How to choose the right squash racket
Choosing the right squash racket is not necessarily a straightforward process, particularly if you have been playing with the same model for a number of years and it's now no longer available. There are a number of key variables in each model of squash racket that determine why each racket feels and plays differently. While this article attempts to describe these variables to help your choice, in reality no amount of reading is an adequate substitute for testing your prospective new racket on court. The following points should help you narrow down which frames will best suit your style of play.
Squash players tend to have an obsession with the weight of racket that they use. However, whilst the manufacturer quoted weight is probably the most considered point of reference in choosing a racket, it is probably the least helpful measure in guidance for consistency or point of reference from one racket brand to another. The lack of consistency in exactly what is being quoted from the bare carbon frame, to the unstrung frame, to the strung weight makes the quoted weight a useless brand to brand comparison.
Racket models do however have different weights to suit different styles and preferences of play. Typically a light racket (particularly with a head light balance) will be best suited to a touch or feel player or an avid volleyer with a high degree of skill. A light racket is easy to manoeuvre quickly allowing the player to really feel the ball, helping achieve the most accurate placement of shots. The caveat with a light racket is that the player needs to generate the power for the shot, for this reason a good level of technique and skill is required to avoid any loss of control with power shots. Juniors, beginners and ladies also often select light rackets but the reduced power, and high degree of skill level required often mean that whilst such a racket may be easy to swing and feels fantastic, it might not be the best choice in delivering the best game improvement or squash performance on court. A frame at the heavier end of the scale is suited more to players who tend to focus on the power, length and retrieving style of play.
When swinging a racket what is often described as feeling light or heavy is due to the balance as much as to the inherent weight of the frame. At the extremes a head light balance will be best suited to the touch and volleying players. But the "correct" balance is really down to individual preference and when it's right it simply "just feels right", and what suits one player will not be suited to others.
Small strips of lead tape can be used to adjust the balance of the frame; this technique is more usually used in tennis but can also be applied to squash. In the same way adding an extra grip will effectively make the racket feel more head light and adding bumper tape will make the racket play slightly more head heavy.
In simple terms the bigger the head of the racket the bigger the sweetspot. A racket with a bigger sweetspot will be more forgiving on shots that haven't come right out of the middle of the racket. Hence there is a bigger margin for error on less than perfect ball contact and bad shots in all likelihood will turn out to be better than they really deserve to be.
Conversely small headed rackets are really only well suited to experienced players with a high degree of skill. Whilst a smaller headed racket has a smaller sweetspot it could be described as being a better quality of sweetspot. So, in the hands of the right player the TITAN VENDETTA racket for example, will offer the best control and the best power; but used by a beginner or a player who doesn't regularly "middle" the ball it will make an already challenging game even more difficult. It is for this reason that many top professionals play with small headed frames, and why these frames are often not well suited to the masses who need as much help as possible from their chosen frame. (It is also worthy of note that in squash as in tennis, top professionals will often play with a frame customised to their exacting specifications but displaying the same graphics as the mass produced brand frames.)
A very stiff frame is ideal for the player who can control it, that is, a player with a well-honed, robust technique, as it will allow for excellent shot making, control and power. For example the TITAN SIDEWINDER is a very light racket but it is also very stiff - hence, used by a player of the sufficient calibre, the stiff flex allows significant power to be generated whilst the lightness allows for excellent feel and manoeuvrability.
Rackets that are not ultra stiff will be more forgiving and hence will provide more margin for error. But more importantly the correct flex or stiffness of the racket is simply the flex that feels right when you hit the ball… it's primarily a case of personal preference. There are plenty of excellent players who prefer to play with a racket with a mid flex such as the TITAN GTI in preference to a much stiffer frame. The only way to know what suits you best is to try the frame on court.
The shape of the grip is again down to personal preference. The TT and SIDEWINDER both have a slightly square grip, whilst the other TITAN frames have a more standard oval grip. The grip can be altered easily in a number of ways by adding another full grip over the top, using an overgrip over the top or changing the grip to your preferred type eg the TITAN Contour grip to achieve what feels comfortable in your hand.
As mentioned above, adding additional grips will change the balance and feel of the racket.
The string type and tension make a tremendous difference to the way that a squash racket plays, particularly if your tension preference is either at the high or low end of the typical spectrum. The right string type and tension are purely down to personal preference, with many players typically having rackets strung at around 26lb. The rule of thumb is that the higher the tension the more control and the lower the tension the more power. Some manufacturers put in a cheap plastic hollowfibre string that breaks within a couple of games adding an additional cost to your new racket. All TITAN squash rackets are supplied with a quality string selected for that frame, hence the racket should be ready to play straight "out of the wrapper".
Contact Dave Middleton at the Carterton Squash Club for a demo on any racket in the Titan range.