From Form and Finesse to Fast and Furious
What does the "personality" of your racket sport mean to your game?
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
Racquetball World Champion Jack Huczek plays fast and furious with a 16-gauge, high-durability string from Ashaway.
Just as individuals have different personalities, so too do sports. And just as your personality may attract you to one sport or another, so does the personality of the sport affect your individual style of play, and even how you string your racket. Take squash and racquetball, for example. I play both competitively (in C League and A League, respectively), so I've had experience interacting with each sport's unique "personality." Here are some of my observations.
Form vs Fast
Squash is methodical. The ball is soft and slow, so players have to do a lot of moving to the ball, rather than waiting for the ball to come to them. For this reason, form is essential to success. Good form helps perfect the mechanics of a squash player's swing, and allows better control of shots. It also supports the swift, precise movements essential when anticipating shots, or running to the ball, making a shot, then returning to the center court in time to prepare for the return.
With racquetball, the ball is hard and bouncy. This makes the game fast. Players must make decisions quickly because the ball moves around the court at very high speeds. In fact, drive serves are typically clocked at 100 to 130 mph! A player must think and act fast in order to make the right decision about how to return it.
World Squash Champion David Palmer uses Ashaway's 18-gauge PowerNick 18 squash string, for maximum playability and finesse.
Finesse vs Furious
Squash requires that competitors play with finesse. Squash is a cat-and-mouse game where one player is always trying to take the other player out of position by hitting drop shots up front, solid "rails" along the wall, and well placed lobs in the back corners. Outright winners, or "nicks," are few and far between in squash, so a player needs finesse in his or her game, and a style that allows him to consistently win points.
Squash is a game of stamina, too, and finesse shots allow players to play smarter, instead of harder. With points that can last 50 to 100 strokes, squash players use finesse shots to throw their opponents off balance, buy themselves time, and conserve energy for the long haul.
In Racquetball, on the other hand, rallies are based on power, not finesse, making the game furious at times. Racquetball's best shot is the "kill shot." Hit fast and low to the ground, it's an outright winner, or "rollout" at 6 inches or less above the floor! In racquetball, players routinely dive to save shots from bouncing twice. They must then bounce back up to recover, and return to center court for the next shot.
Racquetball points last approximately 10 to 20 strokes, most hit with maximum power, with a few ceiling shots thrown in to allow a player to get back into a point. Racquetball players put their all into each shot, hoping that if it is furious enough, it will win them a point.
If there is any ground shared by squash and racquetball players, it is fitness. Whether a player needs stamina to stay on the court for hours, or horsepower to dive for that next shot, fitness can make the difference between winning and losing a match. But fitness is not only a requirement for squash and racquetball, it is often a big part of the reason we play. That's why, in my view, there is no loser in a hard fought squash or racquetball match.
Stringing It All Together
Because of these distinctions between the squash and racquetball personalities, players usually make very different choices when it comes to stringing. A squash player may string their racket tighter for increased control, while a racquetball player strings theirs looser for more power. In squash, to get more bite on the ball, thinner, textured strings are popular, whereas racquetball players often favor a thicker string for optimum durability. Gauge, tension, and materials are just a few factors to consider when making your choice.
If you are wondering how, specifically, the squash personality affects how you string your racket, look no further than the pros. To ensure consistent playability, Squash World Champion David Palmer cuts the Zyex(r) Ashaway strings out of his racket before they break. Using an 18-gauge string strung tightly for better control, he relies on form, finesse and fitness to win. In comparison, Racquetball World Champion, Jack Huczek, uses a tough 16-gauge nylon polymer string from Ashaway, strung at a mid-range tension. Paired with his superb fitness level, this stringing style allows him to dominate the fast and furious worlds of amateur and professional racquetball.
Next time we will take a closer look at how the squash personality affects how you string your racket, and how you can use string to maximize the form and finesse in your game.
This article previously appeared in Squash Magazine.
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