Nobody knows more about stringing racquets than Nate Ferguson. After all, he strings all of Federer, Djokovic, and Andy Murray's sticks, making sure no matter where in the world the pros find themselves they have the exact same setup.
"The biggest change in decades is the adoption of polyester strings," says Ferguson. "They revolutionized tennis by adding much more spin to the ball," he says. They move more, create a deeper ball pocket, and pop back quickly to the same place after each shot, which leads to the obvious question: which polyester string is best? "Every big company always has the latest and greatest," he says. "Lately the brands have been about making polyester more flexible, but it's really all about personal preference."
Most of Ferguson's pros use a hybrid of a poly on the mains or crosses and gut on the opposite side because the natural fiber makes the set up much more arm-friendly, reducing injury risk. But that's a bit cost prohibitive ($70 to $100) for most club players.
"My best advice," says Roman Prokes of RPNY, "is string your racquet with a full set of polys and go as low as you can. I have pros who are stringing at 55 and I get them down in the low 40s and they can't believe they have more power and more control." Both Ferguson and Prokes make custom strings for the pros, and both admit they can't claim their strings are better than any other set. All the strings are essentially trying to do the same thing: add spin, power, and touch. It's all in the eye of the beholder as to which is best. "I call it trial by error," says Brad Gilbert, former top ten ATP player and coach of Andre Agassi. "How do you know if you don't try it?" Here's a look at the leading contenders.
Seven Strings for Every Kind of Player
1. Solinco Tour Bite
A newcomer, this eight-sided string looks rectangular and quickly became popular with college players for its spin potential. Now club players are catching on. [$11.50; solincosports.com]
2. Babolat RPM Blast
Rafa's string is shaped like a gear, and, like all the strings here, promises wicked spin and control for big, wild swings. [$17.95; babolat.com]
3. Prince Tour XS
This brand new string is shaped like a triangle for extra bite to give the ball more spin and control with huge swings. [$13.00; princetennis.com]
4. Volkl Cyclone Tour
The tour version of this shaped string is twisted to grab the ball more deeply and it's got a great, soft feel. [$7.99; volkltennis.com]
5. Wilson Ripspin
These white strings are coated with a substance – Wilson won't say what – that makes them the slickest of the bunch, offering lightening-quick snap back and tons of spin. [$9.95; wilson.com]
6. Luxilon ALU Power
This is the latest from the originator of polys, and it's got a lot punch yet with enough softness for touch shots. [$17.95; wilson.com]
7. One Strings Carbon NRG
This is the first black string that many other brands copied, and it's the official string of the Italian Tennis Federation. It's coated with a carbon nano-fiber for extra pop back. [$11.50; onestrings.com]