Rafa Nadal tennis strings

Natural gut tennis racket strings explained: The history, the myths and why it’s the best…

Did you know what part of your racket has most impact on the ball and the success of the shots you play? It’s the tennis racket strings of course. The only part of your racket that touches the ball…


Seems obvious but too many tennis players pay little or no attention to their tennis racket strings. We hope that a small amount of education into the legendary natural gut strings will help improve your knowledge and make you think more about your strings.

Firstly, a special thanks to Babolat who have helped provide a lot of the information for this article. Babolat are unquestionably the founders of the modern tennis string and their Babolat VS natural gut string is the most famous string ever produced.


What is natural gut tennis string?

According to Babolat Insiders “A gut string is a natural product. The binder between the strips is made of collagen that is dried. Due to the composition of natural gut strings, stringing must be done carefully, with a professional stringing machine, paying special attention to avoid kinks and excessive friction between the mains and crosses. The specialists who offer this premium string to their customers possess this expertise.”

All other types of tennis string use man made fibres such as polyester but natural gut is exactly what it says, 100% natural. It actually comes from the intestines of a cow and it takes two cows to produce enough material for the strings used to complete one racket.

The common myth is that natural gut tennis strings are made form cat gut but that’s not true.

As Babolat Insiders explains “A cat intestine has never been used to make a Babolat string. This is an old legend “made in England.” In the Middle Ages, certain Welsh Troubadours carried a single-stringed musical instrument that sounded like a cat’s meow when played with a bow. The English called this instrument a “cat.” The string made from intestines translated as “gut,” so their instrument was called “cat-gut” – the cat’s cord. The legend thus spread. However, the first Babolat strings for tennis and badminton were made of natural sheep gut. Since the 1960s the strings have been made from cow gut.”



Why use natural gut strings

If price and durability were no object then most players would undoubtedly choose natural gut. The feeling when you hit a tennis ball with natural gut strings is like nothing else. And we are speaking from personal experience as Babolat were kind enough to let us try out a set of the Babolat VS gut strings.

When you hit the ball it feels like the string is caressing the ball allowing you to do whatever you want with the shot. Placement seems effortless and generating controlled spin is easy.

The challenge with natural gut is that they are expensive and they wear out quickly. tennishead’s trusted online retail partner sells standard tennis racket strings at around £3 – £6 per racket. To buy a set of Babolat VS natural gut strings will set you back around £30.

An average set of polyester strings will last a club player around 3 – 6 months depending on how much spin they use and how often they play. The Babolat VS strings we tried had broken after around 10 hours of play.

But that isn’t the point is it! You don’t put natural gut strings in your tennis racket if you are concerned about durability or cost, you use them because they give you the best feeling when you hit the ball.

In fact this is what Babolat themselves say about natural gut strings “Placed on a stringbed, the (natural gut) VS string opens the door to an unrivaled touch, elasticity, power and an incomparable resistance to tension. The VS is truly the string of feel. Used by the greatest tennis players in the world from René Lacoste to Björn Borg, to Yannick Noah and Kim Clijsters”.

So come on, give gut a try and you might never look back!

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.