General Information for Squash Players
With time and use, strings not only break but also lose the properties which make them 'playable'.
Physical wear, in the form of notching and fraying, are the most obvious signs your racket needs a restring prior to actual breakage. A less noticeable effect is 'string creep' - a gradual loss of tension with age.
However, strings have one other major playability factor which is usually overlooked, and which deteriorates with age irrespective of either physical wear or tension loss - elasticity.
It is the elastic nature of the string which generates power in the form of recoil from impact. It happens at a molecular level, as the particles which make up the string slide past each other and then return after each impact event. However, over time, repeated impacts and constant tension cause the molecules to slide beyond the point of no return, and so the string 'ages' and loses elasticity and its ability to generate power.
You will notice this as a 'dead' feel to the strings. You should use your own intuition to identify when it happens, because it occurs regardless of actual string tension, and there is no specific way of measuring it whilst the strings are still in the racket.
As a rule of thumb, you should restring as often each year as you play each week, or every 12 months, whichever is the more frequent.
For newcomers to the game, squash string performance is probably less important than durability. A new player will be hitting off-centre more often which will make the strings break more easily. Beginners often start off with 15 gauge string (which is basically tennis string) which is very durable, but does not generate a lot of power or feel.
As a player’s skill level improves, they should progress to thinner 16 gauge string, which will generate more power and feel. At this point, they need to decide whether they are a hard hitter, or a control player. There is now a whole range of strings with differing properties to choose from, offering power, control, feel or shock absorption.
The choice now is whether to stick with durable 16 gauge, or progress to even thinner 17 gauge strings. The thinner the string, the more power and control, but the less the durability. If you are a hard-hitter, 17 gauge strings can easily break with one off-centred hit. At squash tournaments, professionals will often have to replace their racket strings every few matches if using a 17 gauge string, so a good supply of pre-strung rackets is essential!
The least frequently used string gauge is the 18 gauge. If you are a power player, forget about it - you would break your string every other game you played! However, this string type is ideal for tournament participants who are soft hitters, or controlled women players who rarely break their strings. 18 gauge strings are not recommended for recreational play.
If you are a control player looking to generate backspin or topspin, then you are looking for 'slippery' strings which move and generate 'snap-back'. Textured strings improve spin performance, and string at lower rather than higher tensions.
Stringing for power
Generally, power is a feature of the string tension rather than type. Squash rackets have a much greater variation in tension recommendations than do racquetballl racquets, so more performance tuning can be done with tension. Squash rackets may be strung as low as 25lb or as high as 40lb, depending upon the frame, so offering a tremendous variation in playing characteristics.
Thinner string generates more power.
More elastic strings generate more power (and are also better at shock absorption).
Stringing for Playability or Durability
Unfortunately, each of these features requires the opposite string properties of the other.
Thinner strings offer a greater level of playability, touch, feel and spin, whilst thicker strings are the more durable.
Because squash rackets have a smaller head size than tennis rackets, they are designed for thinner gauge strings - usually 17 or 18 Gauge (1.16-1.25mm).
Hybrid String Combinations
Hybrids are becoming increasingly popular in squash as players strive to find the perfect stringbed for their style of play. There are several reasons for choosing a hybrid string combination:
1. Increased durability. The main strings bear the wear load. These are the strings which move when the ball is hit, and are consequently 'sawed' by the cross strings. A highly durable main string can be mixed with a more playable cross string. This combination favours durability over playability. A thinner gauge mainstring can also be mixed with a thicker gauge cross for the same effect.
2. Increased playability. The main strings also confer the major 'playability' factor to the stringbed, so a very playable mainstring can be combined with a more durable cross-string. This combination favours playability over durability.
3. Increased tension stability. Over time, strings lose tension by stretching. As the tension drops, the racket will lose both feel and control. At the same time, because the strings have lost their elasticity, power output will drop. Eventually, the stringbed becomes 'dead' and requires replacement. Again, the main strings confer most tension stability, and the use of a tension-holding mainstring with a cross-string for either durability or playability can create a versatile but long-lasting stringbed