Stringing 101's with Ricky Ibara

Stringing 101's with Ricky Ibara

Are you guys as clueless as we are about racket stringing? There seems to be endless options to choose from when it comes to stringing brands...Do you go with a synthetic or a gut string? What's this with stringing two types of strings on the same racket? Oh, and how 'bout the tension?   I don't know about you, but all of this gives me tension and feeling strung out! 

So, I set out on a journey and went four blocks from my place to the Santa Monica Tennis Center, where I spent some quality time with stringing maestro, Ricky Ibara.  Ricky has established a reputation as LA's go-to racket stringer, having been head stringer at Racket Doctor, and now comfortably at home at Santa Monica TC.

Watching Ricky in his groove, I couldn't help but notice how much dexterity he has with his hands, and how quickly he moves around the racket head. 

So I said: 

Josh: Ricky, look at those magic hands.  Let me see those hands! How long does it take you to string a racquet with those magic hands of yours, and how many racquets are you stringing a day on average?

Ricky: (With a Big Ricky Smile) About 20 minutes to 30 minutes and I am stringing about 20 a day. 

Josh: Ok, so talk to me. Let me give you an example... I just dug this old Wilson Hammer up out of my parent's garage. Can I still play with this beast? What do you recommend stringing-wise? 

Ricky: For starters, thanks for keeping the racket alive.  Bring it back. As long as there's no cracks, no breaks, you can still use it.  I'd say you want to use a string that was alive in that era, like a synthetic gut, or a nylon which is still around these days...But maybe you want something with more give, more flex, more comfort for the player...which is always a great thing, never a bad thing.  I'd also recommend you string at the lower end of the recommended tension since it is on the older side.  You don't want to go too high on a synthetic gut with an older racket.

Josh: Awesome, thank you for those suggestions.  So, I am looking at this gorgeous new Babolot you are stringing up now.  A new racquet like this one, give me a sense of what are you stringing it with, and what do you recommend tension- wise? 

Ricky: A lot of it will depend on the player.  Are we looking at a big hitter or someone just coming on the scene, but wants to use this racket because they feel it suits them and their game? I would say go with an all around string, like a synthetic gut, still might do the trick here.  If we know they are going to break it right away because they are a really big hitter, I'll ease them into a polyester string which gives them greater durability, a great feel and will suit them best for their game. 

A thinner gauge string will provide more spin but less durability.  Thicker strings will provide way more durability, but they may lose feeling or the string may die. 

Josh: Amazing. I feel like I am getting it now!  So tension-wise, recommendations for stringing up a new model racket? 

Ricky: I like to guide people towards the middle, no matter what string you are using. Start in the middle, even if it's with a string you are not familiar with.  After that first try, you will guide yourself.  Should you go lower for more pop, higher for more control. Lower tension will provide a more balanced "rubber-bandy" feel.  A higher tension as more pull, but will allow for less give.  

Josh: Tell me a little about cross stringing.  When you take two different kinds of strings and string them on the same racket.  

Ricky: Yes. Great for all around players, or really anyone who is just starting off.  You never know what someone is going through on the court or how someone's arm may be feeling.  So recommending a hybrid string does allow for #1 use two different kind of strings and experiment a little bit, and #2 also get the best of both get spin and durability from your poly string maybe on the mains, up and down or the crosses...Or maybe you get that nice comfort from the multi- filament of the crosses which provides an extra plush. 

Josh:  Thank you so much Ricky!  Let's go hit some balls! Guys, go see Ricky and the Santa Monica Tennis Center for your racket and stringing needs. 

Additionally, here some helpful links to help decide what string is best for you: 

Best Tennis Strings 2023 by Tennis Warehouse

10 + Best Tennis Strings  by Jon Crim at Tennis Companion

Solinco Strings  - Hyper G, Co-Poly String 

You Tube Video - Top Five Strings 2023 by PH Tennis