Roger FedererTennis Equipment

Roger Federer’s String Tension

What tension does Federer have his Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph Racket strung at?

In recent posts, I've looked at Roger Federer's string saver pattern and the leather power pads he has installed in the throat of the frame. But what string tension does Federer use in his RF 97 Autograph racquet? Does it change dramatically throughout the year depending on surface and conditions? Let's take a look.

Roger Federer's String Tension Revealed

Federer Tension

The image above is taken from the Laver Cup from 2018 in Chicago, and as you can see, Federer is stringing his mains at 27 kgs (59.5lbs) and his crosses at 25.5 kgs (56.2lbs).

The Laver Cup is an indoor event, so is he always using this tension across the year? The answer is no, but Federer doesn't alter his tension that much throughout the season.

Of course, if Roger is playing somewhere like Indian Wells where the air is thinner, he will string a little tighter than when he travels over to Miami a week later, but the changes are only subtle.

His long term stringer, and friend, Ron Yu, of Priority 1 had the following to say:

Over the year Roger doesn't change that much, his lowest tension will be around 26 kgs and his high will be around 27 kgs. Generally, he doesn’t vary much more than a kilogram throughout the season. He will, however, have racquets strung at different amounts for matches. For a three-set match we'll string him eight racquets and he’s doing four at one tension, four at another. Typically four at 26.5 and four at 27. But he doesn’t vary too much at all from 26 to 27 all throughout the year. Ron Yu, Priority 1

Regardless of tensions, Federer's racquets are always strung with 1.30mm Wilson (Babolat) Natural Gut in the mains and 1.25mm Luxilon ALU Rough in the cross strings. 

Why Does Federer Use a Different Tension in the Mains Compared to the Crosses?

Federer String Tensions

As you may have seen in the picture above, Federer always strings his cross strings one and a half kilograms less than his main strings. 

The reason why different tensions are used is that when you have a softer string like a natural gut in a hybrid setup with a stiffer string, the softer string needs to be strung at a higher tension. This is to create a similar or equivalent stiffness level compared to the less elastic string in the crosses. This creates a more consistent feel across the string bed.

For example, if you have polyester in the mains, the softer string crosses are strung tighter to create a more even feeling stringbed. And for Federer it's the reverse, the mains are strung tighter to create a more even feeling.

The other school of thought here is that stringing the crosses at a slightly lower tension increases the ‘sweet spot' of the racquet. This results in more power due to ball pocketing as the main strings are allowed to move more freely.

Has Federer's String Tension Changed Over the Years?

Federer 90 sq inch racquet

The change of racquet in 2014 had to bring about a tension change because of the head size increase. The Swiss switched from the long term 90 square inch racquet to a new 97 square inch model. With the 90 he was stringing at around 22-23 kilograms (~48lbs). However, the larger head size sees him string up at 26 and 27 kilograms.

The reason here is that the strings are slightly longer in the 97 square inch frame and the stiffness of a string when tensioned is directly proportional to its length. A larger head size racquet means that had he kept the same amount of pulled tension it would be distributed over a longer section of string which changes the feel and power. To offset this, you have to string at a higher tension on a bigger racquet.

Why Does Federer Use Priority 1?

priority1

The reason Federer uses Priority 1's services is consistency across the year. While Federer isn't one of the more meticulous players like Tim Henman, who was very sensitive around his equipment, he still wants that consistent feeling for the forty-odd weeks a year he spends on tour.

On-site stringers will always do a good job, but tournaments use different stringing machines, everyone has different techniques, and no two stringers will ever work in the same way.

By using Priority 1, Federer gets a guy in Ron Yu who travels with a stringing machine that is calibrated for accuracy at every tournament they attend. As a result, Federer gets the same feel, no matter where he is playing. 

Yu even tries to keep the time between when the racquets come off the machine to when the player is scheduled to play consistently throughout the tournament. 

That is because the tension of the stringbed will change depending on how long the racquet has been sitting around before play. 

For example, if Federer's first-round matches were done 8 hours before play, then Yu will maintain that for all future rounds. That means if the first match was a night match and the second round match starts at 1 pm, then the alarm is going off at 3 am to maintain that timing 😲 .

Meet the Man Who String's Roger Federer's Racquet

Do you have any questions about Federer's string tension? Have you tried a similar string setup with different tension between the crosses and mains? 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 tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Federer and tennis in general.

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20 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this extremely interesting post. I love to read about stuff like this, so it’s great to read while things are somewhat quiet.

  2. Great article Jonathan, a pleasure to read it like always.
    Out of context, ¿did Nadal ever used a smaller racket than he does now? I can’t imagine him playing with a 90′ headsize racket.

    1. I don’t know a whole lot about Nadal’s gear tbh but he’s always used Babolat Aero Prodrive. 100sq”. From 2005 anyway.. L2 grip which is quite small, but dunno how many overgrips he uses.

      I think he still uses that frame with a more modern paint job but not sure. He added some weight to the head a few years ago but that is the only change I have read about.

    1. I use 58lbs (26.3kg) on the mains and crosses, never tried to lower any of them. I like the consistency on my shots with that tension (I use 100 head size).

      I remember about Roger using a lower tension before, but as you explained, the bigger the head size needed to increase the tension to keep the same feel.

      Great reading as always Jon!

  3. The general rule is – higher tension = more control&accuracy, less power. With high tension the player must generate more power with his arms to hit hard. Or he prefers control over power. Is is not surprising, Fed needs rather control than power, given his perfect hand skills and playing rather to no-man’s land than very deep or extremely to the lines.

    1. A great great post, Jonathan !
      Thank you.

      And a fascinating attention to details regarding the time lapses between matches.

      “Yu even tries to keep the time between when the racquets come off the machine to when the player is scheduled to play consistently throughout the tournament.”

      As Leonardo da Vinci said : “Les détails font la perfection et la perfection n’est pas un détail”.

      1. Thanks. Yeah Ron Yu is hardcore, getting up at 4.30am to string a racquet 😀

        I dunno what they are paid but it isn’t that well remunerated. Maybe there are bonuses for tournament wins though.

      1. You mean “power” of shotmaking or endurance of the whole bed? So the gut is not really “working string” but holding the bed in place?

      2. Yeah, that is the compromise. Too elastic and and ball springs out like a jack-in-a-box, too stiff/tight, there is no feel and you get tired fast. And possibly injured.
        This is why I’ve found that a basic large core nylon string (a.k.a. “synthetic gut”, blargh.) works just fine, especially when I’m not in the mood to get picky about strings.
        You don’t get the best of both worlds, but you also avoid the worst: not too springy, not too stiff, slightly crisp, decent spin, forgiving. And cheap!
        25 kgf for any 95-100 sq.in… sorry, ~610-645 cm2, and it’s ready to go.

      3. @PRF The properties of natural gut mean it’s a power orientated string. If you string gut loose, you have tons of power.

        Poly is a dead string, no power.

  4. I would say that doesn’t work in this setup here with natural gut. If you were doing a single string job with the same string in mains and crosses then you could pull the crosses tighter. I’m not sure about the tension loss argument, matter of choice tbh. The counter-argument is the strings are shorter in the crosses. Look at Yonex for example, they recommend you string the crosses looser in their racquets.

    However, with poly, the tighter you string, the more you lose its elastic capabilities so not sure about ramping up the tension of it.

    With gut mains, poly crosses hybrid setup you should always string the crosses looser.

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