How to string a tennis racquet

Expert advice on stringing a racquet from Richard Parnell, a Grand Master Stringer. Parnell has been stringing racquets on the ATP and WTA Tours for 30 years, at Wimbledon for 20 years and has also worked at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. He’s such an expert, there's even a knot named after him.

Before you do anything, make a few checks.

"Check the racquet, the string pattern and also the tension you're going to be using," says Parnell. "Run the string through your hands to make sure there are no imperfections. That’s especially important if you’re using gut, which is a natural product.

You want to find out now, before you start, rather than when you're halfway through a restring, as by then you would have wasted a lot of time. Passing it through your hands, you'll feel if there are any imperfections and whether you need another piece of gut.”

Mount the racquet on the machine.

"Put the throat of the racquet in first as you’ll be able find the centre more easily. Close the supports around the throat and then the ones at the end of the racquet. The supports on the sides should be firm while the ones at each end should just be against the frame. The reason for this is that when we put all the main strings in, everything is going to compress, and when we put the cross strings in, it's going to come back into shape."

Adjust the speed of the tension machine.

"If I'm using a monofilament string, I'll have the machine on a high speed while if I'm using a natural gut, I'll adjust to a slower speed to protect the string and ensure it doesn't suffer."

If you’re using natural gut, let it twist the way it wants to go. 

"Natural gut is said to be a difficult string to string. But you just have to know what you're doing with it. That means letting it twist the way it wants to go and then you'll do a decent job. If you let it twist the way it wants to twist, and you follow the gut rather than making it follow the way you want to go, you’ll get a much better result.”

Start by stringing the mains.

"You can put the first two mains in quickly. Thread the string through two holes at one end and then through two at the other end, so from the throat to the head. Once you’ve done that, hold the two ends together so you know it's even on either side. Put both strings into the tension head so you can place the clamp where it needs to do.

Make sure the clamp is adjusted to the gauge of the string, and that it grips it and doesn't crush it. If the string were to slip through when you tension it, it doesn't move because of the clamp. Now take that off and do it on the other string. Again, have the clamp in place as a back-up.”

You're only ever doing three strings at a time on either side of the first two mains you have done.

"Ensure that the frame is as straight as possible so that the string is as short as possible. Do three mains on the side to 'catch up' and then another three. You're also trying to make the tension head bite as soon as possible so you get a higher string bed stiffness, so it starts pulling straight away and that it's tensioning a shorter piece of string."

Hold the grommet strip in.

"That's very important as it prevents damage to the racquet and the string. A lot of frames have grommets that are flared that stop them from moving out. But if you get used to holding the grommets in, it will become a habit and you won't have to think about doing it. That will become part of your technique.”

Next do three strings on the other side of the three you have just done.

"After that, you're doing them one by one so that the deformation of the racquet is as symmetrical as possible."

Use the Parnell Knot.

"Before tying off the mains, add on 20 per cent extra tension so that the last strings are as tight as possible. And then tie the main on one side with the Parnell Knot. It's very easy to tie, it's compact and it protects the anchor string. It's one of the two most used knots in professional stringing, as well as one of the two official knots for Wimbledon.

First block the turntable so it doesn't move. Do a half hitch, leave a bit of a loop and then do another half hitch through that loop. Use the starting clamp to pull up the tension so the string on the outside of the frame is also tight.

“Always release the clamp base first and then the clamp. Cut the knot short with clippers. If you're using a monofilament string, use the back of the clippers to flatten it so it won't injure your finger.

You don't have to flatten out the end with natural gut it tends not to be sharp. The tag end of the knot should be straight on the string it's tied to. Tie the last main on the other side using the Parnell Knot, again using the starting clamp so you're losing as little tension as possible."

Now put the crosses in.

"First decide if you're going to use the same tension as for the mains. You could start on the third string down from the top and then work upwards as then the string suffers a little less. Use whatever method you want to weave the crosses. There's no best way of weaving - use whichever one you're the most comfortable with.

What I would suggest is learning two different weaving methods, as they might work better in different situations. The way you weave the crosses depends on the string you're using and also on the racquet."

When you get to the top cross, you have a choice to make.

"You could go for a starting knot or a starting clamp. I would recommend using a clamp as that will mean that the knots will be Parnell Knots. That will look better and the string will suffer less. Use the starting clamp on the outside of the frame and a Parnell pad to protect the grommet and bumper strip.

If you're stringing a new frame, you don't want something metal going against it and maybe leaving a mark. Then tension the first cross.”

Every string should be as straight as possible.

"That will mean that you’ll have to make fewer adjustments at the end. That will keep a higher string bed stiffness and you'll end up with a much better result."

The final cross strings, at the throat of the racquet, are the most difficult to weave. After putting the final cross in at the throat, tie a Parnell Knott.

“The tag end should be straight on the string it's tied to, which means if you're doing multiple racquets they are all going to look the same. On the ATP Tour, there are certain players who will throw a racquet back if the knots aren't done in the right way.

Also use a Parnell Knot at the other end, at the head of the racquet. And then tension it. Release the clamp base and then the clamp. Cut the end of the string.”

The final step is straightening the strings.

"You might need to make some slight adjustments. But then you're good to go. You should be able to take the racquet out of the machine as easily as it went in. That’s an indication that the frame is still in the same shape as when it went in."

You've done it, you've strung your racquet. Now get on court and enjoy playing with it. 

FAQ's about Tennis Racquet Stringing:

How to string a tennis racquet for beginners?
When to restring a tennis racquet?
Understanding string tension / tension setting process
What are the different types of tennis strings?
How to start stringing a tennis racket for beginners?
How long does it take to string a racquet?
How much weight do strings add to a tennis racquet?
What are the different types op machines?
Are there any limitations interms of racquet size to be strung?
Which is the best mounting system?
What makes a good stringing machine?
Is the glide bar better than the swivel clamping system?
What is included on the purchase of a HEAD stringing machine?