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String Savers: Another Piece of the Puzzle in Roger Federer’s Racquet Setup

What are string savers on a tennis racquet? What do they do and who uses them?

Following on from my post about power pads and after a request in the comments, I thought I'd take a look at string savers.

While power pads are hidden from view in the throat of the racquet which we never see on TV, with the right angle and closeup camera shot, you can see string savers in action during live play.

Despite that, string savers remain a mystery to a lot of people as few players use them and they've never been a mainstream type of accessory like an overgrip or a dampener. 

What are String Savers?

string saver

String savers are small pieces of material, usually plastic or some other composite, that slip between the main and cross strings.

They can be installed anywhere but they're primarily used in high wear areas in the middle of the string bed and their purpose is to increase the life of the strings.

Whenever you hit the ball, the strings rub against each other creating friction. This wears the string and eventually, they'll break.

If you have a racquet that's been played with for a few matches you'll probably see notches in the string where the crosses and mains rub together.

String savers work by decreasing the movement of the string upon impact with the ball thus increasing their durability.

Do String Savers have any impact on playability?

federer topspin

Whenever you add something to the stringbed, there's going to be a change in playability. By adding string savers, there will be a slight increase in tension as they stiffen up the hitting surface just like raising your string tension would do.

The general consensus here is that string savers will produce a dampened feeling and deaden the feel of the frame. 

Personally, I've never had that feeling when I've used string savers myself and when comparing a racquet with them vs a racquet without them I never really felt a notable difference.

That is probably due to the fact I've only ever used string savers when stringing with natural gut either as a full bed or in a hybrid setup with gut in the mains. Natural Gut is an extremely lively string anyway so adding 8 to 10 string savers isn't going to reduce its pliability to the point you can feel the difference.

Had I used more string savers or put them in a polyester or synthetic gut setup then the dampened feeling might have been far more noticeable.

The other school of thought is that string savers could reduce the level of topspin that you can generate. One of the ways the strings generate spin is when the strings snap back into place when they have been displaced.

When the string returns to their natural position, that imparts more torque on the ball before it leaves the string bed. Given that string savers reduce string movement then it's fair to assume that they do reduce the level spin you can achieve. 

To my knowledge, this snapback theory has only ever been tested at low impact speeds, so as to how much it does increase spin I'm not sure. When you consider Federer can hit at Nadal like RPM's when he chooses and he uses string savers, it doesn't seem like a deal breaker.

There may also be an argument to say that a chunk of plastic in the string bed could grip the ball more and impart more spin. Federer, for example, seems to think they add spin when asked in the video further down this post but he wouldn't be the first pro player to be wrong about equipment.

Who uses String Savers?

string saver application

String Savers are mostly used by players that have natural gut strings. The only pros I know of that are using them currently are Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov. (Dimitrov has a weird pattern choice with his, pictured further down the page)

Back in the day, when gut strings were common they were far more prevalent. Sampras being the most famous user.

In terms of club level tennis, they're not something you will see all that often. When I first put them in my racquet, nobody even knew what they were when they saw them 😆

Roger Federer's String Saver Pattern

Federer String Savers

Federer's string savers are applied in a crisscross pattern across the five centre main strings and the fourth and sixth cross strings. You can just about make them out in the picture above but for those wanting to replicate Federer's string saver pattern I've marked them on the racquet below:

federer string saver pattern

Federer discusses his racquet setup

Should you use String Savers?

dimitrov-string-savers

Like a lot of answers around tennis equipment, it depends. If you use natural gut as your string of choice, then I'd say yes, you should give string savers a go. You'll see an increase in the longevity of the string without any real change in playability.

If you string in a gut hybrid setup I'd also say yes, a poly can notch the gut quickly so string savers can give you a few more hours playing time.

With some hybrid setups, the string savers might stiffen up the feel of what is an already stiff poly string. But there'd be no harm in testing, if you like the feel they offer and get a boost in durability then it's a win-win situation.

For other types of tennis string like full beds of polyester or multifilaments, I don't think you'll get many advantages from using string savers. Poly dies quickly anyway and it's a very stiff string to begin with, so increasing that stiffness and string bed tension likely won't have a desirable effect.

If you’re a prolific string breaker and think string savers might get you some more play time out of polyester, I’d recommend you try out a co-polyester strung at a low-ish tension first. That should help you to strike a better balance between playability and durability

Are there different types of String Savers?

types of string savers

All string savers serve the same purpose but there are a couple of varying designs out there from the brands like Babolat and Wilson. All of them come in an applicator tool which is easy to use, just lever up the string and slide the string saver into place.

They are quite pricey for what they are, but if you're careful when cutting out your strings, you can reuse them if they're not damaged or misshapen.

I'm also guessing the arrival of 3D printing has meant that someone could make themselves a batch very quickly. Let me know if you have tried.

Wilson String Glide

wilson string glide

Wilson's new-ish take on string savers, I've not tried String Glide but I assume they do the job just like the more traditional ones below.

Babolat Elastrocross

Babolat-Elastrocross

I use the Babolat Elastrocross string savers personally and I prefer them to the Tourna or Gamma ones. One tool pictured above has lasted me years as I've reused string savers by salvaging them when I re-string.

Wilson Friction Fighter

wilson friction fighter

The Wilson Friction Fighters are the string savers Roger Federer has in his racquet. They're identical in design to the Babolat Elasto Cross string savers. In recent years they've become much harder to find with Wilson pushing the String Glide variant instead and I'm not even sure if they make them for retail sale anymore. 

Tourna Cross String Savers

tourna-cross

The string saver of choice for Pete Sampras is the Tourna Cross. I prefer the Babolat Elastocross ones overall in terms of shape and colour.

Got any questions about string savers or whether you should use them? Drop me a comment below.

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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53 Comments

  1. I couldn’t notice a difference with or without string savers. I broke fewer strings but the main difference would be that I either broke the string after (say) 10 hours (depends on how good contact I make), or with string savers, I would play beyond that but the tension would have dropped too much for the racquet to be playable anyway. Haven’t used them this year. I run out and didn’t yet bother to order new ones. Used the Elastocross type. Funny thing is that during the 7 years I have played with the PS90BLX, I have only broken string 9 (X, counting from the top) once. All other times, I break string 10. Could get by using a single row of string savers but I usually put them on 10 and 8.

    1. Cool. I’m not a string breaker really, occasionally will pop one but it’s rare. The last one was off a horrific serve that nearly hit the frame 😆 I notice less fraying / wear when I have them in though.

      1. Is it understood why some people break strings while others not? In my case, I know. I make good contact, I will break a string but I am sure that it is not the whole truth, generally speaking, I don’t hit that hard even if I make good contact. It’s weird.

      2. Depends how long you keep the string in for, what string pattern you have, how much spin you hit with and string tension.

        I am a fairly flat hitter and I restring fairly often so they don’t get much chance to break….

  2. Well well interesting. Like a musician, for instance a stringplayer discussing various secret details. Raisin, stiffness/hair of bow, which strings, natural or hybrid or what. Thanks, Jon, down to real facts about the tennis world.

  3. Wow, you are a tennis encyclopedia, aren’t ya! (Has somebody already said that?)
    I’m even ashamed to be the first commenter as it sounded like rocket science to me 😆
    “The general consensus here is that string savers will produce a dampened feeling and deaden the feel of the frame.” – dampened, deaden and mushy (said Fed in the video)??? And only Fed and Dimi using? I had no idea.
    The video is also a great insight. Using same racket for 8 years or so….hahaha, he was talking about me!
    Bravo, Jonathan.

    1. It’s not that exotic an art. Take a few racquets strung differently, whack the hell out of a ball and you will feel the differences instantly.

  4. Ufff… never tried those. I’m yet to find a string type I fell OK with on the pure drive. The last time I had a multi-filament (X-One) , it would have benefited from the string savers, sure: after a week they were fraying and I replaced them before they snapped. Anyway, I had a hard time keeping the ball in play with those. Bad fit for that frame.
    On a previous occasion I had put a very old string set (offered by a friend) that according to the (opened and ragged) bag label was Tecnifibre 535 (Monica Seles used to use that) on a cheap 270 g Dunlop. The stringer called my in panic because at every loop he completed the string was fraying more and more. But, boy, hitting never felt sweeter! However, after every session the amount of broken filaments doubled. At a point the string bed looked like Kim Wilde’s hairdo on an ’80s poster! hahaha. No string saver would have saved those strings…
    (but I miss that whack! I was told that the strings were in fact gut. I can’t confirm that because I never tried gut. What I know is that when I touched the string the first time, I tried to pinch it a bit at one end and it kinked and became foggy white at the bend. Until today I don’t know for a fact what the string *was*, only that it felt absolutely great even on a cheap frame.)

    1. Could have been old natural gut. I have the same feeling on my two wooden rackets (with original natural gut strings) – Dunlop Maxply and Slazenger Victory. But I miss that feeling using modern natural gut strings 🙁

  5. I have used string savers for some time, like many other gadgets.
    Of course it changes something, but you don’t actually know, what and if you start to believe, this helps you to play better, you will probably use it all your tennis life. Or until you get bored with trying to find the optimum (but how you know, it is just optimum, when you didn’t test every possible combination)?

    I guess, it’s something like RF logo or autograph. I guess, for a FedFan a racket without signature can impossibly play like the one with it, right?

    Feeling of RF magic 🙂

  6. Thanks for another post. Fast and the Furious. The interview is interesting. Is he speaking German or Swiss German?
    Fed is so articulate in explaining rackets, strings, court conditions, etc. At that level of play, the smallest thing makes a difference.

      1. This was Hochdeutsch (if it was Swiss-German I would not understand it live 😉 in aspect “vocabulary”, but definitely with Basler accent.

      2. And if this was SwissGerman, Stachi’s listeners would not understand 😉 Stachi comes from Lower Saxony and in whole Germany it’s trendy to speak local dialect, even at universities, so Stachi is of course speaking Hochdeutsch but with Lower Saxon accent.
        When Stachi makes interview with Thiem it’s the same – both use Hochdeutsch, but with local accents (Thiem comes from Lower Austria)

      3. Definitely Hochdeutsch, with a Basel accent (I assume, since I’ve never heard anyone from there except Roger speak!). Tough enough as it is, at the speed he’s speaking, and given that it’s specialist subject-matter, for me to follow – I wouldn’t stand a chance if it were Swiss German!

      4. @Alison
        In young years I was living a year in Tübingen, not far from Switzerland (Bodensee, Dreiländer-Eck) and I have spoken with some Swiss people – they were trying to speak Hochdeutsch but I have somehow Swiss accent, when speaking Hochdeutch and they meant I’m maybe Swiss, speaking Hochdeutch 😉 with some words from local Swabian dialect. Knowing only Hochdeutsch, no local dialect, you have no chance to understand a word.
        And a Basel dialect is even more difficult – In Basler dialect you speak Roger’s name not “Rodger” but “Rodsher”.

  7. Completely off-topic: certainly it’s not a masters 1000 nor a major, but just check how things change when the court changes from clay to grass (for some, at least):
    -Tsitsipas eliminated by Jarry
    -Verdasco eliminated by Mannarino
    -Khachanov eliminated by Berrettini
    -A. Zverev eliminated by Dustin Brown (Hurrah!)

    1. Agree, but not really surprised. Dustin played Surbiton and has made his way thru 2 quallies and a 1st R at Stuttgart. Sascha has barely got the grass under his feet, and had to sit thru a BYE, with Lendl whispering in his ear!!
      Matteo has a great game for grass and had already played 1R as well. Again byes do some players no favours at all, and Karen’s extreme grip doesn’t help him on grass.
      Jarry has a huge serve and Stef prob still has RG clay in his brain and again had a bye. Tricky!
      :))

      Mannarino and Fer. Meh ;)))

    2. For Dustin Brown it may be caused by his very special cap. Cannot imagine to play seriously, watching a guy like Dustin on the other side.
      And his tennis is soooo funny.
      It’s different world. He plays mostly in Challenger Tour, when he suddenly shows up on ATP tour, people have no clue hot to play him. But he has – playing on instinct, just the last second idea 😉 Poor Zverev.

      Thiem had similar feeling when playing Bublik in Paris. 😉

      I can recall (but not remember the year), Dustin hit out Nadal (was this Halle or what?) by 6:1, 6:0 in first round. Asked about how he was playing there, Nadal replied, he didn’t even start to play .

      1. Actually it was both, looking up H2H: Halle 2014, 64,61 and Wimby 2015, 75,36,64,64 – the only 2 matches between them, DB-RN=2-0

      2. @John
        Dreddy would be even better to watch, if he could 3 times a match do something serious (to be to watch next match ;))

      1. I thought it was closer to the 2004-05 territory. Maybe not. Regardless, Wimbledon is a lock this year.

    1. Yes, thank you for saving my strings. Definitely the biggest problem I will have overcome in the tennis career. 🙂

    1. The Raptors suck. All those injuries to the Warriors and they barely managed to sneak through. But hey, better lucky than good!

  8. True enough, no KD etc. Let us gloat for a few days at least, Mr Uncle Sam.
    What would happen if we put you, Pablo and PFR in a locked room for a weekend?

    1. They won’t live to tell, that’s all I have to tell you. No wait, I ain’t got no beef with PRF. Thiem is a likeable player and his style should get pleasing to watch as time passes (if he can cut down on that huge swings). His volleying will get better. Djokovic was a semi decent volley until age 28 or so.

      1. Thiem HAS CUT huge swings long ago. You probably don’t watch him as long as he does not play Fed. He may use deep swing sometimes, on special occasions, to produce more power, but generally it’s history. This was a remainder after Bresnik’s school. Maybe necessary in early years as he was switching from double- to one-hander. Then it was Bresnik’s credo “Full ahead” on every shot – only winners count.
        This is no more guilty at least since Thiem parted with Bresnik and is his own man, with nice support from Mass´u and fitness coach Cordero. His volleying is getting better and generally he is going to play more naturally.

        Last year (or maybe year before) Federer offered Thiem to have off-season preparation in Dubai. Federer was thinking on playing clay, – maybe this was the reason. Of course Bresnik rejected and this was very poor decision.

        Roger likes Thiem and Thiem has tons of respect for him. Could have seen at the first Laver Cup (he will be there again in Geneve). They have good chemistry. And of course Thiem could have learned a lot from Fed, which Bresnik does not even understand. Unfortunately it ended with usual drills in Tenerife 🙁

  9. ATP website tells, the draw ceremony in Halle happens today at 2.00pm.
    What tell your anonymous sources, Jon?
    Thiem has withdrawn because of fatigue after RG, so Zverev will be probably No. 2 seed.

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