I have been playing squash for many decades – most of it centred around Surrey with a highlight being a thorough thrashing by a ‘ranked’ Australian at the Belgium Open a long time ago. Surrey, however, does provide a high standard of squash across all age groups and for both men and women.
There are many observations I could make from all these years but one that has always struck me as significant is that squash players know very little about strings. Worse than that, most don’t care that they don’t know! This contrasts with tennis players who know far more about this key aspect of success than us squash players such that, one of our aims at Fortriss, is to change this and to heighten player-awareness about the role strings play in success.
But if squash players did have this knowledge, would it make any difference to their game? Could knowing about squash strings – and making the right decisions with this knowledge – make the difference between a world champion and a first round loser? Well, the answer to that is a definite ‘NO’! But, it can make the difference between a marginal win and a marginal defeat. It can make the difference between aggravating or even causing an injury and avoiding injuries. Having the ‘right’ string to match the way you play and having the right tension to suit your game will definitely have a positive impact.
There are a million on one things to get ‘right’ to be a good squash player but one thing is unquestionably certain – squash, like tennis, is impossible without strings. So why don’t we squash players pay more attention to such an important element of our game? Why do we never change our strings until they break? And even then, why do we simply chuck our racket the way of our local stringer/coach and simply tell him or her, “string this” often without any discussion about type or tension of string? Why do we delegate all this and take no responsibility ourselves?
I can’t answer all these questions but I do hope that in launching a new string into the UK market, we can increase player knowledge and, at the same time, improve the general level of squash played.
Fortriss Squash Strings
Fortriss squash strings are made of, high quality multifilaments and are manufactured by a key string maker in the Far East who has been making string for leading tennis racquet companies for decades. We have been selling his tennis strings for nearly 15 years but this is our first venture into squash string. We have selected what we believe to be the best string structure – a multi-filament of around 1000 separate filaments. (See a magnified image below.) At present, we are only making string at the optimum gauge for squash at 1.2mm. Our aim is to have a colour range that will be attractive to all and be easily recognisable on court.
Multifilament strings are considered by some to be the top category of string construction after natural gut. Multifilament strings have no central core and are made up by weaving hundreds or thousands of microfibers together and bonding them using an elastomer resin. They are then coated with a textured surface to enable players to both cut the ball and give additional spin. They also offer great playability and shock absorption properties resulting in a string which provides a soft, almost cushion-like feel. And for the stringers reading this, our strings are much easier on the hands than many of our competitors and thus better for those that string a lot of the day.
Given we buy direct from the factory and sell on-line, we can reach the market at prices that significantly undercut other providers of similar quality string – and only by trying the string will you realise that it is as good as the bigger-named string providers that charge significantly more. We believe it matches the quality of the best and provides for longevity.
Launching the Fortriss String
We launched the string in Surrey recently where we sponsored a county closed Junior Tournament. One of our aims is to support junior squash and use a proportion of our profits to try to increase the reach of squash throughout the local community – especially among young people – an uphill struggle given fewer and fewer schools are providing the opportunities given they have such little funding.
Another surprising feature of this tournament – where we had a high quality stringing machine (and a high quality stringer!!) and where the best county players were on show – was the poor quality of player’s strings. Grommets missing; tensions all over the place; racquets broken with not so visible fractures and, in some cases, examples of both poor strings and poor stringing. We didn’t expect to be stringing rackets, but it was non-stop! And there were many other players with racquets that were in desperate need of new strings but they were not aware of this!
But what should players know more about when it comes to stringing and strings? And how can coaches and stringers help? We discuss some of these below.
Getting the tension at the right level is crucial for all players – no matter what standard they play at. Different tensions can benefit different types of players and getting it right for each individual is important – especially if they are playing competitively.
Strings are always losing tension because they feel the full force of a ball that stretches the string, moving apart the inner molecules weakening the string every time there is impact. Over time, this reduces the tension and can, therefore, change the response a player can expect from his/her racquet.
If a player wants to get more power, there is no point stringing to a high tension of 27 or 28 lbs per square inch, since it is at lower tensions (maybe 24 or 25) that squash balls will move at a faster pace. Strings absorb incoming ball impact and send the ball back with as much velocity as possible. And the more elastic the string (i.e. the lower the tension) the more speed it will generate on the return ball.
Higher tensions in string will better suit a touch player who needs more control or whose use of ‘slice’ dominates his/her game. But how many good players who rely on power or rely on touch have these conversations with their stringer before they string? How many recognise that, despite being dependent on a high tension, they have lost it because they have played hundreds of matches?
This doesn’t mean players need to have their racquets re-strung every other week but what we see is that most players pay no attention to their strings until – surprise, surprise – they have a breakage! But competitive players should be checking their strings frequently and if there are any concerns, they should speak to their coach or their stringer and ask the informed questions.
All strings break – eventually. But good strings break less frequently! But why do they break?
There is no single answer to this question as strings break for a number of reasons:
- they can rub against each other until one eventually gets too thin and breaks, or when the string cannot stretch enough on ball impact, usually near the edge of the racket.
- Strings can be rubbing constantly against the grommets in the surround of the racquet head
- They can be rubbing against the frame if grommets are missing or have been broken
- Or the string may just not be good enough!
It is important, therefore, to periodically check your racquet to see if any of these are happening.
Quality of the stringing
It would be better if the stringer had use of an electronic stringing machine which will give a more accurate and constant pull, guaranteeing overall precise string tension, and therefore offering better playability. Good stringing with a good stringer makes a lot of difference.
Quality of the string
There are some cheap strings available on the market. Some squash players go for a Synthetic Gut rather than a multifilament. Synthetic Gut strings will offer a cheaper alternative, but they will not offer the same feel, touch and power a multifilament string would. Which is why we have invested in a multifilament string for the FORTRISS range.
Problems with the grommets
Sometimes the grommets split in the bumper guard as they get older, so it’s imperative that these grommets are checked regularly and the complete bumper guard replaced as necessary. If it is not, then there is more chance of the string breaking on slightly off-centre shots.
Strings, stringing and arm/shoulder injuries
Every squash and tennis player wants to avoid wrist, arm and shoulder injuries. If a stiff racket is used with a high string tension, then these injuries will occur more frequently than if a more flexible racket were used with a string at a lower tension. Multifilament’s strings will be ‘softer’ to play with and will absorb more shock than a Synthetic Gut, therefore reducing upper body injuries.