Hi all, This is a subject of many confusion, but I will try my best to summarize them and make it as simple to understand as possible.
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Updated on: 8 oct 2016. ( yes I finally updated this after 1 year. Will add a complete article dedicated to each an every properties explaining the permutations when strokes and ravquets are invloved )
Feel – Unlike badminton and table tennis, the racquet and ball in tennis are a lot heavier, as such, hitting the ball gives much more feel. I describe feel as signals that hitting the ball sends to the player. The player will make mental connections with these signals and through it gain understanding of how he is hitting the ball ( feeling dialed into one’s shots ). Feel feeds the player with vital information that allows him to predict the quality and behavior of his shot!
Feel however is extremely personal as the connection and different signals one uses are different. Some main example of feels are – Vibrational Response/Feedback , Pocketing and Bite. Other types of feels are snap-back effect, dwell time, sound , comfort ( comfort is a great indicator that you landed the ball on the sweet spot as that is the most comfortable part of the string-bed).
For non-string related feel, the two main examples are racquet and string tension. Others could be the weather, balls , etc
Vibrational Response/Feedback – When the ball is struck, the strings will vibrate and this vibration travels from the racket frame, through the handle and finally to your hand. These vibrations carries information such as the position of the ball on the strings, the Dwell-time, ball sinking or launching out of the string-bed, pocketing , etc.
( As you can tell, this is particularly important for touch shots like volleys, drop shots, etc. People with sensitive hands would also benefit more from a string that gives a good Response/Feedback. )
Please do not confuse Vibrational Response/Feedback with shock wave from the ball impact. They are different. Response/Feedback does not really cause pain or damage in your arm, more like an illusion. These are simply vibrations.
Liveliness – My definition of a lively string is – a string that has high response , feedback , sound and energetic.
Dwell time – The longer the ball stays on the string-bed = higher Dwell time.
Crisp – This terminology is one of the most mis-used and mis-understood, did took me awhile to fully grasp it. This property is actually an extremely important property for big baseline hitters who dictate play with both power and placement. Crisp string allows one to feel the ball pop out at precise timings. It improves control, precision and accuracy at a finer level for big shots. ( Imagine a firm string-bed that gives you tremendous feel as to when the ball leaves the string bed. )
Its easy to confuse liveliness with crispiness , not eaxctly the same thing but similar in some aspects. Main difference is that crisp strings tend to be stiffer, have shorter dwell time, ball pops out faster and more predictably. Crisp can also be seen as precision and gives something I would call – advance level of control.
Stiffer strings, higher tensions tends to be more crisp, but not always.
( A good analogy of this would be using the dollar note. A new dollar note is Crisp and an old used one will not be very Crisp. )
( A Crisp feel is particularly important when hitting harder shots. Taking long big cuts at the ball.)
Mushy – Strings that are simply too soft, lost too much tension , too elastic. Opposite from crisp, this effect is bad for large baseline shots, it masks the feel of the ball and decreases the effectiveness of power transference from racquet to ball.
But mushiness can be useful in some aspects, the elastic strings stretches more ideally on really short swings and play from the net (volleys).
Sweet Spot – This is a really important characteristic! Its the spot that feels the best, gives the best control , best everything. Its the spot that you should be hitting. Accuracy is placing the ball accurately in the court, Precision is striking the ball precisely at your racquet’s Sweet spot.
( Larger head racquets does not mean larger sweet spot, racquets with more feel and smaller heads will make the sweet spot more prominent. Some Racquets do have larger sweet spot, but I am not sure why – relations to stability – adding weights to head 3 & 9 o’clock increased sweet spot. Regarding strings, more elastic strings increases sweet spot, but just by a tiny bit. The only string that increases this significantly is Natural gut strings. )
Ball-pocketing – This is a premium characteristic ,it comes from the effect of the string being, Lively, having good Feel , higher elasticity and a higher Dwell time. Ball lands on the sting-bed, it sinks nicely into it – Pocketing/cupping Feel , then the ball is launched back out almost exactly in the same linear direction it sunk in. This gives strong control and precise direction/dept prediction.
( Natural guts has significant crispiness and pocketing. )
Polyester strings with special sleek coating, smooth sliding and snapping back effect will also give good pocketing.
Bite –This is the grip of the string-bed onto the ball, also a fictional feel that gives feedback to the player. Increases Dwell time. A good Bite increases Feel, Control and Spin. Bite is more important for heavier Spinners of the ball and Ball-pocketing is more important for flatter hitters.
( Sharp vertical brushing of the ball will lack ploughthrough and requires more bite/grip, bite is important for heavy slice, kicker serves, sharp brushing strokes.)
(Textured/sticky/thin strings Bites the ball better.)
Note : Do not confuse Feel with Liveliness as a non-Lively string can still have good Feel.
Note : Do not confuse Crisp/Liveliness/Ball-pocketing with Trampoline effect. The good high Power level that comes from a Lively string does not sacrifice Control unlike Trampoline effect!!
Trampoline effect – This is basically the strings behaving like a real trampoline. Trampoline effect is normal and it serves an important role of giving your shots Power. However, too much Trampoline effect is bad. Having too much of it gives more Power BUT at a sacrifice of Control, as the ball is being launched out at a higher angle than what would expect.
( The Control lost due to Trampoline effect is much worse for a heavier topspin stroke than for a flatter stroke! )
( This is due to the upward brushing motion of the top-spin stroke which rolls the ball over the string-bed, which causes the ball to be launched out in a less predictable angle – it launches higher then expected. )
Dead – A Dead string basically loses its rubber band like elasticity ( ability to store and return energy ). A dead soft type string will become mushy and a dead polyester string could feel mushy or stiffer depending on its tension and type of polyester( loses its “pop“, snapping-back abilities, not as dynamic and can be felt as more bordy ) .
Tension Stability/Retention – This describes the string’s ability to maintain its Tension. This is quite an important characteristic because when a string loses Tension, its characteristics changes, this would mean that the string will not have a consistent response. ( Lower Tension = More Trampoline effect , less Control, more Power etc. )
( Tension stability comparison among string types – Natural gut > Multi-filaments > Polyesters and synthetic guts.)
( But still, there are polyesters that have really good tension maintenance eg. Signum Pro Poly Plasma , Tornado , etc )
But do not worry or fuss about your string’s tension too much. String will still be very much playable untill too much tension is lost. How long it takes will depends on many variables. Too much to type here. I will write articles dedicated for each and every properties listed on this page. Lots of variables, easy to understand each but not simple as a whole.
Durability – A string that doesn’t burst easily, is a string with good Durability.
Playability – This describes how long a string remains good. As the string is used and worn out, it loses its desirable characteristics(This could be due to lost of Tension, string going Dead, etc). A string with better Playability will remain near its peak performance level for a longer period of time.
( Playability comparison among string types – Natural gut > Multi-filaments > Polyesters and synthetic guts.)
Stiffness – Stiffer strings are kevlar and polyesters. Softer strings are synthetic guts, multifilaments and natural guts. But there are a whole range of strings in each category itself. Largest being in the category of polyesters. There are many different Soft and Stiff polyesters. When talking about Stiffness one should compare this property relative to strings in the same category.
Real Comfort – Basically a Comfortable string is a more arm-friendly string
Comfort in terms of feel – More like Pseudo Comfort. Feels Comfortable due to more friendlier vibrations and Feedback. A dampened muted string could be felt as comfortable even if its not ( Comfort in terms of feel is not necessarily REAL comfort, but this attribute is can be important for touch shots.)
Spin – Heavy spin = High ball revolution speed. Spin is mainly created by the player’s stroke. A Spin friendly string will help the player generate more Spin. ( Polyesters have a far superior Spin potential. Power level , Bite and snapping-back effect of a string , determines a string’s Spin potential. )
Power – When a string is high powered, it gives the ball more velocity. Whether a string is high power or not, can be very confusing as it depends on stroke type. I will write an article for this.
( Players with less physical strength or have shorter strokes would benefit from having more power )
Control – Control is often mis-used and mis-understood also. My definition for this will be simple – as long as your string does not spray the ball, control is good enough. If you are looking for more connectedness with the ball , more precision on hard shots, those would be wanting more Crisp and Feel properties. Also prepare earlier for your shots and hit more cleanly ( Sweet spot ) for more control.
Of course if you hit the ball extremely hard the strings will stretch much more and spraying might now occur even though the rest of the shots are fine. We will have to fine tune that and there are many variables, racquets and especially type of strokes and power of strokes will now be invloved, I will write an article for that.
Plush – A plush string is both comfortable and has great feel. ( Natural guts , premium grade multi filament or sometimes even normal soft strings but at lower tensions much to do with racquet also. Enough material for me to write an article which I will do.)
Muted/Dampened – This the opposite of Lively and most people either like it this way or lively. A lively string can easily become this with a dampener that is large enough. But if the string is overly muted/ dampened or lack of feel , then it will probably feel too dead. ( A nice muted feel would probably be a plush feel with a dampened , a lively / crisp string with dampener , or on dampened racquets )
Please note that strings will feel different in different rackets and tensions.
I will touch more on this subject here – Racquet and Tension ( Intermediate 2 )
I hope you now have a much better understanding of what
are the strings that you want and would suit you. I hope you realize that the most
expansive strings in the market will not magically suit your preferences and style
I will be doing my best at adding
as much information as I can regarding this huge topic and I will also be rating/reviewing
my strings to help ease the process of string selection.
I hope this helps!