By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
The popularity of doubles squash has been on the rise, and with it, the number of inquiries I've received from people asking if they should string differently for doubles vs. singles play. Not being an avid doubles player myself, I thought I'd talk to someone who strings, plays and coaches doubles squash-Charlie Johnson, owner of cjsquash.com and head pro at the Dayton Squash Center (Dayton, OH).
"I get this question a lot, also," said Johnson. "And the short answer is 'yes,' you should string differently for doubles. While all stringing jobs should be based on maximizing your style of play, there are a couple of key elements in doubles that require special consideration when stringing."
People who are unfamiliar with doubles squash are often very surprised to learn that in doubles a different ball is used. "Stringing for doubles is closer to stringing for the old hardball guys, from squash days past," Johnson explained. Doubles players use a much harder, much heavier squash ball. This presents two immediate concerns-tension loss and string breakage.
"You are starting off with a ball that weighs more and has less give to it than the average squash ball, and that is going to present some challenges," Johnson advised. "By looking at the type of player you are, you can predict which concern-tension loss or string breakage-is more likely to affect your game, and string accordingly."
Tension loss is an issue for all doubles players, so much so, that Johnson strings doubles rackets at 10-20% higher tension than those he strings for singles players. Recreational players tend to lose tension before the string breaks, according to Johnson, making restringing often a good practice. "The rule of thumb I use for recreational doubles squash players is to restring your racket the number of times a year that you play per week," he said. "If you play three times a week, restring three times a season." For amateur players, Johnson recommends SuperNick® XL and XL Titanium, which can be strung at up to 42 lbs. (19 kgs) of tension.
Top amateur and professional doubles players tend to break strings before they have to restring for tension loss. "The heavier ball and higher tension puts significant strain on the strings, generating faster wear and earlier string breakage," Johnson explained. For higher level, professional doubles players, Johnson suggests a string like Ashaway's PowerNick®-known for its superior durability. Manufactured from Zyex® fibers, and sporting an outer spiral braided wear layer, power players can generally increase their durability without sacrificing control and playability. Other factors also affect stringing for doubles play. For instance, many doubles players feel that the majority of strings are "too slippery" for the harder ball. Racket strings are able to dig a bit deeper into the surface of a singles squash ball, generating traction for better spin control. The harder the squash ball, however, the less the strings bite into the ball surface, and the more "slippery" they feel. "Again, you can adjust your stringing selection to compensate for this difference," said Johnson. Thinner gauge strings present less surface area, providing more bite. Also, strings that are designed with a textured surface, such as those in Ashaway's SuperNick or PowerNick lines, provide better feel of the doubles ball, giving you optimum ball control.
"As you can see, many factors affect stringing for doubles squash play. Whether it be compensating for the weight of the ball, or simply wanting to add power to your game to utilize the larger size of the doubles court, players should talk to their stringer about how stringing can help them play their best doubles game possible."
||Whether your problem is severe tension loss or strings breaking, your string choice can help improve your doubles game.
Zyex is a registered trademark of ZYEX Limited.
This article previously appeared in Squash Magazine.