Ahh, March in the midwest! Snow is melting, courts are drying up and nets are starting to go up! It's time for the first hit outdoors.
Many of you have been playing indoors through the winter and will make a transition to playing outdoors. Some of you may have taken a bit of a break and will start playing again with the break in weather. Regardless, one of the areas you should strongly consider is a spring racquet service to help with this transition. Why?
Making the jump from not playing to playing again, or playing in warm indoors to colder/cool outdoors has caused countless injuries in my experience (including some serious injuries myself!). Of course technique, muscle strength, proper warmup and dynamic stretching are huge. Not to mention equipment choice!
One additional and critical cause is a lack of equipment adjustment to this environmental change. Specifically, what i'd like to zero in on is string tension and string choice.
Here are are my top 3 tips for making it through a cold weather transition:
1. Lower your tension
Lower your string tension when it is cold. This applies to all string types but is especially applicable if you play with a full bed of poly or co-poly string; even more so the stiffer strings on the market (Luxilon 4g, RPM Blast, Solinco Confidential, HyperG, etc.). Strings are affected by weather changes and will stiffen up in cold weather compared to being indoors and in warmer temps. I recommend dropping tension anywhere from 2-4lbs. from your indoor or warm summer weather tension to start. For example, If you string your racquet normally at 52lbs., I would drop that to 48 or 50lbs. for cold weather play.
FUN FACT: 84% of players on the ATP and WTA tour use polyester strings. The average tension of racquets strung on tour is 48lbs!
PRO TIP: String as low as you can, while still being able to consistently control all of your shots. 40-55lbs is considered the new standard tension range for modern racquets and strings.
2. Try a hybrid setup
If you are normally a full-poly player, consider using a hybrid to increase comfort and soften the stringbed A hybrid typically introduces a softer string (like Natural Gut or a Multifiliment) as a main (up and down vertical string) or a cross string (horizontal weaving string), while keeping the other half of the string setup as a poly. This creates a softer, more forgiving string bed that offers a little more power and is easier on the arm, while maintaining many of the benefits and playing characteristics of poly that players love (spin and control).
FUN FACTS: 61% of professional players on the ATP and WTA tour use a hybrid setup! 26% of professionals hybrid with natural gut, while 35% choose to hybrid with a softer multifilament or synthetic string.
PRO TIP: While a full poly setup offers the maximum spin and control, playing with the poly in the mains and softer crosses will help to retain more spin and control characteristics. Conversely, playing with the softer string in the mains offers the softest most powerful hybrid setup, but comes with slightly less spin and control characteristics. Both offer more spin and control vs a full bed of natural gut, multifilament, or synthetic gut.
3. Use a multifiliment string
Multifiliment strings have stood the test of time and are more relevent today than ever before. They work great in any kind of racquet and offer exceptional comfort at a fraction of the price of natural gut. Multifiliment strings are more comfortable, more powerful, and offer better spin potential and performance than your standard economical synthetic gut string. For players making the the transition to colder temps (or just looking for a little more relief on an aching overuse soreness) a multifiliment string such as Wilson NXT, Wilson Sensation.
FUN FACTS: Made up of thousands of small fibers spun together, a premium multifiliment like Wilson NXT will increase your rackets sweetspot by 10% and has 74% less shock than a traditional synthetic gut.
PRO TIP: If you want to go even softer, try a lower tension for your cross strings. This will increase the dwell time of the ball on your string bed at impact and decrease the overall stringbed stiffness for a more comfortable feel. For example: Instead of stringing an entire racquet at 52lbs., we would string the mains at 52 and the crosses at 50lbs. This is a common practice and benefit with players at all levels and with every string type! Especially doubles players and all court players as this is has a great feel for volleys.
As always, make sure your strings are fresh and your equipment is in good condition. If you have questions, we are here to help. To reduce injury and get the best performance out of your racquet, you should re-string every 10-20 hours of play or annually if you are not breaking strings within that time frame.
All the best!