Squash - the Sport Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Squash - the Sport

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Squash is a racket sport played on a court, either indoors or outdoors, with a racket not unlike that used for tennis, but not quite as rounded. The racket used to be like a badminton racket with a hard wooden frame; but more recently metal or graphite frames and larger racket heads have been adopted. The ball is a small, black1 ball made of rubber which bounces more as it warms up through play.

The Rules

The basic rules are as follows:

At the start of a match it is decided who will serve first (in an amateur match this is usually decided by spinning a racket2). The basic principle is that you must hit the ball onto the front wall so that it bounces back into the court and your opponent tries to play it back. It's similar to tennis, including the ground markings, except the net is replaced with a solid wall and the players are both standing on the same side of the court.

When serving a player must have at least one foot in the service box on his side of the court. On the front wall of the squash court there are three red lines. When serving the ball it must hit the wall between the middle and top lines. After the ball has hit the front wall it must continue on into the opposite half of the court. Then a rally is played by hitting the ball back and forth between the two players off the front wall between the top and bottom lines. If you win a rally it is your turn to serve until your opponent wins a rally.

If a player obstructs their opponent during a point, so as to prevent their opponent from being able to play the ball, then the point must be played again - this is called a 'let'. If a player is hit by the ball during a point then their opponent wins the point.

The service changes every time the non-server wins a rally. When you first win a serve you may choose which side of the court to start serving on. This is because after each rally the server has to serve from the opposite side from which he served the last time.


There are two scoring systems, English and American.

  • In English scoring you only get a point if you win a rally and you served at the start of the rally. This means that if you win a rally but didn't serve you only get the service and not a point.

  • Using American scoring when you win a rally it doesn't matter if you served or not, you get a point anyway.

Normally, if using English scoring a set goes to 9 points and using American scoring to 15.

Refer to these sites for 'exact' rules - WorldSquash.org - and Squash Court Layout.

Origins and Image

The origins of squash can be traced to the Fleet Prison, in London, England, where the prisoners played with rackets and balls against a wall for exercise. The practice managed to find its way to Harrow Public School in the early 19th Century where the game developed by the use of a 'punctured' ball. The ball 'squashed' on impacting with the wall and expanded the variety of shots available to players, as well as increasing the exertion involved in playing the sport.

From these origins the sport then spread throughout Britain and the Colonies. Squash is still mainly played by people from old British colonies and Britain itself; but the sport can be found much further afield across the entire globe. Many players come from South East Asia, India, Pakistan; but, one of the top players in 2002 was Peter Nicol who comes from Scotland3.

The sport does not receive wide coverage, but it enjoys a faithful following in many countries. Probably the best sport to compare it with in terms of image is badminton, which is also played mainly in ex-British colonies and is not as widely covered as its fellow racket sport, tennis.

If you have ever watched squash at either a squash tournament or another international event (such as the Commonwealth Games) then the game may strike you as a slow, sluggish, even boring sport. However, try playing it and you'll find something rather different. Squash is played at a high speed. If you start playing squash against a good player you will probably be exhausted after 15 minutes. However, with practice you can learn how to maintain control and then even on the squash court you will find that it can be quite a comfortable game to play.

For More Information

  • WorldSquash.org is the homepage of the World Squash Federation.

  • SquashMagazine.com and The Squash Player are comprehensive squash news sites where you can get the lowdown on all squash news.

  • For the professional squash federations visit: WISPA & PSA on-line.

Enjoy squash - that's what it's for!

1However, not completely black as there is normally a dot on the ball which shows how bouncy the ball is. A yellow dot is least bouncy, then double yellow, then red and the blue. Recently, oversized balls have also come into use for less experienced players.2 The logos of various squash racket manufacturers are ideally shaped to allow a call - of 'left' and 'right' or 'up' and 'down' - similar to tossing a coin.3 Though he now, perhaps controversially, plays for England.

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