101 Squash Tips – Skills, Strategy, Beginners, Serves


This is the most in-depth, definitive, historic post I have ever attempted.

I am now going to channel many years of squash experience and learning into 101 of my favourite tips.

I really have learned so many things about squash from other people over the years, and now it’s time to give something back. I want to help others the same way that I have been helped.

Here are the best tips to take your game to the next level. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. If you have any questions feel free to comment at the bottom of this article.

  1. Play with lots of different players – The more different opponents you can play against the better. These will each have different styles of play and strengths, and you can see what works best for you in countering them.
  2. Play others that are better than you – I once heard an Olympic gold medal winning athlete speak to the kids in a school I was working in, and he said that even Olympic gold medalists will lose 80% of the races they compete in. You learn better when you lose, and it motivates you to keep going. Challenge yourself! Look for players that are slightly better than you, and you will absorb some of their skills and tactics.
  3. Take advice – If you play lots of different people you may well get lots of advice, some asked for and some unsolicited. Take heed to this advice! These people are trying to do you a favour. Most of the advice will often sound similar. Particularly if several people are saying the same thing, then it almost certanly sounds like the truth.
  4. Watch pro matches – All the principles, tactics, and techniques you could ever read or learn about, are put into practice during a pro match. The more matches you watch, the more you wil internalize what works in squash and what doesn’t.
  5. Read what you can to improve – There are many good quality squash blogs on the internet (such as this one!). There are also many interviews with top players. Read and find out what you can, and begin to apply some ofthe principles you pick up in your own game.
  6. Adopt the correct grip – It is good to get this correct from the start. Watch a good youtube video about how to hold the racket, and try to adopt this even if it feels very weird to start with. This is one thing you shouldn’t really experiment with in squash. A good grip will leave you able to play all the shots well with time and practise. Get this wrong however, and some of the shots become impossible from the start.
  7. Take time to work out your target areas – This is one of the things you should be consciously thinking about each shot. Where to hit the ball on the front wall, and where you want it to end up. The main principle of squash is to keep balls close to the side wall, and hit them back down the line the majority of times. You will need to work out whereabouts on the front wall you need to aim, for your level of power.
  8. Get the ball back! This really is a key secret. Just do everything you can to keep those rallies going. If the ball is still live, then you always have a chance. Avoid the tin or hitting it too hard adn going out, and run round like a greyhound.
  9. Warm up before each match properly – Keep yourself healthy and able to play as regularly as you want to. You may need to warm up for longer on colder courts, or if you have had a long drive to a venue.
  10. Find a warm-up that suits you – It helps to find a warm up that works for you, and warms you up in the safest and most effective way. Many players like to do some light jogging or skipping before a game. Others do static or dynamic stretching. Others just go through the gears in the game warm-up. Whatever works for you, stick to that routine and engage in a full warm-up every time you play.
  11. Experiment with different serves – Variety is critical in squash, and this starts with the first shot of every rally – the serve. Try some of the main varieties of serve out and see what works for you. The main serves are the lob serve, the body serve, the smash serve and the backhand serve. Each has a different technique and a separate reason for playing it. Give them all a go, and you will get better with practice.
  12. Practise the lob serve – This is the most effective serve in amateur squash, and so it makes sense to put a little extra work into trying to get this one right. This serve is usually played to the oppnent’s backhand. Hit high up in about a yard to the left from the centre of the front wall, and try to hit the sidewall before getting the ball to die near thee back wall.
  13. Practice playing drives down the line – The staple shot of a game of squash is the straight drive down the line. This is the shot that has the least amount of risk attached to it. It keeps your opponent in the back corners and you on the T with plenty of space, ready to react to the next shot.
  14. Avoid too many crosscourts – You should defnitely play some cross-courts, just not as many as you play straight shots. Cross courts come with more risk. Don’t play them wide enough and they are a sitting duck for volley kills. Play them too wide, and the ball will be bouncing back towards the middle off the court, and be leaving you out of position.
  15. Keep the ball in the four corners – These are the four places to aim all of your shots. Assess if your opponent has any weaknesses out of the four, and then target that weakness. If they don’t then just vary it up and play shots into all four.
  16. Play the ball to where your opponent is not! This is a famous old adage, and one that is extremely true. To keep your opponent running as much as possible, be aware of where they are and hit the ball to a part of the court as far from them as possible. You will hit winners this way, as well as making your opponet tire quicker.
  17. Assess your opponent during the warm-up – This comes with a bit of experience, but there will be many tell-tale signs during the warm-up of the type of technique your opponent has, and the sorts of shots they favour. Other things that are normally clear are their level of mobility and their all-round racket skills. This will give you a bit of a picture of what is to come.
  18. Assess them again during the first game and develop a plan – Build on your warm-up assessment during the first game, and adapt your gameplan as necessary. You will see which areas of the court you are likely to win points in, as well as some shots they may play well and you want to avoid.
  19. Learn how to develop the holy grail of playing ‘length’ – This is one of the big ones! You will doubtless hear this advice a lot – ‘Play with length’. The perfect length is to hit the ball long so that it the second bounce is in the nick of the back corner. Most professionals aim to get the ball to the back of the court so that it bounces off the back wall, but not too far to make the return easy. The idea is to keep your opponent as far back as you possibly can.
  20. Learn how to play ‘tight’ – This is another similar idea. The ‘tight’ in question means close to the sidewall. The closer the ball is to the sidewall the harder it is to return. It is also very hard to hit shots with power if the ball is close to the wall. You limit the power, accuracy and variation that your opponent has at their disposal. Accuracy is the key component in a successful game.
  21. Know which shots are your strengths – They will of course change as your develop your game and improve, but it is always good to know what are your current strengths. Use them! If you know you are fantastic at cross court lobs then go for it. Great at drop shots – work your magic!
  22. Know which shots are your weaknesses – On the other side of the equation, it is good to know what you can’t do. If you know you are no good at backhand drop shots, then it makes little sense to play them. Do what you can’t do, and leave out what you can’t. You can work on it in practice.
  23. Adapt to conditions – The types of courts you play on will be very different. If the floor and wallls are uneven, which happens a lot more than you think, then volleys are a really safe bet. Also, you need to watch the ball closely after bouncing, and don’t attempt any half-volleys. Other things that may be a factor are lighting, the referee or marker, and other issues such as temperature, which I will address next.
  24. Playing on cold courts – When you play on cold courts the killer shots will be drops, boasts and lobs. Look for every opportunity to get in front of your opponent and attack wih these subtle shots. Lob serves are normally effective, as are unusual shots such as drops from the back of the court.
  25. Playing on hot courts – Usually the player that wins the waiting game will win the game. Try to keep rallies going, playing length and tight to the wall. Only attempt drops and trickle boasts if well in front of your oppoent. Keep hydrated and try to preserve your energy.
  26. Volley whatever you can – A player that volleys well will always win numerous points. It is a great way to dominate rallies. You can intercept cross-courts and hit winning drops or kills. Also, by playing the ball early, your opponent will be out of position. You will regularly wrong-foot your opponent, rush them for time, and tire thenm out quicker.
  27. Avoid narrow margins – There is no point taking any risks. Squash is generally a game were being conservative wins. If you lose lots of points by errors you will normally struggle to win the match. Hit drop shots and kills a few inches above the tin. There is no need to hit them half an inch above. Play safe and avoid anything remotely riskly.
  28. Keep your racket up – Racket preparation is a crucial skill. All the best players look like they have extra time on the court, and are composed playing each shot. Part of the reason for this is good racket preparation. Get your racket back early, and all you need to do is move into the right position and caresss the ball to where you want it to go.
  29. Stay in the moment – You will make massive numbers of errors when you start. Forget about them! Even the pros make mistakes. What is important is the point coming up. One of the commonest causes of losing games or whole matches is losing concentration following a contentious marker-decision, or possible double-bounce. Don’t let this affect you.
  30. Play one shot at a time – The only part of the game that you have control over is the present. Don’t think much about the next rally or the next game. Just keep in the moment, and take one shot at a time.
  31. Take advice from others in the breaks between games – If you are part of a team you will often receive advice in between games. Weigh it up, of course, but generally it will be well-intentioned, and they have a much better angle of the whole match than you have. Take what they say on board and have a go!
  32. Play at a pace that works for you – Fitness is a big issue with this. If you are super fit, then play quickly. Play your serve as soon as you can, take minimal breaks in between games and generally just try to get on with it. If the opposite is true, then take your time! Bounce the ball multiple times before each serve, take time in between points and use the full amount of allotted time in betweeen games.
  33. Vary your shots – Variation is one of the biggest things in squash. If your opponent is starting to read everything you are doing then you are in trouble. You want to keep them guessing as much as possbile, and stop them getting in to a rhythm. Vary pace of shot, angle, cross-court v straight, serve, returns and anything else you can think of. This really does make a massive difference.
  34. Always return to the T for the next shot – Have discipline, even when completely exhausted, and move back to the T before your opponent has played the next shot. Play lobs and loopy drives if necessary to preserve energy later on, but still get back to the T. Whoever dominates that T will usually win the game.
  35. Don’t guess! – It is best usually to just wait and see what sort of shot your opponent plays. In squash you usually have a high chance of returning most shots. If you start guessing, you reduce that to just a 50% chance. For example, if your opponent is in the front corner with a bouncing ball, will h. e play a boast, straight drive, cross court or lob? Wait and see! Don’t guess, and just stick around and try to deal with whatever comes your way.
  36. Vary your pace of shot – If you hit all shots with the same power, then you become very predictable. You want to vary this, to stop your opponent getting into a rhythm. Hit some gentle drives high up the front wall, and some powerful ones that hit low just above the tin. Keep mixing it up.
  37. Practice the return of serve – This is often an achilles heel for many beginners. The key thing is just to try to get it back. Hit back down the line at least 80% of the time. Keep away from the ball, move your feet early, and keep your racket well back. Hit the ball with your shoulders pointing at the side wall.
  38. Try to volley the return of serve wherever possible – This is the best way to counter a serve for a number of reasons. By volleying you will be close to the T, and so able to get back there quickly. Also, by taking the ball early, you may well leave your opponent out of position and rushed for time.
  39. Only drop when in front of your opponent – This is not a hard and fast law, but it is the highest percentage way of playing a drop shot. If in front of your opponent, then they have to get round you before then going to play the ball. If they are already in front of you then they have only half the distance to travel. Play safe, and play it when in front.
  40. Play lobs and dinks when you are tired – Preserve your stamina whenever you can. Later on in games it is often a good idea to take the pace off the ball. The more you can float it into the corners, the slower you can walk back to the T. The lob is a key shot to learn.
  41. Don’t be distracted by angry opponents – There are plenty of these around. You may even be one yourself! Focus on what you need to do. If you like to mutter and shout at yourself then go for it. Some people like to do that to get fired up. However, the most important thing is don’t get intimidated by others and do your own thing.
  42. Don’t be intimidated by a hard-hitter – Accuracy is far more important than power in squash. Use the pace that the hard-hitter puts on the ball. Try to avoid cross courts, as these give them lots of opportunity to use their power. Keep the ball tight and volley as much as possible. Ther are many ways of beating a hard hitter.
  43. Play the percentages throughout the game – This is crucial. If there is a risky shot, and a less risky, always go for the less risky.
  44. Go for every shot – Get into this mindset! You can get there! The ball is quite bouncy and you only need to travel a few steps in either direction to cover the whole squash court. If you don’t give up on shots that puts a lot more presure on your opponent as well. Even their best kills you almost return. That makes a big pyschological impact.
  45. Never stop running! I sometimes see players giving up on a game when they are say about 10-3 down. Never do this! Always keep running. Conserving energy by giving up on games as a lost cause is never a good strategy. There is always the chance of a comeback, and even a mini-comeback really can turn the pyschological pendulum in a game. In short – keep going!
  46. Try solo practices – Most professionals spend a large proportion of their practice time doing this, so the benefits must be there. Solo practice is great for honing technique, developing muscle memory, and trying shots out in an atmosphere where there is no pressure or restraints of any sort.
  47. Try figure of eights, side-to-sides, and down the line drills – These are the most popluar solo drills. With figure of eights, try letting the ball bounce first to get started. Check out youtube videos to see how to play these drills.
  48. Don’t change your grip for different shots – Squash is very different to both tennis and racquetball in that you don’t change your grip for different shots. One grip is used for every shot. That is why it is important to get your grip right from the start.
  49. Hit a backhand in front of your leading foot – Some basic technique here. The best way to play a backhand is to make contact with the ball just in front of your leading foot (which will be the same foot that you are hitting the ball with). Backhand technique is not easy, but stick with it!
  50. Hit your forehand below your eyes – In contrast the hitting zone for your forehand will be directly below your head.
  51. Play drives with different levels of power and height
    The drive is the staple shot of squash. However, this doesn’t mean that every drive should be the same. Play them all a little differently. Mix up your height and power on each one.
  52. Play defensive boasts only as a last resort – Whenever possible try to get the ball back straight. If you can’t achieve this then only then try a boast. Put a bit of cut on the ball to help it to stick closer to the front and side walls.
  53. Play back wall boasts as an even more last resort – These are more like comedy shots. Only play them out of desparation! If there is no other hope then hit it off the back wall first. Otherwise, play a standard boast.
  54. Hit your drives for the 2nd bounce to be the back wall nick – This is a great tactic against slower players that like to leave the ball to bounce off the back wall. It can also work well against pretty much any amateur player, as it gets them flustered and using their energy quickly.
  55. Serve from the right to start with unless there is a very good reason not to – Attack your opponent’s backhand serve and only change this strategy if they are clearly weaker on their forehand volleys than their backhand (which is unusual but not unheard of).
  56. Serve from the left for left-handersReverse everything for left-handers! The same principle applies.
  57. Avoid left-hander’s forehands – This is a slight generalization, but usually left-handers have killer forehands. They use this shot to their advantage and it is better to get the ball over to the right-hand side of the court a lot of the time. If you don’t choose to do this, at least try to keep the ball tight to the sidewall on the left-hand side of the court.
  58. Try to hit drives off the front foot if possible – Get your feet right! This will really help your balance, and just aid the mechanics of your shots. It is true that professionals hit off both feet, but this is after years of practice. To start with, hit off the correct feet first.
  59. Ideally eat about two hours before you play – This is meant to be the optimum time. Don’t be tempted to skip eating before a match. You run the risk of feeling faint or dizzy. Also eating just before a game is not recommended. It could cause you to feel bloated and even nauseous.
  60. Try to get a lot of sleep the day before a match – This is not always possible with the busy lives we lead, but this is of course the ideal! It takes a lot of energy to play a squash match, and that energy has to come from somewhere.
  61. Be honest about double bounces and the ball going out – This really is the only way. It is great to see the level of honesty in the professional game. It is such a different code of ethics to many other sports such as football. Be honest, and let’s preserve the standards in this great game that we love.
  62. Drink plenty of fluids – Stay hydrated. On the other hand, however, don’t drink too much as you can get a stitch! Just a few sips in between games will normally do.
  63. Manage sweat with a towel, and a change of towel on hot days – Managing sweat is a key safety issue. If someone dives for a ball on court, then it is wise to stop and wipe up the sweat before continuing. Wipe sweat from your hands on to the wall in between points. Wipe sweat from hands, arms, face and head during breaks. Use two towels during a game if required, especially in hotter weather.
  64. Regrip your racket when it starts to get slippy – You should regrip your racket more often than you think! As soon as it becomes slightly slippy, or worn, or black, it is time to think about a replacement. It really does make a lot of difference to your control, and to touch shots in particular.
  65. Laugh – Be happy, and a positive attitude will help you progress. Have a sense of humour and this will help you live in the moment and relax.
  66. Enjoy it! – This really is what it is all about. Why else bother playing! Squash is fantastic exercise, it’s great fun, and meet lots of super people so what’s not to love?
  67. Always watch the ball – This is a big learning curve for many when they start. Keep your eyes on the ball at all times. This often involves running one direction whilst looking another, which is a skill that takes a bit of time. Watch your opponent, watch their shots, and watch the ball.
  68. Be safe, and ask for a let or stroke if in doubt – There is a lot of responsibility in playing squash, and you want to keep yourself and your opponent in one piece. Ask for lets and strokes if you are not sure.
  69. Don’t run backwards looking for strokes. Play the ball! – This really is my pet hate. Don’t do it! Strokes should only be awarded when there is a real safety issue in playing a shot. Running backwards and looking for them is really abusing what they are for in the first place. Don’t do it!
  70. Get a more experienced player to watch you play – It will not take long for a very experienced player to get the basic idea of your technique, shots and strategy. Many would be delighted to watch and offer feedback.
  71. Video yourself – It is often shocking seeing yourself in a video, but it really does help in highlighting both strengths and areas for development. The camera does not lie, and you will often be moving and playing shots in ways you hadn’t realised.
  72. Move quickly to the ball, but slowly through the shot – You will notice that better players always seem to have more time on the ball, and play with a greater amount of composure. The way to achieve this is to get to the right position to play the ball quickly, but then slow down when you are there and take your time through the shot. Runs to balls should start fast and decelerate as you get to the ball. If you are still running fast on reaching the ball, you are going to be struggling to hit an accurate shot.
  73. Begin to disguise some of your shots – This is especially the case for shots at the front wall. The key is to have a similar backswing for all the possible shots you will play. So practise playing drop shots and trickle boasts with your normal backswing.
  74. Wipe excessive hand-sweat on the wall in between shots – You may well have seen people wiping the wall with the hand in between shots, and this is what they are doing. Find a nice dry bit of the wall! Keeping your hand dry is critical for keeping control in your shots and maintaining ‘touch’.
  75. You are either injured or you are not – It is not normally wise to play on with niggles and strains. If you feel like something is about to pull every time you play, then it is probably wise to rest for a week or couple of weeks until it is better. Carrying on can make the situation worse, and give yourself a problem where you will end up being out for a few months.
  76. Mark other player’s games – This is great baptism by fire. It is a great way to really get to grips with lets and strokes. Try to sound as confident as you can, and don’t change your mind if one of the players starts to argue with you.
  77. Join a club or local mix-in – Many clubs offer nights during the week where you can go down and play a range of other players in one game matches. This is a great introduction to playing different styles and techniques and you will pick up lots of tips from these games. It is also a great social experience.
  78. Find a partner willing to practise drillsDrills with a partner are a great way to take your game to the next level. They are particularly good in the off-season, as a preparation for the season to come. Simple drills to try are playing rallies down the forehand or backhand sides, where every shot must land in the back box. Also you can play where one player is at the front playing straight drives, the other is hitting boasts at the back.
  79. Work on your target shots – You will quickly work out which shots are your weakest, and these are the ones to work on. Many people find it can be their backhand volley, or maybe their backhand in general. Of course, it is different for everyone. But pinpoint your target area, and find out ways to improve it.
  80. Channel your anger – Some players are naturally more angry than others! If you are very angry, then channel it for your benefit. There is usually no advantage in abusing your opponent, the marker or even yourself. Try to use anger to focus and motivate you, and play each shot with maximum concentration.
  81. Don’t abuse referees or other players – The majority of markers and referees of games may not be incredible, but they are genuinely doing their best. Very few are cheats. Treat them with respect, and hopefully you will be treated the same way when it is your turn to mark matches.
  82. Buy your opponent a drink after the game – Squash is a very social sport, and it is great to socialise following a game. Offer to buy your opponent a drink. For club matches, it is usually the etiquette that the player playing at home offers to buy a drink (or drinks) to the player playing away.
  83. Get a coach – If you can afford it, and you think it is an investment worth making, then consider getting a coach. You could just hire someone for a couple of sessions or make it more of an ongoing weekly thing. Good coaches can improve your game quickly, and are often a great judge of what you need to focus on to get better.
  84. Sometimes you need to get worse to improve – This is a strange truism. Sometimes you need to temporarily get worse to improve in the long term. A good example of this is changing your grip. If your grip is not correct, then there will be many shots that you will not be able to improve beyond a certain point. Changing your grip to the standard grip will feel really strange when you first do it, and you may feel you cannot hit the ball properly any more. However, stick with it and hopefully you will see the benefit in the end.
  85. Believe in yourself – This is a key component of life! Have faith in your ability! You can do this. You may not be perfect yet, but you are learning.
  86. You can make rapid progress – Squash is a great sport for improving quickly. There are only really a few shots you need to get good at and you can play to a decent standard. This is very motivating for many beginners.
  87. Accuracy will always beat power – Don’t hit the ball too hard. This is probably the number one mistake many beginners make. Think more about target areas, and keeping the ball tight and long. The harder you hit it, the more wayward your shots and more it will be bouncing off the back wall giving your opponent simple shots in return.
  88. Play some surprise shots once in a while – Mix it up! Keep your opponent on their toes. Don’t let them settle into a rhythm and just try a few odd shots now and then.
  89. Try different rackets to see which you like best – This is often easier said than done, but if you have friends that will let you have a quick go of theirs then go for it. Usually it is best to get a tear-drop shaped racket if you can. These have a larger sweet spot and so are ideal for beginners, as well as being used by the majority of professionals.
  90. Get footwear that are actually court or squash shoes – There is a surprisingly big difference between shoes for squash and other types of sports shoe. Tennis shoes are similar, and yet they are fundamentally designed differently, as the mechanics of squash movements are different to those of tennis. Stick to squash shoes!
  91. Wear non-marking footwear – All squash shoes will be fine for this, but if you wear shoes that are designed for different sports be careful that they have non-marking soles. Soles that mark leave ugly marks all over the wooden floor that are hard to remove.
  92. Try off-court exercises like lunges, sprints and aerobic gym workouts – Try to replicate the movements and dynamics of squash in any work you do off-court. Lunges are great, as is any exercise or sport involving sprints. The great squash player Geoff Hunt used to train in the off season by doing a series of a 400m run, followed by a 400m jog, and then repeating this sequence. Nick Matthew likes to do aerobic exercises for 40 minutes as this replicates the amount of time you often play a squash match for.
  93. You have more time than you think – Beginners often looked more rushed than better players. Take your time. You really do always have more time than you think. You can reach most parts of the court in several unhurried steps.
  94. Watch the ball onto the strings – A common cause of mishits is not watching the ball onto the strings. Players will sometimes look at where they hope the ball is going to quickly. Don’t! Watch it hit the strings each time. Think about one shot at a time.
  95. Use a cocked wrist – This can be hard to master at the start. The idea of the cocked wrist is that it makes the racket head more stable, and it adds accuracy to your shots. Watch a good youtube video about cocked wrists and simply practice.
  96. Know the rules – You will find yourself at a disadvantage if there are some parts of the game you do not understand. In particular try to learn all about the let and stroke rules.
  97. Set yourself goals – Do this in everything you do. If you are playing solo drills, try to hit ten shots without making a mistake. Set short-term goals as well as longer term ones. An example of a longer term goal might be to improve the accuracy of your backhand volley to the point where you can hit ten volleys to yourself down the line.
  98. Have a blast! – It is meant to be fun! Enjoy it.
  99. Introduce others to squash – Promote the benefits and enjoyment of squash to your friends and family. Try to get them involved as well. Sometimes you will be able to entice players back to squash that have drifted away for one reason or another.
  100. Set up a club, society or mix-in – There may be no club or society where you live. Set one up! All clubs have had to start somewhere. What a great legacy being a squash club founder. Many leisure centres or gyms already have  squash courts, and can be approached about allowing you to use them.
  101. Share your knowledge down the line – When you have skills and knowledge in the future, keep the endless cycle going and share what you know! It is all part of one big wheel. Help others as you have been helped. Good luck!

Martin Williams

Martin is the founder of Improve Squash. An avid squash player for many years, he enjoys coaching youngsters and passing on his knowledge. He is passionate about encouraging players of all abilities to improve and enjoy this beautiful game.

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