by Pierre Bastien
When you’re just getting started in squash, picking a racquet is often as simple as finding one in your price range and going with it. But as your game improves, you’ll probably start to consider what you like or don’t like about your current racquet. When you invest in your next racquet, it will be more tailored to your style of play.
The first thing to consider about a squash racquet is the weight. You carry this thing around for the whole match and swing it through every shot, so generally, the lighter the better. To make racquets lighter, manufacturers will use their most advanced materials and remove as much material from the racquet as possible. As a result, lighter racquets will generally be both more expensive and less durable. You can usually find the racquet’s weight (in grams) printed on the frame itself. Most manufacturers print the frame weight, which doesn’t include the strings, grommets or grip. Harrow racquets list the all-in weight.
Another important factor is the balance. Head-heavy racquets have more of their weight in the head, which will make the racquet feel heavier in your hand. That extra mass at the end of the racquet helps you guide the racquet through your shot, often resulting in a smoother swing. Head-light racquets will feel lighter in your hand and are easier to maneuver. A lighter head will help you get the racquet through the ball more quickly. This is especially good if you like to flick the ball at the last second.
Squash racquets come in two basic shapes: traditional and teardrop. Traditional racquets have a beam across the throat, so the strings are shorter. In a teardrop racquet, the strings are longer and go all the way through the throat. Generally, traditional racquets have more control, partly because the beam provides extra stability in the frame and partly because the strings are shorter and less springy. Teardrop racquets, on the other hand, have longer strings, giving you more power.
Sometimes we think so much about the racquet that it’s easy to forget the strings are what actually hit the ball. Often, factory-strung racquets will have a rather high tension, so if you’re looking for more power, you might try restringing. An average stringing tension is twenty-seven pounds. For more power, perhaps counterintuitively, you should string your racquet at a lower tension, so more like twenty-five pounds. For more control, go a pound or two higher. Some strings are smooth and some are textured, providing more bite on the ball. This is a matter of preference. Finally, squash strings come in different thicknesses. An average thickness is 17-gauge/1.2 mm. You could try experimenting with a thinner string (18-gauge/1.1 mm), which generally provides more control and makes the racquet head lighter, but will be less durable.
The stringing pattern of your racquet is a separate consideration. The classic stringing pattern has the longer main strings going straight up and down. In a fan-shaped stringing pattern, the strings fan out as they go from the throat to the top edge of the racquet. I find that a fan-shaped pattern provides a little more power.
Squash racquets all come installed with one of the manufacturer’s grips. If you don’t like the stock grip, you can try different brands to see what you like best—they have different levels of tackiness and sweat absorption. There are two types of grips: replacement grips and overgrips. A replacement grip is intended to replace the stock grip, and an overgrip is meant to go over top of the stock grip. For a thicker handle, try using multiple grips at the same time.