When it comes to choosing a tennis string for your child's racquet, it might seem complicated, but it's relatively straightforward, at least when they are just starting to play.
The problem is that there's so much conflicting information online, and not much of it is tailored towards junior players.
Therefore a lot of parents end up incorrectly choosing strings that professionals and high-level players use.
However, as a parent, you need to think less about results and more about development.
So for a developing junior tennis player, the key is not how much topspin they can generate; it is to ensure your kids stay injury-free by avoiding unnecessary strain on their joints and muscles.
Let's take a look at what strings to avoid and what strings to use.
The Problem With Kids, Parents and Tennis Strings
The issue I keep seeing when choosing strings for a child is that many parents massively overestimate their child's ability on a tennis court. It is almost at delusional levels.
They then do a little bit of reading, invent problems that do not exist and then cook up numerous ideas on how to improve their child's game to get Rafa like topspin.
I've read countless forum posts over the years on Men's Tennis Forums, Talk Tennis and String Forum with the parents of ‘highly talented juniors' asking for string advice. When they receive some suggestions, they come back with their own opinion on why what they've just been told is wrong. 😁
You'd think, given such an abundance of high-level juniors all destined for glory, that the USA might have produced a new men's Grand Slam Champion by now. But nope, it was still Andy Roddick in 2001!
Conversations typically go like this:
Parent: “He's ten but hits the ball so hard, and the strings don't seem to last long, so we want to use a polyester.”
Stringer: “Oh right, what strings are they? Is he breaking them?”
Parent: “Head Velocity MLT. Oh no, he's not breaking them, but the tension seems to drop; we don't want to restring as often.”
Stringer: “Stick with the multifilament string.”
Parent: “Thank you for the advice, but my son is going to be a Grand Slam Champion, and we need to get him the right equipment.”
The parent then strings a Babolat Pure Drive with RPM Blast at 60lbs. The child drops out of the game at sixteen—the end.
Why Most Juniors Should Avoid Polyester
There is not a single child under the age of thirteen that needs to be using a polyester tennis string.
I'm almost tempted to raise that to fifteen/sixteen, but there are certainly a few high-level juniors ahead in physical development that start breaking strings, in which case a hybrid polyester is an option.
But for 99.9% of juniors aged from ten to twelve years old? They do not need a polyester string in their racquet.
Why? Consider the following properties of polyester strings:
- Polyester was developed for string breakers – it enables you to hit out and not break strings.
- Polyester enables more access to topspin, assuming you hit with it in the first place. String does not create spin, and it only enhances it.
- Polyester is stiff on the arm, shoulder, wrist and elbow. It transfers more shock to the body.
Then take a look at what junior players are doing on the court:
- Do they break strings? No, junior players do not hit with enough spin to break strings.
- Do they hit with big topspin and want to add even more spin so they can reach Rafa RPM levels? No. Juniors always hit flatter – they can't sacrifice power for topspin like a full-grown adult.
- Do they constantly overhit the ball beyond the baseline to require more control? Rarely, in most cases, it is the reverse; junior players struggle for depth of shot.
- Do they have top-level physical conditioning to mitigate any arm/wrist/shoulder damage? No, they are still growing.
So while your son or daughter may or may not be highly talented if you want to give them the best chance at a pro career, don't put polyester in their racquet at 10, 11, 12, 13 years old unless you want to predispose them to arm injuries that they may develop at a later age.
What Tennis Strings Should Juniors Use?
The best string for juniors is an easy one: a full string bed of Natural Gut.
This is by far the best string out there for junior players. Power, arm friendliness, tension maintenance and feel all rolled into one.
It is de facto the best string to learn tennis with, and Pete Sampras used a full bed of natural gut for his whole career.
Serena Williams also used a whole bed of natural gut (does your 10-year-old daughter hit as big as Serena?) until the mid-2000's when she moved to a hybrid.
However, natural gut is expensive and can easily be damaged (especially on framed shots), so the durability can suffer. Conversely, the natural gut can also be more cost-effective as it lasts longer than most synthetic strings, so if your child doesn't break it and the weather suits it, it's cheaper.
Therefore if you have the budget, go with natural gut. Babolat's VS Touch is the most widely available, and I would recommend every parent lets their child try it.
Start with a Multifilament
Outside of natural gut, the best choice for all young players is to start with is a multifilament string — there are lots of good quality multifilament on the market, including:
All of the strings listed above will give good power, are soft on the arm, and last a reasonable amount of time.
Move to a Synthetic Gut (Nylon) + Multifilament Hybrid
Once your child breaks a multifilament string frequently, the next step is to move up to a Nylon-Multifilament hybrid.
A hybrid is where a different string is used in the mains to the cross strings. Here I recommend putting the stronger string into the mains and the softer into the crosses to add comfort.
I recommend the following setups:
Progress to a String Bed Of Full Synthetic Gut
The progression continues as your child gets older, stronger, and breaks more strings. So the first port of call after using a synthetic/multifilament hybrid is to try a full bed of synthetic gut.
The First Polyester String
If the synthetic gut breaks too often, the first foray into polyester should be soft polyester and a soft synthetic or multifilament hybrid.
The poly can go in the mains or crosses, and it's going to be a matter of testing which works best.
Some hybrid suggestions:
You can swap any of the synthetic strings here for natural gut. The gut makes these combinations into a premium string job, so if you're a parent who wants your kid to have the best, there's your answer.
The only time a young player should ever go to a full Polyester restring is when they are strong enough, and they cannot keep a softer string in their racket for long as it breaks too quickly.
Should your child develop any wrist, arm or shoulder injury, they should revert to the softest string possible.
Do remember, though, while it might seem expensive due to restringing synthetics often, polyester itself can be a false economy.
Poly strings need cutting out after a few hours of play, and if your child gets injured, physiotherapy appointments will soon outweigh the cost of synthetic gut restrings.
Is Full Polyester An Option At All?
While I've just blasted any parent thinking of using polyester, I will add there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
My advice applies to the vast majority of junior players, and I believe it's prudent to suggest that stiffer strings in stiffer racket configurations are not conducive to the development of junior tennis players.
But in certain circumstances, some junior players can use a soft polyester string bed like Solinco Tour Bite Soft or Isospeed Cream.
But as a parent, you must be on the ball with this, and as soon as the polyester string goes dead (anywhere from 4-8 hours of play), it needs cutting out and restringing. Please do not wait until it breaks, because it probably won't!
What about String Tension?
Alongside the string itself, the tension you string a juniors racquet at also has a significant bearing on comfort and performance levels.
Generally speaking, the lower the tension, the more power is generated by the strings and the higher the tension the more control.
Your child will likely require more power than control, so stringing looser is good — also, a looser string bed is far better on the arm.
In most cases, I recommend stringing at the lower end of the racket's range, maybe even slightly below. So around 40-48lbs is what I recommend. Going above that is way too stiff.
By going loose, you get more depth of shot (better performance) and injury prevention.
So there you have it, my advice on what junior players should be stringing their racquets with.
My advice is not to overthink it, don't try to copy what the pros use, and no matter how good your child is (or how good they might become), start them out with a multifilament string.
And finally, use the services of a good quality racquet technician. A good stringer can advise you on strings after seeing your child play.
They'll also be using a constant pull machine which ensures good accuracy and is better for polyester strings when your child is finally old enough to use them.
If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about what tennis strings junior players should be using, please leave a comment below.