If you are a beginner, or an intermediate level player, read on.
Most players who are new to squash, focus on learning the correct technique – footwork, swing, positioning etc. Yet, some simple things about squash may not be obvious to beginners.
Squash court sense is one of those things.
Having played racquet sports – tennis and badminton – all my life, squash was not too hard for me to pick up. I focused on learning the technique and understanding the rules to improve my game. I took lessons and played with better players who consistently beat me.
A number of them still do.
It took me a while to figure out that there are aspects of squash that are not necessarily tied to technique. I could have adopted them from day-1.
They come with experience. Or, with awareness.
Check out Tim Bacon’s “Egg Model of Squash Tactics” that gives you a simple model for shot selection.
So, here are a few things about squash that I learned the hard way.
You’ve got to keep your eye on the ball: This is not something that comes naturally to beginners. In most other sports, the ball and the opponent are in front of you. Turning your head back to keep an eye on the ball is key in reading your opponent’s next shot. This is where protective eyewear comes into play. The last thing you want is to take a hit on your face while watching the ball.
Try and keep the ball to the back of the court: Consistently hitting length involves good technique which beginners typically don’t have. If you hit shots where the ball ends up in the front of the court be ready for your opponent to go on the offensive. Most good players have no trouble getting to drop shots and boasts and will put you in a defensive position.
If you cannot hit consistent length, keep the ball close to the wall: If you are not able to hit clean length shots on both sides of the court, keep the ball as close to the wall as possible. The idea is to limit your opponent’s shot options.
Do not boast unless you have to: Just because there are side walls on a squash court, it does not mean that you have to play boast shots. Good players use boasts deliberately. They use defensive boasts to dig out balls from the back corners of the court and use offensive boasts as surprise elements in game situations.
Limit cross court shots: When you hit a cross-court shot, you are essentially hitting the ball to the side of the court where your opponent is standing. Unless the shot is low, hard, and wide you may be unnecessarily inviting trouble. You are better off hitting the ball down the wall to try to keep it away from your opponent.
Vary your serves: Surprisingly, squash players seem to forget the importance of a serve. While it is nowhere nearly as important as serves in tennis, varying them always keeps your opponent off-balance. Even if you have a great serve, it becomes more effective when mixed with a few variations. Check out this post titled “Do you need a better squash serve?”
Power serves are for tennis: Unless you are using a power serve as a variation, you are probably wasting precious energy on the court. If you put a lot of effort into a hard serve, you may not recover quickly enough for your opponent’s hard return.
Minimize unforced errors: If you watch the pros play, you will realize that there are very few unforced errors in a game. They don’t serve out of court, nor do they hit tin after setting up a perfect kill shot. You may have to remind yourself that keeping the ball in play is half the battle. Unless of course you are playing someone half your age!
Cal your lets: It takes you a while to realize that you can actually win points in a squash game without actually hitting the ball. Not calling your lets would simply mean that you are playing from a point of disadvantage – like playing a shot with only half the front wall available to you.
Get out of the way: “Clearing,” or moving away from your opponent’s path is a big part of the game. If your opponent turns around to hit a ball off the back wall, make sure that you are not in between the ball and the wall. The good thing is that if you get hit on a turn-around shot, you get the point.
The bad thing is that it hurts like hell!