What’s The Deal With Factory Strings?
What are ‘factory strings’? You’ve probably heard players, coaches and stringers mention the term before, but I think it’s important to understand the mechanics of a racket coming straight from the factory.
Factory strings are quite literally the strings which are placed in the racket in the factory they were made. Most manufacturers assume (rightly) that advanced players will cut the original strings straight out of their rackets upon receipt, replacing them with their preferred string and tension. As such the factory strings will often have the following characteristics:
Low quality, but durable strings – normally synthetic gut
Varying tensions across the same string bed
Stencilled painted on with what feels like concrete
If you order 2+ rackets, they are nearly always completely different tensions
Stringers in the factories can string at a rapid rate, but this is mainly due to not tensioning each individual string. Instead, they will most likely pull tension on only the third or forth string they weave, meaning that the string bed has some strings which are far looser/tighter than others. No matter how good the racket, you will never get the true performance out of it if not strung correctly. Imagine a Formula 1 driver driving a Ferrari at 200 mph with 4 tyres inflated at vastly different pressures!
The quality of string is often made to last, not to perform. The strings are generally thick, synthetic gut strings which are unresponsive. Even lower level players, who claim that they probably won’t feel the difference, often notice a drastic improvement when higher quality strings are put in their racket – though it may take some convincing to get them to change what look like perfectly good strings. Word of caution though, the lower the level of player, the more likely they may be to mishit/frame the ball, meaning that you could have a disgruntled customer when their multifilament string snaps around the frame. So stringers, pick a string which is less prone to snapping from bad shots (I can advise on this if you want to message me).
Even the premium rackets which come with Premium strings often suffer from inconsistent tension – and most advanced players tend to receive their new rackets at least 2 at a time. Logos will be applied thickly, almost gluing the strings together on occasion. So the racket will look good, but the strings won’t perform in the manner they were intended, especially when trying to ‘cut' or spin on the ball. I nearly always stencil my rackets, but I’m careful to apply thinner coats of stencil ink. Yes, the stencil may rub off a little sooner, but the rackets will be good to hit with straight from the off.
I would like to add that I can understand why manufacturers don’t spend vast sums of money on stringing rackets at the factory – as the lower to average player may not be as concerned as more advanced players, who will want to customise their rackets straight away. Tennis has adopted the approach of selling unstrung frames. Perhaps the squash world could replicate this approach for higher spec rackets?
All the best,
The strings in your racket can be just as important as the racket you play with