Have you just broke the factory string or your favourite string? What next? Read on to get some direction in choosing a string, tension, and stringer.
Think of string as the engine of the racquet. It provides the elasticity to propel the ball further/deeper/faster in the court.
String and tension go through a cycle of performance and after the performance phase string becomes trampoline like and bouncy providing a string face that is hard to control the ball with. After a while the string becomes dried out, stiff and non responsive. When this happens you are basically pushing the ball with the racquet which is harder on your arm, elbow, and shoulder.
For optimal performance you want to string just shortly after the performance phase and before the stiff phase, not just when it breaks. How long is that? Read on.
There are three main string construction types:
- Multifilaments – more stretchy and elastic offering softness and feel with power. Examples include Tecnifibre 305 and Ashaway Supernick ZX
- Synthetic guts – a solid core filament with a wrap around the outside – offering a combination of feel and durability but more on the durability side. Examples include Prince Syn Gut 17 or Tecnifibre Syn Gut 17.
- Monofilaments – relatively new in squash, a straight extruded piece of polyester/nylon that is treated to give softness, feel, and tension maintenance. Examples include Double AR Instinct or Everlast.
Basic string tension guidelines
- Looser string tension typically gives you more power, tighter string tensions more control.
- Thinner strings bite into the ball more and offers more ability to control the ball, thicker strings provide more comfort and durability.
- Changing string model or tension creates many variables and finding that combination is key to maximizing the performance in your racquet and your game.
Most factory string jobs are strung with 17 gauge string (1.20 – 1.25 mm) and at a tighter string tension. Typical tension range for modern squash racquets for softball play is 20-30 lbs, hardball doubles racquets are strung tighter at 30-35 lbs.
A word about durability
Most string has an effective elastic life of about 40-60 hours of play. After 40-60 hours it has stretched out and is not returning the maximum elasticity (power/feel) it had when new. When players talk of the great durability of their string and they haven’t strung their racquet for 2 years playing 2-3 times a week they are missing the performance they could regain by restringing more frequently.
When to restring?
For maximum performance you should restring your racquet as many times in a year as you play in a week… play 2 times a week… string every 6-8 months. If you have two racquets that you play equally with then once every year for both racquets.
Of course this is a generalization and will depend on how hard you hit, how much spin you play, how much performance you want (and can afford), as well as the type of string and racquet string pattern.
So… what string / what tension?
There is no easy answer to this. You can take the same string in the same racquet and change the tension by 3-4 lbs and it will play completely different. Change the gauge and there is another difference you can feel.
In terms of makes and models there are a plethora of choices.
- Tecnifibre, a French manufacturer makes probably the most widely used string on the professional tour. The 305 series (green color) and the the new DNAMX (black) are both a strong multifilament with loads of feel. Factory strung in the high end Tecnifibre racquets.
- Ashaway, an American manufacturer makes some good multifilamets as well like the SuperNick ZX and Powernick 18 strings. Factory strung in many Black Knight models.
- DoubleAR, an Italian manufacturer is coming on strong as well with a solid core polyester string specially treated for durability and feel. DoubleAR is factory strung in all Salming racquets currently.
Players have all sorts of tension ranges and string biases but the most common string gauge is 17g, the median tension is 27 lbs and I would recommend finding a good multifilament construction. Ask your stringer what they recommend but do not be afraid to experiment. I read recently that Gregory Gaultier of France strings his racquets at 14-16 lbs with a soft multifilament string (Tecnifibre 305-green), unbelievable!
The best thing you can do if you are truly interested in getting the best performance out of your racquet is to work with your local professional stringer. Hopefully you have a local sporting store or racquet specialty store and can build a strong stringing relationship with them. Someone who has experience stringing as a profession will be able to evaluate your feedback and recommend the perfect string and tension… eventually. It is a journey, but one that is essential to get the best out of your racquet.
Interview questions for your stringer.
Whoever you choose to string your racquet make sure to ask them:
1) What stringing machine do they use?
- An electronic constant pull machine is best for stringing multifilament strings that are more elastic. The constant pull feature helps to pull out any excess slack and create a firmer more consistent sweet spot
2) When was the stringing machine last calibrated / clamps cleaned?
- String tension pull should be checked weekly if not daily.
- Clean clamps allow the stringer to use less clamping strength on the string and prevent crushing of the string and therefore breakage.
3) Do they have any stringing accreditation (USRSA – United States Racquet Stringers Association) or tournament level experience?
- Professional accreditation / experience shows commitment to the profession of stringing and service.
4) Do they stock racquet bumpers / grommets?
- Bumpers and grommets are crucial to the protection of the string (durability) as well as the frame from impact against the wall. Regular replacement when worn helps to increase the longevity of both string and frame.
5) Do they keep a record of string jobs?
- A true professional will keep a string record for each customer so you have a benchmark to go from for the next string job you get.
6) Can they provide racquet customization work?
Racquets can be modified in terms of weight, balance, grip size/shape, and of course string.
- Lead tape can be used to change the overall weight and balance point of the racquet.
- Bumpers can be shaved/removed to lighten.
- Grips can be modified in terms of shape, size, and type.
If your stringer has a balance board or even better a Babolat RDC (Racquet Diagnostic Center) and knows how to use it, that is a bonus. They are a true professional who take racquet work seriously and it can improve your game.