Tennis EquipmentTennis Strings

The Best Tie Off Knots For Tennis Racquet Stringing

What’s the best finishing knot for your racquet? Does it Even Matter?

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

parnell pad

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.

Advantages

  • Reliable
  • Easy to learn and tie

Disadvantages

  • Can strangle the anchor string
  • A bulkier knot so harder to do in a tight area

Parnell Knot

 

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.

Advantages

  • It won't come undone
  • Less pressure on anchor string
  • It looks clean/tight against the frame

Disadvantages

  • 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.

Advantages

  • Clean looking knot
  • Easy to tie in tight spaces

Disadvantages

  • A small knot, so thin strings + large grommets can be a problem

Starting Knot

 

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.

Advantages

  • Can withstand direct tension
  • Won't slip through the grommet
  • Can be done β€˜super' bulky

Disadvantages

  • With stiffer polyester strings, starting knots can be hard to cinch up
  • Less aesthetically pleasing

An Alternative to the Starting Knot

parnell pad

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?

ugly knot

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.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

Related Articles

29 Comments

    1. Are you collecting Firsts? I think, “firsts” should not count if the user does not drop any comment. What do you think?

  1. The best thing about knots is, over 30+ years playing tennis I was never let down by the knot and I have no clues, which types of knots were used by different stringers I had in my “career”.
    I even have a friend, who strings himself his rackets, mostly from many pieces of different strings, he just get for free from colleagues or professional stringers. Just because he cannot afford to buy strings and pay for stringing. As a result there are some additional knots within the bed. Must ask him, what kind of knots are they πŸ˜‰ Probably different and everyone his own invention. But they work and I see him using the same racket with the same string mix, including many extra knots over many seasons and they never break. No idea, how they affect his game πŸ™‚ Maybe he will want to send me some photos, so I can send them to you for your assessment and eventually funny addition to your post πŸ™‚

    1. Any more than 4 knots is a crime against stringing 😁

      But I have played with a guy who got a stringing machine and his first attempts at stringing produced something with about 4 different types of string in them and 7 knots, many grommet holes with strings in them that shouldn’t be.

      But he played great with it, and there wasn’t really a way to tell the racquet was a disaster, other than maybe a lack of control on some shots, so it does prove you can almost play with anything.

      1. Yeah, I have seen once a video showing players using Tefal pans for fun. topspin was not possible but getting the ball over the net was. What do you need more in tennis? πŸ˜‰

  2. Which ties are best for the time you cannot play because of Covid? Does some special Covid-regime for knots? Which knots are asymptomatic? We have tubeless tires and driver-less cars, humanl-ess translations and and. What about knot-less stringing?

    1. Haha, interesting.

      So I am guessing he was stringing that as a one-piece, and ran out of string on the short side to finish the mains, so used some different string?

      I think he’d have been better pulling through some string from the long side to finish the mains fully, then running out of string on the crosses, turn it into a 16 x 16 frame. Or use some different string to finish the final few strings but on the crosses.

      1. Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚ I will pass him your hints.
        But – he is always experimenting with the goal to not spend any single cent for the gear πŸ˜‰
        16×16 – would be first such racket worldwide or it’s format used somewhere and sometimes?
        Of course he never knows, what’s the tension. Somehow he can play quite well with all these highly customized rackets. Frames come from recycling too, but he is very demanding. I have offered him for free Wilson K-Factor, Dunlop M-Fil 3hundred. Still with good strings. He has tested both and didn’t like. But he has always 5+ frames from colleagues who stopped to use them, some were damaged but he managed somehow to repair and uses only those frames and “string-setups” he likes after they are done πŸ˜‰

      2. Barbora Strycova was using a 15 x 16 recently, mega open pattern. Would last two minutes in the men’s game. I don’t think you will find a racquet with less than 16 crosses, but you can find ones with 14 mains, there’s a Prince one.

        Does he have a stringing machine or is he using something else to string them? 😁

        Once a racket is cracked, there is no way to repair it, you can still play with it but it won’t last long.

      3. I think, he has some very old stringing machine, but somehow he cannot control the tension. And even with modern machine, can you control the tension with such a setup?
        There are apps to measure tension of a strung racket but could it work with a racket strung with such a mix of strings? I have tried once this app on my professionally strung rackets and the result was not close to what the stringer told me. The only result of using it was, I started to have less trust in the stringer’s professionalism, hahaha
        I have tried to play some of his rackets and it doesn’t feel that bad. They seem to have lower tension that I’m using, are more comfortable (probably on cost of control) and lower tension gives more power (if I’m not wrong).

      4. How far off the tensions they told you, and how long after it had been strung?

        I have not used the apps much, they are meant to be pretty accurate.

        Yes, low tension = more power, less control. I would think his racquets are super low tension because I am not sure how he is trying to minimise the loss on joining two strings together. I am not sure how you could even do it, you’d need to pull tension on that last main, then thread it as far as it goes, then tie the next string to it and pull tension on that.

      5. Yes, I’m still using Pure Strike. I have tried lighter rackets with bigger heads, but they don’t fit well my playing technique. But I must rethink and maybe try out again the racket with specs you recommend. Or I need to make better selection of partners, looking for those not hitting too hard. Most of younger players prefer to hit as hard as they can. Not optimal for me. Maybe I will give Babolat Drive 107 at the next occasion, the courts are open for the public. Right now I had no possibility to play over the whole winter season and summer is still far from coming while the strict lockdown we have now allows only professional athletes in any discipline to train on stadiums or even visit fitness center. Well, I can still hit the wall on the local courts but it’s not comfortable at +5C and windy conditions πŸ™

    2. The stringer should have string with 25 kg mains and 23 kg crosses. Some weeks after (I was playing 2x 2 hours a week) I have used the app and it found 2-3 kg less. But I felt, it was 25/23, because I use this setup since long time and didn’t feel any difference. This ds rather hard setup (for me at least) – maybe I should be using lower tension but control was worth more for me than power.

      1. This is normal, the strings lose tension the minute they come off the stringing machine, in fact, they can lose 10% in the first 24 hours so your stringer did a good job by the sounds of it.

      2. Thank you, Jonathan. Maybe he gave higher initial tension than my wish, but of course I never controlled it, only changed strings when it was no more what I needed.
        Maybe I should opt now for less control but more power, because the power I generate myself must be lower now. But I have more age-related problems than this, most of them related to movement, timing, coordination. I can still serve well (no motion) or hit volleys from stable position even if the coming ball is fast and hard.
        Well, we all must accept it never goes up without end πŸ˜‰
        I have quite a good technique and most of my opponents are hitting a lot harder than me. Maybe I should take a racket with balance more to the head and choose lower tension? What do you think?

      3. You are using a Pure Strike 18 x 20 right?

        That racquet is not easy to play with, it’s a control type frame. I wouldn’t recommend that for someone 65+ tbh, you need your game perfectly intact to play with that.

        You should probably get a slightly lighter, bigger head size racquet. If you want to stick with Babolat – I would look at a Pure Drive 107. Still a semi ‘players’ frame but way more forgiving. It will give you a bit more power too.

        Head Extreme S or Wilson Triad 3 are also ones to look at.

  3. I used “MSV CO FOCUS”, 1.18 mm, “17L” on Head’s “Instinct” and it was very hard to finish the mains as Parnell’s knot didn’t seem to work. The knot was always slipping and the part of the string outside the racket remained untensioned. Finally, I used a tool to pull the string harder and more or less, it now holds with Parnell’s.

  4. I like the Parnell knot, the Pro knot, and a start knot similar to the video you posted.
    This is a good article.
    The best thing you said is that a good stringer is always learning. Always!
    I’ve been stringing since 1968 and I’m still learning. Keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button