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Pros and cons of playing with LOW tensions

by TN

You might have seen my video of Adrian Mannarino using 12 kg/24 lbs string tension. What are the pros and cons of playing with low tensions?

Low tensions are on the rise (pun intended). We see the average tension of the top 500 ATP players dropping to around 44 lbs or 20 kg. This does not mean that everyone uses a low tension. Players like Wawrinka and Sinner both string their racquets around 28 kg or 62 lbs. Djokovic is also around 27-28 kg with his hybrid setup, Federer hangs around the 25-26 kg mark with his hybrid and Rafa uses 25 kg or 55 lbs for his all poly setup. (If you want to know more about the three GOATs and their racquets, check this video/post.) But what are the pros and cons of playing with LOW tensions?

I’ve tried low and high tensions and I tend to land somewhere in the middle myself (22-23 kg or 49-51 lbs). But I wanted to test an ultra-low tension like Mannarino and see what it could do to my game. So I strung up my Babolat Pure Aero Rafa with Grapplesnake Tour M8 1.30 at 12 kg / 24 lbs and went to the court.

Ps. Mannarino’s racquet is heavily customized to 330g unstrung, but I didn’t want to have all that power from the weight AND the low tension to get used to at once, so I went with a stock Pure Aero Rafa (check it out at my affiliate, Tennis Warehouse).

Pros and cons of low tensions

I immediately noticed the pros/benefits of using a low tension.

+ Improved comfort
+ Extra power/depth
+ Nice pocketing in the string bed
+ Added spin

I could slap some winners with minimum effort and when I shortened my swings, I let the racquet do the work for me. Mannarino’s swing is compact and relatively flat through the ball and that kind of style seemed to be tailored towards this string tension/racquet combo. It shows how personal a racquet setup can be and how you can optimize the setup to your game style (we should all do that).

The issues with the low tension were quite obvious too.

– Lack of control (any type of mistiming the ball was immediately punished)
– High launch angle (there will be a certain trampoline effect with this type of tension)

My style involves a longer swing and a more flat stroke, so I thought I wouldn’t benefit from playing with this type of tension, but if I adapted my swing a bit (shortened it) and made sure to work to add some top spin or hit the ball well in front, I actually managed to play pretty well with this setup. It makes me wonder what would happen if I try this tension or similar in a racquet that I’m more used to, like the Extreme Tour or Prestige MP.

I would definitely recommend more players to experiment with lower tensions. Try dropping it a few kg / lbs to start with and keep moving down gradually. For veteran players, I’m sure they could even go for a poly setup as long as they use a low tension. This type of setup seems to work well for shorter swings.

What kind of experiment would you like to see next?

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4 comments

Jeff Schaffer December 18, 2021 - 17:31

I have used low tension for 30 years in my Mid Plus Pro staff frames and now in the v13 Pro Staff 97L frame. I recommend getting the $4 Head FFS string and start at 38lb. It will trampoline and have a delayed exit from the stringbed initially. Use it for a day or two. If it doesn’t match up with your frame stiffness and racket head speed then cut it out and restring at 40lbs. Then 42lb, then 44lbs. Eventually you will find the sweet spot and there will be magic.

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Les Bessellieu December 20, 2021 - 01:39

I enjoy your video’s and have a general question about lower tensions. I am getting elbow issues and wanted to ask what is the lowest tension you would recommend for a multifilament in a pro staff 97. I am a baseliner that plays mostly flat compared to today’s game.

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TN December 20, 2021 - 12:40

I wouldn’t go lower than 20 kg or 45 lbs. If you experience elbow issues while playing with a multi, it might be worth changing the racquet. I would also recommend going to a physio and doing rehab to help the issue.

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Les Bessellieu December 21, 2021 - 02:07

Thanks, I have started doing physical therapy but want to get back on the court as soon as possible.

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