Squash (sport)

Squash (sport)
Squash (sport)
Squash 1.jpg
Contact No
Team members Single
Categorization Racquet sport
Equipment Squash ball, squash racquet
Olympic none

Squash is a high-speed racquet sport played by two players (or in doubles 4 players on court at a time) in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. Squash is recognized by the IOC and remains in contention for incorporation in a future Olympic programme.

The game was formerly called squash racquets, a reference to the "squashable" soft ball used in the game (compared with the fatter ball used in its parent game racquets (or rackets; see below).



Squash developed from at least five other sports involving racquets, gloves, and balls having roots in the early 12th century in France.[1] It is stated that “Squash, with its element of hitting balls against walls, was for entertainment. For example, boys and girls slapped their balls in narrow alleys and streets”.[1] Religious institutions in France, such as monasteries, developed a similar game. Monks used gloves that were webbed to hit balls against a fishing net strung across the middle of the courtyards of the monasteries.[1] This developed the early “racquets” used in tennis and squash. Then in late fifteenth century, tennis was developed and spread to other European nations. The next major development of squash took place in England where the game of "racquets" was developed in Fleet Prison, a debtor’s prison.[1] Similar to tennis, it involved racquets and balls, but instead of hitting over a net as in tennis, players hit a non-squeezable ball against walls. A variation of rackets that also led to the formation of squash was called fives, similar to handball. Fives was essentially the game of racquets, without racquets. (The ball was hit with the hand.)[1] It is played against a wall or walls.

Old and new styled Squash racquets

These games gained popularity in schools, and squash itself was developed at Harrow School in England.[2] The first courts built at this school were rather dangerous because they were near water pipes, buttresses, chimneys, and ledges. The school soon built four outside courts. Natural rubber was the material of choice for the ball. Students modified their racquets to have a smaller reach to play in these cramped conditions.[1]

The racquets have changed in much the same way as those used in tennis. Squash rackets used to be made out of laminated timber.[3] In the 1980s, construction shifted to lighter, carbon-based materials (such as graphite) with small additions of such components as Kevlar, boron and titanium. Natural "gut" strings were replaced with synthetic strings.[3]

In the 20th century the game increased in popularity with various schools, clubs and even private citizens building squash courts, but with no set dimensions. The first squash court in North America appeared at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire in 1884. In 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the earliest national association of squash in the world was formed as the United States Squash Racquets Association, (USSRA), now known as US-Squash. In April 1907 the Tennis, Rackets & Fives Association set up a sub committee to set standards for squash. Then the sport soon formed, combining the three sports together called “Squash”. It was not until 1923 that the Royal Automobile Club hosted a meeting to further discuss the rules and regulations and another five years elapsed before the Squash Rackets Association was formed to set standards for squash in Great Britain.[1]

The sport spread to America and Canada, and eventually around the globe. Players such as F.D. Amr Bey of Egypt dominated the courts in the 1930s, Geoff Hunt of Australia dominated the game during the 1960s and 1970s, winning a record eight British Opens at the time. During the 1980s and 1990s Jahangir Khan of Pakistan won the British Open a record of ten times and Jansher Khan of Pakistan won the World Open a record of eight times.[2] No list of squash champions is complete without referencing the legendary Pakistani Hashim Khan, winner of 7 British Open championships, and his son, Sharif Khan, winner of 12 North American Open titles. Hashim is considered one of the best athletes of all times and is the patriarch of a sports dynasty, consisting of himself, his brother, Azam, nephews Mohibullah and Gul, sons Sharif, Gulmast, Aziz, Liaquat Ali, and Salim Khan - all of whom are squash champions in their own right. Jansher Khan, although sharing the same last name, is not considered part of the "Khan Dynasty" of squash as he is not related to Hashim Khan.

Playing equipment

Standard rackets are governed by the rules of the game. Traditionally they were made of laminated wood (typically ash), with a small strung area using natural gut strings. After a rule change in the mid-1980s, they are now almost always made of composite materials or metals (graphite, kevlar, titanium, boron) with synthetic strings. Modern rackets have maximum dimensions of 686 mm (27.0 in) long and 215 mm (8.5 in) wide, with a maximum strung area of 500 square centimetres (90 sq in), the permitted maximum mass is 255 grams (9.0 oz), but most have a mass between 110 and 200 grams (4-7 oz.).

Squash balls are between 39.5 and 40.5 mm in diameter, and have a mass of 23 to 25 grams.[4] They are made with two pieces of rubber compound, glued together to form a hollow sphere and buffed to a matte finish. Different balls are provided for varying temperature and atmospheric conditions and standards of play: more experienced players use slow balls that have less bounce than those used by less experienced players (slower balls tend to 'die' in court corners, rather than 'standing up' to allow easier shots). Depending on its specific rubber composition, a squash ball has the property that it bounces more at higher temperatures. Small coloured dots on the ball indicate its dynamic level (bounciness), and thus the standard of play for which it is suited. The recognized speed colours indicating the degree of dynamism are:

A double yellow squash ball.
Colour Speed Bounce
Orange Super Slow Super low
Double yellow Slow Very low
Yellow Slow Low
Green or white Medium/slow Average
Red Medium High
Blue Fast Very high

Balls are manufactured to these standards by Prince, Dunlop, Pointfore, Wilson, Black Knight and others. The "double-yellow dot" ball, introduced in 2000, is currently the competition standard, replacing the earlier "yellow-dot" ball. There is also an "orange dot" ball, which is even less bouncy than the "double-yellow dot" ball, intended for use in areas of high altitude such as Mexico City, Calgary, Denver, and Johannesburg. The lower atmospheric pressure at these high altitude regions means that the ball bounces slightly higher, resulting in the need for such a ball.

Given the game's vigorousness, players wear comfortable sports clothing and robust indoor (non-marking) sports shoes. In competition, men usually wear shorts and a t-shirt, tank top or a polo shirt. Women normally wear a skirt and a t-shirt or a tank top, or a sports dress. Towelling wrist and head bands may also be required in humid climates. Polycarbonate lens goggles are recommended, as players might be struck with a fast-swinging racket or the ball, that typically reaches speeds exceeding 200 km/h (125 mph). In the 2011 U.S. Open, Cameron Pilley was recorded driving balls at speeds of 175 mph (280 km/h). Many squash venues mandate the use of eye protection and some association rules require that all juniors and doubles players must wear eye protection.

Basic rules and gameplay

The court

The glass show court used at the 2011 US Open Squash Championships hosted by Drexel University at the Daskalakis Athletic Center

The squash court is a playing surface surrounded by four walls. The court surface contains a front line separating the front and back of the court and a half court line, separating the left and right hand sides of the back portion of the court, creating three 'boxes' - the front half, the back left quarter and the back right quarter. Both the back two boxes contain smaller service boxes. All of the floor-markings on a squash court are only relevant during serves.

There are four walls to a squash court. The front wall, on which three parallel lines are marked, has the largest playing surface, whilst the back wall, which typically contains the entrance to the court, has the smallest. The out line runs along the top of the front wall, descending along the side walls to the back wall. There are no other markings on the side or back walls. Shots struck above or on the out line, on any wall, are out. The bottom line of the front wall marks the top of the 'tin', a half metre-high metal area which if struck means that the ball is out. The middle line of the front wall is the service line and is only relevant during serves.


Just before the match, the players spin a racket (usually up or down of logo) to decide who serves first. This player starts the first rally by electing to serve from either the left or right service box. For a legal serve, one of the server's feet must be touching the service box, not touching any part of the service box lines, as the player strikes the ball. 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. The receiving player can choose to volley a serve after it has hit the front wall. If the server wins the point, the two players switch sides for the following point.


After the serve, the players take turns hitting the ball against the front wall, above the tin and below the out line. The ball may strike the side or back walls at any time, as long as it hits below the out line. It must not hit the floor after hitting the racket and before hitting the front wall. A ball landing on either the out line or the line along the top of the tin is considered to be out. After the ball hits the front wall, it is allowed to bounce once on the floor (and any number of times against the side or back walls) before a player must return it. Players may move anywhere around the court but accidental or deliberate obstruction of the other player's movements is forbidden. Players typically return to the center of the court after making a shot.

Side-out (or hand-out) scoring system / English scoring

This scoring system is based on a “serving” system, in which one must gain the serve to obtain a point. Having the serve is sometimes considered to be on “offense”. The opponent (who does not have the serve) is considered to be on the defensive and must score to win the serve and then score again to gain a point.

One point is awarded to the server during the course of play if:

  • The receiver fails to strike the ball before it has bounced twice
  • The receiver hits the ball out (either on or above the out line, or on the tin) or misses the front wall.
  • The receiver obstructs the server during the point (see “Interference and Obstruction”)

Where the server does any of these things, or fails to hit the serve in, then the players change roles and the receiver will serve the next point, but no points are awarded.

Games are played to either 9, 11 or 21 points (with the exception that the receiver may opt to call "set two" and play to 10 when the score first reaches 8-8). Competition matches are usually played to "best-of-five" (i.e., the player to win the most out of five games). At one time this scoring system was preferred in Britain, and also among countries with traditional British ties, e.g. Australia, Canada, Pakistan, South Africa, India, but now at competitive levels, only PARS to 11 is used (see below).

Point a rally scoring system (PARS) / American scoring

Alternatively, in the point-a-rally scoring system (PARS), also known as American scoring, points are scored by the person who wins each rally, whether or not he or she served. The winner of the previous point will serve at the start of the next point. Traditionally, PARS scoring was up to 9 points (or the receiver calls 9 or 10 when the game reaches 8-8). However, in 2004, the PARS scoring was increased to 11 for the professional game (if the game reaches 10-10, a player must win by two points).[5] PARS is now used on the men's Professional Tour, and the tin height has been lowered by two inches for the men's professional tournaments (these changes have been made in a hope to shorten the length of the rallies and therefore the match). The women's Professional Tour uses the original tin height, but started using the PARS to 11 scoring system as of July 2008. In the International game, club, doubles and recreational matches are usually played using the traditional British scoring system, but the European Squash Federation (ESF), World Squash Federation (WSF) and several national federations are now using PARS to 11 on a trial or permanent basis. Scoring systems and rules can be adapted subtly to accommodate shorter game time or multiple players. As of April 1, 2009, WSF has declared that PARS to 11 will be the only official scoring system allowed for all levels of competitive squash.


The referee is usually a certified position issued by the club or assigned squash league. The referee has dominant power over the squash players. Any conflict or interference is dealt with by the referee. The referee may also issue to take away points or games due to improper etiquette regarding conduct or rules. Refer to “Interference and Obstruction” for more detail.

Types of shots played

There are many types of shots played that lead to interesting games and strategy.

  • Straight drive or 'rail': The ball is hit parallel and close to a side wall to travel deep to the back of the court (the 'basic' squash shot). Often referred to as a 'good length' shot.
  • Boast (or angle): The ball is played off a side wall at an angle, or the back wall, before hitting the front wall.
  • Volley: The ball is hit 'on the full' (before it touches the floor), usually directly to the front wall
  • Drop shot: The ball is hit gently against the front wall, to fall softly to the floor in the front corner.
  • Lob: The ball is hit softly and high on the front wall and with a high arc, so that it falls in a back corner of the court.
  • Cross Court: The ball is hit to the front wall from the right side to the left (or vice versa).
  • Kill: The ball is hit hard and low on the front wall so that it travels no farther than half court.
  • Trickle boast: A 'short' boast where the ball is hit to the side wall at the front of the court (often disguised as a drive or drop shot).
  • Squeeze boast: A more difficult shot which is hit from the front of the court when the ball is very close to the side wall. Has the same effect as the trickle boast but is more deceptive because of its difficulty.
  • Skid boast: The ball is hit high to the side wall near the front wall so that it travels cross court and falls in the opposite back corner.
  • Nick shot: the ball is 'volleyed' or hit off a bounce, cross court and with power to strike the front wall then the junction of the side wall and floor (the 'nick'). When hit well, the ball will have little or no bounce or roll along the floor (this is a more advanced shot that is a variation of the kill shot).
  • Back wall boast: the ball is hit moderately hard and high off the back wall, so that it goes the length of the room and hits (usually low) off the front wall.
  • Philadelphia (or corkscrew): A shot played diagonally upwards into the front corner hitting the front wall first and then the side wall. The ball then lobs over the court with significant spin. Ideally it hits the opposite side wall at the back and travels parallel to the rear wall making a return very difficult. This shot is a favourite in exhibition squash but is susceptible to being volleyed.
  • Mizuki: This shot is hit on the backhand side of the court, as a volley. Unlike a normal backhand volley, the Mizuki is hit with the back side of the racquet. This shot is extremely hard to hit and only very few people can use it effectively in a match.

Strategy and tactics

A key strategy in squash is known as "dominating the T" (the intersection of the red lines near the centre of the court where the player is in the best position to retrieve the opponent's next shot). Skilled players will return a shot, and then move back toward the "T" before playing the next shot. From this position, the player can quickly access any part of the court to retrieve the opponent's next shot with a minimum of movement.

A common strategy is to hit the ball straight up the side walls to the back corners; this is the basic squash shot, referred to as a "rail," straight drive, wall, or "length." After hitting this shot, the player will then move to the centre of the court near the "T" to be well placed to retrieve the opponent's return. Attacking with soft or "short" shots to the front corners (referred to as "drop shots") causes the opponent to cover more of the court and may result in an outright winner. Boasts or angle shots are deliberately struck off one of the side walls before the ball reaches the front. They are used for deception and again to cause the opponent to cover more of the court.

Rallies between experienced players may involve 30 or more shots and therefore a very high premium is placed on fitness, both aerobic and anaerobic. As players become more skilled and, in particular, better able to retrieve shots, points often become a war of attrition. At higher levels of the game, the fitter player has a major advantage.

Ability to change the direction of ball at the last instant is also important to unbalance the opponent. Expert players can anticipate the opponent's shot a few tenths of a second before the average player, giving them a chance to react sooner[citation needed].

Depending on the style of play, it is common to refer squash players[6][7] as

  • Power players: squash players who build up their game based on powerful shots. For example, John White.
  • Shot makers: squash players who emphasize on shot making. For example, Jonathon Power, Ramy Ashour, Amr Shabana.
  • Retrievers: squash players who are excellent on court coverage and retrieving shots. For example, Peter Nicol.
  • Attritional players: squash players who play tight shots and base their games on physical strength. For example, David Palmer, Nick Matthew.

Interference and obstruction

Interference and obstruction are an inevitable aspect of this sport, since two players are confined within a shared space. Generally, the rules entitle players to a clear view of the ball after it has struck the front wall, direct straight line access to the ball, room for a reasonable swing and an unobstructed shot to any part of the front wall. When interference occurs, a player may appeal for a "let" and the referee (or the players themselves if there is no official) then interprets the extent of the interference. The referee may elect to allow a let and the players then replay the point, or award a "stroke" to the appealing player (meaning that he is declared the winner of that point) depending on the degree of interference, whether the interfering player made an adequate effort to avoid interfering, and whether the player interfered with was likely to have hit a winning shot had the interference not occurred. An exception to all of this occurs when the interfering player is directly in the path of the other player's swing, effectively preventing the swing, in which case a stroke is always awarded.

When it is deemed that there has been little or no interference, or that it is impossible to say one way or the other, the rules provide that no let is to be allowed, in the interests of continuity of play and the discouraging of spurious appeals for lets. Because of the subjectivity in interpreting the nature and magnitude of interference, the awarding (or withholding) of lets and strokes is often controversial.

When a player's shot hits their opponent prior to hitting the front wall, interference has occurred. If the ball was travelling towards the side wall when it hit the opponent, or if had already hit the side wall and is now travelling directly to the front wall, it is usually a let. However, it is a stroke to the player who hit the ball if the ball was travelling straight to the front wall when the ball hit the opponent, without having first hit the side wall. Generally after a player has been hit by the ball, both players stand still, if the struck player is standing directly in front of the player who hit the ball he loses the stroke, if he is not straight in front, a let is played. If it is deemed that the player who is striking the ball is deliberately trying to hit his opponent, he will lose the stroke. An exception to all of this occurs when the player hitting the ball has "turned", i.e., let the ball pass him on one side, but then hit it on the other side as it came off the back wall. In these cases, the stroke goes to the player who was hit by the ball.

Cultural, social, and health aspects

There are several variations of squash played across the world. In the U.S. hardball singles and doubles are played with a much harder ball and different size courts (as noted above). Hardball singles has lost much of its popularity in North America (in favour of the International version), but the hardball doubles game is still active. There is also a doubles version of squash played with the standard ball, sometimes on a wider court, and a more tennis-like variation known as squash tennis.

The relatively small court and low-bouncing ball makes scoring points easier than in its American cousin, racquetball, as the ball may be played to all four corners of the court. Since every ball must strike the front wall above the tin (unlike racquetball), the ball cannot be easily "killed".

Squash provides an excellent cardiovascular workout. In one hour of squash, a player may expend approximately 600 to 1000 calories (3,000 to 4,000 kJ),[8]. The sport also provides a good upper and lower body workout by utilising both the legs to run around the court and the arms and torso to swing the racquet. In 2003, Forbes rated squash as the number one healthiest sport to play.[8] However, some studies have implicated squash as a cause of possible fatal cardiac arrhythmia and argued that squash is an inappropriate form of exercise for older men with heart disease.[9]

Squash around the world

According to the World Squash Federation, as of June 2009, there were 49,908 squash courts in the world, with 188 countries and territories having at least one court. England had the greatest number at 8,500. The other countries with more than 1,000 courts, in descending order by number were Germany, Egypt, the United States of America, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Malaysia, France, the Netherlands, and Spain.[10]

As of June 2009, there were players from nineteen countries in the top fifty of the men's world rankings, with England and Egypt leading with eleven each.[11] The women's world rankings featured players from sixteen countries, led by England with eleven.

The men's professional squash tour and rankings are run by the Professional Squash Association (PSA). The equivalent body for women is the Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA).

As well as Europe, Asia also potent a good number of World class squash players. For instance, Jansher Khan,[12] who was at the top of the PSA world ranking for many years. He was a Pakistani legend. Mohd Azlan Iskandar is now amongst the top 10 Internationally ranked players according to PSA[13] who is a Malaysian citizen. Not just major countries but Bangladesh, despite being still an underdeveloped country, shows a bright future in this form of sport, with a flourishing amount of tournaments arranged recently,[14] many promising players is coming up from this country, Already the top two youngsters of Bangladesh Squash Federation, Shomokami Tamim and Habbarter Ribhu are said to be attending the 2012 World Junior Championships in Cairo. Recent measures taken by the Government as well as the efforts made by the officials of the federation have resulted in the growth of popularity of squash in Bangladesh. The Government has proposed to provide a land where the main Federation headquarters will be built. Already two back to back tournaments have taken place in Dhaka Club. On June ,2011 there was the Grameenphone open squash tournament, where Swapon Parvez of Basundhara group emerged as the champion of the premier division beating Shaheed of Gulshan Club. Another talent that was observed during the tournament was Iman from Gulshan Club who became the champion of in U-18 division[15]. After just one month on August another tournament was held which was Digital Auto Care Open Squash. In this tournament as well Swapon Parvez rose as the champion beating Raju Ram of American Club, who is one of the rising stars of squash in Bangladesh[16]. The secretary of Squash Rackets Federation has also promised to hold another national tournament in the coming month of September.

Players and records

Nicol David; currently ranked the number one female squash player in the world.

The (British) Squash Rackets Association (now known as England Squash & Racketball) conducted its first British Open championship for men in December 1930, using a "challenge" system. Charles Read was designated champion in 1930, but was beaten in home and away matches by Don Butcher, who was then recorded as the champion for 1931. The championship continues to this day, but has been conducted with a "knockout" format since 1947.

Since its inception, the men's British Open has been dominated by relatively few players: F.D. Amr Bey (Egypt) in the 1930s; Mahmoud Karim (Egypt) 1940s; brothers Hashim Khan and Azam Khan (Pakistan) 1950s and 1960s; Jonah Barrington (Great Britain and Ireland) and Geoff Hunt (Australia) 1960s and 1970s; Jahangir Khan (Pakistan) 1980s; and Jansher Khan (Pakistan) 1990s.

The women's championship started in 1921, and has similarly been dominated by relatively few players: Joyce Cave and Nancy Cave (England) in the 1920s; Margot Lumb (USA) 1930s; Janet Morgan (England) 1950s; Heather McKay (Australia) 1960s and 1970s; Vicki Cardwell (Australia) and Susan Devoy (New Zealand) 1980s; Michelle Martin (Australia) 1990s; and Sarah Fitz-Gerald (Australia) 1990s and 2000s.

Heather McKay, with her lengthy and absolute dominance of the game (she remained undefeated for 18 years during the 1960s and 1970s), is arguably the greatest woman player of all time.

Because of its traditions, the British Open has been considered by many to be more prestigious than the World Open, which began in the mid-1970s. However, some have shown concern about the ability of the former to sustain its prominence, citing its failure in 2005 to attract top players, probably due in part to the disparity in prize money. In 2005 the combined men's and women's prize money for the British Open came to $71,000, compared with the 2005 World Open's prize money, estimated to be about $270,000.

Previous world number one Peter Nicol stated that he believed squash had a "very realistic chance" of being added to the list of Olympic sports for the 2016 Olympic Games,[17] but it ultimately lost out to golf and rugby sevens.

As of January 2011 the number 1 rank is held by Nick Matthew of England in the men's competition[18] and Nicol David of Malaysia in the women's competition.[18] Currently there is no international standard method (other than for professional players) for evaluating skill levels for players.

Wider acceptance

Squash has been featured regularly at the multi-sport events of the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games since 1998. Squash is also a regular sport at the Pan American Games since 1995. However it is still not recognized as an Olympic sport. Squash players and associations have lobbied for many years for the sport to be accepted into the Olympic Games, with no success to date. Squash narrowly missed being instated for the 2012 London Games. It was again up for consideration for the 2016 Summer Games along with baseball, softball, rugby sevens, karate, golf, and roller sports, but missed out again as the IOC assembly decided to add golf and rugby sevens to the Olympic programme.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Zug, James. "History of Squash". US Squash. http://www.ussquash.com/functions/content.aspx?id=1252. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b “History of Squash”, "Hi-Tec World Squash Championships Manchester 2008", 16 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Grays of Cambridge: History" - makers of racquets and founded in 1855 by Henry John Gray, the Champion Racquets Player of England. "In those days, the racquets were made from one piece English ash, with a suede leather grip and natural gut. ... The 1980s witnessed a period of re-structuring and consolidation. The Cambridge racquets factory was forced to close in face of the move to graphite racquets, and production was moved to the Far east."
  4. ^ "Squash Balls". Squashplayer.co.uk. http://www.squashplayer.co.uk/squash_balls.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  5. ^ McKenzie, Ian. Squash Scoring - Who Rules Squash?. Accessed 23 April 2010.
  6. ^ Strategies, Jonathon Power Exposed DVD 2.
  7. ^ Commentary by Jonathon Power and Martin Heath, TOC, 2004
  8. ^ a b Santelmann, N. 2003. Ten Healthiest Sports - Forbes.com
  9. ^ "Heart rate and metabolic response to competitive squash in veteran players: identification of risk factors for sudden cardiac death", European Heart Journal, Volume 10, Number 11, Pp. 1029-1035, abstract
  10. ^ World Squash Federation - The Squash Playing Nations and Total Squash Courts
  11. ^ "Dan Ackman, "Egyptians Have Cornered the Squash Racket"". The Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2007. 3 October 2007. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119137983412247382.html. 
  12. ^ Jansher Khan
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ . 31 May 2011. http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=187934. 
  15. ^ http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=137587&date=2020-06-01
  16. ^ http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=196633
  17. ^ Squash 'deserves Olympic place', BBC article
  18. ^ a b WSF current ranking, Official WSF site
  19. ^ "Golf & rugby voted into Olympics". BBC.co.uk. October 9, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympic_games/8292584.stm. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 


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