Recreational Tennis Players Increasingly Disillusioned with High-Tech Strings

April 30, 2009

Ashaway, RI – Perhaps it’s a function of the aging demographic in the recreational tennis market, or a function of the economic downturn, or perhaps it’s a combination of both, but according to Steve Crandall of Ashaway Racket Strings, players seem disenchanted with today’s high-tech, high-end strings, and are increasingly turning to softer playing, more economical alternatives. And Steve Crandall should know: Ashaway is the only US maker of racket strings and has been providing string to tennis players of all stripes for nearly three quarters of a century.

“High-end polyester monofilament strings—we call them ‘gut on steroids’—are designed for hard-hitting, high-end players,” said Crandall, “not normal, everyday players. Most recreational players don’t hit the ball hard enough to benefit from them. But people read how the pros use these fancy strings and want to try them. Then they find that for their game, they’re not worth the added cost. Now—and we’re seeing this in our sales figures—they’re turning back to more traditional multifilament and synthetic gut strings which offer a good combination of performance, economy and durability.”

Traditional multifilament and synthetic gut strings play softer than the stiffer, high-tech monofilaments, which can be a benefit for no-longer-quite-so-young players, Crandall added. “None of us like to admit it,” he said, “but we feel it more after a good hard round on the court, especially in our joints. A softer playing multifilament or nylon string can significantly reduce impact shock on our arms and shoulders. That way, we can still look good without the tennis elbow!”

But the economy may also play a role in string choice. “In my experience, people don’t stop playing during hard times,” Crandall said. “In fact, they may even tend to play more, especially if they’ve been laid off. They need to keep active, stay in shape, reduce stress. But they may put off buying big ticket items: instead of buying a new racquet, they’ll buy a new grip, or they’ll keep wearing their old shoes longer than they might otherwise. And while they will still do the necessary things like restring their racquets, they may opt for a less expensive brand of string or look for a more durable string.”

Two beneficiaries of this back-to-basics trend are Ashaway’s Synthetic Gut and Liberty® brands. Synthetic Gut is a classic nylon polymer monofilament available in both 16 and 17 gauge—the 17 gauge being a bit more responsive—that offers excellent resilience with above average durability for players of all styles and skill levels. The string is very economical and includes a wear layer to resist notching, but the reason for its recent rise in popularity may be that it plays more softly than other synthetic guts and is less likely to jar elbows and wrists. Ashaway recommends stringing Synthetic Gut 16 at up to 70 lbs (32 kgs) and their 17 up to 60 lbs (27.5 kgs) for optimum playability.

Ashaway’s Liberty has been a favorite with US players for over 25 years. Also nylon, but using a multi stranded monofilament construction, Liberty offers the best value-to-performance ratio of any string on the market. Available in both L15 and 16 gauge configurations, Liberty gets high marks for both durability and playability. Designed for all playing styles, the 16 gauge version edges towards better performance, while the L15 gauge optimizes durability. Both are available in a variety of colors and can be strung up to 70 lbs (32 kgs).

Ashaway Racket Strings are made by Ashaway Line & Twine Mfg. Co., the only U.S. manufacturer of string for squash, tennis, racquetball, and badminton. Operated by the Crandall family since 1824, Ashaway has been making racquet strings since 1949, and is responsible for several important technical innovations. Ashaway is the Official String of USA Racquetball and the Women’s International Squash Players Association. Ashaway Line & Twine Mfg. Co. also makes braided products for medical and industrial applications.