. I feel the reason you get as much or more control with looser strings is that because you get more power, you don’t have to swing as fast and anytime you can swing slower, you’ll get more control. I’m a pretty firm believer that a player can get used to any tension or any racket. In talking to Rick, I think we are both of the opinion that a stiffer racket gives more power and has a bigger sweet spot and the stiff rackets are always the most expensive, and then looser string add to the power and control.

    Fred – if you feel you swing slowly, I would hate to see your fast swing! Thanks george

  4. Didn’t the Italian Beppe Merlo (from the 40’s or 50’s perhaps) string his racquets by hand?

    Jim – yikes! how loose would that be?! george

  5. Morning George. Really good topic.

    First, whatever the great Fred Drilling recommends, just do it 😉

    Secondly, there are enough variables with the string type, string gauge, racket type, racket length, head size, grip size, lead tape, vibration dampener, and then you throw in the biggest intangible of all – personal ‘feel’, and we could all go a lifetime trying to figure out if a lower string tension works …

    I agree with the comments that suggest just going cold turkey for a couple of weeks and don’t even try to measure during that time IF this is going to work.

    We get so analytical right after every ball we play when we’re trying something new that we’ll find a reason pretty quickly to nix the experiment.

    Unless you’re experiencing elbow or wrist pain from changing your string tension, I’d go with a two week trial and try your best NOT to measure it for a minimum of 8-10 times on the court …

    Good one George. Brent

    Brent – thanks for the good comments. Today is Day One of my experiment! george

  6. I’m going to go down to 45 on my Prince mid-size (100). I went down twice gradually to 58 then 52 with no difficulty. So am hopeful – thanks for a very apropos topic for me.

    Nick – how looooooooooooooow can you go?! george

  7. Had to LOL at Brent’s comments and how accurate they ARE! Brent covered a myriad of variables and when I had my shop and people asked why this or that pro didn’t use this or that racket, I always had this to say: The pro’s are the toughest to change because they can play great for 20 minutes and then miss a shot and say it’s the racket “because I never miss that shot with what I’m playing with now:)”.

  8. Interesting article George.

    Fred you don’t disagree with my reasoning for why you get more control with looser strings, unless you are disregarding the effect of the extra feel from holding the ball longer. The extra control comes from both. George you only remembered half of what I said. It is as you wrote, but it is also as Fred Drilling commented, that you also get more control because you don’t have to swing as fast to get the same ball speed.

    Fun website George. Please add me to your email list. Thanks

    Rick – i was proud that i DID remember half of what you said! Thanks for adding the other half. george.

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