The Serve

Whenever I watch a squash game, be it social or competitive, I am amazed at how little importance is placed on the serve. Players serve overhead, tennis style, or round arm slow, fast or lob. They hit the ball directly at their opponent but with, apparently, little thought about what they are trying to achieve. I suspect if you asked a player what his purpose was when serving you might be surprised at the variety of answers you would receive.

I’d like to offer a viewpoint on the serve. In order to truly understand anything you must ask questions and seek the answers. In terms of the serve the first question to ask is, “What is the purpose?”

Answer 1 is, “To start the point.” That is true but is hardly helpful in understanding how to play squash well.

Let’s qualify the question by asking, “From which viewpoint?” That is, server or receiver.

Let’s say from the server’s viewpoint. One answer is, “To hit a serve that cannot be attacked by the receiver.” That makes sense, doesn’t it? Let’s make that the first purpose. Second might be, “To hit a serve that is so difficult for the receiver to return that he makes a weak shot, giving you the advantage.”

To underline the importance of the serve, think about this. The serve is the only time in a game where both players are absolutely certain where the ball is going. It makes sense to make the very best of the opportunity.

From the viewpoint of the receiver the prime purpose would be, “To hit the return so well the server cannot attack the shot.” In most cases that would mean hitting the ball away from the server.

Well, how do you do that? If you think about it, each player is on opposite sides of the court to start, the server hits his service and moves to the “T”. What is the best shot for the receiver? The most important shot, in my view, in squash is the straight drive, so a straight drive tight to the wall is a safe reply. If you hit it well enough is can win the point or draw a weak shot from the server.

It might be you get the opportunity to hit the ball short and tight and place your opponent under pressure. The type of return is dictated, to some extent, by the serve. I would make this suggestion about returning serve. Either hit it long or very short. The critical aspect is to hit the ball where your opponent is not.

HIT IT AWAY FROM YOUR OPPONENT

From the server’s perspective hitting the ball so that it hits the side wall before reaching the receiver is a good tactic. Many players have difficulty hitting on the half volley from the side wall, so hitting a soft lob or a hard drive into the wall is often useful.

Finally, it is of no benefit to hit a good serve if you do not move to the “T”. You are central to every area of the court if you occupy the “T”. Try to develop more than one serve because the time will come when your serve is not working and you need to do something different. Squash is a game of options and the more you have the stronger your game will be.

Think about it the next time you go on court and take a little more time with your serve.

Play well,

Ollie

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