Guide to String Patterns

Pick Your Perfect String Pattern

A “string pattern” refers to the number of main (vertical) strings and the number of cross (horizontal) strings. You will hear the terms “dense pattern” and “open pattern” quite often. A dense pattern refers to very small spaces between the strings, while an open pattern has more separation between the strings. Keep reading for more information on the most common string patterns and what they mean for your game.     


18 x 20 String Patterns 

This pattern means there are 18 mains (vertical) and 20 crosses (horizontal), which gives you more control and better string durability. This string pattern is dense, enabling you to hit more strings on impact which can increase control. This string pattern has been around for a while and provides flat-hitting players better directional control on the court; however, it does not produce quite as much spin as other string patterns. 


Historically, pros needed the 18 x 20 pattern to control natural gut strings, but now different string materials can give control even with a pretty open pattern. String tensions are generally lower in a denser pattern because there are more strings to deflect.


16 x 19 String Patterns

This is the most popular string pattern today. It is a bit more open than the 18 x 20 pattern, giving you added spin, power and often increased feel on contact. Potential drawbacks include decreased control, tension maintenance and string durability. This more open pattern allows for more main string movement on contact. The resulting “snap back” can add spin, but it also means your strings will likely break more often. 


16 x 18 String Patterns

The 16 x 18 pattern will have similarities to the 16 x 19 string pattern, but provide a little more power and spin. With fewer cross strings, the pattern becomes even more open than the 16x19 option, allowing the ball to flex in the string bed and stay on the strings longer. For players with solid mechanics, this can mean added depth and heavier spin production. However, this pattern causes strings to lose tension and durability faster, resulting in more frequent restrings. Racquets with this pattern will be denser in the sweet spot and open up more towards the outer edges.  


16 x 20 String Patterns

Between the 16 x 19 and the 18 x 20, comes the 16 x 20 pattern which has similarities to the two most popular string patterns. Fewer mains allow the string to snap back well, and the dense crosses allow for a more solid feel on contact. Although it does not produce quite as much spin as other patterns, the 16 x 20 will not suffer from a huge lack of power. Racquets with this pattern will be denser in the sweet spot and open up more towards the outer edges.  


Open String Patterns

Next, we have the open string patterns, which all provide increased spin and power. These patterns come in a variety of combinations and have continued to be a presence today. Some sample combinations are: 14 x 18, 16 x 16, 18 x 16, 16 x 15, and 18 x 17. 


The popular Wilson Spin effect racquets, with 16 x 15, 18 x 16, and 18 x 17 string patterns, have found up to a 200 RPM increase on the ball. As a result, the strings have 3.3 times more movement and 69% more “snap back,” or recoiling of the strings before the ball leaves. This translates to more power and better feel on the ball, along with added comfort as the impact may feel softer. Nevertheless, strings with these patterns will tend to break more frequently and lose control due to constant movement on contact.


Remember, string patterns are just as important as the frame itself. If you want more power and spin, then switch to a more open string pattern. Don’t be afraid to test racquets out to see if a more open or a denser string pattern is right for your game.  

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