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Essential Squash Serve Return Tips

November 29, 2009 in Squash Tips

Brent Johner is a certified tennis, squash, badminton and pickleball coach

Brent Johner is a certified tennis, squash, badminton and pickleball coach

Returning the serve is a struggle for many beginner and intermediate squash players.

This is why aces are common in E and D-level matches. By the time players get to B-level and up, though, players have mastered the serve return and aces virtually disappear from the game.

Here are five essential tips for returning the serve. None of them should be considered optional. If your goal is to improve as a squash player, you should incorporate all five.

Ready Position

Preparing to receive the serve in the correct place is an essential first step. You should be on your toes on the imaginary red line in the diagram above.

Starting from this position immediately puts you at the strategic centre of your box. From here you can take one step up the court to volley or one step back to take the serve after it hits the side wall. If you stand anywhere else in the box and you will have to take at least two steps to execute one of these strokes.

Watch the Ball

Watch the server and the ball until the point of contact; do not stare at the front wall and wait for the ball to get there.

Every player has tells — little clues in their movements — that give you important information about the serve that is about to come your way.

By watching your opponent until his racquet strikes the ball, you will learn to read important information about the height, speed, spin and trajectory of the serve.

Volley Every Time

Although it is not possible to volley every serve return, you should be prepared to do exactly that. Position yourself correctly and observe your opponent’s serve motion. When the opportunity to volley the serve before it hits the side wall presents itself, take it.

The most important match statistic in squash is the percentage of volley opportunities taken. Players should strive to be as close to 100 per cent as possible, especially on the serve return.

Give Yourself Space

One of the things that separates beginner and intermediate squash from advanced squash is the space that players give themselves to strike the ball. Beginner and intermediate players often run under the serve and try to return it with their racquet overhead. Even when they don’t actually run under it, they often end up setting up so close to the ball that they don’t have room to execute a good stroke.

Learn to stay back from the ball and separate your feet. Staying back and using your full reach will help you avoid bad returns that strike the side wall before striking the front wall. Separating your feet will allow you to achieve maximum shoulder rotation, which is needed both for good length (when returning straight) and good width (when returning cross court).

Place the Serve Return

Tight trumps might: never is this dictum truer than when it refers to the serve return. Intermediate players too often try to pound serve returns when they should be trying to place them.

A high, tight length that lands at the back of the court and bounces twice within 24 inches of the back wall and a few inches of the side wall is an ideal serve return. It forces your opponent to move off of the tee and into the back corner. At the same time, it allows you more than enough time to take up a position in front of your opponent on the tee.

Since the tee is the stategic centre of a squash court, a serve return like this immediately puts you in an offensive position. It also forces your opponent either to hit a good next shot himself or to continue the rally on the defensive.

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