General Information for Racquetball Players
With time and use, strings not only break but also lose the properties which make them 'playable'.
Physical wear, in the form of notching and fraying, are the most obvious signs your racket needs a restring prior to actual breakage. A less noticeable effect is 'string creep' - a gradual loss of tension with age.
However, strings have one other major playability factor which is usually overlooked, and which deteriorates with age irrespective of either physical wear or tension loss - elasticity.
It is the elastic nature of the string which generates power in the form of recoil from impact. It happens at a molecular level, as the particles which make up the string slide past each other and then return after each impact event. However, over time, repeated impacts and constant tension cause the molecules to slide beyond the point of no return, and so the string 'ages' and loses elasticity and its ability to generate power.
You will notice this as a 'dead' feel to the strings. You should use your own intuition to identify when it happens, because it occurs regardless of actual string tension, and there is no specific way of measuring it whilst the strings are still in the racket.
As a rule of thumb, you should restring as often each year as you play each week, or every 12 months, whichever is the more frequent.
Until recently most Racquetball rackets were strung with Squash string, which have similar playing properties. However, as the sport has expanded, there are now a large number of strings made specifically for racquetball. Whether this is an advertising ploy by the manufacturers or a real advantage is up to the individual player to decide!
Generally, racquetball rackets are strung at around 30lb of tension with no large variation, so the thickness and type of string is more important than either Squash or Tennis in this regard when seeking to change the playing characteristics of the racket.
For newcomers to the game, racquetball string performance is probably less important than durability. A new player will be hitting off-centre more often which will make the strings break more easily. Beginners often start off with 15 gauge string (which is basically tennis string) which is very durable, but does not generate a lot of power or feel.
As a player’s skill level improves, they should progress to thinner 16 gauge string, which will generate more power and feel. At this point, they need to decide whether they are a hard hitter, or a control player. There is now a range of strings with differing properties to choose from, offering power, control, feel or shock absorption.
The choice now is whether to stick with durable 16 gauge, or progress to even thinner 17 gauge strings. The thinner the string, the more power and control, but the less the durability. If you are a hard-hitter, 17 gauge racquetball strings can easily break with one off-centre hit. At racquetball tournaments, professionals will often have to replace their racket strings every few matches if using a 17 gauge string, so a good supply of pre-strung rackets is essential!
The least frequently used string gauge is the 18 gauge. If you are a power player, forget about it - you would break your string every other game you played! However, this string type is ideal for racquetball tournament participants who are soft hitters, or control players who rarely break their racquetball strings. 18 gauge strings are not recommended for recreational play.
If you are a control player looking to generate backspin or topspin, then you are looking for 'slippery' strings which move and generate 'snap-back'. Textured strings also improve spin performance, and string at lower rather than higher tensions.
Stringing for power
Generally, power is a feature of the string tension rather than type, but since most Racqetball rackets are designed for tensions around 30lb +/- 4lb changing tension will make little difference.
Thinner string generates more power.
More elastic strings generate more power (and are also better at shock absorption).