Tennis string is ultimately what the ball contacts when you strike it with your racquet, so buying the right product is obviously an important choice.
In this guide we’ll outline some key considerations when buying and review the best tennis strings on the market for the 2018 season in terms of overall value for money.
Quick comparison table
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Polymer & aluminum
Finding the right tennis strings: a buyer’s guide
Gone are the days of having just a few natural gut options on the market. Now there’s tons and tons of choice, so you can find just the right tennis strings for your individual needs. We’ll discuss some things to look out for.
1. Different tennis string materials
a. Natural gut
In the past, most tennis strings were made out of cow or sheep intestine. Thousands of individual strands of tissue are combined to produce the best quality tennis string you can buy. Natural gut is often used by professional players because it offers exceptional all-round performance – providing great control over spin and placement as well as good power. It also helps to mitigate the force transferred to your elbow and arm as you play your shots, reducing the chances of injury.
The downside to natural gut is it’s relatively expensive. It’s also not incredibly durable, which is why in recent years manufacturers have developed more innovative tennis string material.
b. Synthetic gut
Like natural gut tennis strings, synthetic gut options are designed to provide exceptional all-round performance. However, they’re cheaper and are much more durable. Plus, no animals are hurt in the making of synthetic gut string because it’s made of nylon, which is a type of plastic.
Some players prefer the cost saving and the extra durability of synthetic gut string, however it doesn’t feel quite as nice as natural gut when striking the ball. It’s essentially a nice economical all-round option – it doesn’t have any special features like some other types of string do.
Multifilament is a newer, more innovative take on synthetic tennis string. Thousands of microfibers are combined to produce a man-made string with similar qualities to natural gut products. Although multifilament doesn’t feel the exact same as natural gut, it’s a very close match. It also offers exceptional comfort when playing, which is great for players who are prone to injuries such as tennis elbow.
Multifilament tennis string can be a bit expensive but is not normally as costly as natural gut. It can also fray over time, although its overall durability is quite good.
Polyester tennis string offers great all-round performance. However, it excels in helping you perform powerful topspin shots and serves. Players such as Rafael Nadal use it to smash the ball home while also retaining the ability to place their shots carefully. It’s also very durable and reasonably priced.
However, polyester tennis string can be very unforgiving. Because it’s so stiff (to maximize power) a lot of force is transferred to your arm as you hit the ball. Therefore, it’s not a recommended option for players with elbow/shoulder injury issues.
This stuff is used in bulletproof vests and to protect tanks from RPGs. An armored tennis racquet? What more could you ask for?
Kevlar is just like polyester, only tougher – you get more power on your shots. It’s also less likely to lose tension in the middle of a match. However, Kevlar is less forgiving on your arm, and some control is sacrificed for the additional oomph. It can also be quite expensive.
f. Hybrid layouts
Since every type of tennis string has distinct advantages and disadvantages, players figured that they could combine different materials to create a tennis string bed with exceptional all-round performance. For example, using both natural gut and polyester to maximize control and feel for the ball while also allowing for extra power on your shots.
If you’re not looking for some particular characteristic (power, control, comfort, feel etc) using two different string types is a great idea. You can choose exactly what you want – just buy two sets of string – one for the main string and one for the cross string.
2. Tennis string gauge
When shopping you’ll see different tennis string gauge readings such as “16G”. This refers to the thickness of the string. A low gauge reading is 15 (thicker string) while a high gauge reading (thinner string) is 19.
So what should you get? The thinner the string (the higher the reading), the more control you’ll get over your shots and the more spin you’ll be able to impart on the ball. However, thinner string will snap more easily, so you’ll have to replace it more often.
3. String tension
When you string your racquet, you’ll be able to decide how much force to use when pulling the strings taut. This is called the string tension and it’s often measured in pounds.
Basically, the lower the string tension the more power you get. This is because the surface is pushed in more as the ball hits it, allowing it to then spring forward and propel the ball with greater force. The higher the string tension the more control you’ll have over your shots because it’s easier to judge how to hit the ball when the surface responds almost instantly.
Most manufacturers will have a recommended string tension marked on the throat of the racquet.
4. Installing your new tennis string
You’ve brought your fancy new tennis string, now what?
You’ll need the following equipment to string your racquet:
Check this video to see how it’s done:
Have a look at our stringing machine buyer’s guide if you don’t have a stringer already.
Best tennis strings
Now onto the reviews! Beside each tennis string we’ve looked at we’ve included the string material so you know which option will best suit your individual needs.
1. Wilson Natural Gut Tennis String (Natural Gut)
Wilson have recently revamped their natural gut offering to make it firmer, offering greater power on your shots. At the same time, the natural material offers excellent control over spin and placement, making this string a nice all-around option. The moisture-resistant coating makes it a bit more durable than other natural gut options, but it’s not quite as f
Although it’s not the most durable option on the market, Wilson Natural Gut is priced very reasonably and is a very comfortable string. If you’re a power hitter this string would work great in a hybrid layout with perhaps a polyester or Kevlar string.
2. Babolat Tonic+ Ball Feel Tennis String (Natural Gut)
Another natural gut option is Babolat’s Tonic+ string. In terms of feel for the ball and comfort when hitting you can’t really go past Babolat if you’re buying a natural gut tennis string. After all, founder Pierre Babolat pioneered the use of sheep intestine to produce beautiful natural gut strings in the late 1800s.
With this model, the company has used the technology available today to produce a more durable product. The “Tonic+ Longevity string” holds up well compared to cheaper natural gut options and is designed to stand up to humid summer conditions.
This string is a bit cheaper than Wilson’s option but it performs just as well. Like our #1 pick, the Babolat Tonic+ natural gut is an awesome all-round option that’s quite durable for its price.
3. Kirschbaum Tennis String (Synthetic Gut)
If you’re prone to breaking strings and want something with a bit more power without sacrificing too much comfort, Kirschbaum’s synthetic gut option is your best bet.
The main benefit of this string is its price – it’s dirt cheap compared to natural gut options. It’s also much more durable. The nylon material it’s made of is very strong, meaning you’ll be able to use the additional power of these strings to full effect. Even if you do break a string, restringing your racquet isn’t a big deal due to the low cost of this product.
However, as we discussed in our buyer’s guide, synthetic gut string doesn’t quite feel the same as natural gut. For the cost saving you’re sacrificing a small amount of control over your shots and your capacity to maximize spin on the ball. In return, you get more power and better durability.
4. Wilson Power String (Synthetic Gut)
For a slightly higher price (per meter) you can get synthetic gut string that feels almost exactly like a natural gut option without the durability issues. Wilson’s synthetic gut product is one such premium offering, as the company has opted to create a tougher, more durable string that’s designed for maximum power. At the same time the solid all-round performance is still on offer, as this string provides great control over placement and spin.
The downside as we mentioned is the higher price – Wilson doesn’t sell their synthetic gut string in massive value reels like Kirschbaum does. So if you tend to break synthetic strings often you might be better going for option #3. However, if you’re looking for better overall performance Wilson’s nylon string is your best bet.
5. HEAD Velocity MLT Tennis String (Multifilament)
Multifilament string is designed to be super-easy on the arm, and HEAD Velocity MLT excels in this regard. The combination of 1000 monofilaments on the inside of the string results in awesome comfort when playing. If you’re concerned about tennis elbow or a shoulder injury, this string is a great option to reduce the strain on your arm when playing.
However, you needn’t sacrifice control or power to ensure you’re playing pain-free. HEAD has used a low friction coating which helps you to impart maximum spin on the ball. Plus, the synthetic filaments offer decent power considering the very reasonable price of this string.
6. Wilson NXT Control 16 Tennis String (Multifilament)
Another awesome all-round microfilament option is the Wilson NXT Control 16. Xycro Micro nylon and polyester fibers create a balanced string bed with great control and power. At the same time, shooting with this string is very comfortable as the composite structure helps to mitigate reverberations up your arm. Your feel for the ball with this string is also pretty great as it comes in the 16 gauge size range – the thinner strings further improving control over shots.
However, even though the price for this string is fairly reasonable, it’s not incredibly durable. The filaments are prone to fraying after extended use. Look for a synthetic gut string or our #5 pick if you tend to break strings quite quickly.
7. Babolat RPM Blast Tennis String (Polyester)
As well as producing exceptional natural gut tennis string, Babolat makes a pretty darn good poly option for power hitters. The RPM blast uses an octagonal profile to deliver exceptional levels of spin (including topspin!) for a polyester string. Also, considering the durability of these strings, the price is quite reasonable.
As you’d expect from a product made of this material, the RPM Blast offers awesome power on your shots, especially when paired with a low string tension. Power-hitting pros such as Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga use this string to land those back of the court shots while also retaining the ability to place the odd drop shot.
8. Luxilion ALU Power 125 Tennis String (Polymer/aluminum)
This string is basically the latest and greatest product on the market in terms of innovation.
Basically, it’s a string for power hitters. But rather than using plain polyester/kevlar, Luxilon have gone for a more advanced hybrid formulation of fluorocarbon resin fibers and aluminum strands.
The end result is an absolutely awesome string which delivers incredible power while still offering an awesome feel for the ball. Plus, the aluminum makes this string super-durable – it won’t break easily, and it holds its bounce for months without needing to be replaced.
It’s not hard to see why more than half of the ATP top 100 use Luxilon. It’s actually a brand owned by Wilson, so you know the quality is going to be superb.
Although this is a power-oriented string, it makes any shot more rewarding to hit – the level of control on offer is fantastic.
9. Ashaway Tennis String (Kevlar)
Although it’s a pretty expensive option considering its average levels of control, Kevlar is probably what you need if you’re a power-hitter looking to make a hybrid string layout. By combining a string made with this material and something like Wilson Natural Gut, you’ll be able to generate awesome power while still being able to place your shots nicely.
Ashaway has used braided Kevlar with this string to help bite the ball, allowing you to generate spin on your shots. As is expected with Kevlar, this string is one of the most powerful options available. Because this stuff was originally designed to be used in bulletproof vests it’s super durable, meaning fewer issues with broken strings.
Despite coming in nice 360ft value reels, unfortunately this string is quite expensive.
If you’re still unsure, remember you can always try a hybrid string setup. Take the best of both worlds – have control and power if you’re a fabulous all-round player. Otherwise, go for what suits your specific needs. Want something extra comfortable? Go for a multifilament string. Need extra power and awesome durability? Polyester and Kevlar are your best options.
Still unsure what to get? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you right away 🙂
About the author
Tom is an accomplished writer, with years of experience producing buyer’s guides and tutorials for athletes online.
And it goes without saying – he’s sports-mad.