Racquets of the Pros

By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings

David Palmer, World No. 5
David Palmer, World No. 5

David Palmer: As one of the more senior players on the PSA tour, 32-year old David Palmer relies on strategy and preparedness to stay on top. The Boston-based Aussie is currently ranked number six in the world, and has consistently ranked in the top ten since first earning the number one ranking in September 2001. Among his many credits, David has won 16 PSA Tour titles, the 2002 and 2006 World Open and Super Series Finals, as well as the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008 British Opens and the 2008 Australian Open.

David trains hard, both to maintain his fitness level and to work on different strategies which keep his game versatile. Everything he does is focused on making him a better, more versatile player, and that includes his equipment.

David uses a Black Knight Ion Storm—a racquet he helped develop—strung with Ashaway PowerNick® 18 string. The Ion Storm uses Nano-Crystalline Technology (NCT) as an additive to the polymer structure of the graphite frame. This provides reinforcement at key stress points and allows fine tuning of weight and balance. The combination also effectively reduces frame distortion and torque, and provides a larger sweet spot and greater control for hard hitters like David.

David likes PowerNick 18 because of its durability and because its multifilament Zyex® core gives him a good combination of power, ball control, and dynamic response. But he does not string as tightly as some. “I fall in the middle range,” he said. “It gives me good touch at the front of the court, and still gives me plenty of power when I need it.”

“You’ve got to use your strengths,” says David. “One of mine is that I can play hard and fast, but I have nice touch and control at the front of the court also. So depending on the opponent I’m facing and how I am physically, I can use that to my advantage.” The right racquet, the right string, and the right tension help him do that.

Natalie Grainger, World No. 2
Natalie Grainger, World No. 2

Natalie Grainger: Another highly respected veteran is British born Natalie Grainger. Now residing in Greenwich, CT, and currently ranked No. 4 on the WISPA Tour, Natalie’s storied career has seen many highlights, including two Commonwealth Games Bronze Medals, titles in the Qatar Classic in 2003, the Hurghada International in 2002, and the US Open in 2004. She was also a finalist in the World Open in 2002 and the British Open in 2004.

According to Natalie, women play a different game from men, one that is “more nuanced and strategic,” and this is reflected in her choice of equipment. Her racquet is a Fury from Harrow, which she helped design, and which comes factory strung at 27 pounds with Ashaway SuperNick® XL Micro.

Natalie’s game is predicated on attacking her opponent with powerful drives and her deft touch. The Fury uses high modulus carbon fiber with increased stiffness in a lightweight

(145g strung) frame. The stiffness, light weight and even balance allow Natalie to generate tremendous power without over-swinging and also give her increased feel and touch to maneuver the racquet head for front court shots and increased deception.

Natalie’s style also means playing with a string that maximizes what she can do with the ball, “touch-wise,” without sacrificing power. Having recently switched to Ashaway SuperNick XL Micro, she now finds that stringing at slightly lower tension gives her the right level of comfort and control. The textured surface of the 18 gauge Ashaway string also helps, providing a high degree of grip which helps Natalie place her shots exactly where she wants.

And Natalie is very good at placing shots exactly where she wants. Most recently, in what has been described as a “sensational climax” to the women’s CIMB KL Open in Kuala Lumpur, Natalie “stunned” defending champion Nicol David by winning in five games, thus ending the 17-month, 56-match winning streak of the world’s number one player before her hometown crowd.