Choosing a Racquet
Selecting a Squash Racquet
Selecting a squash racquet can be an extremely difficult task. Many people mistakenly make the decision to purchase a particular racquet based purely on price. This can be an expensive and frustrating exercise if the racquet is not suited to the ability or playing style of the player.
Your squash racquet can have the single biggest impact on how well you can play and how much you enjoy your game.
Ultimately the best way to choose a racquet is to try it out. Play with the racquet on court to get a feel for the swing and balance. Try several different racquets to establish the differences in how they feel.
Before you get lost in the endless combinations of weight, balance and stiffness, read a little bit about each attribute below to narrow down your search for the perfect racquet for you.
Perhaps the most important selection criteria when purchasing a squash racquet is the weight. Most racquets weigh between 140 and 160 grams, with the lightest available weight at 110 grams and the heaviest around 210 grams.
In general the least expensive racquets are the heaviest, while the most expensive racquets tend to be the lightest. More technology is required to engineer a lighter racquet without losing strength, hence the extra price. Improvements in design such as Wilson’s Triad technology may also add to the cost of a racquet, but also improves player comfort.
Lightweight racquets offer more manoeuvrability and feel than heavier racquets, but usually at the expense of power. They are generally preferred by experienced, aggressive players who have a more powerful swing but require extra touch. Lighter racquets allow the player to “feel” the ball more as it is being hit.
Lightweight racquets are also a preferred racquet of control and touch players, juniors, and women because of the enhanced feel and easy swing. A little more weight in the head can compensate for the lack of power provided by lighter racquets.
Lightweight racquets can be harder for beginners to control because it requires the player’s own strength to impart speed onto the ball. This can cause a loss of direction and control. It requires a good deal of skill and technique to use a lightweight racquet effectively. It is also advisable for beginners to shy away from the cheapest (heaviest) racquets. Beginners often don’t have the necessary arm, wrist and shoulder strength to control a heavy racquet, and it can be frustrating learning how to hit the different squash shots while asking a tiring arm to manoeuvre or swing a heavy racquet. Developing a correct swing and playing with good technique is easier when you’re using a more mid-weighted racquet.
Racquets between 140 grams to 160 grams are generally light enough for beginners. SportsTrade has a good range of well-priced racquets around this weight.
The balance of the racquet refers to where the centre of balance lies. There is a lot of variety when it comes to the balance of the racquet. When held by the handle, a head-heavy racquet will feel heavier towards the head of the racquet, while a head-light racquet will be weighted more towards the handle. Most players prefer a mid-weight, evenly balanced racquet.
While most racquets are reasonably evenly balanced, a few uniquely designed racquets are deliberately manufactured more head-heavy or head-light. Wilson’s very popular Sledgehammer racquet is a good example of a head-heavy racquet, while Black Knight’s hot-selling Chameleon is a 135 gram racquet that is swings more like a 115 gram racquet.
The combination of weight and balance is ultimately a personal choice that is best determined by testing a number of racquets to work out which is most suitable combination for you.
Head Size and Shape
Once you’ve decided on a weight range that suits your style, you should now consider the size and shape of the head. The size and shape of the head affects both power and sweet spot. Generally larger racquet heads offer a larger margin for error (larger sweet spot) and more power. Racquets with a narrow profile, or beam width, are flexible with a manoeuvrable feel.
Novices should choose a mid-profile racquet that balances power and control.
Don’t be too concerned with the grip when purchasing a racquet, it is the easiest part of the racquet to customise. Customising can be as simple as replacing the standard grip with one you’re familiar with, or alternatively you can go as far as changing the shape to fit the contour of your hand. Keeping the same grip on a number of different racquets can help keep your shot-making more consistent.
Every player has their own preference for grip feel. There is a lot of choice on the market for grips, don’t be afraid to experiment.
Players are able to adjust how their racquet plays by changing the way it is strung. High-quality multifilament strings set at the recommended tension offer desirable precision and power. Stringing with increased tension improves touch while decreased tension improves power.
Purchase textured, multifilament, 17 or 18-gauge strings specifically designed for squash.
To avoid inconvenient breakages it is important to restring your racquet whenever fraying becomes noticeable. Over time and with each game the strings loosen up, abrade and weaken. If you play regularly, restring approximately every two months to maintain consistent tension.
The more flexible the racquet, the easier it is to control. Players who can control a stiffer racquet may find that it is better for power and shot making.
The preferred racquet stiffness ultimately comes down to individual style. Try out racquets that are very stiff and then racquets with different degrees of give to determine how your shots perform with each racquet. The best racquet for you will be dependent on your style of play and your level of expertise.
Each manufacturer has their own patented technologies to achieve the same aim, so the brand of the racquet is less important than the weight, balance, stiffness and shape. Make sure you choose a quality brand with a manufacturer’s warranty that covers you against defects.
Sometimes the deciding factor can be determined simply by how the racquet looks.
If you have a favourite racquet it is always a good idea to keep a couple of spares of the same model. This will provide some insurance should the manufacturers choose to make changes with particular models. But more importantly, if you’ve broken one, having an identical racquet on hand makes it much easier to concentrate on your game rather than have to adjust to the feel of a different racquet at a crucial time.
Make sure you alternate between your racquets to maintain a similar degree of usage between them. This will help keep consistency between racquets.
Taking care of your racquet
So you’ve bought your new racquet, how best to care for it?
Squash racquets don’t like extremes in temperature or being left in the sun. Don’t leave your racquet on the seat or in the boot of your car.
Let your racquet (ie grip) dry out before storing it away in the racquet cover... and remember to put it in the racquet cover once it’s dry to prevent unnecessary damage.