String Tension and Serve

Wesley J

Rookie
What impact does string tension have on your serve? In my 5-10 minutes of extensive internet research, what I found spoke mostly about groundies. Is it the same where lower tension = easier power on the serve and higher tension = easier spin?
 

cha cha

New User
I string high mostly because of my slice second serve. The only way I know to hit it is full speed and maximum side spin. If I string low, it increases the speed of the flat serve, but I lose too much control on my slice serve.
 

Wesley J

Rookie
I string high mostly because of my slice second serve. The only way I know to hit it is full speed and maximum side spin. If I string low, it increases the speed of the flat serve, but I lose too much control on my slice serve.
I just got my racquet restrung at a lower tension and my serve was off (even though it didn't feel like it). I hit mostly spin serves but a lot of them were going up to a foot long.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
If I string low, it increases the speed of the flat serve, but I lose too much control on my slice serve.
Imo this is why consistent big servers like Sampras, Borg and others tended to string tight on this, the most powerful of shots.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Seems, the harder...faster...you swing, the more benefit from high tension.
Stands to reason...the slower you swing, the more benefit from low tensions.
I use 35 lbs.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
But wouldn't that be counterintuitive if I'm hitting a spin serve? Or am I thinking about it the wrong way?
Especially on a power spin serve. Less tension can give more pop to a flat serve at the expense of consistency.... a low power spin serve basically doesn't matter much what the tension is.
 
There are 7.0 players all over the world who string up and down all over the tension scale. It won't help or hinder anything to the extent it will affect your game in a meaningful way. If it did, good players wouldn't be using it.

Find a racquet and string setup that's comfortable for you, and make the micro-adjustments necessary to get the most out of it, confident that any problems are your own fault, and not that of the strings.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Lower tension will produce more power on serves, just like on g'strokes. Strings give a bit more -- stores more energy in the string. Which it then gives back to the ball when it launches it back out. With tight strings, strings yield less but ball compresses more. Ball loses some energy in the heat of compression.

This is even more noticeable on a ground bounce since the ground is stationary (from our frame of reference). Ball has considerably less speed after the balance than it did before.

With looser strings you also get a longer dwell time (on the strings). At first, that might sound like a good thing. But it can make directional control as well as depth control a bit trickier. The depth control comes from the added power of lower tension.The directional control might be a little bit of an issue if the racket is changing direction during the dwell time. This might be slightly more of a problem on a flat serve than a spin serve.

EDIT: Some of the effects I've described here might not be all that significant.
 
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GuyClinch

Legend
Lower tension will produce more power on serves, just like on g'strokes. Strings give a bit more -- stores more energy in the string. Which it then gives back to the ball when it launches it back out. With tight strings, strings yield less but ball compresses more. Ball loses some energy in the heat of compression.

This is even more noticeable on a ground bounce since the ground is stationary (from our frame of reference). Ball has considerably less speed after the balance than it did before.

With looser strings you also get a longer dwell time (on the strings). At first, that might sound like a good thing. But it can make directional control as well as depth control a bit trickier. The depth control comes from the added power of lower tension.The directional control might be a little bit of an issue if the racket is it's changing direction during the dwell time. This might be slightly more of a problem on a flat serve than a spin serve.
Maybe. I am just not sure how significant this effect is. If Fed's big serve is 120 with a tight racquet - its probably 122 with a low strung one. :p I have heard that low tension strings increase the launch angle - thus some of that 'power" you get on groundstrokes is just from a loopier shot.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
What impact does string tension have on your serve? In my 5-10 minutes of extensive internet research, what I found spoke mostly about groundies. Is it the same where lower tension = easier power on the serve and higher tension = easier spin?
I think that is right

I string higher than most and I give up some pace on flats for sure. But I gain control on spin serves for sure.
 

Wesley J

Rookie
Find a racquet and string setup that's comfortable for you, and make the micro-adjustments necessary to get the most out of it, confident that any problems are your own fault, and not that of the strings.
I'm agreeing with this after hitting with a lower tension racquet for a couple of sessions. I found that with the higher tension it just "feels" better and more natural to me and I definitely have better control over my shots. If I want to get more pop, I can do so by working more on technique, hitting cleaner, etc.
 

nyta2

Professional
Maybe. I am just not sure how significant this effect is. If Fed's big serve is 120 with a tight racquet - its probably 122 with a low strung one. :p I have heard that low tension strings increase the launch angle - thus some of that 'power" you get on groundstrokes is just from a loopier shot.
that's what my current thinking is (after reading the same articles/books you probably read)... that tension just affects launch angle.
 

Morch Us

Professional
More than the added power, what probably throws you off is the added dwell time on the string bed. If you are not too worried about slight adjustments in your serve, you will naturally adjust after some sessions. If you are a really high level player, you may not want to "adjust", and in that case just restring it the way you like.

I just got my racquet restrung at a lower tension and my serve was off
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
that's what my current thinking is (after reading the same articles/books you probably read)... that tension just affects launch angle.
It does but it also affects ball compression which can affect power and spin.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
It does but it also affects ball compression which can affect power and spin.
Sure - I think theoretically there is some effect. It's just not clear its significant. It feels more important on lower speed strokes. You can really notice a tight string job on slower touch shots, IMHO.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
Sure - I think theoretically there is some effect. It's just not clear its significant. It feels more important on lower speed strokes. You can really notice a tight string job on slower touch shots, IMHO.
You loose more power when the ball compresses than when it doesn't. Not sure how you can say that is not significant. Can you explain the lower speed stroke comment?
 

nyta2

Professional
Sure - I think theoretically there is some effect. It's just not clear its significant. It feels more important on lower speed strokes. You can really notice a tight string job on slower touch shots, IMHO.
You loose more power when the ball compresses than when it doesn't. Not sure how you can say that is not significant. Can you explain the lower speed stroke comment?
  • "If the string tension is reduced by 20% to 224 N, the apparent coefficient of restitution increases by about 7% to 0.43 (Brody, Cross, & Lindsey, 2002). For realistic racket and ball speeds, the result is an increase in ball speed of about 2 or 3% for a groundstroke and less than 1% for a serve ..."
  • The increase in long balls for lower tensions may be attributed to the ball’s angle of rebound. Lowtension rackets produce higher rebound angles (Bower & Sinclair, 1999; Goodwill & Haake, 2004), which adds to the complexity of maintaining the ball within the boundaries imposed by the court. Conversely, the lower rebound angle associated with tightly strung rackets may contribute to the greater number of net errors
1-3% speed increase, while something, is for me, small enough to ignore, and simplify my mental model as "tension affects launch angle"
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
  • "If the string tension is reduced by 20% to 224 N, the apparent coefficient of restitution increases by about 7% to 0.43 (Brody, Cross, & Lindsey, 2002). For realistic racket and ball speeds, the result is an increase in ball speed of about 2 or 3% for a groundstroke and less than 1% for a serve ..."
  • The increase in long balls for lower tensions may be attributed to the ball’s angle of rebound. Lowtension rackets produce higher rebound angles (Bower & Sinclair, 1999; Goodwill & Haake, 2004), which adds to the complexity of maintaining the ball within the boundaries imposed by the court. Conversely, the lower rebound angle associated with tightly strung rackets may contribute to the greater number of net errors
1-3% speed increase, while something, is for me, small enough to ignore, and simplify my mental model as "tension affects launch angle"
Hey If I read right and the percentages are linear, I think in my case its like a 44% reduction to get to 224N of tension. So maybe double the effect.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
  • "If the string tension is reduced by 20% to 224 N, the apparent coefficient of restitution increases by about 7% to 0.43 (Brody, Cross, & Lindsey, 2002). For realistic racket and ball speeds, the result is an increase in ball speed of about 2 or 3% for a groundstroke and less than 1% for a serve ..."
  • The increase in long balls for lower tensions may be attributed to the ball’s angle of rebound. Lowtension rackets produce higher rebound angles (Bower & Sinclair, 1999; Goodwill & Haake, 2004), which adds to the complexity of maintaining the ball within the boundaries imposed by the court. Conversely, the lower rebound angle associated with tightly strung rackets may contribute to the greater number of net errors
1-3% speed increase, while something, is for me, small enough to ignore, and simplify my mental model as "tension affects launch angle"
Makes sense to me - it's a pretty obvious thought experiment that very low tensions have some kind of maximum power boost as well. It's not like you can string it at 15lbs and hit massive out of control serves. :p Otherwise people would try that. It's more akin to car tire pressure and racing cars. You can squeeze out some more grip lowering pressure but its not that huge..

Interesting that my idea that fast swing speed serves being less effected was pretty bang on as well.. Nice find.. I'd also point out that string type matters a ton as well. I forget what the exact numbers are - but Poly's are so stiff compared to natural gut that a 50lb poly is going to way stiffer then a 70lb gut job..
 
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