Tennis rackets have a wide range of different specifications.
Choosing the right one for you can be a real minefield, especially now with so many new technological advancements.
Not only do you have a lot of different brands to choose from, tennis rackets these days have different weights, head sizes, balance points, stiffness ratings and beam thicknesses.
One of the most fundamental differences between two tennis rackets is their string patterns.
This is an often overlooked factor that will actually make a significant difference in how the racket feels and the characteristics of the shot that it will produce.
Of course, picking the best tennis racket for you is a very personal experience and one that you should take plenty of time and effort to do.
However, whilst they are not an exact science, different string patterns have some very definite characteristics that set rackets apart.
Ultimately, we are talking about the number of strings that will actually come into contact with the ball as you strike it.
This will of course play a major role in how the ball leaves the string bed and therefore how the racket will behave.
So, before we delve in to which racket stringing pattern is best for you, let’s explore why tennis rackets actually have different stringing patterns, what they mean and which types you should look out for!
What Exactly is a String Pattern?
The string pattern of a tennis racket refers to the way the strings pass through the racket frame.
In the grommet or bumper guard of the racket there are many small holes which the strings will pass through.
When we talk about the pattern, we are referring to the number of vertical and horizontal strings that pass through the racket’s frame to make up the string bed.
When you look at the specifications of a tennis racket, you will see two numbers next to the string pattern.
The first of these numbers always references the number of vertical strings in the pattern as you look at the racket.
These are also called the mains as they tend to get the most wear and tear throughout the string’s life.
The mains do most of the work and therefore more emphasis tends to be placed on them when choosing a hybrid set up.
The second number refers to the number of horizontal, or cross strings.
Most stringing patterns will have more cross strings than main strings, however some very low density patterns will actually have a greater number of mains.
Some players will choose a more durable string for their mains and a less durable but more feelsome string for their crosses.
This gives the best of both worlds when a player is looking to maximise durability, power and precision.
If you are unsure about which strings will work best for you, take a look at our custom fitting service.
We take the hard work out of finding your perfect racket and string combination!
What is the Difference Between Them?
The key difference between string patterns is of course the number of mains and cross strings in them.
Whilst some manufacturers do change the angle of grommets and add technology that helps the strings move more around the centre of the racket, the number of mains and crosses still remain the most important decision when looking at string patterns.
So, what are the actual differences between them and what do they mean?
Well, a racket that has a lower number of both mains and crosses will have larger gaps between each string (assuming the head size is kept constant).
This is referred to as an ‘open’ string pattern.
Whereas, a racket that has more mains and crosses in it will have a higher density of strings and therefore the gaps between each string will be smaller.
This is referred to as a ‘closed’ string pattern.
A more open string pattern will generally have more movement in it than a closed string pattern.
This is because there is more space for the strings themselves to move as they come into contact with the ball.
This in turn means the strings can almost catch the ball and create more friction, which generates more spin.
An open string pattern will also launch the ball out of the string bed at a higher trajectory, so it is ideal for a player looking to generate more spin.
On the other hand, a more dense or closed string pattern will have smaller gaps between the strings and therefore produce less spin than an open pattern.
However, this additional string mass will give you a much more connected feel on the ball as there is less movement in the strings as you strike.
Denser string patterns are generally aimed at more control focussed players, as they optimise touch and feel shots.
The controlled, measured nature of these string patterns also means you will have the confidence to take a larger, long swing at the ball and can trust that it will still be accurate.
This means you can vary your swing mechanics more with a closed string pattern, favouring more spin or flattening the ball out when you want to.
Think of it like a tyre on the road.
A chunky tire with an aggressive tread pattern on the tracks will be better at gripping onto the road, whereas a smoother tyre with a more streamlined tread will be better at moving over the road with little resistance.
Therefore, when identifying the differences between different string patterns it is important to understand what you are actually looking for from the racket.
If you are a player that needs help generating extra spin and wants a racket that will help with that, then a very open string pattern may be best for you.
However, if you are a player that likes a more solid feeling racket that will be predictable and help you control the ball better, then a more closed string pattern would suit you best.
It is also worth noting that a more open string pattern will also break strings more frequently than a closed pattern thanks to the lower number of strings that come into contact with the ball and the more friction generated.
So, if you are an avid string breaker you may want to think twice before going for a 14×16 string pattern!
These days there are a wide range of different string patterns to choose from so whatever it is you are looking for, we are sure you’ll be able to find it!
Stringing Patterns You Could Come Across
In reality, you may come across any combination of mains and crosses when searching for tennis rackets with different string patterns.
All mains will have an even number of strings whereas crosses may be odd or even numbers.
Here are some of the more commonly used string patterns on the market and the differences between them.
The 16×19 string pattern is arguably the most common in modern rackets. It is a great default that offers plenty of access to spin and a large sweet spot.
It is a great entry point into most rackets and is ideal for players that want to produce a lot of spin and power but still want to retain some control.
This allows you to keep your opponent back deep in the court thanks to the heavy topspin you will be able to generate, whilst giving you plenty of margin for error thanks to the high launch angle out of the string bed.
However, you will tend to break strings more easily than when playing with a more dense string pattern, and the tension in your strings will not likely last as long.
Another very popular string pattern used in the rackets of today is the 18×20 pattern.
This is the typical high density string pattern that is used for more control focused rackets and is ideal for a player looking for a crisp and solid feeling string bed.
The higher number of strings means you can expect your strings to last longer and hold their tension more consistently, whilst providing a more stable feel on contact.
Whilst the 18×20 does not produce as much natural spin as a more open string pattern would, it is more precise when it comes to guiding the ball exactly where you want it.
This string pattern is ideal for a flatter hitter that wants to focus on their control and does not need any extra help generating spin.
The 16×18 string pattern has become more popular in recent years thanks to manufacturers focusing more on spin generating in the modern game.
It has a lot of similarities to the 16×19 string pattern but offers additional power and spin.
These rackets will also have a larger sweet spot in the middle of the racket but will suffer from a lack of plow through on off centre hits.
The 16×20 string pattern strikes a nice balance between the two most popular string patterns out there.
The lower number of main strings means you can generate a lot of spin and power whilst having a larger central sweet spot.
Whereas, the more densely packed cross strings offer a slightly more solid feel which will help with controlling the direction of the ball.
This pattern is ideal for the player that has tried a few different string set ups in their time and is looking for the best of both worlds.
Other Open String Patterns
Whilst stringing patterns do not really get more dense than a 18×20, they can certainly become more open in extreme cases.
For players that are looking to really maximise the spin and power they can generate from a racket, you can find string patterns with 14×18 or 16×15 mains and crosses.
These are extremely spin friendly set ups and should only be used by players that need that extra help getting more spin and can afford to have very frequent re-strings!
Again, what you gain in spin, power and increased forgiveness you will lose in control, feel and durability.
So be sure to try out a racket before committing to it, especially if it has a very open string pattern.
Which Stringing Pattern Should You Choose?
Choosing the right string pattern for you is of course a very important part of picking your perfect racket.
Most rackets will come with the choice of different string pattern set ups, so you can really tailor the racket to suit your needs.
In terms of which stringing patterns will suit a certain game style, a more control focussed player that likes to slice and dice and get to the net will be well suited to a more dense string pattern.
They will benefit from the control and stability that a closed string pattern will offer and will be less focussed on generating monster spin from the baseline, as they will look to beat their opponents using precision and placement.
However, a player that likes to counter punch or hit aggressively from the baseline may be more suited to an open string pattern.
This is because the larger sweet spot, along with additional power and spin will be ideal for their fast racket head speed and desire to push their opponent back behind the baseline.
The real question here is just how much spin the player needs to generate and therefore how open a string pattern they will need to go for.
Overall, there are a range of different string patterns out there on the market, all of which have different playing characteristics.
For a player looking to maximise their spin and power, a more open string pattern will be a great companion for the job.
However, for a player that likes a more solid and predictable feeling racket that will help them place the ball exactly where they want it, a more closed string pattern would be best.
Whichever string pattern you are thinking of choosing, be sure to try out the racket first so you can make the most informed decision possible. Good luck with your search!