Squash is played by professionals and amateur players all around the world. Variations of the game have been played for centuries, with its routes in the 19th century. It has evolved somewhat during this time to become the game we know today. The pinnacle of squash is the Squash World Championships. In this post, we explain everything you need to know about the rules of squash to help you better understand the game.
The Objective of Squash
The objective of squash is to hit the ball off the back wall, attempting to force your opponent to fail in returning it. Every time your opponent fails to return the ball, you score a point. Sets determine the winner of the match, and these are constituted by points.
Squash is a very fast-paced game for which players must be skilled and highly fit. In a game of squash, the ball can reach speeds of 170mph. It is popular amongst fitness enthusiasts because players can quickly burn off 1000 calories in an hour!
How to Score and Win at Squash
There are four ways to score a point in a game of squash. The first is when the ball bounces twice before being hit by your opponent. The second is when the ball goes beyond the outline of the court. The third is when the ball hits the back board or net. The fourth is when your opponent intentionally interferes to prevent you from getting the ball.
There are two different scoring systems for squash. The first is the more traditional style which involves playing first to nine points. With this format, you can only score points from your serves. The second method is called ‘PAR’ and involves playing first to eleven points. In this method, points can be achieved from either your serve or your opponent’s serve. The term ‘PAR’ stands for Point A Rally. The latter, although more modern, is now the official scoring system for professional squash matches. It is also most commonly used in amateur squash games.
To win a game of squash, you must reach the predetermined number of points before your opponent. Most squash matches are played as the best of five games.
Squash requires skills and effective tactics from successful players. Experienced players tend to win by making their opponents do the running while maintaining good control of the game and keeping the ball low. Keeping the ball low makes it harder for your opponent to reach and return it before it bounces twice off the floor.
Players typically try to return to a central position after playing a shot to await their opponent’s shot. The ‘T’ refers to this central area of the court where the half-court line and the short line meet. It is generally agreed that the player dominating this area during a game of squash is in control and most likely to win the game.
Squash Court and Equipment
A squash game is played on a court which is in a small, box-like room between either single (two people) or doubles (four people). It is played using a squash racket, which is like a tennis racket, although the head is smaller. A squash ball is also required, and this is made from rubber and is around 2.5 inches in diameter.
Squash balls tend to be low bouncing which can make it difficult to return the ball. However, they come in a variety of speeds. The competition standard is the super slow version which is the lowest bouncing and, therefore, most challenging to return. Fast-speed versions are available, which are better for beginners playing amateur squash.
Squash balls have numbers and different colored small spots, which determines the speed of the ball. Extra super slow, competition standard balls are double yellow, super slow balls are yellow, and slow balls are white or green. Medium speedballs are red, and fastballs are typically blue.
A squash court has many lines. There is a line running down the sides of the sidewall and across the top of the back wall, which forms the court’s perimeter. When balls go beyond this line, the opponent is awarded a point. At the back of the court, there are two rectangular sections. Players must start from this area before each point.
Each section of the court contains a service box. Players must have at least one foot in this box when serving or waiting to receive a serve from their opponent.
Although there is no literal net in squash, a board runs along the bottom of the back wall, which serves this purpose. A foul occurs when the ball hits this board. There is a service line three feet above the board. Legitimate serves are those which hit above this line.
Rules of Squash
Squash games are played as either singles or doubles, which means matches are either one versus one or two versus two. Players must hit the ball with their racket ensuring it remains within the boundaries.
The ball must hit the back wall. It may also hit the side walls as long as it also hits the back wall at some point.
When a player accidentally gets in their opponent’s way and cannot get out of their way, a ‘let’ is called. If a player deliberately gets in their opponent’s way, a foul is called. Squash matches are overseen by a referee who determines, in scenarios like these, whether a penalty point will be awarded to the opponent or if the rally may be replayed.
Players must make every effort to clear the ball after playing a shot. This ensures that, once the ball rebounds from the front wall, the opponent has a fair view of the ball and unobstructed access to it. They must have space to make a good swing and the freedom to strike the ball towards any part of the front wall.
If a striking player thinks there has been interference, they may request a let from the referee. The referee decides to determine whether to award a let, no let or stroke. A let means that the referee deemed the interference to be accidental. In these cases, the rally will be played again.
A no let means that the referee has rules against the striking player’s appeal, and the point is awarded to the retreating player. This is because the referee has determined that the retreating player provided unobstructed access, and interference was minimal.
A stroke is when the referee awards a point to the appealing player because it is deemed that the outgoing player has not made every effort to clear. However, the incoming striker is in a position to play a shot; they have suffered interference.
When there are no referees or officials – such as in amateur squash games – players must reach these types of decisions amongst themselves. In the spirit of good sportsmanship, it is common for offending players to acknowledge their fault and concede a point to their opponent.
If games become tied, any player must achieve a two-point clear lead to be deemed the winner. This would typically occur on a tie of 10-10 since the official standard scoring system is first to eleven points.
A serve refers to the first shot in a squash rally. Players can choose which side of the court to serve from when they are serving for the first time. This will either be at the start of the match or upon handover, which occurs when a point is won on the opponent’s serve.
Players are not permitted to carry the ball or hit it twice on a serve. At least one foot must remain in the service box while serving or waiting to receive a serve. When returning a serve, a player can hit the ball after it bounces or on the volley.
Before each shot, the ball is allowed to hit the floor only once. However, there is no restriction on how many walls it can hit. A player loses a rally if they hit the ball outside the perimeter, fail to hit the ball before it bounces twice, or hit the ball into the floor before it hits the front wall. A rally can also be lost when the ball hits a player or their clothing before they hit it with their racket.
Squash is a relatively simple game to understand and play. As such, it is easy to learn the game and stick to the rules. However, to become good at squash, you must build up a good fitness level and develop skill and winning tactics. Knowing the game rules will help you understand squash better as either an aspiring player or spectator.