Seating Racquet Grommets – Michael Chang Story

Question: To Seat or Not to Seat?

Before I started to write this article, I Googled “racquet stringing seating grommets.” I was curious to find out what was being said out there in the stringing world. Surprisingly, this is a hotly debated topic!

My Experience with Seating Grommets

I first learned about seating grommets when I strung at the 1994 US Open with the Babolat Competition Stringing Team. I was so excited when they handed me one of Michael Chang’s (my favorite player at the time) new frames — my mission — seat the grommets overnight. 

The Instructions They Gave Me
  • Mount the frame on the stringing machine with the “P” logo on the butt cap facing up.
  • Using synthetic gut strings, string two-piece at 60 pounds.
  • When starting the crosses, tie the starting knot on the right side at 1:00.
  • One would typically apply Michael’s Prince “P” stencil with the butt cap facing up, but this racquet didn’t need to be stenciled.

I completed my mission. The next day, they cut out the strings, then handed the racquet to the stringer assigned to Michael’s racquets for the tournament. He proceeded to string the racquet with natural gut according to Michael’s specifications.

Michael was the only player who went to that extent to “break-in” the grommets on a new frame. Lucien Nogues (head stringer) advised us to increase the tension by 1 kg for other players — (2 lbs) on new frames to compensate for the grommets that are not seated. In other words, the strings needed to form a groove into the plastic grommet strip for the first time.   

Seated grommet (left) & New frame (right)

After my experience at the Open, I continued this practice of seating grommets for clients in my stringing business. 

My Findings

  • Since I was already recording the stringbed deflection of each customer’s freshly-strung racquet, I had a good idea of what the reading should be.
  • Whenever a customer brought me a new racquet (same make and model) or replaced the grommets, I increased the reference tension by 1 pound. I know it’s not much, but it will often make the stringbed deflection reading closer to previously-strung racquets.

The bottom line for a stringer is to produce consistency over and over. Since stringbed deflection readings don’t lie, I confidently applied this process when stringing at professional events. At first, I felt obligated to educate the player when increasing the tension on new racquets.

But I quickly realized that it could sometimes throw them for a loop, psychologically. I’ve practiced this technique for the last 25 years and have never had any pro or customer complain that their string job came out too tight. 

Answer – To Seat.

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