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Selecting The Racquet With the Perfect Features for You

How to select the perfect racquet, how to care for your racquet

   camp

By Ron Beck © 2008 , Editor of SquashTalk.com, player for 38 years.

Are you satisfied with your squash racquet? Has your latest opponent told you he beat you because of his great racquet? Here are some ideas on selecting a new racquet

x Your most indispensible tool for squash is your racquet. How have you gone about selecting one?

I wish I could have a dollar for every time a player barged into her club's pro shop and asked the pro point blank, "Which racquet is best for me?" The answer is rarely satisfactory: And usually the pro is going to steer the player towards one of two or three models carried in that shop.

Before getting into specific factors that you can look at, I must emphasize that trying out the candidate racquet is the best way to choose a racquet. 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. The combinations of weight, balance, and stiffness are endless, and the choice must come down to personal preference.

The key variables in squash racquets

The first thing you need to understand in selecting a squash racquet is how they differ. Here are some of the main characteristics of squash racquets; and my view on how those characteristics affect how the racquet will play. Understand, though, that there is no consensus on these playing parameters.

  • Weight of the racquet. The weight of the racquet is its most obvious characteristic, and the weights are quite variable. The lightest racquets weigh in at about 120 grams, and heavy ones can be 210 grams or more. Most typically, racquets in the 140 to 170 gram range are used. As an oversimplification, less expensive racquets are the heaviest, and lighter racquets will cost you more. Stronger materials must be used to allow a racquet to be fabricated at a lighter weight.

    x Who needs a light racquet? Players selecting lighter racquets tend to be skilled control and touch players, juniors, and women. A lighter racquet lets the player "feel" the ball as he hits it. This gives the beginner an impression of control. However, it is the experienced player who can best use a light racquet. The beginner will have a lot of difficulty with the necessary accuracy required to use a light racquet. Put another way, a lighter racquet requires the player to add her own strength to put power into a shot -- because the lighter racquet generates less momentum. Therefore, though often juniors and women select very light racquets, this is sometimes a mistake on their part, since it can make it more difficult to impart speed and direction on the ball. Skill and techique is required to make use of a light racquet.

    In summary, a lighter racquet is easier to swing and give better "feel" of the ball, but also will be harder to control and will be more expensive.

    xBalance of the racquet. Racquets vary substantially in where their center of balance lies. Here is a factor that can best be established by trying out the candidate racquet on court. It is usually fairly easy to feel when the racquet has "bad balance" -- that is if it is head heavy or head light. Try out the racquets and reject ones that don't feel right: A racquet that feels really heavy is usually head heavy. The balance varies from one racquet to another within a model line -- so you need to insist on trying out the specific racquet you propose to buy.

    Stiffness of the racquet. Racquets vary totally with regard to their "whippiness." Try out for yourself racquets that are very stiff and then racquets with different degrees of give and test out how your shots perform with these different racquets. The best racquet for you will be dependent on your style of play and your level of expertise. If you can control it, a stiffer racquet is usually superior for both shot making and the power game.

    Racquet stiffness, though, in the final anaysis is totally a question of personal style. Be aware of the stiffness of racquets you play well with, and try to be consistent in the racquets you use.

    The only racquets to really steer clear of, in this respect, are the very cheapest ones that tend to vibrate as they are hit.

    xShape of the racquet head. Racquet manufacturers experiment with different racquet heads and market the results of their experimentation. In general, larger racquet heads give you a greater margin for error and also additional power.

    Be aware of the design and shape of the throat of your proposed racquet. Certain racquet throat designs make for decreased racquet durability. Look to your squash professional's advice in this area. As a general statement, racquet manufacturers will create a series of racquet models with slightly different throat designs at different price points. Usually, the stronger racquets are also more expensive. An example is the Head Pyramid Power line. With the "Pyramid Power 150" affording excellent durability and play.

    Racquet material: Strength and durability. Racquets are made with a confusing array of composite materials. The latest racquet rage are the Titanium lines that have been introduced by almost all manufacturers. In most cases, these are titanium/graphite composites. Although they play with great power and control, almost all of the titanium frames have had breakage problems. SquashTalk interviews with racquet dealers indicate that Prince and Head have both had quite significant returns of broken titanium frames. The titanium composites appear to introduce a brittleness that the racquet designers have not yet solved.

    Durability track record. Check with other squash players and your squash retailer to learn about the durability record of your candidate racquet. Squash racquet models are surprisingly divergent in their durability.

    The grip. Don't worry about the grip in selecting your racquet. You can easily modify the grip later by replacing the grip, "building-up" thickness in the grip, or reshaping the grip.

  • Try it out, try it out, try it out! Always test-drive your proposed new racquet first. Never invest in a racquet until you have tried out that model for several games and established whether the feel of it works for you. Racquet preferences are very individual.

Your Grip

The grip is a part of the racquet you should consider customizing. Many players arrive at a prefered grip shape, and build up the grip on each new racquet to feel the same. This help you to keep your shotmaking consist as you change racquets. It can be as simple as always replacing the manufactured grip with the specific brand or type of grip that you are used to. Or it can be as complicated as building up the thickness or changing the shape of the handle before wrapping on the new grip. A friend I played with for years built up massive grips on each of his racquets with toweling. Anyone else handling his racquet thought he had truly lost his mind! But for him it worked -- although I could barely get my hands around his racquet grips, he could achieve great touch with them.

Restringing your racquet

The strings on your squash racquet will wear out. The strings loosen up in use, and each time you strike the ball the strings abrade and weaken. At a minimum, restring your racquet every two months to maintain good tension for striking the ball.

Spare Racquets

xYou have selected a racquet and you love it. Now how many of them do you own? If you are one of those players that just buys one racquet and uses it until it breaks, you are making a big mistake. You have taken the time and effort to find the right racquet for you --- now go out and buy two spares. Yes that's right -- two spares! The racquet manufacurers frequently change their models, so by buying three now you do two things: (1) You have the extra on-hand for that critical moment when you break your racquet and (2) You can continue to enjoy the feel and familiarity of the exact racquet you have selected and practiced with.

Taking care of your racquet

Here are some suggestions to take good care of your racquets:

Don't leave the racquet in your car. Squash racquets are not designed to take the extremes of heat, sunlight, and cold that they encounter by being left outside in your car seat or trunk. Let your racquets breathe. Burying your racquet in your bag or in its cover prevents the racquet, and grip especially, from drying out after you play. Use your racquet cover. The cover helps protect the racquet and strings from scuffing and the like. Put your name on it! This will help keep your racquet from "walking away" at the club. .

Where to buy your Racquets

I have emphasized the importance of testing out racquets on-court. Clearly, then, a store or pro shop that gives you the opportunity to "demo" a racquet is a smart choice.

However, you might have other ways to test the various racquet models - by borrowing a racquet from a fellow player, for example. Then, having decided on a racquet the free-phone and internet dealers can be an excellent choice, because of their price and inventory advantage.

If you are looking at a Prince, Head or Pointfore Racquet CHECK THE SQUASHTALK ESTORE .