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Posts Tagged ‘Tennis Strings’

PostHeaderIcon “Ask Marla” #5 – My String Tension Feels Too Tight

Ask Marla

This week’s question deals with strings, and what you can do if your string job isn’t quite working out the way you hoped it would.

Question: The poundage on my new stringing feels too tight. Is there a way that I can get my strings to loosen besides just hitting with them and suffering through the initial “ick” feeling?

Answer:  There isn’t a lot you can do to immediately loosen the tension on your strings. It’s not recommended, but you can try standing on your racquet’s string bed after laying it on a flat surface. Don’t bounce on it, just apply a few seconds of steady pressure with your foot! Many frames can withstand that pressure, and it might solve your problem. Unfortunately, the best answer is to hit with it and let the strings relax. If you’re very unhappy and the tension really becomes an issue with your game, work with your stringer to see what arrangements can be made for a restringing.

(SFTF Note: String modifications, or string mods as many call them, aren’t talked about a lot in tennis. However, more people than you’d ever suspect have tried various tricks to make an unhappy string job become a little more playable before “throwing in the towel” with a restringing. Unfortunately, the sad fact for most string mods is that they only offer temporary relief at best, and severely decrease string life.
Check out my experience with the black version of Wilson’s NXT strings, and the string modification via emery board I tried in order to compensate for my unhappiness with them.)

Thanks Marla!
Got a tennis question, but no one to ask?
Send it via email or tweet for “Ask Marla”, a (hopefully) weekly (or biweekly) question-and-answer with Marla Reid of San Francisco’s City Racquet Shop.


About Marla Reid

Marla Reid is a respected tennis pro/coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s coached nationally-ranked teams and players at Occidental College, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of Kansas, and Florida Tech, and has over 15 years of experience at the NCAA Division I, II, and III levels. Marla has an M.A. in Exercise Physiology, and is a seasoned racquet stringer.

About City Racquet Shop

City Racquet Shop offers, superior products/services, outstanding customer service, and a community-oriented destination for tennis players to shop, hang out and talk about tennis.

City Racquet Shop online: www.cityracquetshop.com
City Racquet Shop on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/city-racquet-shop-san-francisco
City Racquet Shop on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cityracquetshop

PostHeaderIcon Tennis String Talk: String Modifications, Or Why NXT Black Strings and Emery Boards Don’t Mix


The broken “modified” strings

(Unpublished accompaniment to my earlier string review on the Wilson NXT “black” strings. 3/11/2012)

In a previous piece, I gave my impressions of the new Wilson NXT 17g “black” strings after having two racquets re-strung with this variant. If you’re a fan of the animated series “Family Guy”, you will appreciate my next reference. In the words of Peter Griffin, “I don’t very much care for these strings. I say good day to you sir”.

I’d find it difficult to recommend these strings for anyone with a game like mine. Whatever gains you might make in terms of longer string life, you pay for with a dramatic offset in loss in topspin, control and feel.

Since I was unwilling to pay for new strings so soon after stringing, I tried some string modification by using an emery board to wear down the black coating. The hope was that I regain the lost feel and control by wearing down the slick coating. I lightly rubbed, so as not to damage the strings. The rubbing was too light, however, and didn’t make much of a difference in the string’s playability.

My second attempt was more robust. My strings got a full mani/pedi this time, as I made sure that every applicable ball-facing surface around the sweet spot was rubbed by the emery board. My next hit ended quickly in disappointment, as both sets of strings broke within the first 15 minutes.

This experiment turned out to be a total bust! Each modified set lasted less than two weeks (3 hits).  I take full responsibility for the shortened string life, since the second attempt clearly damaged/weakened the strings. But it was a risk I was willing to take with racquets that felt unplayable.

I got both restrung: one with the regular “natural” Wilson NXT 17g at 58 pounds, and the other with Wilson Stamina 17g at 60. As I was paying, another patron came in for a re-stringing; coincidentally, because of broken Wilson NXT black strings (16g).

Surprisingly, his strings lasted only two weeks – and with no mods. His game was a lot like mine i.e. baseliner with heavy topspin who also found the black coating difficult in terms of feel and ball control.  Before meeting him, I was certain that mine would have lasted at least 5 more weeks without the emery board intervention. Afterward, I realized that maybe they would have broken anyway.

Wilson, you have a great string with the “natural” NXT. Please don’t change it!

PostHeaderIcon Tennis String Talk: Wilson NXT 17g “Black” Strings Might Look Cool, But Can’t Compare to “Natural”

Longer lasting
Cool black color
Good for flat ball strikers

Loss of feel and spin,
Slickness reduces “bite”
Not good for topspin strikers

A few weeks back, I took my racquets in to my regular stringer with both sticks badly in need of new strings. One racquet had broken strings.  The other had strings that were so heavily frayed that they were ready to break if the wind blew too hard. With a scheduled practice the next day, I needed to get at least one of them strung.

I usually get my racquets strung with Wilson NXT 17g. But Marla, my stringer, said that she had a surprise for me on the string shelf. At first I thought she meant a price reduction (just kidding). Then I noticed the surprise:  a new “black” version of the NXT 17g strings! She said they were supposed to play the same as the original “natural” string and last longer.  The pitch sounded good, so I had her put them into both racquets.

Before I share my thoughts on the new Wilson NXT 17g “black” string, let me give you my thoughts on the original “natural” version.  I love these strings!  They give me excellent “feel” and ball control.  They give me the ability to place my serve wherever I want in the service box.  They grip the ball perfectly on my groundstrokes, and allow me to use my topspin to full advantage on both my forehand and backhand.  And volleys, which can sometimes be my nemesis, feel controlled and comfortable.

Did I mention that I love these strings?!?!

The only downside is that they don’t last as long as I would like due to their softness and texture.  This is especially true when strung at higher tensions (60+) AND if you hit with a lot of topspin like I do.  Hitting about twice a week, I can pop a set of strings in about 4 weeks if my racquet is strung at 60lbs (the range for my racquet is 57 +/- 5 lbs). That decreases to 3 weeks if strung at 62, and even less if I “shank” a shot.

Personally, I don’t mind the shorter lifespan of these strings because of the added confidence they give me in terms of topspin and ball control.  I play my best tennis when I can swing freely, and these strings allow me to do just that.  It’s more than a fair trade-off!  I wish I could say the same thing about the new “black” version, but I can’t.


The black color is due to a coating that allows the strings to last longer than the uncoated “natural” version. That’s a good thing when the cost of strings and labor per racquet strung can set you back 35 bucks a pop.  At least it sounded like a good thing until I gave them a try and realized they were the completely wrong string type for my game.

The black strings are significantly stiffer than the natural version.  Any “feel” that I had previously perceived was non-existent. The coating also adds a slickness to the strings, causing them to not grab the ball as needed for topspin shots.  This makes the task of “lifting” an opponent’s low balls much more difficult.  This lack of lift on my forehand caused shots to either end up at the bottom of the net, or fly well beyond the baseline.


Here is an assessment of the NXT 17g “black” strings from a week’s worth of hitting:

  • Serve: I lost significant “feel” and spin on my serve, taking away the confidence I’d previously had to place my serve in the service box as needed in order to be competitive at 4.0. This is a significant because my serve is the cornerstone of my game.
  • Forehand: I lost my control and ability to hit the strong topspin shots I love, either crosscourt or inside-out, that allow me to attack. The lack of topspin control causes the ball to sail long or dump into the net if mishit.
  • Backhand: This shot fared the worst with the loss of “feel”.  An improperly struck shot (on a stroke that is already not one of my strongest), is pretty much “dead in the water” leaving me completely vulnerable to attack.
  • Overall, the loss of confidence in my ability to attack my shots was reason enough to end the trial period on these strings.  Confidence is everything in tennis, and I had none with these strings.

I would have a hard time recommending these strings to anyone who hits with heavy topspin, or who likes a soft string with “feel”.   However, I can see these being an ideal string for the player who likes to hit a flatter ball with moderate pace, and prefers a sturdy yet thinner gauge string. And the black color does look pretty cool!

As for me, I’m going to see if I can modify the strings to help soften them up and lessen the slickness.  It’s either that or cut them out and pay another 70 bucks for a second re-stringing in as many weeks.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

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