The squash racket buying guide simplified – by Racketlon SA
Consider your budget, playing style, level of play, brand preference, what you would like to achieve in your game ie; more power, more control or a mix of both. Once you’ve answered these questions you will be closer to choosing your ideal racket.
Budget: Prices vary, not only with brands and various models but also different shops. Shop around as you are bound to see that not all are created equal. Choose a store that specialises in racket sports like squash and are able to give you the best advice. Service during and after your purchase is also vital. More expensive doesn’t always mean better, we are all individuals and have different needs.
Level of play: Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced, do you play once a week or 5 times a week. Do you play socially or competitively?. If you not going to play often, don’t waste too much money on a racket, but if you are playing more, then you need to get the best possible racket to suit your game, no expense spared, you are worth it.
Brand preference: We all have them, our experience with a particular name sticks with us, we have good experience with a certain brand why change?, bad experiences may persuade you not to choose the brand again. Stick with what you know or trust the experts. A good store tend to stock quality items, they stay away from brands that don’t meet their satisfaction, and once in a while even a brand can come up with a model that just does not cut the cake. That model should not be sold or marketed full stop. At Racketlon we know from experience, customer feedback and extensive research what NOT to buy. We only stock the best Wilson, Prince, Tecnifibre and Dunlop rackets for you to be sure of your brand choice.
What are you looking for: More power, more control?. Are your arms not as strong as the next, maybe a lighter racket will suit you best which is easier on the arms, but you need to get some power as well. Choose a light racket with a head heavy balance to help swing through the ball more efficiently. Arms strong enough, but still want power?. A heavier racket is best suited for you. Got the power but lack control?, choose a medium weight and even balance racket. Don’t forget, strings and string tension also make a difference to your game. We will dive into more detail shortly.
We have standardised the categories for each racket model with:
Weights are measured in grams and range from 110, 115,120, 130, 135, 140, 145, 155, 165 and exclude the strings which add 5-8 grams extra weight to the racket. It goes without saying that the lighter rackets offer you a lot more control than say a heavier racket, so if you lack that in your game or that is your strength then lighter is the way to go, Volley players love the rackets in the 110 to 120 range. A beginner should also consider a lighter racket till their technique is perfected. Heavier rackets give you more power through the ball, if you want to hit hard then go for the 140 to 165 range, otherwise most opt to go for the average 125, 135, 145 range.
We refer to the square surface of the racket face measured in sq cm. Not the length or width of the racket. Although shape of the racket head will affect size of the face. You get, round heads or extended (teardrop) heads (we will explain a little later). The greater the area the bigger the sweet spot, this racket favours big hitters who aren’t always accurate and of course beginners. Smaller size means smaller sweet spots so best kept for the advanced players. Why would you choose a smaller head then you ask, well the manoeuvrability with delicate shots in the corners and at the front of the court is best with a smaller racket, delicate drops, flicked lobs and almost impossible corner retrieval is the pro of a smaller racket, but beware the sweet spot is smaller and generally higher so takes some getting used to. So small heads around 464-470 sq cm (Wilson BLX Tour or Prince Rebel), mid range from 470 to 490 (Prince Speedport Black or Dunlop Pro GTS130) and large from 490 to 505 sq cm (Wilson Pro BLX or Dunlop Ultimate)
Balance refers to where the weight of the racket lies. Head heavy rackets offer a lot more power through the swing with less effort and measure around 36-37cm (Prince Tour or WilsonTempest120). Even balance rackets lie around the 35-36cm mark(Wilson BLX K-Sting or Tecnifibre Calibur 135) whilst control rackets with head light or grip heavy as some say is around 34-35 cm mark (Tecnifibre Supreme NG or Dunlop Elite)
Not a big decisive point for most when choosing a racket, but generally closer string patterns like 14x18 (Dunlop Evolution 120) give more “bite” or grip or spin on the ball as well as being able to string the racket tighter than compared to 16x19 say (Dunlop Blackstorm Graphite).
Other factors that should be considered:
Rounder closed throat rackets give more control with the strings being of even length and even tensions. Longer rackets give more power due to the strings being able to stretch further.
So much has changed in past 20 years of squash racket development, with racket structure being the main point of development. The material used to create a light and durable racket has gone from wood, aluminium to graphite and various graphite composites which include basalt, boron, high modulus graphite, titanium, kevlar. These strengthen the racket and diffuse vibrations better than most. The shape of the rackets, the frames, designs, paint work, various and strategic tension points, handle types can all make small differences in your game, feeling or may just be aesthetically pleasing. .
Strings are not just an item on a racket to hit the ball with, although at first you may not notice the difference, it is there and as you play more you will prefer your strings the way you want them.
Gauge: Thinner strings give you more power as they are able to stretch farther (18 gauge). They are also less durable than thicker strings. Thicker strings (17 gauge)are more durable but have less stretch so give you more control and more feel on the ball.
Tension: Higher Tension = More Control; Lower Tension = More Power, easier said than done right?, what string tension is best for you and best for the racket is difficult to decide. Generally longer rackets are able to stretch stings farther so tighter strings are preferable, but again its a matter of preference.
Material: Nylon is relatively stiff whilst multifilament strings offer more flexibility, feel and variables. We explain more on “String technology” here.
And lastly, pick up the racket, without the label of course, feel it in your hands and give it a couple of swings, your basic and initial instincts should not be ignored. Don’t forget also that you should give yourself some time to get used to your new racket and in no time you will feel at ease and one with your new weapon of choice.