If you're learning to string a tennis racquet, the knots you use are a crucial endpoint (and potentially a starting point) for ensuring your racquets stringbed can stand up to the task of hitting a tennis ball for several hours.
Using a poorly tied knot can compromise a string job by causing it to lose tension too quickly. Or, in a worst-case scenario, bad knots can slip through the grommet or even come undone, causing the stringbed to fall apart completely. Not an ideal scenario if you're in the middle of a match.
So which knots should you use? Are some tie off knots better than the others? Let's take a look.
The Types of Knots Used In Racquet Stringing
There are several types of knots that stringers will use when stringing a racquet, but the four most common are as follows:
- Double Half Hitch
- Parnell Knot
- Wilson Pro Knot
- Starting Knot
Double Half Hitch
The double half hitch knot is the most common tie off knot and is the simplest knot to learn.
It is the knot you'll find in any guide to racquet stringing and is a great starting point for when you first start learning to string a racquet.
In some racquets, you might be able to get away with a single half hitch knot, but that will require narrow grommets and thicker gauge string; otherwise, you will get some slippage.
I used this knot when I first learnt to string a racquet, and I'll still use it from time to time.
It's also the knot most retailers like Tennis Warehouse, Tennis Express, Tennis-Point etc., will use when they string a racquet for customers before shipping.
- Easy to learn and tie
- Can strangle the anchor string
- A bulkier knot so harder to do in a tight area
This is the knot I use for all four knots when doing a two-piece string job.
When I first started learning to string a racquet, I used the double half hitch, which my manual recommended.
After getting more comfortable with the fundamentals, I researched other options and came across the Parnell Knot, a more reliable and cleaner-looking version of the double half hitch.
While I didn't have issues with the double half hitch coming undone or breaking, I have used the Parnell Knot ever since. I found it a much cleaner looking knot and easier to get the cut end against the frame.
Whereas the Double Half Hitch is the most basic of all the tie-off knots, it can create a weak spot as it strangles the anchor string when you tie it.
With the Parnell Knot, because you tighten the first half hitch, there's a piece of string blocking it from strangling the anchor string.
The double half hitch can also come undone more easily, as it is really two single half hitches on top of the other. In comparison, the Parnell knot cinches up and won't come undone.
- It won't come undone
- Less pressure on anchor string
- It looks clean/tight against the frame
- Some say it's bulkier compared to the Pro Knot
Wilson Pro Knot
The Wilson Pro Knot gets the name due to the Wilson tournament stringers using it on all their string jobs.
The Pro Knot is a small and compact knot making it easy to tie off in tight spaces. While it's almost the same as the Parnell Knot, rather than going back around the anchor string, you only go back through the loop.
I will sometimes use this knot when using a thicker string or in a real tight space, but if you plan and make sure your tie-off hole has the cross string running underneath the anchor string, you can tie a bigger knot in the open space. When you pull it tight, it will glide over the cross string and cinch up.
- Clean looking knot
- Easy to tie in tight spaces
- A small knot, so thin strings + large grommets can be a problem
Whenever you string a racquet as a two-piece string job, either a hybrid or because you prefer the stringbed being two pieces, you will be starting the cross strings from scratch.
That means you'll be pulling tension directly on a knot, so it needs to stand up the forces applied and not slip back through a grommet.
The starting knot is one way of doing this, and the result is a bulky knot that can withstand direct tension. The starting knot works well, but there is another option that I'll cover below.
- Can withstand direct tension
- Won't slip through the grommet
- Can be done ‘super' bulky
- With stiffer polyester strings, starting knots can be hard to cinch up
- Less aesthetically pleasing
An Alternative to the Starting Knot
When I first started stringing, the DVD I received with my stringing machine recommended using a starting knot when doing a two-piece string job.
But like how I discovered the Parnell Knot, I'd seen several advanced stringers opting to avoid this knot and instead use a starting clamp, shown in the picture above.
I gave this a try, and I've not used a starting knot since, as it's a much easier method, produces a more reliable tension, and you get a much cleaner knot that matches the other three.
I would still recommend learning the starting knot, so it's in your arsenal should you need it, but using a starting clamp for the crosses is my preferred method.
Is One Knot Better than the Other?
So is one finishing knot better than the rest? Not really; if you asked Richard Parnell what he thought was the best, he'd likely say the Parnell Knot; if you asked someone who strings in the Wilson team, they'd probably tell you the Pro Knot. 😁
The best knot for me is the one you can comfortably tie and performs its function, i.e. doesn't slip, cause breakage or impact playability. All four of the ones listed above, when tied correctly, are good choices.
For most people, I think that is the Parnell Knot is the best choice because it has never let me down; not only that, it's created by a guy that is highly knowledgeable about stringing and has strung hundreds of thousands of racquets in his career with that knot.
What about bad knots? They certainly exist; the picture above is a good example of this, as it's far too bulky and looks slapdash. If that was done by someone flying blind on their first few string jobs, then that's fine, but if a seasoned stringer is producing that? I'd be a little sceptical.
A bad knot doesn't make a bad stringer, of course, but most good stringers will produce a neater looking tie off with the tag end up against the frame to prevent it catching on clothes, fingers etc.
General Tips for Tie-Off Knots
- Practice makes perfect
- Don't pull tension on your knots using the stringing machine
- Use a starting clamp to help you grip the string when tightening the knot
- Try to use the same knot consistently
- Remember to increase the tension by 10% before pulling the last mains or crosses before tying off to compensate for the inevitable tension loss
- Use Youtube for more visual and how-to guides
And remember, a good stringer is always learning!
Which knot do you use when stringing racquets? Have you devised your own variation of one of the knots above like Richard Parnell? Let me know in the comments.