For Squash Great David Palmer, String is Part of an Overall Strategy
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
Recently I had the pleasure of signing squash great David Palmer to a two-year extension of his sponsorship agreement with Ashaway. The Belgian-based Aussie is currently ranked number four in the world, and has consistently ranked in the top ten since first earning the number one ranking in September 2001. Among his many credits, David has won 16 PSA Tour titles, the 2002 World Open and Super Series Finals, as well as the 2001, 2003 & 2004 British Opens.
Preparedness is just one part of an overall strategic approach for David Palmer. Everything he does is not only focused on making him a better, more versatile player, but it is also thought out and planned in advance. It's part of his professionalism.
As David turns 30 this year, I thought this would also be a good opportunity to touch base and see if his perspective - and his stringing habits - have changed now that he is becoming one of the more senior players on the tour. I caught up with him in Melbourne Australia, a couple hours before his first match in this year's Australian open.
"Things probably haven't changed that much," said David, "even though, as you said, I am getting to be one of the senior players." He still trains hard, both to maintain his fitness level and to work on various strategies to keep his game versatile and adapt to different competitors and situations. And although recently married to wife Melinda, he has the same coach and the same support team of training partners in Belgium. He still gets four or five of his rackets restrung before major tournaments, and of course, he still uses Ashaway PowerNick(R) 18 string.
"The best thing about Ashaway string is it just doesn't break," he said (exaggerating just a little). "I'm the type of player who finds at the start of a week that one racket feels really good and its great to be able to use that one racket the whole week. Some of the other guys I see have to get rackets restrung after the first round or in the quarters or in the semis, and I find it's nice to use that one racket the whole tournament." Of course, when a string does break, it's also nice to have back-ups strung with the same string and tension.
This level of preparedness is just one part of an overall strategic approach for David. Everything he does is not only focused on making him a better, more versatile player, but it is also thought out and planned in advance. It's part of his professionalism.
Take his approach to string tension, for example. David likes PowerNick because its multifilament Zyex(R) core gives him a good combination of power, ball control, and dynamic response. But he does not string as tightly as some. "I fall in the middle range," he said. "It gives me good touch at the front of the court, and still gives me plenty of power when I need it."
In short, it's a considered approach. "I feel if you have it strung too tight, you have plenty of power but you lose touch, and vice versa. I've got different styles of games I can play, and sometimes I play powerful and fast, and other times I use my touch to win games. So it's good to have my racket strung so it's ready for any situation depending on how I'm playing and how I'm feeling on the court.
"You've got to use your strengths," he added, "and one of my strengths is that I can play hard and fast, but I have nice touch and control at the front of the court also. So depending on which opponent and how I am physically, I can use it to my advantage." The right string, at the right tension, help him do that.
As a result, David is very enthusiastic about the game and his prospects for the future. David reached the PSA Masters final in Qatar in April 2004, and in November joined a select band of three-time British Open champions when he successfully defended his title in Nottingham, defeating world champion Amr Shabana in four games in the final. In December, he partnered with compatriot Rachael Grinham to win the Mixed title in the World Doubles Championships in India. He also reached the finals in his last four 2005 tournaments, including the World Open, and apart from a disappointing performance in Saudi Arabia - when, as he says, his "body let him down" - he feels he still has a good chance of reclaiming the number one slot in 2006.
David and long-time coach Shaun Moxham have also recently issued a new training DVD that is available on David's website (www.davidpalmer.com). "We show my favorite training exercises," David said, "the ones that allow me to win matches. And we make it very visible: after each session we show you how to win an important point with exactly the shot we just practiced."
"This is not just an instructional DVD," added Moxham, who directed the project. "It's the story of a man who has achieved success beyond his wildest dreams and provides a chance for others to lift their own game and enhance their passion for squash."
As ever, we'll be watching David to see if he can make the rest of his dreams come true.
This article previously appeared in Squash Magazine.