If you’re a frequent string breaker playing tennis can become quite an expensive sport. Luckily, there is something that can help.
String savers are tiny pieces of plastic that you insert between cross and main strings to help increase their lifespan. In this guide, we’ll take a look at how they work, who should use them, how they affect playability, and much more.
- 1 What Are Tennis String Savers?
- 2 Do They Work?
- 3 How Many & Where to Place Them?
- 4 How Do String Savers Affect Playability?
- 5 Which String Savers to Buy?
- 6 Can You Reuse String Savers?
- 7 How to Remove String Savers
- 8 Do Pro Tennis Players Use String Savers?
- 9 Are String Savers Legal?
- 10 Conclusion
What Are Tennis String Savers?
String savers are tiny pieces of plastic that are placed between the intersections of your strings to reduce friction and increase the lifespan of the strings.
You might have noticed that your strings are sometimes wonky and need straightening. This is because whenever you hit a tennis ball, the strings move. This movement causes friction where the mains and cross strings meet and weakens them.
String savers have grooves on each side that the strings sit in. This allows the strings to glide freely and reduces friction.
String savers usually come in strips inside an applicator that is used to gently spread the strings and insert the string savers. If you’re purchasing string savers for the first time, make sure they come with an applicator and you aren’t just buying refills.
Do They Work?
The real question is whether or not they work. Whilst they’re not expensive and can be reused, they can be quite fiddly so is it worth the hassle?
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any scientific testing into the effectiveness of string savers (at least not that I could find), but the anecdotal consensus is that they are effective and increase the lifespan of strings by about 50%.
String savers will be more effective for string materials that tend to fray or break more quickly such as multifilament and natural gut. Polyester and kevlar strings tend to be more durable and lose playability before they break unless you’re a big hitter.
- If you’re a frequent string breaker, it’s definitely worth giving them a go since they don’t cost a lot and you can always take them out if you don’t like them.
- If your strings tend to last a few months before breaking, they might not be worth the effort because by that point you’re going to benefit from new strings anyway, unless you like how string savers affect the feel of your racket.
One thing worth considering is where you break the strings. If your strings usually break near the middle of the racket (the sweet spot), then string savers are likely to help you.
However, if your strings are breaking near the frame, it’s likely caused by mishits, scraping the frame on the ground, or damaged grommets. In this case, string savers might not help.
How Many & Where to Place Them?
The next thing you need to think about is how many string savers to use and in what pattern to place them. There’s no hard and fast rule and it’s really up to you. However, there are a few things to take into account when making the decision.
How Many String Savers Should I Use?
It’s common to use between 6-30 string savers on a racket.
However, I would advise staying on the lower end (6-12) unless you really have a problem with breaking strings. This is for a couple of reasons:
- They’re a hassle to deal with – Inserting and removing tiny peices of plastic from tight strings is not fun. They get everywhere and are just an alround nuisseance.
- They stiffen the string bed – As you start to add more string savers, the tension will increase and you start to lose some feel from the racket.
You can increase the coverage of the string savers without adding more by inserting them into every other intersection.
Where Should I Place Them?
Generally, you want to place them where your strings wear down the quickest. Sometimes this can be visible such as frayed strings or notches in the strings, or you can think about where on the string bed they have broken in the past.
For most people, this is going to be near the center of the string bed and a little bit towards the top of the racket away from the throat.
If you tend to break your strings near the frame of the racket, string savers are less likely to help as the cause of the breakage is probably not friction between the strings but friction against the frame itself. However, they’re cheap enough that it might be worth trying them there.
Further down the page, there is a diagram of Roger Federer’s string savers pattern which is a good starting point for where you should place string savers.
How Do String Savers Affect Playability?
Increasing the lifespan of your strings is of course a positive, but if string savers affect your racket in a way that you don’t like, then maybe they aren’t worth it. Let’s take a look at how strings savers can affect the playability of a racket.
Do String Savers Affect Tension?
String savers will increase the tension a small amount. The more you use, the greater the increase in tension. The difference is quite minimal, but if you’re using string savers, you might want to drop the tension by a pound or two to accommodate.
Another thing to note is that string savers can affect how the strings react upon contact. Rather than rubbing against each other, the strings now have a buffer between them so will move in a different way. This can make the strings feel stiffer and as if they are at a higher tension even if the actual difference in tension is negligible.
Whether or not this bothers you and to what extent can only be discovered by trial and error.
Do String Savers Increase Spin?
It isn’t clear whether string savers have any effect on spin, but I would argue any increase or decrease is negligible.
Some people argue that string savers prevent the strings from moving which reduces snapback and therefore decreases spin. Others argue that the string savers provide extra grip for the ball and help to increase spin.
The reality is, there are many pro players who can hit with enormous amounts of topspin. Some use string savers and some don’t. Good technique is the overriding factor that affects how much spin you can put on the ball.
If you’re looking to increase the lifespan of your strings and don’t mind how they feel, use them. Otherwise, don’t use them. It’s as simple as that.
Which String Savers to Buy?
There are only a few string savers on the market so you aren’t spoiled for choice. The most popular options are:
There are options available from lesser-known brands as well, but I would stick to one of the three above as they are high-quality tennis brands.
I’ve used Babolat Elastocross string savers before and never had any problems, but I’m sure you’ll be fine with the Tourna or Wilson string savers too.
Can You Reuse String Savers?
Yes, as long as they aren’t damaged you can reuse string savers.
I would recommend cutting out your strings in a bag or at least on a clean table so you can keep track of the string savers. They like to fling themselves off the strings and since they’re so small they can be easily lost.
Once you’ve removed them, you can use the applicator to put them into your new string job.
How to Remove String Savers
Maybe you bought a racket that had string savers already applied, or perhaps you tried inserting them yourself but don’t like them or would like to relocate them. Either way, you’re not quite ready to cut out the strings but you want to remove the string savers.
If you inserted the string savers yourself, you should have an applicator tool that came with the string savers. If this is the case you can simply use the applicator tool to gently separate the strings and carefully remove the string savers.
If you don’t have an applicator tool and want to remove string savers, you need to get a bit more creative. I’ve found that using a fork works quite well for lifting the strings to remove string savers. Obviously, you need to be careful not to damage the strings though.
Do Pro Tennis Players Use String Savers?
Yes, some pro tennis players use (or have used in the past) string savers. These include:
- Roger Federer
- Grigor Dimitrov
- Pete Sampras
It’s pretty easy to find out what rackets and strings almost any pro uses. Less-known accessories like string savers tend to go under the radar and it can be hard to know which pros use them but they are for sure used by some pros.
Roger Federer’s String Savers Pattern
Roger Federer uses 10 string savers in two staggered rows near the top of the string bed and he leaves a gap between each string saver.
This pattern is a good place to start if you’re going to give string savers a try. It gives good coverage of the sweet spot without using too many string savers. And hey, if it’s good enough for Roger, it’s good enough for anyone, right?
In the video below, Federer talks about his racket setup including his use of string savers.
Grigor Dimitrov’s String Savers Pattern
Grigor Dimitrov uses an interesting pattern in that it is asymmetrical. He uses 6 string savers in a tight group around the sweet spot but slightly to one side.
My initial guess as to why he uses this pattern was that he tends to hit the ball either higher or lower than the center of the racket. However, looking at slow-motion clips of him hitting, this doesn’t seem to be the case and where he hits the ball varies from slightly high to dead center to slightly low. So it’s a bit of a mystery as to why he uses this pattern.
Are String Savers Legal?
Yes, string savers are legal. The ITF rules state that objects utilized to limit or prevent wear and tear are permissible as long as they are of reasonable size and placement for their purpose.
Attached objects, protrusions and devices that are approved as Player Analysis Technology, or that are utilised to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration or, for the frame only, to distribute weight, are permitted. All permissible objects, protrusions and devices must be reasonable in size and placement for their respective purpose(s).https://www.itftennis.com/media/2510/2020-rules-of-tennis-english.pdf
To wrap it up, string savers are an effective way to increase the lifespan of your tennis strings, especially if you use multifilament or natural gut strings which tend to be less durable.