What is squash?

Squash is an indoor racquet sport that was formerly called "Squash racquets," a reference to the "squashable" soft ball used in the game . The game is played by two players (or four players for doubles) with rackets in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball.

A typical court.

Players in a glass-backed squash court.

A typical racquet and ball.

Squash racquet and ball.

Squash historians assert that the game originated in the 19th century at Harrow School, in London, England, as a derivative of the game of Rackets. Students at the school who were waiting to use the rackets court supposedly began hitting a softer rubber ball against the walls of the buildings with their rackets, and from this the game was ultimately created. The first recorded construction of purpose-built squash courts was at Harrow in the 1860s.

Small coloured dots on the ball indicate the level of bounciness and hence, the standard of play it is suited for. The recognised colours and 'speeds' (indicating the degree of bounciness) are:

  • Double Yellow - Pro (for advanced and team players)
  • Yellow - Competition (for club players)
  • None - Progress (for improvers and recreational players)
  • Blue - Max (for beginners)

The players usually spin a racket to decide who commences serving at the start of the match and this player starts the first rally by electing to serve from either the left or right service box. For a legal serve, at least part of one of the server's feet must be in that box and, after being struck by the racket, the ball must strike the front wall above the service line and below the out line and land in the opposite quarter court, unless volleyed by the receiver.

A typical serve path.

The players then take turns hitting the ball against the front wall (referred to as 'rallying'). The ball may be volleyed (hit whilst still in the air) or after its first bounce and before the second. To be considered 'good', the ball must reach the front wall below the 'out' line and above the 'board' or 'tin', before touching the floor. A ball landing on either the out line or the line above the tin, contrary to tennis, is considered to be out. The ball may also be struck against any of the other three walls before reaching the front wall. Shots that are first played off the side or back walls are referred to as 'boasts' or 'angles'.

The rally continues until a player is unable to return his or her opponent's shot or makes a mistake (e.g. hits the ball 'out', or hits it after its second bounce, or onto the floor, 'board' or 'tin'), or a 'let' or 'stroke' is awarded by the referee for interference (see below).

In the traditional British scoring system, a point is scored only by the server (when the receiver is unable to return the ball to the front wall before it has bounced twice). When the receiver wins the rally, they are awarded only the right to serve.

Games are usually played to 9 points. If the score reached is 8-8, the receiver has the option to call set-one or set-two, wherein the winner must win by one or two points (respectively) above the loser.

Alternatively, in the point-a-rally scoring system (often referred to as 'American' scoring), points are scored by the winner of each rally, whether or not they have served. This is usually played to 15 points.

If the player returning the ball is unable to reach the ball due to the other player, a 'let' is called and the rally repeated without scoring. If however, the player returning the ball is unable to swing because the other player is in the way, a stroke is called and a point is given to the player returning the ball, or the right to serve if they were serving.

(Description and pictures taken from Wikipedia and www.squash-ladder.com)

© 2009 WCSC, Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Designed by Laurie Nevay. All rights reserved.