Guide to Racketball Strings
Racketball or Racquetball?
It is worth first noting the distinction between two variants of racketball. In the UK, racketball (or Squash 57) is played on a squash court with rules very similar to those of squash. American racquetball, however, is played on a longer, narrower court with no tin and where the ceiling is not out of bounds. The ball is also different.
British racketball has adopted equipment manufactured for the more popular American version of the game. It is played with a racquetball racket, with strings also designed for the American game. Broadly speaking, the stringing specifications for both sports are similar.
Until recently, most racquetball rackets were strung with squash string, which have similar playing properties. However, as the sport has grown in popularity, there are now a large number of strings made specifically for racquetball.
|Multifilament||Soft feel with great playability and comfort. Less durable than monofilament strings.
Example: Head Megablast
|Monofilament||Cheap and very durable but quite stiff.
Example: Gearbox Mono Premium
|Kevlar||Strongest, most durable string on the market. Recommended for the very strong player who frequently breaks strings, or as a mains string in a hybrid setup.
Example: Ashaway Kevlar
A higher tension will give you more control over the direction the ball takes off your stringbed.
A lower tension will give greater power, but with less control.
The recommended tension for racquetball rackets is normally between 30 to 40 lbs. For British racketball, where the ball is smaller and less bouncy, it is generally worth sticking to the lower end of the scale (30 to 35 lbs). The average tension for racketball is 33 lbs.
String Gauge (Thickness)
Racquetball strings are generally available in one of three gauges, or thicknesses: 16, 17 and 18 gauge.
Thicker strings are more durable, hold tension longer, offer greater control but are stiffer. Thick strings of 16 or even 15 gauge were once the norm in racketball, but recently there has been a trend toward thinner strings of 17 or even 18 gauge with advancement in string materials.
Thinner strings tend to be less durable, but are bouncier and stretch back further on impact with the ball. This trampoline effect generates more power.
The most common string gauge is 17. It allows decent durability coupled with very good playability.
Many of the modern racketball rackets depart from normal stringing patterns. Some long string rackets have the main strings running through the handle from one side to the other. This makes the main strings considerably longer than the cross strings. However, a long string must be strung tighter to obtain the same performance that a short string provides.
In long string rackets allowing for a two-piece stringing pattern, it is common to have the main strings and cross strings strung at different tensions a technique known as hybrid tensioning. Typically, the tension of the main strings is increased 1-2 lbs above the tension of the crosses.
For frequent string breakers, it is common for the mains to be strung with a more durable use heavier-gauge (16) or polyester (monofilament) string. The crosses can be strung with a standard 17 gauge multifilament as normal to maintain playability.
Kevlar main strings may also be considered for maximum durability. However, these are extremely tough and have poor playability. If using Kevlar, it is worth lowering the tension by 10-15% (the crosses can be strung as normal at a higher tension).
How to Choose Your String Specifications
For beginners, racketball string performance is perhaps less important than durability. A new player will be hitting off-centre more often which will make the strings break more easily, and should therefore opt for a 16 gauge string for maximum durability.
As a player's skill level improves, they may wish to progress to thinner 17 gauge string for better playability.
For hard-hitters and frequent string breakers, a durable 16 gauge string is recommended.
For experienced control players or soft hitters who rarely break their strings, 18 gauge strings may be suitable, although these are not generally recommended for recreational play due to the loss in durability.