The type of squash match you have on any occasion is determined by a number of factors, and one of the most important of these is how hot the court is. Cold courts lead to shorter games, where lobs and drops shots are the most effective weapons.
But how should you play on a hot squash court? To play on a hot squash court accept that the game will be longer. A crucial point is to cut out errors. The player that wins the waiting game will often win. Play shots lower than normal on the front wall, and only play drops or trickle boasts when well in front of your opponent.
There are many other top tips as well, and this article brings together many views from the top players in the world of squash. Here are our top 17 tips:
1. Aim Lower On The Front Wall
On a hot court the bounce of the ball will be higher and your shots will carry further.
Therefore, you will need to adjust where you are aiming on the front wall or your shots will be bouncing spectacularly off the back wall. About half a yard to a yard lower should do it, depending on how hot the court is.
Try to avoid going too low, however, as hitting the tin a lot in these kinds of games can be very costly. If this is becoming an issue, then simply aim for half way up the wall but take the pace out of your shots.
2. Avoid Too Many Drop Shots
Drop shots are naturally not quite as effective when the ball is bouncing a lot, and should be used with a bit more caution. In general, in these conditions, it is best to only use a drop shot if one of the following is true:
- You are in front of your opponent
- Your opponent is out of position
- Your opponent is struggling to reach your drops
Drops from the back of the court in such conditions are seldom a good idea, unless your opponent has serious issues with mobility.
3. Win The Waiting Game
On a hot court a more conservative approach to the game will normally be successful. You want to try to avoid unforced errors as much as possible.
Some rallies will go on a long time. The key is to take each shot one at a time. Be patient, and wait for your opponent to make mistakes rather than forcing the issue too much.
4. Avoid Small Margins
This is a crucial element in playing sensible squash. To avoid too many unforced errors try not to use small margins or any level of risk in your shots.
It can be tempting on a hot court to attempt drop shots that hit an inch above the tin. However, this is a risky strategy. The success ratio of such shots is low, and perentages are crucial on a hot squash court.
Play the safer option always. Give yourself a margin of error on your drops and boasts. Play kills well above the tin. Give yourself every chance of success, without shooting yourself in the foot and losing crucial points.
5. Wait For The Bounce Off The Back Wall
You will have more time on a hot squash court, often more time than you realise. Many shots will bounce back a long way off the back wall.
Take your time! Preserving energy is key on a hot court, so move slowly around the court when you can, and wait for the ball to bounce back to you.
6. More Points Are Won With Unforced Errors
This is paramount! In hot conditions the player that loses the most points through their own shots will often lose the game.
Shot selection is massive. Only go for winners if there is a high chance of them styaing in the court and not hitting the tin. Otherwise play length.
7. Play Tight
Shots down the line are your best bet, as cross courts will tend to bounce out into the middle of the court more, making it hard to get a good position on the T.
Cross courts will also result in more lets and strokes, because of the same reason of play becoming congested in the middle of the court.
Also drop shots are not quite as effective as they usually are on a hotter court. Therefore, when playing the ball at the front drives down the line can be a safer and more efficient choice of shot.
Playing tight is probably the number one rule of squash in all conditions, but especially on a hotter, bouncier court this is crucial.
8. Manage Your Temperature During Breaks
Take every opportunity to cool down in between games. Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated, and take the allotted time.
Sometimes you may be able to find somewhere cooler to stand for a minute. It may be much cooler in a corridor, or in the changing room, or even outside if you are close to an exit. Just a minute spent in this cooler environment can really cool you down and refresh your mind and body.
The time you may not want to do this is if your opponent is struggling more than you are. If this is the case you may want to get back onto the court as quickly as possible.
Also hurry them between points and being ready to serve as quickly as possible may be a useful tactic to gain the upper hand.
9. Play Low Kills
These can be the most effective form of winner in hotter temperatures. With attacking boasts and drops having less potential, alternatives are required.
If is perhaps no coincidence that in racquetball the low kill is a very well-used shot. Racquetball uses a much bouncier ball, and so the conditions are more like a bouncier squash game. Drop shots are seldom used, but a low kill is the staple shot to win multiple rallies.
There are different types of kills:
- Drive the ball low and hard down the line
- Drive the ball cross-court, aiming for the second bounce being in the nick of the side wall
- A boast-kill – an attacking boast off the side wall, looking for the second bounce to be in the nick of the side wall.
- Volley kill, looking to keep the second bounce near the nick of the side wall.
Remember to not be over-ambitious and give yourself a bit of leeway, hitting about a foot above the tin at least. Tinning kills will waste points and get your opponent really into the game.
10. Be Cautious About Lob Serves
Although the lob serve will normally be one of the most effective if not the very best serve to use, you might just want to try a couple and see what happens before adopting this as your go-to serve of choice throughout the game.
In really hot conditions keeping the ball in the court is the tricky thing with lobs. It is quite easy to hit the ball too high and out of court, and missing a serve is completetly criminal and one of the biggest wastes of points there can be.
If you play the lob serve, just remember to hit it a bit lighter than usual, and you may want to play safe and not have it hit too high up on the sidewall.
Be safe not sorry.
11. Hit Your Targets
Mental discipline is crucial during longer games. You want to take each point at a time, and try to think about your target area that you want to strike on the front wall.
Keeping focussed has a big impact on your accuracy. Think watch the ball, and think where to hit.
Maintaining accuracy, and not going for anything too rash will give you the upper hand.
12. Work On Stamina
This is more advice for off-court time.
Stamina is really tested during hot conditions. You will feel far more exhausted quicker than in cooler air.
Ghosting can provide excellent squash stamina. Also cardio gym work. Many squash players like gym activities that mimic squash in some way, eg. ones that involve lunges, sprints and approximately forty minutes of aerobic activity.
13. Stay Out Of The Way Of The Heater
The court will be hot for a number of different reasons.
It may be a really hot period of weather. In this case, don’t go outside during breaks as you will heat up even more!
Often, though, the court is hot because of the heating system. More courts are now using under-floor heating which is great for keeping the floor and walls warm, but the air at a reasonably cool temperature.
However, regularly courts are hot because of the powerful heaters suspended from the ceiling. If these are one and blasting hot air your way then try to stay out of their way!
Obviously this can’t be done during points, as you need to go wherever the ball is, but in between points be aware of any hot points around the court. You may need to stand near the wall in between points for a moment. One court I play on, the air near the sidewalls is much cooler than the air near the middle and especially near the door at the back. Stay clear of these areas in between points!
14. Preserve Your Energy
If you need to then take your time. Bounce the ball a lot in between serves. Wipe sweat off your hands.
However, if your opponent is struggling more than you are, then capitalise! Serve quickly, always be ready to receive serve straight away, and generally just get on with it.
Playing tight helps with preserving energy as you will have more time to get back to the T position. Get your opponent running more than you if can.
15. Play Soft Shots And Lobs So You Can Walk Back To The T
Take the pace off the ball, and you will have a lot more time to walk back to the T. This will keep your stamina and concentration going longer.
You want to keep variety on your game, so it is unwise to play lobs and loopy drives every shot, but you definitely want to add a few extra to your game, to give you a mini-breather mid-point.
16. Be Cautious Of Sweat
Some people sweat more than others, but everyone will be sweating on a hot court. Here are some strategies to manage this:
- Take plenty of time in between points to wipe sweat from your hand on the wall
- Use a towel in between games to dry your face, hands and racket grip
- Change this towel after a couple of games if you can
- You may want to wear sweat bands on your wrists or head
- Be careful of large amounts of sweat dripping onto the floor
- If someone dives for a ball, then take the time to stop the math and dry the area of the floor quickly with a towel
- Be sensible and safe about how much sweat is on the floor, and wipe it up when required
17. Have Patience
This is crucial. Just relax and be in the moment. Play one shot at a time.
The player that plays the tighest and doesn’t give away too many silly points will be very hard to beat. Even if the points seem to be going on forever, just grind it out. Points will become easier to win later in the game.
So there are my favourite 17 tips. The main features of play on a hot court are being sensible, playing tight and not going for silly shots.
Manage your temperature, your sweat, your hydration levels and your stamina.
Play plenty of low kills and adapt your game as necessary.
Good luck on those hot squash courts!
How to play on cold squash courts – On cold courts the shots that do best are drops, boasts and lobs. Play tight, and look for every opportunity to get in front of your opponent to play these shots. If you prefer warmer conditions, try to keep the ball as hot as possible by bouncing it on the floor in between serves.
Squash drills for stamina – Try ‘ghosting’ out as a great way of developing stamina. This is simply practising the footwork and shots required in squash but without the ball. There are plenty of drills you can try where you hit boasts followed by good length shots, retrieving the ball each time.
How do you develop good length in squash – Solo practice is the best way of developing good length. Try side-to-sides, where you stand in the middle of the court and play forehands and backhands hitting the sidewall with the ball bouncing over your head to the other sidewall. You can also practise length drills with a partner.