Updated: 18 hours ago
15 June, 2020. In 1971, the German horticulturalist, Werner Fischer, invented a stringing system for tennis racquets that would change the game in a dramatical way for quite some years. Fisher called it after his place of birth “Vilsbiburg”, some people also simply said “Werner Fischer string”. In the US, it is more commonly known as Spaghetti Strings due to its striking appearance. It generated so much spin on the ball that even low-class players could beat pros.
Visitors of The Berlin Tennis Gallery often ask how it worked. What was the principle? What made it so terrifying that the ITF finally banned it a few years after Fischer's invention?
A close-up look
At first sight, the stringing looks something like a relatively neat Afro hairdo. There are just five cross strings and they are not woven with the main strings, as they are now required to be. The main strings are all tied together at the five locations near the cross strings, using five thin strings looped around each main string. There are two sets of main strings, one on each side of the racquet, the cross strings being located between the two sets of mains. So overall, there are three separate layers of strings. At points where the main strings intersect the cross strings, short sections of plastic spaghetti tubing are threaded onto the main strings. They serve the same function as modern “string-a-lings” that can be inserted between the mains and crosses to reduce friction and wear between the mains and crosses. How did it actually work? The system was deliberately designed to impart as much spin as possible to the ball. The object of the exercise – and that´s the crucial point and reason in here for the extreme top spin - was to allow all the main strings to move sideways when the racquet struck the ball, with the least amount of friction possible. As the ball starts to come off the strings, all the main strings snap back to their original position, giving the ball an extra vertical kick.
The dramatic end of the Spaghetti´s
And so, it ended as it had to end. In 1977, there was a memorable match between Ilie Nastase (Romania) and Guillermo Vilas (Argentina). Vilas, model professional, Nastase, world-class player, always with a patter on the lips. Vilas was managed by Ion Tiriac, who is still known to many tennis fans as the maker of Boris Becker. Nastase competed with the spaghetti strings against Vilas, who was previously unbeaten over nearly 50 games in a row. Nastase won the match.
And one can imagine Tiriac, who was very influential in world of tennis at the time already. The same evening, Tiriac broke down the doors at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and protested loudly. The ITF eventually gave in to Tiriac's protest and ultimately banished Fischer's stringing
from the courts. Fischer would probably have become a multimillionaire with it and finally had to go back to his regular job. Ironically, the modern game of tennis has evolved to the point where players like Nadal can now generate almost as much spin as Fischer could in the 1970’s with his spaghetti´s.
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