For squash players just starting out or looking to improve, it’s vitally important to understand all the rules of the game. Some of these rules are small and seemingly insignificant, thus making them hard to remember. One of these smaller yet very important rules to remember, especially for new players looking to enter match play, is the side wall rule.
Many ask, can you hit the side wall in squash? You can hit the ball onto the sidewall in squash for every shot, apart from the serve. The serve must hit the front wall first, but can then hit the sidewall as long as the first bounce on the floor is in your opponent’s back box.
In this article I will delve a little deeper into the sidewall rule, and then have a look at some related rules that are an absolute must to understand fully as you just start out in squash.
When Can You Hit The Sidewall?
When playing a squash point, the ball can hit any number of walls during that point. It can hit the sidewall or the back wall, for example. However, the ball must can only legally hit the side wall after the service has been executed. Furthermore, the ball must eventually hit the front wall before bouncing on the floor.
After you serve, your opponent has the option to return the serve as a volley, in the air, before it hits the ground. If the ball hits the front wall first, the ball can then hit any other walls before landing in the opponent’s quarter court.
A serve is illegal if it hits any sidewall before it hits the front of the wall!
That might come off like a confusing mess of words, and can be a bit hard to visualize. Let’s break it down one more time.
- A serve is illegal if it hits the sidewall. That would be a time when no, you could not hit the side wall in squash.
- The ball can hit any number of walls during a point, after the service, as long as it hits the front wall before bouncing on the floor.
- If your opponent volleys the return of serve before it hits the ground, after hitting the front wall first, the ball is allowed to hit any other walls before landing in the quarter court of the opponent.
As you can see, there are some small loopholes players must pay attention to as they are learning the game and developing their strategy.
Let’s now look at shots that hit the sidewall. Why would you want to play them, and what are they called?
Shots That Hit The Sidewall
Shots that hit the sidewall first are called boasts. There are many types of boast, the main ones being:
A two-wall boast – This is usually played as a defensive shot from the back of the court. It is normally played as a last resort when you can’t get the ball straight back to the front wall down the line.
The volley boast – This is usually more of an attacking shot. It is played when you are in front of your opponent, and hoping to either hit a winner or at least getting the moving quickly to the front of the court. Intercept the ball by volleying it quite hard and low at about 45 degrees into the sidewall. The idea is to hit the front wall just above the tin, and the ball to die near the sidewall.
The trickle boast – This is a kind of cross between a boast and a drop shot. It is usually played towards the front of the court. Using plenty of disguise (so that it looks like you could play a drive), hit the ball low and reasonably gently towards the sidewall. The aim is to have the ball act as a kind of drop shot off the sidewall, hitting just above the tin and dying near the front of the court.
The backwall boast – This shot does not usually hit the sidewall, although it can on occasions. This shot is only used in an absolute emergency. If you have no alternative, and the ball is about to die near the backwall, the idea is that you hit the ball directly on to the backwall. The ball will then arc back towards the front wall, hit it, and bounce down into the middle of the court. Backwall boasts present simple kill shots for your opponent and so only try this if you have no alternative! This shot can hit the sidewall, if you hit the ball onto the back wall first, and it hits the side wall before hitting the front.
When Do You Play A Boast?
Boasts are usually defensive shots. Most players will choose to play the ball straight wherever possible.
However, a good boast is a crucial weapon. Well-executed boasts will work especially well when:
- The court temperature is really cold. In these conditions the most important shots to win points are drops, boasts and lobs. Boasts will die really close to the front wall, and even if your opponent is able to retrieve them, they will still have to do a lot of running to get them back.
- Your opponent is older or immobile. If they are not running about much, then using the sidewall in your shots is an excellent strategy to quickly acquire a string of points.
- Your opponent is standing well behind the T, making the distance to the front of the court much longer. Some players are ready to anticipate a straight drive with every shot, and will start to drift backwards before you’ve played the ball. This is the kind of player to maximise sidewall shots against.
Where On The Sidewall Can I Hit?
Anywhere! All shots (apart from the serve) can hit the sidewall from any point from the floor to the red line that runs near the top of the sidewall.
Any contact with that red line, however slight, means that the ball is out.
How Many Times Can A Shot Hit The Sidewall?
In theory an infinite number. In practice, the most a single shot will ever hit is usually two sidewalls. This is the three wall boast shot, that will hit the sidewall first near the back of the court, then hit the front wall before hitting the opposite sidewall.
Once again, the only shot that cannot be a boast in squash is the serve. But are there any more complicated service rules?
Here are the rules about serving in squash in a nutshell:
The Rules Of Serve Explained
When a player lines up to serve, they place at least one foot in the service box and aim to hit the ball at the front wall of the court.
The serve should bounce in the opposite side of their opponent’s quarter court, landing above the service line. Again, if for some reason the serve hits any sidewall before it touches the front wall it is illegal and the player loses a point. Unlike tennis, the server only gets one try at a service.
Once the serve is returned and the longer rally/back-and-forth begins between the two players, the ball can be legally hit to the sidewall as many or as little times as a player desires.
Like any great sport, squash has many rules for players to remember not just for the sake of rules, but to protect the safety of each player and to experience the utmost enjoyment out of the sport.
It is important for beginners as well as improving squash players to refresh themselves on these rules, like the side wall rule, before they enter a match situation. The ability to be able to understand them all at once, like previously mentioned, comes with time and live match experience. With that being said, make sure you aren’t too hard on yourself as you learn to piece the various factors of the game together.
Once you can understand the foundation of the rest of the rules then you will be able to quickly grasp the side wall rule. Just remember to watch out for these rules and your on-court safety, and most of all enjoy this beautiful sport. The more you enjoy it the faster the progress you will make.