Why Strings Matter
The shape, weight and materials of the racket tend to be everyone’s key concerns when buying a squash racket. Too often the strings, which can be equally technical products in themselves, are overlooked.
Getting the best from your racket is really down to ensuring you have the right strings for you. The quality, thickness, texture and tension of strings are all-important if you want to play your optimal game.
Most players don’t realise what a difference strings make to their game until they have their rackets restrung. If you’re a casual player whose squash racket has been under the stairs for over a year the degeneration of the strings will be pretty obvious. But if you’ve been playing regularly for over a year without restringing, the gradual decline of your strings (and your game) will not be so apparent.
Your squash racket should be restrung at least once a year. For regular players as a rule of thumb as many times in a year as you play in a typical week. Strings can be selected to suit the control you require, the power you need and the feel that suits you.
The good news is that squash racket strings are relatively inexpensive, varying from £20 for basic strings to £30 for top quality ones, so better quality strings are well worth the investment.
If you are a regular player it is worth experimenting with different strings until you find the ones that are best for your racket and style of play.
Differences in Strings
Squash strings are typically available in gauges of 17G and 18G, but at further ends of the spectrum, they run to 16G and 19G.
An 18G string is 1.06 – 1.15mm in diameter while a 17G string is thicker at 1.16mm-1.25mm. Tennis rackets require thicker gauges and badminton rackets thinner ones, neither of which are usually suitable for squash.
The thicker the string the more durable it is, but the less powerfully it plays as it has less stretch.
Thick strings are less prone to breaking, which will save you money but this may be at the expense of your game.
You can alter the tension of each thickness of string to adjust the power to control ratio. Every combination of gauge and tension will be different. Thick strings will always penetrate the surface of the ball less than thin strings – regardless of tension. So thick strings deliver less control in that regard every time.
Historically natural gut was used for strings and its manmade successors are still all behind in terms of performance. It is still available commercially but is the most expensive choice.
Of the manufactured varieties there are many types, but the most commonly sold and played with are multifilament, cores with wraps and monofilament.
Multifilament strings fall into two main camps; textured in which Ashaway specialise, and the more elastic variety for which Tecnifibre is best known.
The abrasive exterior of textured strings grips the ball like sandpaper giving players more spin and cut. These strings still have a degree of elasticity but are better suited to more strategic players who enjoy more controlled play, use more drop shots and focus on placement over slamming.
Multifilament elastic strings are very springy and give greater stretch and bounce. They return the ball with lots of speed and power. These are best suited to players who lack power themselves so can harness the bounce of the strings to achieve it.
You can also buy a solid core with a single wrap, these are typical of budget strings and feature a thin monofilament centre with a layer of fibres twisted around. Its features produce durability and more playability than the monofilament strings.
Monofilament strings are all made with a single material. Historically this was nylon but more recently polyesters and polyethers are being used. As solid strings they offer great durability and as they advance they’re beginning to also offer a softer, more playable return. Shapes changes are a recent evolution, many now come with ‘corners’ enabling more spin.
Although they are improving overall, monofilaments will transfer more shock to the handle so are less suited to the weaker player.
The selection of tension is not straightforward because the growing choice of strings and racket design means there are more factors than ever to consider.
In essence though the tighter the tension the greater the control but the lower the power. If you opt for low tension there is greater rebound (when the strings return to their initial length after impact with the ball) and so the shot is more powerful. Tighter strings stretch less and so present a flatter surface from which to shoot and spin giving greater control of the ball as a result.
Assuming an equal tension against a thick and a thin string when taking a shot, the thin string stretches more. The result is that is behaves as if it’s the tighter of the two giving more control and compromising power. So if you’re switching string gauge you may need to consider changing tension too.
It’s a fact that tension drops by 10% 24 hours after re-stringing and continues to do so. The more you play the faster this process. So if you’re a regular player who needs high tension restringing regularly is a must.
Newer squash rackets tend to have longer heads, and since long strings stretch more than shorter ones overall these rackets offer more power to all players. So as well as choosing the right tension for your play, you need to factor in the appropriate tension for your racket.
Typically speaking the larger the head the tighter the tension should be.
Before you buy…
Of course, most rackets arrive with strings and at the lower end of the market, these will be a generic synthetic gut string which is fine to get you started but won’t give you the same levels of touch and play. However, if you’re new to the game you can use these while you determine your playing style before you select the right strings for you.
The upper ranges of most squash racket brands will typically feature better quality strings. Tecnifibre and Black Knight premier range certainly do. Whatever brand you choose always add strings to your buying checklist.
And don’t be shy of asking a professional stringer for advice. He or she will probably be an enthusiast of the game and can give the best advice on the string and tension combination that’s best for you and your racket.