Serving in squash, may not be as important as in tennis, but is not just a shot played to get the rally started. Beginners or less experienced players, competing against others of similar standard will find that they could put their opponents in considerable difficulty with a good serve. Sometimes even scoring a point. More experienced players will realise that the importance of the serve lies in the possibility of starting off the rally well, and remaining in command.


Let us first explore the former case. A beginner on the receiving end of a good lob serve may not be able to return the shot. A good lob serve would be very high and comes down onto the sidewall. This angle of decent and the deflection off the sidewall create a rather complex situation for a beginner who may not only miss the ball, but also begin to panic and lose concentration. In the case of making contact with the ball, the shot may end up in the middle of the court, as a gift to the opponent.


Playing at a higher level is a different story. The serverís main objective is to keep the opponent on the defensive. A loose serve would only allow the opponent to easily place the ball where he wishes, and consequently, gain control of the T every time. A poor serve could even give the other player the opportunity to play a winning shot. Not only is the serveís quality of importance, but also, how the player moves immediately after. All these aspects shall be discovered later.


The types of service-


There are two types of service, which could be played. The lob serve, and the low serve. The lob serve has one ideal speed and trajectory, while the low serve can vary somewhat in height, angle, and speed.


THE LOB SERVE- the lob serve-


The diagram borrowed from the Shot Squash 2000 training system, illustrates the trajectory of the lob. The lob serve should be directed higher and more to the left on the front wall. The height of the ball and its deflection off the sidewall, will slow it down and let it land deep into the back corner just before the back wall. An ideally placed lob serve would not be retrievable from the back corner, and therefore, must be volleyed. Although most accurate lob serves are retrievable after they bounce on the floor, the resulting shot would be a weak return. Hence, even top players greatly preferto hitthisshoton the volley.†† The



video clipbelow illustrates how the serve is played. Note how the player is positioned with one foot inside theserviceboxwhile the other is as close as comfortably possible to the T. The point of impact with the racket is fairly low, as to provide the desired angle directed towards the highest point on the front wall.


In order to play this shot well, the player must have already been through, and practised well, the section on technique. He should position himself, look up to the front wall, and determine the point where he wants to send the ball. play video His whole concentration should be on this direct objective and not on where he would like to see the ball land. Where the ball lands is secondary, and the player should only take note of where the ball ends up. Fear of hitting the ball out of the court should never exist. He must be free to send the ball higher and higher.


A very high lob is less likely to go out, as it loses speed and comes down. If a lob serve goes out, the problem is linked to hard hitting. If a lob serve goes over the line on the sidewall, the problem is mostly due to sending the ball too far sideways. It may also be due to excessive ball speed. A player must be assured that excessive height on the front wall is never the culprit.


The lob serve may be played by using the backhand side. The advantage here is the ability to see the opponent and having direct access to the T after hitting the ball. play video


When serving from the left side of the court, a right-handed player would have to use the forehand in order to see his opponent. This is the most common choice (play video) as using the backhand on this side is a bit awkward and would not be ideal for a firm low serve. play video



THE LOW SERVE-the low serve-


Serving low, is a less complicated affair, but the speed and angle of the shot will vary depending on the position of the opponent and what the server is trying to achieve. In the case of a receiver standing next to the corner of the service box, (this is considered the regular position), the server should hit the ball just above the service line and send it deep into the back corner. The trajectory of the ball should be towards a very low point onto the sidewall. The idea is to make the opponentís position as difficult as possible if he decides to volley. At the same time, if this serve is not volleyed, it should remain deep into the back corner, forcing a defensive shot.†††† Right side†† Left side†† In all cases, the player must observe the opponent's position before serving.


In other cases, the serve could be aimed towards the receiverís body, to make the return of serve more awkward. This could catch the other player by surprise and force an error. The serve towards the body could be a good idea if the opponent often tries to step forward and attempts a winner off the return. Ideally this serve would also be aimed towards the back wall nick, in case the receiver decides to let the ball come off the back wall. Another trajectory could also be useful in such cases. Serving hard and making the ball hit the sidewall, at a point adjacent to the opponentís position, would probably hinder him from attempting a winner. Actually, such a serve, could force an error or a poor return.




Obviously, the server does not want to start off the rally at a disadvantage. Apart from trying to make his serve as difficult as possible, his successive shot is of equal importance. Therefore, the server must be ready for the opponentís response. Moving correctly to the T, will assure the playerís promptness to remain in command. The video clips above showed how the player should move after serving, but the close camera angle is not enough to explain the full picture. This shall be addressed in a moment.


The clips clearly illustrate how the server has one foot inside the box while the other is as close as possible to the T. As the server finishes his follow through, he should be moving towards the T while maintaining a frontal position. The biggest mistake would be to turn the body towards the other player while moving to the T. This would leave the player ready to resume the rally only on one side of the court. A boast or cross-court return would catch the server wrong-footed. Another common error is to take a step back while moving to the middle of the court. This error arises from wrongly believing that the opponent will almost certainly respond with a long shot. In so doing, the server is no longer ready to reach an eventual volley drop. Turning towards the opponent and stepping back is a fatal combination of errors, too often committed. The server must also stand on the T before the serve reaches the receiver.



The video clips demonstrate ††††





1.      Correct movement.In this case, the player is on the T before the ball reaches the opponent. He has a neutral stance, but is ready to move in early and attack.††† Play video




2.      Turning towards the opponent.††† play video


3.      Turning towards the opponent and stepping back.††† play video




4.      Stepping back. Even though the player maintains a frontal position on the T, he/she remains a step behind. This error is less serious than number 3 but leaves him/her vulnerable to short shots.


5.Stepping late onto the T. Most club players make this error even though not as blatantly as illustrated in the following clips. The interesting point is that they do not realise their error until the opponent makes them pay for it several times. play video†††††† play video




6.Correct movement would help avoid all such problems. The server can equally reach all corners.†† play video††† play video††† play video







Returning the serve is a very important shot. A lot may be determined by the beginning of a rally. If the return of serve is easy for the opponent, he may be able to keep the player who responds, behind him for most of the rally. A bad start to the rally will probably have the player in all sorts of trouble. Both tactically and physically.


The player who responds is already waiting in the back corner while the server, who is relatively fresh at the beginning of a rally, strikes the ball and moves to the T. A loose response would mean that the server will move very little to hit the next shot, and will have every possibility of sending the ball deep into one of the back corners. In some cases, the server could even attempt the winner if the response lands right into the middle of the court. The player who responded is already in a defensive position and running while the opponent commands from the T.




There are different shots, which could be played when returning a serve, but as a rule, the best shot should be down the wall. The server hits his first shot from the other side of the court. That means, the down wall shot is free to pass all the way to the back without being intercepted. The server would have to evacuate the centre of the court while the other player takes up the T. This is an ideal way to start the rally. Here we are assuming that the server moves correctly to the T.


The first video clip helps explain how to respond from the backhand side when the opponent serves low. Play video The player strikes the ball in line with his right leg, which is placed perpendicular to the sidewall. Having struck the ball at the right moment, the ball travels very close to the side wall and makes its second bounce deep enough to reach the back corner without bouncing high onto the back-wall.




Turning the shoulder well and allowing lots of room between the body and sidewall is fundamental.



The swing begins early especially if the serve has been hit very hard.


In this second video, the player has responded well to a lob serve. Correct timing and a smooth relaxed swing is all it takes. A good follow-through helps him return to the T.










The forehand side is usually easier. Success is guaranteed by delaying impact as seen here and here. The player returns the ball to a good length, (note the ball's second bounce) and moves quickly out of the corner, ready to resume his attack.




Early racket preparation as soon as the serve strikes the front wall, is then followed by a step towards the sidewall.



The point of impact is not early. Striking the ball in line with the left foot, sends the ball straight down the wall.





Even when returning a lob serve with plenty of time at hand, the back-swing must be early and complete.



The point of impact in line with the right shoulder produces a perfectly straight shot.




There are exceptions to the rule of always returning the serve down the wall. Having seen the section regarding movement after the serve, it is clear that there are times when the server moves incorrectly to the T. The video clips demonstrated that depending on how the server moves, an adequate response may put the opponent in difficulty.


Another reason for not always responding down the wall could be valid if the server begins to read the shot too early, and moves in to anticipate the return on the video†† In this case, switching occasionally to a wide angled cross-court should do the video