How to String a Tennis Racquet
Without strings on your racquet, you won’t be able to hit a tennis ball (unless you’re going to play with the side of your racquet’s frame forever). And as you may know, tennis strings can break often, resulting in expensive stringing if you get it fixed at a shop every time. That’s why today, we’re going to teach you how to a string a tennis racquet yourself!
However, learning how to string a tennis racquet isn’t as easy as tying your shoes. You’ll need a tennis stringing machine (which we go in more depth here) and some special tools to help you out. What a stringing machine does is tensions the strings while holding the racquet in place, allowing you to string your racquet to your personal preferences. Most shops charge ~$20 and up to string your racquet (with strings costing $6-$10), which can add up very quickly if you break strings often. You can learn more about how much it costs to string a racquet here. By purchasing a stringing machine and stringing racquets yourself, on average, you’ll easily be able to pay off a basic stringing machine within a year with nothing but savings after that. But if you play tennis infrequently (say, once or twice a month or less), it might not make sense to invest in your own stringing machine.
Besides saving money and avoiding the frustration of visiting a shop, you’ll also be saving lots of time by stringing racquets yourself. Although the first few times might take longer as you get used to your machine and the actual process of stringing, it gets progressively easier after that. Whereas beginning stringers might take an hour or so learning the ropes, intermediate and advanced stringers can often do it in under 30 minutes. With that being said, let’s learn how to string a tennis racquet.
How To String a Tennis Racquet
Before we actually begin learning how to string a tennis racquet, you’ll need some tools in your arsenal to get the job done. We’ll briefly go over the list and explain what each tool does.
Tools You’ll Need:
- Tennis stringing machine — A stringing machine is absolutely necessary in order to string racquets yourself. Without it, there is no way to tension the strings or hold the racquet frame in place. But what kind of machine you choose will be solely dependent on your needs. The linked article above goes through all the finer details of picking a machine, but we’ll give you a quick overview here:
- Price: Anywhere from ~$200 (drop weight/basic) to >$2,000 (electronic/deluxe)
- Stand: Table top (no stand) or standalone (fixed, upright position)
- Tension Option: How strings will be tensioned; there are three options: drop weight (rod/weight), manual crank (spring/lockout system), or electronic (automated)
- Mounts: The number of contact points that hold a racquet in place: there are 2, 4, or 6-point mounting systems available
- Clamps: Floating clamps or fixed clamps with or without swivel hold the tensioned strings in place
- Tennis strings — There are many types of strings available with different feels and durability, and what strings you use is a matter of experimentation; choices include:
- Tennis racquet — An unstrung tennis racquet is necessary, unless you want to practice on an air racquet first (similar to an air guitar)
- Awl — Helps to loosen clogged grommets and tie knots; basically a needle that goes through blocked holes to give room for strings to pass through
- Pliers — Helps you pull the strings instead of with your hands, useful for tying knots
- Clippers — Clippers, cutters, diagonal cutters, whatever you want to call them; they’ll be used to cut the strings
- Yard stick/ruler (optional) — To measure and cut appropriate lengths of string
Before You Start Stringing
The method we’ll be using to string our racquet is the two-piece method, since all tennis racquets can be strung this way. This is done by cutting the full length of string in half, using half to string the mains with the other half to string the crosses. This will require you to tie a knot when you transition from stringing the mains to the crosses. We are also using a manual crank stringing machine to tension strings, but this can differ for you depending on what type of machine you have. There is some prep we’ll have to do first before we begin learning how to string a tennis racquet:
- Measure out the string: You’ll need about 40 feet of string for a tennis racquet, which most string packages come with. But if you are getting string from a reel (which is more cost-efficient), measure out ~40 feet and clip it at a diagonal angle (helps later to put strings through the grommets).
- Straighten it out: Straighten out the strings and get rid of any unwanted kinks. This makes it easier to avoid messes once you start stringing, and doing so helps lessen the chance that the string will break while you are stringing the racquet (especially for natural gut).
- Cut the entire length in half: Since we’ll be using half of the string for the mains and half for the crosses, you’ll need to divide the entire length of string in half. Hold both ends of the strings and place them together. Run down the length until you reach the middle and clip it at a diagonal angle (helps later to put strings through the grommets).
- Prep your racquet: If you haven’t already, use a sharp knife to cut out the old and broken strings on your racquet. It’s easier to cut the strings in the middle first and then continue outwards. You should also look at the grommets to see whether they need replacing or not. The string should not run through any sharp edges in the grommets. If some look blocked, you’ll be using an awl to loosen them up.
- Set your machine’s tension rating: Again, this part of the process will depend on what type of machine you have. With a drop weight and manual crank machine, you’ll have a scale to adjust the tension rating. Electronic machines can be adjusted through the display. Most players use a string tension of around 50 to 60 lbs, but this is a matter of personal preference and one you should experiment with to find what is comfortable for you. For the pros and cons of different string tensions, check out this chart.
Step 1. Mount Your Racquet
First off, you’ll want to mount your racquet onto your stringing machine. Some stringing machines are different than others, however. For example, the mounting system will have either 2, 4, or 6 contact points that hold the racquet in place. So, place your racquet on the machine and make sure all the mounts are securing it properly, especially the head and throat. Make sure the mounts are tight enough that the racquet doesn’t move but not too tight that the frame gets damaged.
Note: Remember not to block any of the grommets when mounting your racquet, since you won’t be able to insert your strings into blocked holes.
Step 2. Find Your Starting Point
Next, you’ll need to find where to start. To do so, you will need to look at the throat of the racquet and count how many holes there are. If the racquet has 6 holes at the throat, you will start at the throat; if your racquet has 8 holes at the throat, you will start at the top. You should also find which holes on the opposite side of the racquet align with your starting holes and make a mental note of it.
Step 3. Insert the Main Strings
Now you’ll need to grab one of the two halves of string you cut and insert them into your starting holes. Slide each end of the string through their opposing holes as well, making sure there are equal amounts of string on both sides. The best way to do this is to have the two ends of the string put through the holes so that just the tips are showing. You can then pull on both ends of the string at the same time, giving you equal lengths so that you don’t have to worry about running out of string as you each the end.
Step 4. Pull the Main Strings
Start by clamping one of the main strings at the end you started at, making sure to clamp as close to the grommet as possible to minimize tension loss. Note that this clamp will be used for that side only until you are ready to tie the knot. You can then pull tension on your other main string at this point. How you pull tension on your strings will depend on what type of machine you have: drop weights require the rod to be fully parallel with a level, horizontal surface for correct tension. Manual machines are cranked each time you tension a string and engaged with the lockout system. Electronic machines are fully automated and only requires the click of a button to pull tension. Make sure that the string is tightly secured or else you will lose some tension.
Step 5. Finish the Main Strings
With the string you just pulled tension with, secure it in place with a second clamp as close to the grommet as possible. Release the string from the gripper and repeat the process for the other side of the string. Insert the string into the gripper, pull until the correct tension is reached, clamp it in place, repeat the process on the opposite string, and continue until all your mains are finished.
NOTE: When stringing, you should never go more than three mains ahead of the opposite side as to avoid uneven pressure on the racquet frame. Also look out for holes that are skipped or shared. Usually you can tell the difference by a dot on the frame indicating that the hole is skipped. As a stringer, you should also acquaint yourself with the racquet string pattern (18×20, 16×19) beforehand so that you don’t string the racquet wrong.
Step 6. Tie the Knot
Once the mains are finished, you can now tie the knots. With your clamps still properly secured, insert an end of the string into the nearest possible hole with space on the outside of your frame and pull the string inside. You might need to use an awl to accomplish this. To tie the knot, bring the end of the string down one side of the main string and up the other, going through the loop you just created. You can use your pliers or insert the end of the string into the gripper to tighten it, and repeat the process again for a strong double knot. Now that you’ve finished one side of the main strings, you can repeat the process for the other end of the string. Once the knots are secure, you can release the clamps and cut the extra string on both sides, taking care not to cut the knots.
The main strings are now finished so we can move on to the cross strings. At this point, you can reposition your clamps to accommodate the cross strings if your machine requires it (you will only need one to hold the tension). To start off, take your other half of the string you reserved for cross strings and insert it into one of the shared holes (you can tell by a slightly larger grommet) at the top. Tie a starting knot using one of the three methods shown below (I prefer the fishing knot). Once your starting knot is secure, you will need to weave the string over and under the mains to reach the opposite aligning hole. This is done easiest by having one hand under the racquet and the other on the top, guiding the string’s end with both of your middle fingers through the weaves. You can tell if you did it right if the the string you end on is the opposite of the one you started (i.e. starting with an over will end with an under and vice versa).
Step 9. Continue the Crosses and Tension
Pull all of the string through, making sure to move the string while you’re doing this to prevent kinks from forming and then continue onto the second cross. If you ended with the string under the main for the first cross, that means you’ll start with an over for the second. Basically, if you started with an over for the first cross, you’ll continue with an over for each new cross until you’ve finished.
You can choose to tension the string after the first cross or wait until you’ve done a few and tension them all at once. If you choose to tension the string after the first cross, just insert it into the gripper to pull the correct tension and clamp it as close to the grommet as possible. What I like to do, however, is weave a few crosses (no more than 3) before I pull them. After I’ve done 3 crosses, I leave a loop on the outside of the frame, which is enough to insert into my gripper to tension the first 2 crosses and then clamp it.
Step 10. Finish the Cross Strings
Once the starting cross strings are tensioned, continue stringing the crosses one at a time, repeating the process like before. However, it is easier to first weave a cross and then tension the previous one by leaving a loop that can be inserted into the gripper. So, insert the string through the correct hole, weave the string over and under the mains, insert through the opposite aligning hole, leave a loop, pull tension on the previous cross, and then clamp it off. As you reach the end, you’ll find that there’s less string which makes it harder to pull. Use pliers when this is the case.
Step 11. Tie the Knot (Revisited)
The end is in sight! Now that your crosses are finished, you’ll need to tie a knot. This is very similar to the knot we created for the main strings. Simply find the closest hole that allows two strings to fit through. To make the hole bigger, use your awl but do it gently to prevent damage to the racquet’s frame and strings. Insert the end of the cross string through and apply the same process as before: put the string down one side of the cross and up the other, putting the end of the string through the loop you just created. Tighten it by using your pliers until it’s nice and secure, and repeat the process for a sturdy double knot.
Step 12. Remove the Racquet
The final step is to remove the clamp and dismount the racquet. Inspect your work carefully, making sure there are no missing weaves, kinks, or any damage to the racquet. Once everything looks good, you can clip the extra string, but just make sure you don’t cut the knot in all of this excitement. You’ve just learned how to string a tennis racquet! Congratulations, take some time to bask in the glory of your new-found knowledge, you’ve earned it!