Squash is played by nearly 17 million people in 185 countries. Now is an exciting time in the sport’s history because it’s trying to get an Olympic bid. It failed to become an Olympic sport for Rio 2016, but now has its eyes set on being included in the 2020 Games. The campaign is called Back the Bid 2020. You can read more about the process here.
Here is a picture of two professional squash players–Zac Alexander on the left and Nick Matthew on the right–playing in the 2011 U.S. Open Squash Championships held at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
One of the coolest recent developments in squash has been the adoption of the all-glass court. It is portable (which explains how the match pictured above was played on a squash court located on Drexel’s basketball court) which means matches can be played almost anywhere. Google “squash pyramids” or “squash Grand Central Station” to see what I mean.
A 2003 Forbes study named squash the world’s healthiest sport and if you watch a few rallies, it’s not difficult to understand why. You share a court with your opponent which means you are constantly moving–either to get to the ball or to get out of your opponent’s way. In addition to endurance, squash players must also have good flexibility, balance and muscle strength as they are constantly lunging to get to the ball.
So how exactly is squash played? When the ball is served, it must hit above the middle line on the front wall (called the service line) and land on the server’s opponent’s side of the court behind the middle line on the floor (called the short line). After the ball is served the ball must hit above the tin (about 20 inches high) on the front wall and below the red line on the top of all four walls. All the walls are in play. The players alternate hitting the small rubber ball (which moves faster and bounces more as it gets hotter) until one of them either can’t reach the ball or hits it out. Squash recently switched to point-a-rally scoring, which means a point is awarded after every serve (unless a let is awarded), regardless of who served the ball. Games are played to 11 points, but the winner must win by two (so a game score could be 14-12, for example). Matches are best-of-five games.
What is a let? In squash, there are two “penalties,” the let and the stroke. A player may ask for a let if he feels his opponent prevented him either from getting to the ball or from making a good shot without potentially causing injury to his opponent. Depending on the situation, the referee with either say “no let” which, obviously, means a let is not awarded, “let” which means the point will be played again or “stroke” which means the person who asked for the let is awarded the point. If you feel you’re going to hit your opponent, you should stop the point and ask for a let. The game is so fast, however, that sometimes a player will accidentally move into the path of the ball. If the ball hits your opponent on its way to the front wall, you will be awarded a stroke. If it hits your opponent while traveling to the side wall, you will be awarded a let.
Those are the basic rules of the game. As for strategy, you always want to control the “T” (intersecting lines at the middle of the court look like a T). You do this by moving your opponent around the court as much as possible. You never want to hit the ball to the middle of the court, but rather keep your rails (drives) as tight along the side wall as possible. Some shots in squash include the volley which is struck before it bounces, the drop shot which hits just above the tin and “dies” in the front of the court, the boast which hits a side wall before hitting the front wall (this is allowed as long as the ball doesn’t bounce before hitting the front wall) and the lob which is a high, soft shot that has a high arc and lands in the back of the court.
Hopefully watching a few incredible rallies will give you a better sense of the game.