Visit Sports Trader’s website for more product knowledge: www.sportstrader.co.za Recommending the right squash or racket

ecommending a racket to a squash added. or badminton player is not always Our cut-out-and-keep series to • In general a lighter racket (and a racket an easy task as each individual has assist retailers with product with a light balance) requires the play- his own style of play and level of knowledge er to add their own strength to put power experience. There are, however, a into a shot, because the lighter racket gen- Compiled with the help of Steve Gal- numberR of features that could greatly enhance erates less momentum. lienne of Super-Brands, distributor of — or detract from — a player’s playing abil- • A heavier racket (and head heavy balance) and rackets, John ity or experience. Interestingly enough, many adds momentum to the shot and therefore Abrahams of Shuttle Sports, distributor of the racket qualities that affects a players’ generates more power. A compromise is of badminton, Andrew Wentzel squash affects a badminton players’ made when choosing a heavy racket for pow- of WET Sports Importers, distributor of game as well. er as a lighter racket is more manoeuvrable, RoxPro, Frik van Rensburg of Kloppers in Finding the right combination of weight, allowing the player to really feel the ball. A Bloemfontein and Ronel Louw of Base- balance, shape and stiffness is key to recom- good level of technique and skill, however, is line Runners and the websites www.scot- required for a light racket. mending the right racket, whether for squash tishsport.co.uk and www.prospeed.com or badminton. Below are some of the key fea- • “Experienced players can play with lighter tures to out for. frames as they are able to utilize this to get a faster head speed and better manoeuvra- Material bility. In this way they get more control and Modern technology has allowed considerably touch with a lightweight frame. Social play- lighter materials, such as carbon fibre and var- ers, however, need more weight to generate ious composites, to be used to achieve speed more power,” explains Ronel Louw of Base- and strength, without sacrificing weight or bal- line Runners. ance. The material used will to a large extent • Hard hitters, of any experience level, would influence the price of the racket. want a heavier frame (which will compro- • Many entry level rackets are made of alu- mise manoeuvrability) and touch play- minium or steel. Because beginners are ers require a lighter frame (which will not more likely to hit their rackets against a generate as much power). Some players wall, aluminium rackets will be more robust would prefer a balanced racket that has just than graphite — and are also less expensive enough weight in the head to deliver power- to replace when they do break. ful shots and is manoeuvrable enough to pro- • Higher-end rackets are made of graphite vide better control, it is therefore often a fine balancing act in finding the right racket or carbon, which can be mixed with ma- for the player. terials like fibreglass, titanium mesh, na- • Experts advise a racket made from heavier noprene, ceramics, boron, etc. The materials, such as aluminium or composite, composition of the materials in the shaft and for a beginner player who has not developed frame will influence the stiffness and power their own style of play yet. The heavier or feel of the racket. material, such as aluminium, will provide • “There are also different resin flow proc- create better products with different materi- power but may cause unnecessary vibration. esses — some are hot and others are cold. als, which will provide high strength and high According to prospeed.com a heavier weight Depending on the expected level of perform- repulsion. badminton racket would transmit less shock ance, the manufacturer will pay more for Weight and less vibration when sending off a shuttle. consistent hot resin flow,” says Steve Galli- enne of Super-Brands, distributor of Dunlop It is often difficult to compare the weight of Balance and Slazenger rackets. one racket to the next as weight specs are • The balance point of a racket (measured The above materials and manufacturing often inconsistent — the bare frame, the un- in millimetres) affects the whole feel and processes can increase control, power, anti- strung frame or the strung weight is quoted play of the racket. It is measured from the from one brand to the next. The weight and torque, weight distribution, shock absorption, base of the handle to the point on the shaft balance of a racket will be affected once the durability etc. Companies are continually ex- where the racket stays in bal- Top54 perimenting with these types of materials to racket is strung and a replacement grip is

2012 February/March :: Sports Trader p54 :: Sport

decreased sweet spot positioned further Recommending a racket cont from p53 away from the hand, higher on the racket head. Even though the sweet spot is smaller it will help with control, says Louw. An open ance on a finger. tion is sometimes experienced with very throat squash racket has a larger string bed, • A racket with a high balance point (fur- stiff frames. Frame shock is the unnecessary which is more forgiving on off-centre shots ther away from the handle and thus a higher force felt at the moment of impact when a as the racket will have a larger sweet spot. number) will be heavier towards the racket stroke is delivered and frame vibration is • “Removing the bridge at the throat of a head (head heavy) and a racket with a bal- the vibrated feeling when the shuttle speeds squash racket lengthens the allowance of ance point closer to the handle (lower bal- away from the . the main strings, allowing you to put less ance point number) will feel head light. • Flexibility of a racket could be determined strings, in number, across the face of the • In the same way that weight would affect by factors like the number of strings in the frame and therefore providing a larger, less the shots played, a head light balance would string bed. “Certain frames add more strings stiff and more powerful string bed,” ex- make the racket more manoeuvrable and a and therefore compensate on the flexibility plains Gallienne. head heavy racket would give a player more of the racket. For example a 500cm2 frame • Badminton rackets are generally closed power. “A well balanced racket feels light and with a 16x19 stringing pattern will be harder throat, but open-throat rackets are not un- nimble and normally helps players with self- to play (with less flexibility) than a 500cm2 common either. confidence as it provides both control and 14x18 stringing pattern. The fewer strings • “Weak throat pieces could affect the lon- power,” says Frik van Rensburg of Kloppers. there are, the more they will be able to gevity of your racket. A reinforced throat • According to scottishsport.co.uk small strips provide a trampoline effect, which in turn piece is more popular with power hitters,” of lead tape can be used to adjust the bal- would generate more power,” explains Gal- says Andrew Wentzel of WET Sports Import- ance of the frame. In the same way that lienne. ers, distributors of RoxPro squash rackets. adding an extra grip will effectively make the racket feel more head heavy, adding Head size and racket shape String bed bumper tape to the head will make the • Larger head sizes (500cm2 and larger) are If the frame of a racket could be compared to racket play slightly more head heavy. more forgiving on shots that haven’t come the body of a car, the string bed would be the • It is important to advise customers that the right out of the middle of the racket as it engine of a racket. And just like car engines all balance of a racket can be adjusted after boasts the benefit of having an enlarged string beds are not created equally: purchase, but the stiffness/flexibility of a sweet spot. It therefore makes it easier Type of strings racket not. to play a powerful shot with a larger head • Natural gut has traditionally been seen as and many experts advise a start-up player Flexibility vs. stiffness the strings that provide the best feel, but choose the bigger sized head. A larger head these days multi-filament strings (aka syn- • In theory, the more flexible the racket, the will, however, reduce the control a player thetic gut) mimic the effect of a more ex- easier it is to control and manoeuvre as it has during the game. pensive natural string. Monofilament strings allows for more margin of error when hitting • Whilst a smaller racket head has a smaller are very tough and are usually advised for the ball. Experts thus advise start-up players sweet spot it could be described as a bet- players who often break their strings. But to opt for a more flexible frame. ter quality sweet spot as it offers the best there is less feel in these. Monofilament is • A stiffer racket, however, helps with shot control combined with the best power — in often used in combination with synthetic gut making and to generate power, if it can be the hands of the right player. It is, however, strung across the racket. controlled by a strong player. A stiff shaft al- much trickier to play powerful shots on a • “Synthetic helps with power and touch, lows significant power to be generated, and racket with a small head size. but does not have very good durability. when combined with a lighter racket, it al- • Tear-drop shaped squash rackets benefit Monofilament does not help with touch of lows for excellent feel and manoeuvrability. from a longer string-length from the top of feel, not even power, but its durability and “The problem with a stiffer frame is that it the racket to the throat. This means that spin on the ball is very good,” says van Rens- requires a fit person, with strong forearms the power generated is increased. burg. and wrist action to handle the racket,” says • When it comes to badminton rackets there Gallienne. are isometric (square), wide-bodied and String tension • Some experienced players, however, pre- conventional oval shaped frames. The iso- • The string tension makes a tremendous dif- fer a mid-flex shaft, just as some beginners metric racket has a larger sweet spot and ference to the way that a racket plays, par- and amateur players have the strength to transmits less shock and more vibration due ticularly if the tension preference is either yield powerful smashes with a stiff shaft. to the extended length of its strings. “The at the high or low end of the typical spec- The choice between a flexible and stiff shaft isometric shape provides a larger effective trum. does come down to the individual player. hitting area than an ordinary racket as it • The rule of thumb is that the higher the ten- • “The performance of the shaft is essential in equalizes the length of the main and cross sion the more control it provides (as a player all badminton rackets because it affects strings in the string bed, enlarging the sweet can better feel the ball) and the lower the power speed and control,” says John Abra- spot, providing more consistent accuracy tension the more power it provides, but to hams of Shuttle Sport, distributors of Yonex even on off centre hits,” says Abrahams. some degree control is lost, as the trampo- badminton rackets. A thinner shaft will be • But the fact that an isometric badminton line effect is higher. more repulsive, but it reduces resilience racket provides a better sweet spot does not • The strings loosen up in use, and each time against bending. Stiffening the shaft im- mean that all players should be advised to the ball strikes the strings they abrade and proves resilience, but can make the shaft go isometric. “An important feature to keep weaken. Experts advise to restring a racket fragile. in mind is that the aerodynamic contour- every couple of months to maintain good • “The number one priority regarding stiff- ing of the top of [an oval] frame minimises tension for striking the ball. ness and flexibility [in badminton rackets] air resistance as air flows faster across the • Rackets that use a fan stringing pattern de- is to have as little torque as possible in the curved surface during a swing, accelerating liver more power. Because the string is dou- racket head,” adds Abrahams. This means head speed and transferring more power ble the length, threaded back on itself, it that when the shuttle strikes the racket the into hits,” says Abrahams. stretches more than a single length string sideways movement of the head is minimal. would and as a result delivers more power. • Some websites, such as prospeed.com, have Throat These rackets need to be strung at a higher reported that frame shock and frame vibra- • A closed throat squash racket will have a tension than rackets strung with Top56

Sports Trader :: 2012 February/March p56 :: Sport

the first layer of grip, whereas a thinner grip Recommending a racket cont from p54 can be used on top of another grip. Over grips would be able to go over replacement and thin grips. Adding extra grip can affect straight stringing patterns, to give a similar dampen vibration, or in the case where the the balance of the racket, as adding extra feel. strings are allowed more flexibility, then weight to the handle will make the racket Grommet holes more power can be generated,” says Gal- feel head light. • Larger grommet holes allow strings to have lienne. • Generally, attacking players prefer bigger more movement. They help with a bigger • By eliminating restrictive grommets that grips as they need to hold the racket more limit string response and re-engineering sweet spot and more power, but sacrifice on tightly to generate power. “Players who like feel. technology that enables the strings to re- to rally and make use of deception usually • “The smaller grommets give a better feel spond better — even out to the edge of the prefer smaller grip so that the racket is eas- but can cost you strings, because the small frame — allow players to hit better shots, ier to turn in their hands. Square grips help grommet can cut the string on miss hits more consistently. with gripping the racket more in the fingers close to the frame and grommet,” says van Grip sizes and helps with both power and touch,” says Rensburg. • The preferred grip is easy to build up or re- van Rensburg. • Enlarged string holes across the hitting zone place and experts advise to select the racket • Pay attention to the size of the grip in the generates increased string bed movement at first and thereafter look for the grip that is individual’s hand. “If the grip is too small, the moment of impact, providing better ball best suited. There are round shapes, square the wrist will be too tight, which will ham- propulsion shapes and different thicknesses of grip that per movement. If the grip is too large it will • “Certain materials for grommets can be can be selected. affect the player’s control of the shuttle- inserted at specific points on the frame to • Thick replacement grips should be used as cock or squash ball,” says Abrahams. News from the racket brands

Dunlop ing the 130gm New Evolution and 130gm and the K145 will replace the N130. Pro GT-X rackets for those players wanting The Pro comp will also be replacing the The new I-Armor eyewear range from Dun- to go to the next level of their game. NPower as a fused racket. lop, distributed by Super-Brands, is the Biomimetic has been proven to work All the bottom-end rackets will also have only squash eyewear with official approval well, with many of the top international new colourways including the Tour JNR from the World Squash Federation. The players selecting a frame to suit their style squash racket. The Racket distributes body ruled in 1997 that it would be com- to play from this range. Biomimetic frames Wilson rackets. pulsory for all players in the World Junior are different to other premium graphite Squash Championships to wear eye protec- frames because they offer advanced struc- Yonex tion from January 1999. Since then many tural engineering, unique to Dunlop. Shuttle Sports will be introducing several SA schools, clubs and tournaments have Inspired by nature, Dunlop has taken the new items to the market-leading Yonex made it compulsory for all junior players honeycomb (super strong and light crash badminton range they distribute to the SA to wear protective eyewear when playing. cells) HM6 Carbon used in Dunlop frames, market. Protective eyewear is also compulsory for Aeroskin which is textured like shark- Their new Nanoray 700 RP/FX badmin- senior doubles players. skin to create smooth airflow around the ton racket takes the Nanospeed series to Accidents resulting in eye injuries can frame, less drag and better aerodynamics another level with its aero frame. The occur at all levels of play. For example, and finishing the grips with gecko tac, a aero frame is thinner towards the top to when then-US #1 Will Carlin was hit in the surface treatment technology which pro- ensure better aerodynamics and thicker eye by a careless shot, his retina was de- vides a superior level of grip in any condi- towards the bottom for better stiffness tached and his career was put on hold as tion. The “Biomimetic Dunlop frames” of- and repulsion power. The frame is made he never recovered full vision. fer reduced racket vibration for ultimate of high-modulus (HM) graphite fullerene (a The new I-Armor has an ergonomic pro- energy return and feel, increased racket form of carbon with a large molecule). The file that adds extra stability (and protec- speed and power, more grip, giving greater X-Fullerene shaft is made of an advanced tion). The contour shape of the lens allows control, feel and precision. resin, that binds carbon particles to make the player good peripheral vision. the racket lighter and stiffer. It is available Dunlop will also be introducing a com- Wilson in 3U3, 4, 5/4U4, 5 weight/grip sizes in a plete new game improver series of frames This season Wilson, distributed in SA by shine orange. for 2012, offering exciting new cosmetics The Golf Racket, will continue their main The Yonex Nanoray 500 has a new grom- and performance characteristics in the BLX range, but they have introduced new met pattern and includes X-Fullerene, Rage Series. The Blackstorm series will colourways. A few new weights will be ar- which increases stiffness by 6% and repul- also be supported with the Blackstorm car- riving at different times during the year. sion power by 4%. It has a solid feel core bon frame, bridging the gap between per- BLX is the new Wilson racket technology and a built-in T-joint. This racket has a formance graphite frames and premium engineered with basalt fibers for unbeliev- medium grip with a weight/grip size of graphite frames for the serious performer. able feel. 4U4, 5. It comes in shine blue. The Biomimetic technology Dunlop in- There are cosmetic changes to the The Nanoray 80 features a HM graphite troduced last year (racket technology in- BLX140 Triad, BLX120, BLX145 as well as shaft, carbon nanotube and nanomesh spired by examples from nature that deliv- the Tour BLX. technologies, resulting in a stiff flex. The er optimal performance), has been hugely They have a new mid-range offering in racket has an aero-box frame and a control successful. Dunlop is this season introduc- the new K145, which arrived in February support cap. The weight/grip size of the

Sports Trader :: 2012 February/March