String Theory 101

I know this column sounds dry. Nowhere near as fun as a critique of a French axe murderer.

Give me three paragraphs to make it interesting, that’s all I ask.

Most people who play the beautiful game (that’s right, I’ve stolen this expression from soccer) don’t give much thought to the string they use, and that’s fine. However the more intensely you play, the more likely you are to notice the subtle–and not so subtle–differences in the way your racquet has been strung.

Yawn! Come on, I’m doing my best here. I thought we agreed you’d give me ‘three’ paragraphs, for Christ’s sake! 

When I ask customers which string they use, many admit they’ve never changed the factory string job, or that they simply give their racquet to the (adulterous, time poor) coach at their club who does the deed, dirt-cheap.

Unlike adultery, this is nothing to be ashamed of. To be clear: your choice of string will not turn you from a social player into Ash Barty. Your technical and temperamental issues will not be solved, but we can offer you a chaperone, of sorts, out on the court, which might be the difference in a close match against a hostile mother-in-law. 

I’m thinking specifically of Kim Sears thrashing it out with Judy Murray in the above paragraph.


Do you ever get the vibe that there were four other Murray siblings (possibly the delightful girls pictured above) who didn’t ‘survive‘ the Judy Murray Academy?


See, this can be informative and funny! 

To help you understand the difference between the two most common string types–multifilament and polyester–I’ve attached a journal of two of the restring jobs that we accepted in the shop last weekend.

KK is stringing at the Hobart International at the moment, so it’s just the young buck, Liam, and I. The views expressed below are ours and ours alone (and were mostly arrived at while listening to Liam’s interminable hip-hop). Customers’ names have been changed to somewhat preserve their anonymity:


1. Andre and Steffi (30s, affable, comeback trail)

Andre (shoulder-length hair, slight David Foster Wallace vibe) fitted the profile of a common customer that we have. By that, I mean he gave me the ‘I-used-to-play-tennis-as-a-kid-and-now-that-I’m-in-my-thirties-and-don’t-want-to-party-quite-as-hard-I’ve-found-my-way-back-to-the-game’ speech. 

Andre and Steffi brought in old Head and Wilson composite racquets. A composite racquet is made from graphite and aluminium, and is traditionally for recreational players. Just like Jim Courier’s dandruff-riddled hair, both racquets were in desperate need of some love. 

After a quick Q & A, we ascertained that Andre and Steffi weren’t ready to buy new racquets, as they weren’t sure where their tennis adventure would take them. Their main priority was (what rapper Kendrick Lamar would call) ‘HiiiPower’.

So we were charged with bringing their two old sticks back to life via a string and grip job...pretty much the same brief Joan Rivers used to give to her plastic surgeon.


Rivers (above) enjoying a leisurely hit on her 81st birthday. As an aside (from an aside), I'm dubious that this woman could actually hit a tennis ball over a net


We chose a multifilament string for both racquets. A multifilament consists of numerous individual filaments wrapped into a single length of string. Multifilament strings offer generous power and tend to maintain tension longer. 

For the Head racquet, we chose Volkl Power Fiber II and for the Wilson, we ran with Volkl Power Fiber Pro. Both strings are very adaptable and easy on the elbow, which is important for players returning to the game after a(n amphetamine induced) hiatus. 

Power Fiber II and Power Fiber Pro are excellently priced strings, perfectly suited to rec players who may change their string on a quarterly basis (or less often), and want to spare their arms the stiffness of a poly. 

Now Andre and Steffi can go to war on the tennis court with their weapons of mass destruction, and presumably destroy their relationship. 

KK Tennis; shattering soulmates since October 2019


2. Ken Rosewall (70s, bingo hustler, recreational player)

Ken was unhappy with the feel of his oversized Ti.S6 racquet and has been struggling to keep the ball in the court. He was seriously considering buying a new racquet. 

Rather than dropping $200-$300, we convinced Ken to try a firmer string first, to see if he could achieve more control. With large racquet heads/thick beams, the ball often flies into the back fence, or over the fence and onto the roof of your neighbour’s steam room. #southyarrafirstworldproblems


There’s no doubt that we do things tough in South Yarra, but much like a destitute Dostoyevsky character, we persevere!


Our thinking was that we needed to counteract the power of Ken’s racquet with a string that offered him greater touch around the court.  

We settled on Head Sonic Pro, a polyester string. Polyester consists of a single solid string, rather than thousands of woven fibres. A poly tends to be firm and control-oriented, offering greater spin, whereas multifilament strings have more elasticity and will help generate more power. 

Power v Control, that’s the basic difference.

Think John Isner (power/multi) v Diego Schwartzman (control/poly), if that makes the distinction easier. Or Killer Mike v Wiz Khalifa, in rapspeak.

Because Ken’s racquet was so light and he’s never had any elbow pain, we weren’t concerned about giving him a slightly stiffer string. 

Ken resolved to try out the new string in his weekly social matches. If it isn’t right for him, he's considering buying an LS version of the Kevin Anderson 'adult nappy' racquet or a Volkl V-Feel 3. 

That’s right! After the ‘cockroach’ remark several posts ago, I’m now spruiking all things German...because Alexander Zverev is in my city and he TERRIFIES me!


Final Excruciating Passage

Remember, this is only String Theory 101. In the next instalment (hopefully at least three years away), I’ll deal with hybrid stringing, tension, gauge, and synthetic and natural gut. 

Spontaneous multiple-choice quiz:

Q: Natural gut strings are made out of... 

a) Cow intestines OR

b) Biggie Smalls’ preserved gastrointestinal tract


‘S-s-say it ain’t s-s-so!’


Hopefully this provides some clarity about whether you’d be better served(!) playing with a polyester string or a multifilament.  

Obviously professionals, who can generate their own power, tend to gravitate more towards polyester strings. The tension you use will also make a huge difference. For instance, you’d be less likely to string a multifilament at a low tension, because that would be like merging power with power; like Drake and A$AP Rocky getting together and– 

Okay, it’s officially Liam’s hip-hop speaking now. I’m going to finds me a ‘biscuit’ and stick up the McDonalds on Malvern Road.

Peace out, yo!

As always, if you need any tennis equipment, or just fancy a chat about the game, please drop by KK Tennis. 475 Malvern Road, South Yarra. Looking forward to a great summer of tennis!

January 18, 2020 — Murray

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