Tennis String Gauge: The Ultimate Guide

Getting tennis stringing correct is one of the key parts to having success as a player. Everyone is tinkering with different setups here and there, and the gauge of the string is just another variable that adds something different.

This ultimate guide will at least allow people to understand the differences in tennis string gauges, and what type of impact they make on overall playability. With that said, most aren’t going to find exactly the string they want until they try a few out.

What Is a Tennis String Gauge?

The gauge of a tennis string refers to the diameter. String options come in gauges, measured in the United States from 13 gauge to 18 gauge.

Most companies regularly sell 15, 16, and 17 gauge. The higher the string gauge, the thinner the string.

15 gauge

Thinner options exist, but most companies have their thinnest gauge at 15. This is going to provide the most amount of durability, especially with polyester.

Since strings rub against each other every time a ball is hit, they start to cut into each other and wear down quickly in general. A racquet also loses tension during this time.

What people might notice is that they get less spin on balls with a thicker string like 15 gauge. It’s not terrible, but with everything else equal, it does make a slight difference.

Finally, feel is a little subpar with a 15 gauge option. With a thinner string, players have improved feel and touch with the ball. This helps off the ground, with volleys, and even while serving.

Many companies offer a standard 15 gauge, and a slightly lighter 15L. Think of the 15L as a happy medium between a 15 gauge and the 16 gauge.

16 gauge

Not sure where to start with a string gauge? This is usually the best to begin with. A 16 gauge will be more durable than something thinner, but it’s not going to be something that players notice much at all. It’s usually sold as the standard size found at most retailers.

One of the best things about 16 gauge is that it works across the board for any type of string material. It’s not a truly standard option, but players, by default, gravitate towards it as it’s usually the first string they try.

Like 15 gauge, there is a 16 gauge light option that is available from some companies. A 16L will provide a little bit more feel and act as the option between 16 and 17.

17 gauge

Players who can go with a thin string will usually start at 17 gauge and see how it works. They know that they’ll likely need to restring much more frequently, but those who don’t break strings easily might not notice that much of a difference.

What they will notice is that a 17 gauge string will generate more power and spin. It might feel fairly subtle at first, but players can start to take more risks and see how it all happens to come together.

If a player is suffering from any type of arm fatigue or injury, a thinner string will help with comfort as well. Players who suffer from tennis elbow have decided to drop to a thinner string and not get it strung nearly as high as usual, and that has helped relieve their pain without having to stop playing.

Keep in mind that the strings will not only break faster, but they do a poor job of keeping tension. It’s recommended to drop a little bit of tension in the first place, especially with polyester strings. This way, the racquet doesn’t feel nearly as stiff as it would with other setups.

Going beyond 17 is possible, but it can become pretty costly. Most feel like they stop gaining any positives when they go beyond 17. Not only that, but it’s a lot harder to find it readily available in stores.

Are All String Gauges From Brands The Same?

One thing to pay attention to is how string gauge changes with different companies. Make sure to compare gauges only within a company, not across the stringing industry in general.

A 15 gauge is always going to be thicker than a 16 gauge from Babolat, but another company might not have the same measurements to rely on.

What String Gauge Is Best?

Finding an actual answer to the best string gauge is simply impossible. Different players will want different types of string. With that said, starting with a 16 gauge is probably the best option for the vast majority of players. It’s a happy medium that allows for movement up and down if necessary.

After testing out how things go with a 16 gauge, start to make adjustments based on what’s necessary. Some slight tinkering takes time, but is worth it to start feeling satisfied as a player. Once a competitive player gets multiple racquets with the same setup, it’s that much easier to transition.

What Role Does String Gauge Play In String Choices?

The type of string makes more of an impact on how it performs than the gauge a person picks. Understanding the main types of strings will help people select their gauge.

Natural Gut

A natural gut is high in power, provides excellent comfort, keeps tension well, and provides some of the best feel a player could ask for.

This means that if possible, try to go with a thicker gauge to fight against the negative of natural gut breaking easily. There’s less of a need to go with a thin string in this scenario, since it naturally provides many of those benefits.

Synthetic Gut

A well-rounded string that does a little bit of everything fairly well, the only knock on synthetic gut is a lack of durability. If that’s an issue, go with a thicker gauge.

I listed the best Synthetic Gut strings in this post.


A thick gauge also helps with a multifilament, as the strings provide comfort and power. Only go very thin if strings rarely break.

Multifilament is usually pretty inexpensive, making it great for young players to learn with.


A lot of people have been playing around with different gauges out there with polyester strings. These are low-powered, spin-friendly, and stiff.

The good news is they are durable, so people start to go towards thinner options to get the benefits in that direction. For example, a 17 gauge polyester is still usually more durable than a much thicker natural gut.

I listed the best Polyester strings in this post.


Known for being the most durable strings out there and having excellent tension that takes a lot of time to drop, a thinner Kevlar option can help with playability.

It’s really just a matter of what people want to get out of their Kevlar strings. Keep in mind that all these benefits come at a steep price.


Players wanting a mix with a racquet to benefit from different types of strings will go with a hybrid setup.

This is usually done to add some playability to something tough for the arm to deal with like polyester. The polyester adds some durability, while players still feel like they get the feel and comfort they need.

Recommendations For Different Levels of Players

The tennis string gauge, as well as the string itself, varies quite a bit depending on the different levels of players. While every player is different, a good starting point can get people moving in the right direction.


A good string gauge to start with as a beginner is 16. Synthetic gut and multifilament options are usually preferred since they are inexpensive and provide middle-of-the-road performance in the major categories.

Most beginners aren’t hitting with a lot of pace or spin, so durability should be just fine with a 16 gauge.


Players who are pretty regularly hitting the court and playing tournaments or leagues will likely lean towards a string that is more tailored to their playing preference.

Some players grow up using a natural or synthetic gut, and they can’t go with anything else. Others made the switch to polyester, and never look back.

Durability is a pretty big factor with advanced players simply because they are going through more strings in general. Since players have to pay for strings out of their own pocket, it gets pretty costly playing with something that breaks all the time.

What String Gauge The Pros Use

At the professional level, it’s mostly all about playability. They don’t have to worry about the strings lasting very long, because they can get them restrung whenever they need to. Most modern pros go through multiple racquets in a single match, as tension starts to drop after standard play.

Pros also don’t have to worry about the cost of the string, since sponsors cover it. This makes it much easier to go ahead with a hybrid setup that will cost the typical club player $50 or more after installation.

The top players in the world all use strings readily available to the average player. Below is a look at five of the most recognizable names in tennis right now, and what they use.

  • Novak Djokovic: Babolat VS 16 in the mains, Luxilon ALU Power 16L in the crosses
  • Rafael Nadal: Babolat RPM Blast 15L in the mains and crosses
  • Roger Federer: Babolat VS 16 in the mains, Luxilon ALU Rough 16L in the crosses
  • Serena Williams: Wilson Natural Gut 16 in the mains, Luxilon 4G 16L in the crosse
  • Naomi Osaka: Yonex Poly Tour Strike 16L in the mains and crosses

Final Thoughts on Tennis String Gauges

There’s a lot to process when working with a tennis string gauge and trying to figure everything out. Don’t be discouraged if it takes several restringings to finally find that perfect setup.

In the end, the extra work is worth it to feel confident on the court.

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