Racket strings lose tension and liveliness the more they’re used and if that goes unchecked you’ll start to feel a drop off in performance.
For that reason the standard answer is that you should change your strings annually as many times as you play per week.
So if you play twice a week you should restring twice a year. Four times a week? Four times a year.
Well yes except…we’re not all the same. The above rule may work well for casual or recreational players but what about club level players? What if you’re competing for tournaments and demand elite performance? What if you play with polyester strings rather than natural gut?
Ultimately the decision is personal to you as a player so in this article we’ll look into all the factors to consider when deciding how often to restring.
Why do I even need to restring?
While most players I know restring their frames regularly, some never change their strings until they break one.
Not only can that be frustrating – especially if you turn up to court with only one racket – it’s just really bad for your development as a player. Here are some reasons why it’s so important to restring regularly.
Loss of Tension
Most people don’t realise but strings start losing tension the moment they leave the Pro Shop. In fact, strings can lose around 10% of their tension in the first 24 hours.
And as we explain in our guide to string tension, the more loose they become the less control you have over your shots. Shots that two weeks ago were landing on the baseline are suddenly dropping a foot out.
So it will cost you points!
As well as losing tension, over time strings lose their vibrancy and elasticity and start to feel ‘dead’.
Whatever spin, power or control they used to offer begins to wane.
And that can lead to…
To prevent losing points you try adapting your technique to the dead racket. You might start underhitting groundstrokes, opting for defensive slices instead of topspin winners, giving up on your kick serve.
Eventually those changes in technique can become permanent and hamper your progress.
Loss of Comfort
As strings lose elasticity and the racket deadens they lose their ability to absorb shock. Those vibrations are then transferred to your joints causing discomfort and conditions such as Tennis Elbow.
So if you want to avoid injury it makes sense to change your strings regularly.
How do I know when it’s time to restring?
Regardless of how long it’s been since you did it last, there are some clues to look out for that will tell you when the time is right to change strings.
Pay close attention to the way your racket performs.
Do you seem to have less control over your shots than you used to?
Are you hitting longer than expected with the same strength of stroke?
Are you struggling to get as much topspin as you were, no matter how good your technique?
Is the string bed acting more erratically than before?
Chances are your strings could do with a refresh.
Look closely at the string bed.
Where your cross strings and your main strings intersect you may see notches forming where the two have rubbed together.
That’s an indicator that your strings are worn and should be replaced.
Even easier to spot is fraying.
Particularly in natural gut strings the individual fibres can pull away with overuse.
It’s a sign that the strings may be about to break and should definitely be replaced.
So How Often Should I replace my strings?
As you’ve probably guessed by now the answer comes down to individual factors.
If you’re a recreational player or a beginner and you’re happy with how your racket is performing I would stick to the rule above. Restring your racket as many times in a year as you play per week.
If you’re a club level or more advanced player, pay close attention to your racket’s performance. You may need to restring more regularly. Consider the following factors:
What’s your style of play?
If you’re an aggressive baseliner or a big server your strings will wear out more quickly and will need to be replaced more often.
If you play a lot of topspin you’ll notice changes in string performance more quickly. Again you may want to replace more often.
Where do you play?
Environment can have a surprising impact on your strings.
If you play in extremely hot or cold conditions that can lead to faster deterioration.
It makes sense to protect your rackets with a quality tennis bag but ultimately there’s only so much you can do if you live somewhere with extreme temperatures.
What types of strings do you use?
Natural gut and multifilament strings are more delicate than polyester for example and they wear out more quickly.
If you wanted your strings to last longer you could switch to a polyester or a hybrid set-up but the chances are you value the characteristics of your regular strings. In that case, you’ll need to change them more often.
Take a look at our guide to get a better idea of the different string types.
What’s your budget?
Of course given the choice we’d all change our strings from match to match like touring professionals.
In reality though that would be beyond most players’ budget.
Only you can decide how often is affordable.
Don’t Get Strung Out!
There’s nothing as satisfying as getting a racket back from the Pro Shop and feeling that ball pinging off the fresh string bed.
And the longer you play the game the more sense you’ll get of when the time is right.
But hopefully this guide has given you a better idea of when that should be and what to look out for.
If you think the time might be right for a new racket entirely be sure to check out our guide to how to choose the perfect racket for you.