Squash is a racket sport played in an enclosed room, known as a court, by either two or four people. It is a recreational game that’s played all over the world, though it is widely believed to have originated in private prep schools in England in the 1800s. It is similar to tennis and an older sport known simply as “rackets,” but has its own unique sets of rules and equipment. The game is typically played with a hollow rubber ball and players take turns hitting it off of any of the “playable” walls in the room. There are usually a number of painted or otherwise understood boundaries, and also a “tin” beneath the main front wall that balls can fall into. A ball that falls into the tin is usually out of play, much like a ball that hits the net in tennis. There are some variations between countries and organizations, both in terms of scoring and in terms of things like court specifications and measurements. The game is highly competitive in many places, but is still largely emerging as a serious sport at the professional level. In most regions its primary popularity is amongst student athletes and casual players.
Basics of Play
This game can be played either as “singles,” which is one on one, or as “doubles,” which involves dueling teams of two. Players gather in the center of the court, which is usually a small enclosed room with four walls of uniform height. In most cases there are lines painted on the walls to indicate height parameters and on the floor to mark boundaries, but in less formal matches players can also mutually agree to these things before beginning play. The courts are usually of fixed dimension, particularly in competitive tournaments.
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One team or person will start play by serving the ball, typically bouncing it once, then hitting it off of any of the four walls. Then it is the opponent’s turn to return the ball. Under most rules of play the ball can bounce once before being struck by the racket, but not after. A player who fails to return the ball — usually by hitting it into the ground, hitting it into the tin, or hitting it above the “out” lines — usually either surrenders his turn to serve and thus control the ball or loses a point; sometimes both.
Scoring can take slightly different forms in different places, and sometimes there are different rules for play in school leagues versus more casual settings. In general, though, players only earn points when they are serving. For example, player A serves the ball to player B. If player B hits the ball out, then one point goes to player A. If player A hits the ball out, however, B doesn’t earn a point; rather, service switches to B. Now B has a chance to earn a point by serving the ball in such a way that A will hit it out or otherwise play a problematic shot. Volleying under a single player’s serve can go on for a long time, and points can be scored at any time — they aren’t limited to the initial serving hit.
In most situations, the game ends once one player earns nine points. Many league rules require that winners lead by at least two points, though, which means that a game tied 8-8 will usually extend to 10 points; if there is another tie there, things will usually go to 12. A lot of this depends on the locality and, in more casual games, the players themselves.
Setting Up the Court
There are various court dimensions for different circumstances, namely singles or doubles games; there are also some differences based on geographic region and local custom. In nearly all cases, though, the official court size for singles matches is 32 feet (9.75 m) long, 21 feet (6.4 m) wide, and 15 feet (4.57 m) tall at the front wall. The tin is located at the base of the front wall and typically reaches 19 inches (48 cm) high.
Aside from the court, there are typically two essential tools needed for play. First is the rackets; second is the ball. Rackets tend to be slightly rounded and with a handle that is often a bit longer than it would be in tennis. Different manufacturers make different dimensions and most leagues have general rules when it comes to specific sizing, but a lot of the decision comes down to player comfort. The most essential attributes are usually control and precision. Players want rackets that have a wide enough surface area to maximize contact with the ball, but also are small enough to allow a lot of control when it comes to giving direction and precision to hits. Most are made of fiberglass and other synthetic materials, though some are made in a more traditional way with malleable wood.
An official squash ball is about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in diameter and is made of rubber. It’s typically hollow and may feel somewhat “squashy,” which is where the sport likely gets its name. The traditional English sport of rackets was played much like modern day squash but with a firm, hard ball, and some of the first accounts of the variation were called “squash rackets.”