It’s been said that your squash racket is like an extension of you arm, so you can see why it is so important to find the right squash racket that suits your style of play, or is it?
When you buy a squash racket for the first time you may not be thinking of the weight, balance, head size, strings and grip. But then again, why should you? As long as the racket looks and feels good to you personally, then the chances are that you will probably play well with it, for a while at least. However, as you improve all these factors may help you to decide which racket best suites your playing style.
Generally heavyweight rackets are > 160g, mid-weight rackets are between 160g and 140g and finally lightweight rackets are usually < 140g. To add to the confusion most weights shown on rackets are unstrung, and with the strings these rackets can weigh a little bit more. But as a general rule the heaver a racket the more power you get on the shot. The lighter a racket the more control and feel you get when playing a shot. Technology has moved on, and in recent years lighter rackets using more sophisticated materials can produce the same amount of power as some of the heavier rackets, with better feel and control. A winning combination you may think, but this comes at a price, and if you are just starting out you may not even notice the difference. So bear this in mind when you buy your first racket.
The feel of a racket will also depend on its balance point, from the base of the handle. For example, if you try to balance your racket using your finger between the racket head and handle. This is normally shown in centimetres, the higher the number the lighter the head of the racket is. The lighter the head, the less power you get on the shot and more control and manoeuvrability. This is just another consideration when looking for that perfect racket that suits your style of play.
Head size matters? The larger the head size of a racket the bigger the sweat spot (>490 cm2). A racket with a larger sweat spot will be more forgiving when you play those bad shots, off centre of the racket head where the maximum power and control is achieved. The new Prince O3 squash rackets allegedly gives you a larger sweet spot with a standard head size and maybe the only exception to this rule. Dunlop rackets generally have larger heads.
String type & tension
String type and tension is another factor to consider, and contrary to most people’s belief, tighter racket strings give more control, looser racket strings give more power. String type is another important factor, and a lot of pro squash players, like tennis players, have their preferences, which gives them the right feel and control (Tecnifibre is currently the most popular strings in the squash world). It is therefore, possible to alter the playing characteristics of a racket by changing the tension and strings when the racket is restrung. Have you ever wondered why all the top tennis players like Roger Federer change their rackets so often during a match, string tension makes a difference! Also some of you may have noticed that the racket never plays the same after it has been restrung. You will be surprised at how much difference this can make. To find out more click here.
The grip is very much part of the racket, and generally helps you feel the shot you are playing along with the type of strings you use. Change your grip if it looks old and tatty and you will instantly notice how good the racket feels (a new grip maybe worth a point or two in a game). When you buy a new squash racket it is recommended that you put on an over-grip since most squash rackets come with very small grips. If the grip is too small, then there is a tendency to hold the racket too tightly to control it. As a result you will find it difficult to play any deceptive and touch shots properly as your hand and wrist is too stiff. Put on an over-grip that lets your hand comfortably hold the racket without having to hold it tightly. As a general rule you should have about a one finger width of space between the palm of your hand and the tips of your fingers when gripping the racket.
Which racket should I buy?
Personally, I don’t think it really matters which make you buy. Tecnifibre, Dunlop, Prince, Wilson or Head are the most commonly used by most squash players. I used to have a Prince O3 squash racket and I really didn't notice the difference (bigger sweet spot). I played just as many bad shots as I did before. I currently play with a Tecnifiber Carboflex 125s, and I find I have just as much power, if not more than the Prince racket, with even more control.
For your first squash racket, avoid a racket that is too light (<130g), as it will be expensive and will have less power. When starting out in squash it is important to be able to play a good length i.e. hitting the ball to the back of the court, past the serves box. Buy a squash racket that is durable and well balanced (not head heavy or head light). As you improve you will be able to control your swing on tight shots a lot better. Buy a racket with an oversize head of 490 cm2 or greater head size. This will give you a larger sweet spot so that shots that are hit off-centre will still have power to them, although not much control. After a few years you can look into a different squash racket that may suit your style of game better. Generally volleyers prefer lighter rackets because they are more manoeuvrable, while heavier rackets suit retrievers. Larger heads are better if you have a strong front court game. Once you have found a racket that suits you, buy a spare. You may not be able to buy the exact same model again. Often manufactures discontinue models after a couple of years. Alternatively make a note of the weight, balance and head size and try to get a similar replacement. Just bear in mind that each time you change your racket, your game can suffer for up to 3 months whilst you get used to it. You should have complete confidence in your racket’s abilities, in a tough squash game you need to be able to rely on it instinctively as though it were a natural extension of your arm.
I hope this helps all you squash players out there that have always wondered why some rackets play better than others even though they’re cheaper. I also hope that I haven’t confused too many people, or made it even more difficult for you to purchase the right squash racket that suits your style of play. Trust me, I speak from experience, the more things you have to consider the more difficult it can be. Remember a good workman never blames his tools, but the right power tools certainly help.