As my last blog post noted I have recently been using the Harrow Vibe Jonathon Power Signature Edition squash racquet. I have been using lighter squash racquets now for the past year or so. So what are the benefits of a lighter racquet and why would someone choose to play with one? For me I find the benefits to be a shorter more compact swing, deception, quicker reaction time and it also compensates for slower racquet preparation. I have found all of these aspects to be of benefit to me.
The lighter racquet really allows you to generate a lot of racquet head speed with a much more compact swing. I find that allows me to focus on getting the racquet back and not having to get the racquet up as much. The swing is much shorter and more of a snap through the ball rather than a long fluid motion. You can generate lots of racquet head speed with the pronation or supination of the forearm. With heavier racquets it is much harder to generate enough racquet head speed in this manner. You really need to focus on getting the racquet back and up and let the weight of the racquet carry the racquet through to the ball.
The shorter more compact swing really helps with deception as well. For me I find it easier with the shorter swing to disguise whether I am driving or dropping from the same racquet preparation. As the swing is short and most of the acceleration is through the hitting zone with pronation/supination of the forearm on the drive all you need to do to drop is not accelerate the swing. With a longer more traditional swing you when you have the racquet back and up you end up having to slow the swing down to drop to really disguise the drop well which is not as easy to do.
Reaction time is improved with a lighter racquet as well. As there is less mass to move you can get the racquet back and through to the ball easier. This is very valuable for players that like to volley a lot. Being able to get the racquet back and then through to the ball faster than you can with a heavier racquet allows you the option to drive or drop on the volley on more balls than you would a heavier racquet. With a heavier racquet it will take longer to get back and then through. If you don’t have enough time to get the racquet back that limits your options on the volley to a drop or to block the ball back to length. You will not be able to hit the ball hard to length as often.
For the player with poor racquet preparation a lighter racquet can be of real benefit as well. While I certainly believe the correct cure for poor racquet preparation is to actually improve that facet of your game, if for whatever reason that is not going to happen a lighter racquet can improve your play. It improves your play for the same reason described in the paragraph above. You can get the racquet back and through to the ball in less time than you can a heavier racquet. That will give you more options and the ability to drive more balls.
I have been using the Harrow Vibe for the last few months now and have really enjoyed playing with it. I have found it allows me to have a shorter more compact swing, better deception, volley the ball more frequently and allows me to prepare my racquet better more often. All of these traits are at present helping me with my game.
I recently decided to switch racquets as I wanted to try something light and with a soft feel to it. I also wanted something that was fairly forgiving to play with. As such I decided to give the Harrow Vibe a try. I had most recently been using the Harrow Spark before so the weight difference was not to significant. The Vibe is slightly heavier at 140 grams fully finished compared to the Spark’s fully finished weight of 135 grams. The balance of the Vibe is more even compared to the Spark which is head heavy so even though the Vibe is heavier on a scale, when playing it felt a bit lighter to me. The Vibe has a very soft feel to it which is exactly what I wanted to try. The Vibe’s 500 cm2 head is definitely more forgiving than the smaller head of the Spark.
Weight and Balance
I was already used to playing with a light racquet as noted so the change to the Vibe in relation to the weight was an easy one. I like the even balance to it. I have been working on a shorter, more compact swing that I can hold and then snap through to the ball with. I find this is easier to do with a lighter racquet and the Harrow Vibe was very good for this with its very light weight and even balance. A quick note on weight which I will go in to more detail on in a forth coming post. There are a few different ways that manufacturers advertise the weight of a racquet. They are unfinished, unstrung and fully finished. You can add as much as 40 grams in some cases to an unfinished weight. So the Vibe’s weight of 140 grams fully finished is very light indeed. That coupled with its even balance makes it extremely manoeuvrable.
This is the racquet that Jonathon Power actually plays with. Having previously been a Dunlop guy Harrow designed his signature model around the feel that he likes. It has a very soft, almost whippy feel to it. I noticed the change from the Spark here a great deal. The Spark, like many Harrow frames is quite stiff. This Vibe has a softer frame but also it has a less dense 14 x 18 string pattern compared to the Spark or Vapor’s 14 x 19 stringing pattern on their smaller heads. It makes a big difference. You can visibly see that the Vibe has a more open string pattern through the sweet spot of the racquet compared to the Spark or Vapor. The softer feel gives you the sense that the ball is sitting on the strings longer. That is not the only difference on contact. There is a definite flex to the racquet when you hit the ball. These were all things I was wanting to give a try. It felt odd having come from such a stiff racquet but it has really grown on me.
The last few racquets I have all had smaller heads that would be considered control frames. I have found when I playing well these do suit my game as I like to move the ball around the court. I have found though that when under more pressure and when I am not playing quite as well the smaller sweet spots of these heads was coming back to haunt me. The smaller head and tighter string pattern of the Spark and Vapor are not forgiving. I wanted to try something with a larger sweet spot and that would be more responsive on slightly mishit balls. The Harrow Vibe definitely helped with that. It was easier to generate pace with the Vibe due its larger sweet spot but more importantly under duress I am getting more out of the racquet, and my shots with the larger more forgiving head. Interestingly if I am playing really well with either the Spark of Vibe I am in good command of the ball. I find I am in more command of the ball with the Vibe under pressure than I am with the smaller head of the Spark. This was actually the principal reason for trying the Vibe out and it did really work out.
I really enjoy playing with the Harrow Vibe. I liked it enough that I have one in my bag now strung up with Tecnifibre X-One. It did take some getting use to the softer more flexible feel of the Vibe but the rewards of doing so were worth it. You do get an improved feel of the ball on the racquet and it is a forgiving racquet to hit with. A final note on the weight of the racquet. It is very light and not what I would think is ideal for the beginner. It is pretty easy to get ahead of the ball if you are anxious as you can generate so much racquet head speed, so easily. For the player that can control that and has good timing that is actually a real advantage though. If you are looking for a light, manoeuvrable, forgiving racquet with a soft feel then the Harrow Vibe is a terrific choice.