Is "Free" Stringing Costing Your Game Too Much?
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
I recently ran into a reader who shared a stringing dilemma that he found quite frustrating. He bought a new squash racket, and spent many practice sessions and games getting used to the feel of the monofilament string that came with it, and the way it affected his game. Then, just when he felt he had settled into a comfortable groove, he stepped onto a cold court to play and-yup, you guessed it-he broke a string. Not anticipating a problem, he headed off to have his racket restrung, taking with him a copy of the manufacturer's recommendations for string and tension.
Your club's pro or stringer should be able to help you with a custom string setup that will boost your performance-and offer you consistency from one stringing job to the next.
Confidently, he stepped onto the court for his first game with his newly strung racket. But as soon as he started to play, he suddenly realized that everything was different-the feel of the racket, the tension of the string, the bite (or rather lack thereof) on the ball. And he found himself having to start from scratch, getting used to what was, essentially, a new string setup.
I have heard this and similar complaints from squash players over the years. One reader-having come up against this obstacle several times-finally called his racket manufacturer to ask if he could send his racket back to be restrung by them. Their response surprised him. Not only does the manufacturer not offer restringing services, but they insisted that his racket would never play like new, due to changes to the racket itself that occur as the result of the initial stringing job.
While this answer may or may not be true, it is an undeniable reality that, even with strict quality control checks in place, a lot can happen to a racket between the time it rolls off the manufacturing line and the time it appears in your club pro shop or at your local squash racket retailer. The majority of rackets are manufactured offshore, predominately in Asia, and manufacturers use a wide variety of stringing techniques, equipment and string. The rackets are then packaged in bulk and shipped around the world, then stored in warehouses and on retail shelves until ultimately purchased by squash players. All of this introduces a lot of opportunity for the factory string job to vary from the original specifications.
And even though some racket manufacturers may assure you that stringing results are reproducible if you stick to their recommended string and tensions, the readers' concerns do raise an interesting question: is playing with factory string the best choice for your game?
Playing with factory string does have some obvious advantages. First is cost. Second is convenience. A third, less obvious factor is that recreational squash players often do not devote a lot of time to learning about string materials, gauges and tensions, and how all of these characteristics affect performance. They assume that racket manufacturers string their rackets for the "average" squash player, and that the string job will be "good enough." And while in large part that may be true, it will not take your game to the next level, or help when you need to restring.
Many serious squash players have followed the lead of some of the top professional players, who immediately cut the factory strings out of new rackets, and have them restrung with their favorite high performance string by a stringer they know and trust. These players are willing to go to this extra effort because they rely on their string to give them the extra power, control, or bite that they need to push their game to the next level. Also, they need to know that they can rely on their rackets to be strung consistently.
Top tennis players do not have to go the extra step of removing factory strings, because in the tennis industry a full 80% of all performance rackets are sold unstrung. Why? Because these players want to customize their racket string and setup to meet their playing needs-not adapt their style of play to an existing string job. And, by using the same string and stringer, players ensure that the string setup will be consistent from one job to the next. Perhaps someday squash racket manufacturers will do the same.
As with all racket string issues, whether to play with the factory string or to restring with a professional stringer is a personal choice. If you would like to customize your string setup, but are unsure about what to do, talk to your club's pro or stringer. By discussing your strengths and weaknesses on the court, and the types of strings available, he or she should be able to help you with a setup that will boost your performance-and offer you consistency from one stringing job to the next. You can also visit our web site at www.ashawayusa.com for more squash stringing tips, and to learn more about what might work best for you.
This article previously appeared in Squash Magazine.