The World’s best tennis players need the World’s best tennis rackets to play at their peak level. One tiny difference in string tension can decide who wins a crucial 1st round match or who wins the final of the Australian Open. I went to meet Mark Goodman (Co-Owner of tennis shop TopSpin Tennis) to find out everything in the racket stringing world from cow intestines to 52km of string.
Interview with Mark Goodman
How did you get into stringing?
My son Robin started playing tennis and my wife (Karen) said she thought he would break a lot of his rackets. So, she bought a stringing machine to mend the rackets. He was training with lots of other kids who were breaking strings, so Karen mended all the rackets each night and went back for the next lot the following day. Then people started asking for things like shoes and grips and the business started from there.
How often do tennis/badminton players need their racket stringing?
At pro level all the players have all their rackets strung before every match. Most male tennis players get around 5 rackets strung every match. The Japenese Kei Nishikori once had 12 rackets strung in one match!
Do all players have the same string and have their rackets strung the same way?
Typically in tennis, players will have their racket strung at different tensions. If players want to hit particular shots in matches they’ll have different tensions, higher for more control and lower for more power. As for type of string, many pros use what’s called a hybrid. A hybrid is one type of string going one way on the racket and another type going the other. However, some players do have just one type of string.
What are the strings made out of?
Originally it was made out of cow gut, cow intestines. The reason they used that was because the intestines are so long you only needed one strip for a tennis racket. Nowadays though, the string is mainly polyester and some nylon as well.
How long does it take to string a racket?
A tennis racket takes around 20 minutes and a badminton around 25.
How much string do you use in an average racket?
For a tennis racket you use a little bit less than 12 metres and for a badminton one you use about 10 metres. In Australia the stringing team used about 52 kilometres of string overall!!!
Do you get to watch any of the matches while you’re at a tournament?
It depends. When I was at the Australian Open I was so busy that I couldn’t watch any tennis till the second week. We did have some tickets so a few of the team would go and watch a set then another few would watch the next. Sometimes though we are set up right next to courtside which is good because you can string while your watching.
Finally, do you prefer tennis or badminton?
(Laughs) Badminton is always my sport, my number 1 sport but I do enjoy tennis and my children both play it so I can watch that for hours and hours.
Mark’s stringing career
Mark has strung at many major tournaments such as Australian Open and Wimbledon for a company called Yonex. Yonex supply stringing services for badminton and tennis and have many partnerships with tournaments. This means Mark has been to lots of tennis competitions and met many players. He says that one of his favourite tournaments was Australia this year as it was a brilliant experience and great fun. He also owns a tennis company called TopSpin Tennis https://www.topspintennis.co.uk/Topspin-Tennis-Home.html and sells stringed rackets as well as other tennis equipment.
A tour round a stringer’s office
Above: A stringing machine. Mark has lots of machines to help him with his stringing jobs. He says technology makes stringing so much easier and it’s extremely hard to string by hand!
Above: Rafael Nadal’s string from the Australian Open. The top 7-8 players use private stringing services that come with them to every tournament. Most other players like Nadal use the service at the tournament (it was the company Mark works for Yonex at the Australian Open) and deliver their rackets in person!
Above: That’s a lot of string! Most players have their rackets cut out after every match (below) and restrung even if they haven’t hit a ball with it! Maybe that’s why they got through 52 kilometres of string at the Aussie Open…
A big thank you to Mark Goodman for his time and making this insight possible.