Tennis Strings

Tennis Strings For Juniors

What tennis strings should kids be using? I take a look at some choices for children aged 10 and upwards.

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

tennis parents

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

polyester string kids

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?

natural gut for kids

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:

  • Mains: Ashaway MonoGut ZX / Crosses: Head Velocity MLT
  • Mains: Forten Synthetic Gut / Crosses: Tecnifibre X-One Biphase
  • Mains: Tecnifibre NRG2 / Crosses: Gosen OG-Sheep Micro

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.

I recommend: 

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?

luxilon element

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?

string tension for juniors

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.

Final Thoughts

final thoughts

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.

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.

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20 Comments

  1. What about natural gut or hybrid involving natural gut?
    While I’m no junior anymore 😉 and I’m not going to have children or grandchildren to need the junior know-how, I had for years a coach, who was also coaching juniors and I have seen parents trying to improve the training all the time. Some come with the child to the coach and say, the child was highly talented and the question is, if the coach can make champs (in the given age category) withing a month (because they are just on holidays and have enough time to try to kill their child only to upbeat their ego. This is a drama for children and they are lucky, if the coach is not inclined to earn so much it goes and help to kill the child because holidays is a good time for freelance coaches just because parents are like they are.
    But I have another question. Is there any similarity between a junior and a senior (say 50+) just starting their tennis careers? Well, in the second case you rather talk with the “old child” itself than the hungry parents, but some older newbies may have similar motivation. They will not win slams but they have not so much time to reach some good skills.
    So similar string setup for juniors and seniors (I mean only seniors just starting their adventure with tennis, not the ones, who were playing as junior and are still playing).

    1. Did you read the post? 😁 Ctrl + F “natural gut” and you’ll find 13 mentions of it in the post. So yes, gut is the best string to start with bar none.

      I would say seniors should start with the exact same strings as juniors for sure. Although they can probably just go with synthetic gut from the outset to get a baseline of what they like/don’t like.

      Unless they have some background in sports (particularly racket sports) I am not sure a 50-year-old starting from scratch will ever reach the level where they are going to make use of polyester strings.

      That is not to say they can’t try them but will they get any benefits that can’t be had in other strings? I doubt it.

      Personally, I think most recreational players using polyester don’t actually need to. If you prefer the feel then that’s fine of course, but no point pretending that poly is the only viable choice for your game.

      I like Solinco Confidential for example, but it’s not because I’m breaking nylon strings or multifilament strings after 10 minutes. I can quite easily play as well with a softer string but I do like the feel of Confidential on certain shots for the predictability.

      1. Yeah, I thought I have read it, but somehow missed the natural gut 😉
        As for me (just starting at 50+ an no regular sport before (or only table recreation l tennis as a teen), I was first using strings I got together with the racket (I think it was Fischer or Rossignol) and was not interested at all in rackets, because of thinking, I first need to learn basics and not speculate about the hardware. After about 2 years, when I was able to do somehow all basic shots, I started to be interested and my first personal choice was Wilson HyperHammer (no idea, why just this ;)) After I got a new coach in the forest (I started in Warsaw) we had some exchange about rackets and strings and I started to read a lot to know, which are the options. As a result I found some hybrid set (natural gut plus monofilament) and I was using this setup for many years. Just as I started to follow Thiem which ended in trying out Pure Strike and the string setup Thiem was using. But it was less comfortable for the arm so I have always had 2 same rackets, one strung with comfort hybrid (multifilament+natural), the other with RPM Blast (which is co-poly, right?)+VS Touch, always starting with the RPM and after starting to feel some discomfort in the arm, switching to the softer hybrid setup. Now I’m playing mostly hybrid from Babolat M7 plus VS Touch. What would be you recommendation for me, given I use Pure Strike first generation?
        I’m actually happy with the above mentioned setup and I have never broken any string so I’m using the pair until I feel, the tension is too low, so time to re-string. But I would like to try out once your recommended setup. I don’t think, any game-style data to be relevant in my age group, or it is?

      2. I would use a full bed of natural gut, it’s by far the best string to use…

        But I think your M7 + gut setup works fine. The string I tell most people to try is Ashaway Monogut, especially if they live in places where natural gut is either hard to get or the climate wrecks it.

        RPM is definitely not arm friendly. I used it, it’s pretty good but Volkl Cyclone is just as good and half the price. I wouldn’t give that to an older player though.

      3. Thank you, Jonathan. Nest I will try full bed of natural gut. The older you get, the more comfort you need 😉 I don’t mean comfort of doing nothing, of course 🙂 But you must save what you still have possibly for some years to come. Natural gut full bed is something I never tried before. So maybe it’s time to do.

      4. Well, I forgot my old Slazenger Victory with probably very old natural gut full bed. I tried it some times and it’s not suiting today’s game of course, but I liked the feeling of the string bed 🙂
        If natural gut, is VS Touch a good choice for full bed? Or you would recommend another one?

      5. There aren’t many choices out there, other than Babolat you got Wilson / Luxilon, KLIP and Volkl.

        I have not tested them all, I would be surprised if there is much difference between them although I would expect Babolat to the best seen as though they have been doing it for the longest and used to produce for everyone else.

        There are a few others out of India but no idea on the quality.

  2. Why didn’t you post about Federer Express tram in Basel? Nothing about tennis, but maybe still something good for FedFan hearts 😉 Fed without crutches !

      1. FedFans would be happy, I guess, whatever you find 🙂 There is a short video with Roger filming upcoming tram and he is moving without crutches. Maybe the story itself is not so big, but for FedFan hearts still some good newa 🙂

      2. And the story is among others, it’s the tram line no. 8, with which young Federer was travelling to the practice court. When living in Warsaw, I liked trams more than any other public communication. Just like I always preferred train before bus or own car. I also hated flying and didn’t fly more than 5 times in my whole life. And I hate skyscrappers (where a building with more than 3 floors is a skyscrapper for me 😉

      3. Here you find an interview in Basel dialect (which I understand so good as I do with Chinese ;)), but if you find some material in German, I can help you with translation.

    1. I saw many 10-12 year olds using RPM like poly’s all the way to age 18,none of them injured. There is a huge misconception among parents about using poly strings. Because of this articles,many parents think using poly strings means a certain injury. Definitely,no!.. If you have a child who is a performance tennis player using a full bed of multifilament or natural gut, just be prepared to see him lose games because of flying balls. At junior levels,your child can not win a major tournament if he/she uses overpowered,uncontrollable multi or gut strings.

  3. This is a very useful and well written article, thanks for your insights.
    I am a dad of a 10 year old who is developing as a tournament player but I’m not a horrendous tennis parent, just want to give her good gear. I’m paranoid about injury so I’m very conscious of string choice.
    We are in the UK, where it rains alot!, so I’m thinking natural gut may not stand up to our terrible weather?
    X one seems a good compromise and I’m probably going to try it but as she is learning more top spin, is this string going to hurt her development as its not great in this regard?

    1. Thanks.

      If you can keep gut dry, it’s no problem in the UK. Humidity is the real killer.

      String does not generate topspin, it only enhances it so X One Biphase will be fine.

      1. Cheers Jonathan, you have been amazingly helpful. Hopefully she will enjoy playing with it.

  4. Jonathan you are absolutely right on most of your claims in this article. The point is not all the junior players are same. I wouldn’t also recommend to any child to start out with a full bed of stiff poly string. They should definitely use multifilaments for sure. But after playing 3-4 years on a regular performance basis and developing both physically and technically (12+ years old) playing with soft polys does not necessarily mean a certain injury. Juniors who have 5-6 years of training-tournament experience and who also are big hitters may not win a single tournament and may lose considerable amount of confidence if they insist on using multifilament types of strings. I have a 12 year old son who lost many games because of those uncontrollable/ ower-powered multifilaments. It is a big paradox for a parent: If you move to a full poly bed,you would be quite anxious whether your kid would be injured or not. If you insist on multifilaments it will be painful to see your child losing games or could not perform his %100 percent. Hybrid transitions to full poly beds are considerable when experiencing this paradox. Using polys on the mains and multifilament strings on the crosses are good transition options. What I mean with “soft polys” is 42-46 lbs tension 17-18 gauge RPM Blast and some other soft versions of Solinco Hyper G etc. I would definitely recommend RPM Soft as it is incredibly comfortable on the arm/joints and it is a very good transition string for a junior. If your child starts to break multifilaments or hybrids,RPM Soft is a great option.

    1. Thanks.

      RPM Blast isn’t one I would use in a hybrid for kids. At lower tensions and thinner gauges, this would have a high dynamic tension so I would never recommend it for juniors.

      I think Isospeed Cream is a good soft poly. Luxilon Element and some in the Volkl range are much better choices as I mentioned in the post.

      RPM Soft I can recommend, as it’s not really a polyester string. Triax is similar and they are both comfortable.

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