Squash

Squash is a racquet sport played by two players (or four players for doubles) in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. Squash is recognised by the IOC and remains in contention for incorporation in a future Olympic program.

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.

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Playing equipment

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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 (approx. 90 sq. in.), the permitted maximum mass is 255 grams (approx. 9 oz.), but most have a mass between 110 and 200 grams (4-7 oz.).

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Squash balls are 39.5 mm and 40.5 mm in diameter, and have a mass of 23 to 25 grams.[3] 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).

Basic rules and gameplay

The court

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.

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Service

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 he 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.

Play

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.

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Side-out (or Hand-out) Scoring System

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.

Points are awarded if, during the course of play:

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)
The receiver fails to hit the front wall with the ball before the ball has bounced
Stroke: where 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 9 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 5 games). At one time this scoring system was preferred in Britain, but 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.

Types of shots played

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

  1. 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.
  2. Boast (or angle): The ball is played off a side wall at an angle, or the back wall, before hitting the front wall.
  3. Volley: The ball is hit 'on the full' (before it touches the floor), usually directly to the front wall
  4. Drop shot: The ball is hit gently against the front wall, to fall softly to the floor in the front corner.
  5. 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.
  6. Cross Court: The ball is hit to the front wall from the right side to the left (or vice versa).
  7. Kill: The ball is hit hard and low on the front wall so that it travels no farther than half court.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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).
  12. Back shot: the ball is hit gently and high off the back wall, so that it goes the length of the room and hits (usually low) off the front wall.

Players and records

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!

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