Playing with different squash strings

For the past couple months, I have this squash problem…. I’m having a difficult time deciding on the type of squash string to use. Because of a broken string, I opted to try Ashaway’s Ultranick 18 guage and I loved playing with it over my normal Ultranick 17 guage. That ultimately led me to question what the other three Ashaway strings were like. So I bought the PowerNick 18, MultiNick 18 and SuperNick ZX Micro (also 18 guage). I installed all three strings on the remaining three rackets and started to play with them. And now… I’m having a hard time narrowing down the strings to install permanently. They each have their pros and cons with some strings having more cons than pros!!

But first…. what are the difference between the four strings?! The Ultra is a multifilament Zyex. Power is a monofilament Zyex. Multi is multifilament nylon with a polyurethane coating. and Super is also a multifilament nylon with embedded Zyex filament. What’s Zyex? Ashaway has an interesting article on the this topic. Zyex is basically a polymer made of polyether ether ketone (PEEK). In simple terms, this type of polymer results in tough, durable, and elastic threads that recover after deforming (from hitting a ball). Ashaway has a nice collection of links that talks about squash rackets and strings. It’s useful to browse and understand some of the differences in the materials and string guages.

For some background, I’ve been playing with Ultra 17s for the past 5 years on Prince TT Sovereign Black. After breaking the stock strings 5 years ago, I switched to the Ultra 17s after testing the Ultra 17s against a comparable Tecnifibre 305+ 17 gauge. They both have multifilament polymer cores and are both 17 guages. Although the coating are slightly different, I didn’t think the string coating would make too much of a difference especially for a beginner like me. With both strings installed, I began comparing the feel of the string while playing. One of the biggest differences and a key factor in my decision was that the 305+ had a significant vibration everytime I hit the ball. The Ultra 17s did not. As a baseline comparison, the stock Prince strings DID NOT vibrate. Another benefits was that I felt I had very good ball control with the Ultra 17s whereas I had a hard time trying to control the ball using the 305+. The better control allowed me to execute better drops. Looking back now, I realized that the smooth coating on the 305+ requires more skill to exectue. But as a beginner, I clearly didn’t have that skill to make use of the strings.

As I mentioned earlier, I bought and installed the four different strings. Here’s what they look like.

I’ve been playing with these four rackets over the past 2 months now. Switching from an Ultra 17 guage to an Ultra 18 guage string made a huge difference in the power game. Accoarding to the Ashaway site, the thinner strings (18 guage) generally provide greater “trampoline” effect than thicker strings (17 guage). The differences between the different guages using the same material was eye-opening. I realized that I didn’t need to “swing harder” in order to generate the same length I needed. I also realized that I was more able to maintain “hit off the back wall” routine more often because the ball would travel farther without relying on my power. It was this realization that sent me down the squash string rabbit hole.

Once I had all four strings installed on the rackets at the identical tension, I started playing them in rotation making note of what I liked and didn’t like for the string. Some of these are purely subjective and dependent on the playing style.

POWER: All four strings gave me extra power whenever I hit the ball. I had a difficult time trying to control the depth and placement of the ball. The aggressiveness is actually very refreshing being able to unleash a shot quickly. The 18 guage and string construction definitely helped with that trampoline effect. If I had to rank them, Power > Super > Ultra > Multi.
CONTROL: One of the strings gave me almost zero control. To be honest, I had no drop game as I was getting used to not only the string but also the sweet spots. Ultra > Super > Power > Multi
SWEET SPOT: The sweet spots for each racket were also different too. I could hear the racket sound whenever I hit the ball. A badly hit ball generally sounded “hollow” to me whereas a good solid sound indicated the ball was hit well. Generally, the type of material seemed to affect how often I would hear the “hollow” sound whenever I hit the ball. Apparently the difference between multifilament and monofilament were pretty clear. Ultra > Super > Power > Multi.
VIBRATION: One of the strings gave a slight vibration. Ultra = Power = Super > Multi
RESPONSE: The ball feels different when it comes off the strings. This seems to be dependent on the type of string construction too. Reading about the construction on the Ashaway site made it pretty clear why the monofilament generated the power but also the crips response over the multifilaments. Power > Multi > Super > Ultra.

FEELING: This is very subjective. Power > Super > Ultra > Multi
– While I was playing with the rackets, I came to a realization that I didn’t like the Multi at all.
– The Ultra was very comfortable and easy to hit with what seems to be a large sweet spot. It allowed me to continue to play the game. After rotating through the different rackets though, I came to a realization that the Ultra had a larger sweet spot and control that actually compensated for some of the other issues in my game.
– The Super also had a large sweet spot and control but had a much more power than the Ultra. The Super feels like a cross between the Power and the Ultra. Playing with the Super made me realize that my choice of strings would have to result in a change to correct the movement issues and smaller swing issues such as slow return to the T, lazy back court dig mechanics and slow and imprecice movement to the ball and general forehand/backhand swing mechanics.
– The Power has a smaller sweet spot compared to the Ultra and Super. The “hollow” sound when hitting the ball was much more pronounced using this string. At first I didn’t like it because it reflected that I hit a bad shot, but I came to realize that sweet spot is forcing me to approach the shot earlier and set up earlier. Between playing with the Super and the Power, both required me to approach the shot early for a better setup. The Power had a responsive feel whenever I hit the ball.

OVERALL: Rotating through all the different rackets, I realized that there were basically two choices. The first choice was to continue to play the same type of game/playstyle that I’m used to. The UltraNick and SuperNick would “hide” some of the smaller issues in my game by compensating it through better control and touch while maintaining the power. The second choice would be to elevate my game. Using the PowerNick, I recognized that I needed to play a better more technical game. It seemed clear to me that the PowerNick would elevate my game to the next level as I learned to play with the strings. I think the control and touch as well as power adjustment would come over time as I got more used to the feeling of the PowerNick.

CONCLUSION: I’m definitely leaning towards the PowerNick. I played with it this whole week. I noticed over the week that my shots were slowly getting back under control. Slight changes to the racket face allowed me to maintain not only the power but also the appropriate length for the ball to die in the back court. Previously, the ball would come off the back wall very high allowing an easy back court drop. My movement will still need to improve to allow me to setup for the shot. I slowly started to hit the sweet spot more over the course of the week. Overall, I feel that my playstyle is changing for the better.

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