This is a guide on how to play squash. It includes tips, strategy and tactics for beginners, as well as a few advanced techniques to help you play better squash and win more matches.
1. Understand the Squash Fundamentals
What Is Squash?
What Are the Squash Rules?
So that this post doesn’t get overly long, I’ve posted a separate summary of the squash rules.
What is the Correct Squash Grip Technique?
This YouTube playlist from Nick Taylor explains how to grip the racket in your hand, the correct wrist position, and a few other insights:
2. Control the Middle of the Court
The best way to win at squash is to control the middle of the court. This area is also referred to as the “T” because the lines painted on the floor form a letter T.
The benefits of establishing a position near the T are:
- It’s the most efficient place to retrieve from
- You are in the best position to pounce on weak shots
After you hit every shot, recover as quickly as possible to a central position. If you spend more time than your opponent in the middle of the court, chances are you’re going to win the match.
3. Learn How to Serve Effectively
See also: squash serve rules
Squash Serve Strategy
You want to put your opponent under pressure from the get-go. The best squash serve is a moderately high lob that hits the side wall just before reaching your opponent. Practice your serve so you’ll know where to aim on the front wall.
Squash Serve Tips & Tactics
- Take a moment before every serve to collect yourself and think about the exact spot on the front wall that you’re aiming for
- Get to the T after you serve so that you establish yourself in a dominant position in the middle
- Mix up your serves by occasionally aiming straight at your opponent’s feet, or hitting an overhead power serve into their body
- Hit the lob serve with a bit of underspin, so that the ball will be more likely to die in the corner.
Here’s a YouTube video from SquashSkills demonstrating some of these techniques:
Here’s an example of the perfect squash serve. Fabio hit this against me on match ball.
4. Master the Return of Serve
Squash Serve Return Strategy
The best way to return a squash serve is to play it safe, send your opponent to the back, and take the T for yourself. In general, this means you should volley your return straight (tight to the wall) and deep.
Squash Serve Return Tips & Tactics
How to Return a Lob Serve
- Volley the return. If your opponent hits a good lob serve that’s going to break off the side wall in a difficult spot, you either need to step forward and volley the ball before it strikes the side wall, or volley it right after it comes off the wall. Only let the ball go to the back if you’re sure it’s going to come far enough off the back wall to get a decent swing in.
- Hit the serve return straight down the wall. Line up your body so that when you hit the ball, your racket forms a 90-degree angle with respect to the side wall. If you do this, the ball should travel straight down the wall. This works for both a backhand return of serve and a forehand return of serve.
- Aim for a spot high on the front wall so that your return goes deep. This is especially true if you hit a cross-court return, otherwise your opponent will be in good position for a kill.
How to Return a Hard Serve
- Shorten your backswing. Your opponent has already hit a fast ball at you, so you don’t need to generate your own power. A short swing is all you need.
- Take a quick step into better position. If your opponent hits a hard overhead serve at your body or one that breaks hard off the side wall, take a quick step back and to the side to give yourself room to hit.
Here’s another YouTube video from SquashSkills on this topic:
I also made a quick video explaining how to position your racket if you’re scraping a serve return off the wall:
5. Establish Good Length
Now that we’ve gotten past the serve and the return and we’re in a squash point, the best squash shot to develop next is a good driving length to the back corners of the court. This shot puts pressure on your opponent in two ways:
- They have to deal with the back and side walls physically interfering with their swing
- They will sense that you are on the T ready to attack a loose ball
Ideally, aim to land the second bounce in the back wall nick. If you hit shorter than that you’ll give your opponent a chance to attack it, and if you hit it longer, the ball will sit up coming off the back wall and your opponent will have plenty of time to prepare for their shot.
If you are hitting cross-court, you’ll also need to make sure the shot is wide enough so that your opponent can’t volley it.
6. Keep the Ball Tight
If you’re hitting a drive down the line, try to have the ball stick to the side wall. The wall will interfere with your opponent’s swing and limit their attacking options.
Here’s how to get the ball tight:
- If your opponent has already hit a ball that’s tight to the side wall, just keep the ball tight in response. As discussed above in the serve return section, this can be achieved by striking the ball with the racket at a 90-degree angle with the side wall.
- If your opponent has hit a loose ball, try to aim your shot so that it is fading into the side wall, meaning your shot hits the front wall, then the floor, and then continues travelling to the side wall. Ideally, it touches the side wall right as your opponent gets to it.
7. Attack Loose Balls
If you continue to hit tight, deep shots, your opponent will eventually cough up a loose ball. When that happens, take the opportunity to hit an attacking shot.
- Look to volley loose balls around the T. If the opponent has hit a loose ball from the back court, volley drop the ball to the front. If they’ve hit a loose ball from the front court, volley the ball deep. In either case, make them run.
- Pounce on loose balls in the front court. If your opponent hits a mediocre shot to the front, run onto it quickly and either slam it to good depth or counter-attack with a drop of your own. Hopefully you’ll instill a bit of fear in them and maybe even force an error from them next time around.
You don’t need to go for spectacular winners. Just take the ball early and keep up the pressure on your opponent.
8. Lift the Ball When You’re in Trouble
If your opponent has hit a good shot and you find yourself under pressure, lift the ball as high as possible on the front wall. This has two benefits:
- The additional hang-time of the ball gives you more time to get back to the T
- The additional height on the shot sends the ball to good depth, and minimizes the risk that your opponent can volley and keep you under pressure
Once you’ve neutralized your opponent’s attack, you can focus on regaining the T position and rebuilding an attack of your own.
9. Learn Some Deception
The benefit of adding a bit of deception into your game is that your opponent will get a late start on retrieving your shots, keeping them further on the defensive.
The way I see it, there are two levels to deception:
- Maximize your shot options. Set up for your shot early, so that your opponent can’t tell which corner of the court you are hitting to.
- Send your opponent the wrong way. Experienced players will go beyond simply disguising their shot, and actually try to trick their opponent into thinking they are hitting one shot, only to hit a different one.
Here’s a video about squash deception from former world #1 Jonathon Power:
10. Practice & Play
The best way to be good at squash is to play a lot of squash. The more situations you see on court, the better your squash instincts will be.
If you want to get better at a specific skill, the best way to do that is through practice. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
How to Play Squash Alone (Solo Practice)
One of the absolute BEST things about squash is you can practice it by yourself. Since the squash court is an enclosed space, you can just hit the ball back to yourself repeatedly to groove your swing and build your arm strength.
Personally, I like to practice alone the following ways:
- Solo Drives. Stand in a back corner and hit the ball straight down the wall. Work on your ability to dig the ball out of difficult placements near the back wall and corners. Hit the occasional cross-court or boast and do the same on the other side.
- Mid-court volleys. Stand at the service line and practice volleying down one of the side walls repeatedly. Occasionally take one in for a straight volley drop. Then switch to the other side.
- Drop shots. Feed the ball short to yourself and then hit a drop shot off your own feed. Work on having the ball hit the front wall, then the floor, then fade into the side wall.
Serious Squash offers a training video called Secrets of Solo Hitting that gives you tons of solo hitting drills.
Full Squash Match Video
Here’s an entire match between Ramy Ashour and Mohamed El Shorbagy, courtesy of SquashTV: