If you've bought a tennis racquet recently, as I have, you know that you can't just buy a racquet and start playing with it. No, no. You have to get it strung. (Not to be obtuse and state the obvious. It's just to remind everyone – most racquets don't come pre-strung. Unless you're buying a relatively cheap or a used racquet.) (And that's not to make any kind of judgment if you bought a relatively cheap or used racquet – those are perfectly acceptable.)
But you can't just use any string to get it strung. First, you have to pick a string made out of the material that is right for you. How do you know what material your string should be? Check out this post – Tennis Strings – What Kind Should You Use?
Once you know what kind of string to use, you need to figure out what gauge that string should be. What the heck does that mean? Well, the gauge of a string is how thin or thick the string is. A thicker string will wear down slower than a thinner string and will break less often – thus lasting longer. A thinner string, however, has more resiliency or “feel” which is important to a lot of players, especially as they become more advanced. Thinner strings may also generate more power and spin.
String gauges are given in numbers ranging from 15 (the thickest gauge) to as high as 20 (the thinnest gauge). Most average players will use a string in the range of 15 to 17. There are even half-gauge strings, represented by the letter “L.” So a 16L gauge string is like a 16 1/2 gauge string, between a 16 and 17.
At this point, you may be saying, “Wow! This string gauge stuff is incredibly fascinating! But I really have no idea what gauge string I'm playing with.” Don't worry. If you're happy with what you've got, tell your stringer “Just do the same thing again” next time you take your racquet for restringing. He or she can figure out what you're using and you don't have to be too concerned.
If, however, you think you might like to know what you're playing with now, the gauge is usually printed on the strings in the most minute font possible. You might be able to read it. If not, a professional stringer certainly can and he or she can tell you what you're using (because maybe you bought a pre-strung racquet!).
And next time you get your racquet strung, don't be afraid to try a different, probably higher, gauge string. Will it make a difference in your game? Possibly. Will it give you something interesting to discuss with your stringer? Well, I think so!
(And don't forget to tell your stringer what tension you want your strings to be. Read this post – Finding the Right String Tension for You and Your Racquet – to find out all about proper string tension.)
© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved