Tennis String Tension: The Ultimate Player's Guide + Video

Tennis String Tension

The Ultimate Players Guide + Video

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For many players, string tension is an overlooked aspect of their tennis racquet. However, the tension at which a player strings their racquet can significantly impact performance and serve as an excellent fine-tuning mechanism for playing your best tennis.

Gaining an understanding of string tension allows savvy players to identify a tension that feels right to enhance their game and even help with other factors, such as arm injuries and match-day nerves.

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Tennis String Tension Explained

Tennis String Tension Explained: Pulling Tension on a Stringing Machine

Tension is a measure of the force pulled by a stringing machine when installing strings, typically expressed in pounds or kilograms.

When you have your tennis racquet strung or string it yourself, there is a specific tension applied to the string by a machine. More accurately referred to as reference tension, this is a measure of weight being applied to the string as it’s pulled, which we can express in kilograms or pounds.

Before a racquet technician installs strings, they’ll set their machine to the client’s desired tension. Then, as they weave the strings through the frame, the machine will pull the string to the appropriate tension.

It’s worth noting that while a machine will pull a string to the pre-determined reference tension, the finished product’s actual tension will differ and typically be slightly lower due to the installation process.

For example, a technician will install then main strings on a racquet first, so there isn’t any friction of the cross strings when pulling the string to the desired tension. However, after installing the main strings, the cross strings must weave through the main strings, which imparts friction and, therefore, impacts the final or actual tension.

If you’re trying to decide on a tension, there’s no right or wrong answer as it’s a personal preference. However, the information we cover in this guide will help you determine an ideal tension that will ensure you get the most out of your racquet and perform your best on the court.

String Tension Video

Below you’ll find my video on the topic, which serves as an excellent companion to this guide.

For quick reference, here are timestamps to the different sections of the video so you can quickly jump around.

0:24 – Tension Explained
0:57 – Tension Ranges
1:45 – Low vs High Tension
2:54 – Tension & Topspin
3:29 – Tension & Durability
3:58 – Finding the Right Tension
4:42 – Tension Loss
5:17 – Types of String & Tension
5:50 – Tension & Comfort
6:17 – Tools (Tester & Calibrator)
6:59 – Wrapping Up

The sections that follow will closely mirror that of the above video outline, but you’ll also find some extra content like pro string tensions that aren’t included in the video.

Tension Ranges

Tennis String Tension Ranges & Recommended Ranges

Most tennis racquets come with a recommended tension range determined by the manufacturer for optimal performance, which serves two purposes.

First, it’s the range the manufacturer has determined the racquet performs its best. However, beyond performance, this range is also important because it considers the strength of the frame to ensure it doesn’t break under pressure.

Helpful Tip
The tension you choose to string your racquet is up to you as these are purely recommendations, but it’s worth noting you may void its warranty if your string tension is determined to have caused your racquet to break.

At a high level, the recommended tensions ranges across most racquets will start as low as 18.14 kilograms or 40 pounds and end around 30.84 kilograms or 68 pounds.

However, while this feels like a rather large spread, each racquet’s range will typically span roughly 5 to 15 pounds. Here’s a selection of popular racquets and the recommend tension ranges for reference:

RacquetTension Range
Babolat Pure Strike 10022-26 kg / 50-59 lb
Babolat Pure Aero22-26 kg / 50-59 lb
Babolat Pure Drive22-26 kg / 50-59 lb
Wilson Pro Staff RF9722-27 kg / 50-60 lb
Wilson Clash 10021-26 kg / 48-58 lb
Head Gravity Pro21-25 kg / 48-57 lb
Yonex EZONE 98 (305g)20-27 kg / 45-60 lb

Lower vs. Higher String Tension

When stringing tennis racquets, a common question that surfaces for players is whether they should string with a higher or lower tension and what impact the change will have on their racquet’s performance.

The simple answer is that lower tensions will provide you with more power, while higher tensions will give you more control.

However, there’s a bit more to the equation, and it has to do with stringed stiffness, which tension influences. As we cover this topic, let’s assume all other factors are equal.

Low String Tension

Tennis String Tension Low Tension Equals High Trajectory and More Depth

A lower tension will result in more power because of a decrease in the stringbed stiffness, which impacts the trajectory or direction of the ball as it leaves your strings.

It turns out that the flight path of a stiffer stringbed is higher, so the ball flies further and lands deeper in the court without a change in effort.

High String Tension

Tennis String Tension: High Tension Equals Low Trajectory & Less Depth

A higher tension, on the other hand, will result in less power because of an increase in stringbed stiffness, which has the opposite impact on the trajectory of the ball as it leaves your strings.

More specifically, the ball’s flight path is lower, so the ball doesn’t fly as far and will land shorter in the court.

What doesn’t change with higher or lower tensions is the speed of the ball as it leaves your strings, which the tennis racquet and speed at which it’s strung impacts as studies have shown.

Of course, that’s a lot to absorb, so it’s not surprising it’s common to suggest players string lose for power and tight for control, especially considering that’s how most players perceive changes in tension.

String Tension and Topspin

Tennis String Tension for Topspin & Polyester Strings

Often players will question which tension is best for topspin.

Unfortunately, to date, it’s not proven definitively through research whether or not higher or lower tensions increase topspin.

As a result, if spin a priority, I encourage players to focus their energy on their technique and racquet head speed, which has the greatest influence, while also considering the type of string they’re using.

Polyester tennis strings have the most significant impact on topspin due to the snapback effect of the string as a ball brushes against them, and a lower tension for polyester strings my help improve the ability for a string to snapback and subsequently deliver more spin.

For this reason, many players use lower-powered polys. Not only do they have topspin enhancing qualities, but more importantly, they allow the player to swing harder to increase spin.

String Tension & Durability

Tennis String Tension: Durability & String Notches

Another common and hotly debated question is whether higher or lower tensions increase the durability of a string.

Like topspin, the jury is still out on tension and durability, with many professionals believing that lower tensions allow the strings to move more frequently and saw into each other to cause breakage. Others believe that higher tensions cause increased friction when the strings move, which leads to strings breaking more quickly.

While there is no definitive answer, our recommendation is to lower your string tension to increase durability. From our experience, strings at higher tensions move plenty, which, combined with increased friction, leads to earlier breakage than lower tensions.

However, like topspin, if you’re searching for durability, our primary recommendation would be to consider other variables. For example, the type of string, along with the string’s gauge or thickness, will have a more tangible impact than modifying tension.

Finding the Right Tension

Babolat Aero 2019 Recommended String Tension Ranges

When you’re stringing a racquet for the first time, it doesn’t have to be a guessing game. First, start with the tension range recommended by the racquet’s manufacturer.

You can typically find these numbers printed directly on the frame – check the inside of your tennis racquet’s throat or the inner edge of the frame’s head, where it’s usually located. Manufacturers will test their racquets with real players to determine an appropriate range.

The best thing you can do the first time around when stringing a new racquet is to split the difference and start with a tension that is right in the middle of the manufacturer’s recommendation.

For example, if your racquet says the recommended string tension is 55 to 60 pounds, start with 58 pounds. Based on the performance of the racquet, you can adjust up or down to your preference.

It may take a few attempts to dial in your preferred tension, but if you start in the middle, you should be able to nail it down pretty quickly. If you have more than one racquet, you can have each strung at different tensions to compare them side-by-side.

Helpful Tip
It’s worth noting that there are no rules in tennis that specify acceptable tension ranges. Instead, this is entirely up to the player to determine based on personal preference.

As you work to find the right string tension, we recommend that you stick with the same string as you make adjustments.

Different types of strings can have a dramatically different feel and performance at various tensions. Therefore, it’s best to stick with a single string until you find a tension you enjoy.

If you eventually move to a new string, you may need to make adjustments to your tension to accommodate the change.

Testing with Two Racquets

If you have two of the same racquet, I’d recommend you string them both fresh at different tensions so you can compare how they feel in real-time.

Of course, if you don’t have two of the same racquets you can test two separate tensions back to back, but I’d encourage you to restring with the new tension sooner than you might typically restring, i.e., after one or two weeks of hitting with one tension, cut the strings out and switch to the new tension, so you can get the closest possible comparison.

Word of Caution

Often, players looking for more control or power will attempt to adjust their string tension to achieve a more pronounced effect. However, while it’s correct that tension will change these variables, there’s a diminishing return on overall performance. You’ll likely end up with adverse side effects, so it’s worth evaluating other factors.

For instance, a player would benefit from improving their technique, fitness, and selection of string or racquet to achieve a more substantial increase in control or power.

With that said, you should think of string tension as more as a fine-tuning mechanism to get the most out of your racquet, string, and, more importantly, the talent that you’ve developed through practice.

Tension Loss Considerations

Tennis String Tension Loss Considerations

After you string your racquet, it will begin to lose tension. In fact, strings can lose up to 10% of their tension within 24 hours.

To prevent this, some players will ask their racquet technicians to pre-stretch their tennis strings. Before installing strings, the stringer gently stretches them manually or uses a pre-stretch feature available on many electronic stringing machines, so they don’t have much initial tension loss.

Furthermore, each type of string loses tension at different rates, and some strings are better at holding their tension. For example, natural gut and multifilament strings tend to do a terrific job maintaining their tension, while polyester strings typically don’t.

As you choose a tennis string, it’s good to be aware of these qualities because it can impact the performance of your racquet and, subsequently, the frequency at which you restring.

Types of Strings and Tension

Different types of tennis strings feature different materials and construction and, as a result, can exhibit dramatically different feel at the same tension. In other words, a tension that works for one string may be a poor choice for another.

For example, if you were to string your racquet at 60 pounds with a nylon multifilament, and then switch to a polyester string and use the same tension, you’d most likely be disappointed in performance because polyesters tend to work better at lower tensions.

Let’s do a quick review of the different types of strings with our favorite picks in each category.

Natural Gut

Tennis String Tension for Natural Gut

Some of the most expensive strings on the market, natural gut strings are made from cow intestine and feature excellent power, comfort, and feel. Due to their elasticity, they do a fantastic job maintaining tension and perform exceptionally well at higher tensions.

Frequently, players that move to natural gut from synthetic materials will be inclined to string at slightly higher tensions for more control.

Natural Gut Examples
Babolat VS Touch
Wilson Natural Guth

Synthetic Gut

Tennis String Tension for Synthetic Gut

Typically made from nylon, synthetic gut strings are a cost-effective choice for a wide range of players and offer average all-around performance. Synthetic gut strings perform well at a variety of string tensions, depending on player preference.

Synthetic Gut Examples
Prince Synthetic Gut
Gosen OG Sheep Micro

Multifilament

Tennis String Tension for Multifilament

Multifilament tennis strings seek to replicate the performance of natural gut by weaving thousands of fibers together. As a result, they feature similar characteristics, including power, comfort, and feel.

Multifilaments perform well at mid to upper range tensions, with many players stringing slightly higher due to their higher power.

Multifilament Examples
Wilson NXT
Tecnifibre X-One Biphase

Polyester

Tennis String Tension for Polyester

A popular string in today’s modern game of tennis, polyester tennis strings are stiff, lower-powered, and enhance topspin. Due to their monofilament construction, they also offer excellent durability.

Most players will reduce the tension of polyester strings to increase the snapback effect and comfort while allowing them to swing faster to generate added topspin.

I’ve found roughly a 10% drop when moving from synthetic gut or a multifilament to work well as a starting point, but again, you’ll want to continue experimenting after the initial drop in tension to find out what works best for you.

Polyester Examples
Luxilon ALU Power
Babolat RPM Blast

Kevlar

Tennis String Tension for Polyester

Although not as popular as they once were, Kevlar strings are highly durable yet offer a very stiff feel. As a result, if you experiment with one of the few Kevlar strings still available, you may want to lower the tension to offset the stiffness.

Typically, when you find Kevlar strings, they’ll be paired with a softer string as part of a hybrid setup.

Kevlar Examples
Prince Classic Problend w/ Duraflex
Ashaway Crossfire Plus

Hybrid

Tennis String Tension for Hybrid Stringing

When you combine any two sets of tennis string, one set for the mains an another for the crosses, it’s called a hybrid. Popular hybrids include natural gut or multifilament combined with polyester.

It’s common for players to opt for varying tensions for each of the strings with the poly typically featuring a slightly lower tension of 2 to 3 kilograms or pounds.

Hybrid Examples
Wilsons Champions Choice
Wilsons Duo Power

Best String Tension for Arm Injuries

Tennis String Tension for Comfort and Arm Injuries Like Tennis Elbow

Frequently, players with arm injuries will benefit from reducing the tension of their strings to create a softer, more forgiving string bed. The result will help reduce the stiffness associated with higher tensions, which will ultimately be more forgiving for a player’s arm.

Of course, you’ll have to keep in mind how the tension drop will influence power or the depth of your shot as we’ve covered, but it’s one avenue you can take for improving comfort.

However, if you are suffering from an injury such as tennis elbow, don’t stop at string tension. To achieve the highest level of comfort, it can also be worth evaluating your string selection, type of racquet (including its weight), and grip size. Moreover, you’ll also want to make sure you restring your racquet more frequently because as comfort-oriented strings go dead, they’ll lose these qualities.

Some of the top strings for comfort are natural gut, like Babolat VS Touch and Wilson Natural Gut mentioned above. However, the higher price and lack of durability tend to price most players out of using them.

The good news is that multifilaments offer comparable and sometimes better comfort, as is the case with Prince Premier Touch. Both Wilson NXT and Tecnifibre X-One Biphase covered in the previous section are also two great options.

Stringing Multiple Racquets at Various Tensions

Tennis String Tension Multiple Racquets at Various Tensions

It’s common for players who compete at higher levels to carry three or more racquets with at least one racquet strung at a higher tension. While this may seem like a luxury to a casual player, there’s sound logic.

First, if you break a string, you want to have at least one additional backup at the same tension to continue play. However, many players will keep one or more racquets strung a few kilograms or pounds tighter for added control. Some of the pros carry upwards of ten freshly strung tennis racquets with them to every match.

In competitive situations, players will often overhit. The excitement of the match, nerves, and determination to win can make players tighten up or get overly excited and subsequently miss their shots by a small margin.

In this case, it can be beneficial to have a racquet strung tighter to regain control. When you’re hitting a few feet long or wide, a minor change in tension can be the difference a player needs.

String Tension and the Pros

Despite string tension being highly personalized, many players are keen to learn how the pros string their frames.

To that end, here’s a selection of players that draw a lot of curiosity. A few things to keep in mind when reviewing these:

  • Most pros will vary their tension slightly based on the conditions, i.e., a dry vs. humid climate or higher vs. lower altitudes.
  • Similarly, while pro model racquets, like Federer’s Wilson Pro Staff RF97, are available for purchase, they will feature additional customizations that cater to their game for optimal performance and ultimately influence the tension they string their racquet.

Roger Federer

RacquetWilson Pro Staff RF97
StringHybrid
MainsWilson Natural Gut 16
CrossesLuxilon ALU Power Rough 17
TensionM: 27 kg / 59.5 lbs C: 25.5 kg / 56.2 lbs

Rafael Nadal

RacquetBabolat Pure Aero 2019
StringPolyester
MainsBabolat RPM Blast 15
CrossesBabolat RPM Blast 15
Tension25 kg / 55.1 lbs

Novak Djokovic

RacquetHead Graphene 360 Speed Pro
StringHybrid
MainsBabolat VS Team Natural Gut
CrossesLuxilon ALU Power Rough
TensionM: 26.8 kg / 59 lbs C: 25.4 kg / 56 lbs

Andy Murray

RacquetHead Graphene 360 Radical Pro
StringHybrid
MainsLuxilon ALU Power 16L
CrossesBabolat VS Touch 17 crosses
Tension28.1 kg / 62 lbs

Serena Willaims

RacquetWilson Blade 104
StringHybrid
MainsWilson Natural Gut
CrossesLuxilon 4G
Tension29.9 kg / 66 lbs

Venus Willaims

RacquetWilson Blade 104
StringHybrid
MainsWilson Natural Gut
CrossesLuxilon 4G
Tension29.9 kg / 66 lbs

Maria Sharapova

RacquetHead Graphene 360 Instinct MP
StringHybrid
MainsBabolat VS Team
CrossesBabolat RPM Blast
Tension28.1 kg / 62 lbs

Caroline Wozniacki

RacquetBabolat Aero Pro 2019
StringHybrid
MainsBabolat Revenge
CrossesBabolat VS Team
Tension25.9 kg / 57 lbs

String Tension Tools

Two common tools to help with string tension measurement are calibrators and tension test tools.

Tension Calibrators

Tennis String Tension Calibrator

Tension calibrators are simple spring-loaded devices that help racquet technicians ensure their machine is pulling tension accurately.

A calibrator is clamped to the machine on one end and then tension is pulled by the machine at the other and then the tension of the machine is compared to the tension displayed by the calibrator.

Depending on the difference reported by the calibrator and the machine’s settings, a stringer can dial in their stringer.

Tension Testers

Tennis String Tension Tester

Players may want to use a tension tester to measure tension loss over time and help determine when it’s time to restring.

You simply measure the tension of your strings as soon as possible after stringing and then continue measuring it periodically until the frame has lost roughly 10-15 pounds of tension.

Helpful Tip
The threshold of 10-15 pounds can be adjusted based on your preference that you determine after using a tension tester for a while.

It’s worth noting that the tension shown by your tester will not match the reference tension you asked your stringer to use as a racquet’s final tension will always differ.

Also, tension testers aren’t intended to be the most accurate devices, rather, they’re intended to help gauge relative tension over time as a point of reference to determine when to restring.

Here’s a selection of popular tension calibration and testing tools you might want to check out.

String Tension Tools
Gamma tension calibrator
Pro’s Pro tension calibrator
Tourna string tension tester
Gamma string tension tester
ERT 300 Tenniscomputer Tension Tester
MSV MINISTT Electronic Tension Tester

Wrapping Up

Often overlooked, tennis string tension can be a powerful tool for the savvy tennis player and wreak havoc on the game of players who aren’t paying attention to their strings.

Take control of your string tension to maximize your performance and gain an edge over a less prepared player.

Have questions about string tension? Feel free to add your comments below. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have!

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17 replies
  1. Richard Lucas
    Richard Lucas says:

    I have just ordered my first stringing machine. This article has provided some useful information. Thanks, Rick Lucas

    Reply
  2. TennisCompanion
    TennisCompanion says:

    Hey Rick,

    That’s awesome to hear! Nothing beats having your own stringer, you’re going to have a ton of fun with it :)

    If you don’t mind me asking, which stringer did you order?

    One of my favorites… stringing, watching tennis on TV and drinking a nice cold beverage. Can’t beat it. I’m glad you found some of the information helpful and would love to hear how things work out with the new machine.

    All the best,
    Jon

    Reply
  3. Pallavi
    Pallavi says:

    Hi
    I found your article very useful. My son who is 14, years old plays with 57 lbs tension 300 GMs rpm blast strings on babolat pure drive French open….now he wants to switch to another racquet.. He plays flat and is in between intermediate to advanced player. Any suggestions on which other racquet and what strings? Thanks in advance
    Pallavi

    Reply
  4. TennisCompanion
    TennisCompanion says:

    Hey Pallavi,

    Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. Here are a few questions that would help me provide a more useful answer:

    • Why does your son want to switch?
    • What are his favorite parts about his existing racquet?
    • What does your son dislike about his existing racquet?
    • What aspects of his game is he looking to improve through the purchase of a new racquet?
    • Can you add any more detail around his style of play, i.e. he mostly hangs at the baseline, loves to come to net, etc…?
    • What kind of strings is he currently using and what does he like/dislike about them?

    Looking forward to your reply.

    All the best,
    Jon

    Reply
    • Pallavi
      Pallavi says:

      Hi,
      I am extremely sorry for not looking up for your reply.
      1 His current babolat aero drive is 305 GMs….he is finding it a bit heavy. He tried a Wilson blade and pro staff and found it much more comfortable than babolat.
      He wants to have more control than what babolat gives. The strings are pro hurricane tension 60. He is looking for a light weight racquet with more control. His game is predominantly baseline, but does play good game even at the net. The strings do feel dead after just a day of being strung. He liked the feel of Wilson but is unable to choose. Once he played with a head light weight and felt good about it too. His current babolat racquet is kind of heavy for his age and is looking to switch for more control. I hope I answered your qs.
      Pl guide me . I ll keep checking your site more often now.
      Thanks
      Pallavi

      Reply
      • TennisCompanion
        TennisCompanion says:

        Hey Pallavi,

        Thanks for getting back to me! I’d love to provide you with a more detailed comparison of the tennis racquets that your son has been using as well as some suggestions for new racquets he might want to try.

        To help with this could you please provide links to the exact versions of the following tennis racquets that your son has used:

        • Babolat Aero Drive
        • Wilson Blade
        • Wilson Pro Staff

        Each of these racquets have different variations with unique specifications, so in order to provide you with the best information it would be helpful for you to tell me the exact racquets your son has used.

        Just head on over to your favorite online retailer and then include the links to the racquets in your reply.

        I look forward to learning more!

        All the best,
        Jon

        Reply
  5. Michael
    Michael says:

    sir, i need job. And i want to try other company. I am a racquet stringer here in dubai. Do you know where i can find good company and i can use my work experience here. Im have 6yrs work experience as a racquet stringer.. Please help me..thank you..

    Reply
    • TennisCompanion
      TennisCompanion says:

      Hi Michael,

      Great to hear from you!

      I’m don’t personally know a club or company that I can recommend. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Dubai and getting to know some of the locals.

      However, it would likely be worth trying a few searches online to see if you can come up with an opportunity for yourself – here are a few ideas to help get you started:

      – tennis club
      – tennis company
      – tennis academy

      Hopefully, if you check a few of these out, they’d turn up something for you. Best of luck in your search – let me know if I can help with anything else.

      All the best,
      Jon

      Reply
  6. Sam
    Sam says:

    Hi, I am 15 years old, I weigh around 60kg, skinny build, I just purchased an RF97 signature racquet, I actually don’t find the racquet that heavy as is does al the work for me haha, the strings on it feel ok, but I’m looking for slightly more power in the strings, as I play with some hard hitters..,so I’m guessing I’ll have to go lower tension? Do the strings with lower tension go tighter or looser? I once here’d that tighter strings have more power, but I could be wrong,

    Thank you! :)

    Reply
    • Sam
      Sam says:

      I might also add, that this racquet had loads of power.. But when balls come flying at you, FAST.. I’m in trouble haha, I’m a wear that it could be my strength, but if I could get different tension or strings and hit or return back hard serves/shots, I’ll be a happy person :) thanks again !

      Reply
    • TennisCompanion
      TennisCompanion says:

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks for stopping by and for the great question.

      All things considered equal, lower tension will yield higher power but don’t forget along with that comes less control, so it’s usually a tradeoff. On the other hand, higher tension will produce less power and more control. If you’re looking for a bit more pop, then you can definitely play with adjusting the tension. However, another option would be to consider a different type of string. For example, multifilament strings tend to deliver higher end power so if you play with an inexpensive natural gut or polys then it may be worth investigating.

      If you’d like, I’d be happy to make some recommendations. Just let me know what type of strings you’re currently using.

      All the best,
      Jon

      Reply
  7. Ujjwalr06
    Ujjwalr06 says:

    Hi,
    I am purchasing a new racket wilson juice blx 100…can you tell me the best optimal tension of that raquet. Tension are from 53-63 lbs..I AM A HARD HITTER AND ULTIMATE smasher and a fair backhand

    Reply
    • TennisCompanion
      TennisCompanion says:

      Hi there! Thanks for your stopping by and for sharing your question. You are correct, the recommended string tension for the Wilson BLX Juice 100 is from 53-63 lbs, however when it comes to which tension you should use it all comes back to personal preference. For example, you described yourself as a hard hitter. If that’s the case I’d be curious to learn whether or not you’re looking to reign in and control your power or if you really enjoy hitting hard and want to maintain as much power as possible.

      If you were looking for more control I might suggest you try a tension at the upper end of the recommended stringing tension such as 61-63 lbs. Of course, if you enjoy the power and don’t have a problem with controlling the ball then you might look at stringing the racquet at the lower end of the recommended tension, perhaps 55-57.

      The key is to have an initial goal in mind with your string tension and then try a tension that you’d expect to match your needs and adjust from there. It definitely takes some trial and error to find an ideal tension. Here’s a little chart for how I would look at the recommended string tension for your tennis racquet:

      [Power] 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63 [Control]

      Of course, if you have any follow-up questions please don’t hesitate to ask!

      ~All the best, Jon

      Reply

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