Racquet Stringing: Is Two Better than One?
A Master Racquet Technician considers the advantages of using two-piece stringing.
By Tim Strawn
You and your customer have chosen a frame, using our Racquet Selection Map. Now, the frame needs to be strung. For years the debate has raged on among racquet technicians as to whether one-piece or two-piece stringing is better.
This of course, is a personal decision that every technician is faced with from the moment they decide to take up the challenge of learning to string a racquet. They will, through personal experiences and encounters along the way, decide for themselves which method they prefer.
However, one point needs to be emphasized before we proceed: The technician’s primary goal is to see that the racquet maintains its original shape after the stringing process is completed.
We know that the racquet is going to “breathe” and the shape is going to change during the stringing process. But, if you were to take measurements of the racquet before and after stringing, you want those two measurements to be as close to the same as possible.
Some technicians reading this probably are already saying that you can’t just do one method over the other all of the time. For the record, they’re right. There are touring pros who prefer patterns that are rarely, if ever, used in a typical tennis shop, like a triple-box ATW (around the world) pattern. There are also some racquets that can benefit from bottom-up installation of the cross strings.
I’m making no attempt here to circumvent other available patterns. The purpose is to point out that in the majority of cases, two-piece stringing just makes good common sense. Let’s take a closer look.
We know that on many racquets the main strings end at the throat. If you were to use one piece of string and a standard stringing pattern (not a version of an ATW), you would end up stringing the cross strings from the bottom up to the top. Some manufacturers, Yonex for instance, recommend two-piece stringing and their intent is to make sure that you install the cross strings from top to bottom. The reasoning behind this is that the yoke of the racquet (the Y-shaped piece just above the handle) is the strongest part of the frame. Each time you install a cross string the stress on the racquet builds in the direction you’re weaving. The idea is to reduce the stress as much as possible, and pointing it in the direction of the strongest part of the racquet is a good place to start.
Through the years there have been enough arguments presented and some thoughtful insights from fellow technicians that I decided to do a little digging on the subject. Here are some of the things I’ve uncovered.
1) No two tournament stringing teams do things the same way. Wimbledon does it one way and the US Open does it another way because they are two different teams. As a result, tournament stringers often have to learn something new about how things are going to be done at each tournament they work at, and this usually involves the stringing pattern.
My point here is simple: If two-piece stringing is the standard, this problem is eliminated. An industry-wide change to two-piece stringing would institute a new consistency from tournament to tournament.
2) Why is this good? Racquet technicians have enough to worry about in high-pressure situations such as a Grand Slam stringing room. With two-piece stringing, it simplifies things at the front desk and it simplifies things for the technician. There’s never any guesswork for the technician or worrying about whether or not you read the label wrong. It’s two-piece all the time.
3) In addition, tournament players are notorious for picking up a racquet and pulling on the two outside main strings to see if the tension is equal on both sides. With standard ATW patterns (and no adjustments) one of those outside mains is always going to be looser than the other because it’s a tie-off string. In the player’s mind that’s just not acceptable. Yes we have ways to offset those outer main tension differences when we do a one-piece ATW pattern, but with two-piece stringing those work-arounds are not necessary. Both outside mains are tie-off strings and therefore, the tension is the same.
4) With the popularity of hybrid stringing on the tour (and elsewhere) this argument is almost a moot point. So many players are using hybrids that two-piece stringing is more the norm than the exception today. It’s not a matter of aesthetics or whether two-piece stringing affects overall play of the racquet. Don’t believe me? Roger Federer uses a hybrid. Try convincing him that the racquet plays poorly when it’s strung with four knots.
5) One last point with regard to tournament stringing and that’s the elimination of counting crosses. With most ATW patterns the technician has to be aware of how to start the weave on the cross strings because there’s already one cross installed at the bottom. Should I go under or over the first main with that first cross at the top? In the heat of the moment, mistakes have been made and the technician is not going to realize it until they get closer to the bottom and it becomes obvious that they started the crosses wrong. With two-piece stringing that problem is eliminated.
Other Advantages of Two-Piece
Now that we’ve talked about tournament stringing let’s talk about some other significant points to consider concerning two-piece stringing:
- For any racquet technician, working with two shorter pieces of string is easier than working with one longer piece of string.
- As mentioned above, the strongest point on a racquet is the yoke. Weaving cross strings toward the yoke ensures the stress is directed toward the stronger part of the frame.
- ATW patterns leave the most used/worn string in the hitting area, so this is a concern, especially with natural gut. Think about that. The strings that are going to be used to install the crosses have just been pulled along behind as the main strings are installed. They’ve endured wear that can be completely avoided prior to ever being woven into their final resting place!
- It is widely believed that two-piece stringing limits frame distortion. This, in and of itself, can be a major discussion on its own.
- Certain racquets are more flexible than others and they benefit from top-down cross-string installation.
- Higher tensions are more likely to cause frame distortion so top-down stringing lends an additional security of frame protection since you are weaving toward the yoke.
- Installing cross strings from top to bottom on a machine with a sub-par mounting system (yes, machines differ) is safer because there’s less chance of damaging the racquet during the stringing process.
So … is two-piece stringing better than one-piece? Sure, in many situations. Does it warrant becoming the de facto process we all use? We may not quite be there yet, but we seem to be headed that way.
Contributing Editor Tim Strawn is a USRSA Master Racquet Technician and Certification Tester. He has worked for many years stringing for the pro tour (including at Wimbledon and the US Open). He is the Owner/Founder of the International Alliance of Racquet Technicians (IART) and hosts the annual IART training symposium (formerly the GSS symposium). Strawn can be reached through his website at gssalliance.com or via email at email@example.com.
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