Fear of Flying

In March of this year, I made the significant change of lowering the string tension in my racquets to 35 lbs. After a geo n-fm3six-month trial, I found I developed “fear of flying.”

The original encouragement to try the lower tension came from Rick Flach, who plays an incredibly controlled game at 30 lbs. of string tension. His belief is that you can have just as much control at the lower tension + have the benefits of the extra power to swing so much easier.

For me, it also had the side benefit of minimizing the negative effects on the arm of playing with the harder poly strings. But I found that I really couldn’t control the ball – especially on my aggressive forehand – and started swinging more tentatively because the fear of the ball flying long.

Changing Swing Patterns
geo n-fm2
Several of my New Hampshire summer playing partners observed that my swing became much more exaggerated, trying to “cover the ball” to keep it in play. So last month, my racquets were restrung (with Gamma Zo Verve in the mains and synthetic gut in the crosses) at 45 lbs.

While Rick Flach contends, “it is not the strings fault, it is mine,” I now have much more confidence in being able to hit out on my forehand and have the ball stay in play.

P.S. the pictures were taken by the official photographer at the Naples/Ft. Myers Challenge this past weekend.

Smiling before Fred crushed me!
Smiling before Fred crushed me!

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7 thoughts on “Fear of Flying

  1. I found that when the strings are more loose, I had to make sure that I took a full swing and put the normal amount of spin on the ball. If I started just blocking or pushing the ball, then it would fly longer than I wanted it to. I still agree with Rick though, that you should be able to adjust to any tension and get good control and the looser strings are definitely easier on your arm. Tension also has a lot to do with the type of game one plays. A steady backcourter can use a loose string much more easily than an aggressive, harder hitter.

    Fred – the last point is what got me to switch back up to 45 lbs. tks. george

  2. Very interesting, George. Terrific to see you experimenting with various tensions. Rick Flach’s comments are interesting too, though I’d imagine since he cracked the top 1,400 in the world in doubles he’s got a whole other skill level than us 4.5 types.

    Have you experimented much with natural gut? This is what I play with, VS Tonic 16 at 57 lbs. But I wonder if the particles from clay trigger cause gut strings to break too soon.

    Joel – yes, i tried gut. but with topspin on clay, i was spending $120 for two raquets every six weeks on restringing! tks, george

  3. Hi George,
    I too have settled in at 45 lbs. with a poly string, enabling me to “swing easy” with no strain on the arm and no fear of catapulting the ball from Ct. To Newk’s Ranch!
    Best, Jim

    Jim – “Great minds…” george

  4. George, Have you ever tried different tensions for the mains and cross strings that is, one tension for the mains .e.g. 47 and a lower for the cross e.g. 43. I tried this approach and like it. I was advised to try this, plus after some researching , I was told players such a Federer string this way. Whether this technique makes a difference for better spin or improved control, probably still comes down to an individuals game. Anyway just an FYI.
    See you on the courts

    Gary, interesting thought. I might try that next time I string rackets. Thanks, George

  5. I read with interest your comments regarding your 6-month experiment. I completely agree with your observations. Since the last time we played, when I was using all Luxillon Big Banger strings (main & cross) strung at 55 lbs, I switched to a tension of 50 lbs, still using the Luxillon in the mains, but softer strings (Babolat synthetic gut) in the cross strings. I don’t seem to have lost any power, the control is slightly better, & the wear & tear on my arm/shoulder is a lot less.

  6. George –
    I think the “trampoline effect” of flying the ball too long may have a lot to do with stroking technique. If a player hits flat, with an Eastern grip (without much spin) there is more fear of flying. High racket head speed with spin and good follow through would eliminate that. But some of us find it difficult to change long established habits.

  7. If you swing low to high, tighter is better. If you swing high to low string somewhat looser. Heavy topspin and very loose strings are a recipe for failure.

    Bill … Your words were the ones that pushed me over the edge and back up to 45 lbs! Thanks. George

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