When seeking out the best advice to develop your squash game, it’s imperative to know all your options, even when they might seem a bit quirky. That brings us to the question of this article. Can you serve overhand in squash?
The short answer is yes, but it is pretty uncommon. The overhand serve is used most often by beginners getting used to the feel of the racket and a comfortable grip. Also, as an amateur squash player using an overhand grip, you can garner a lot more power.
This article will go through the pros and cons of serving overhand, the standard serving technique in comparison to the overhand serve, the difference between how to serve in tennis and squash, and the four main types of serves you should add to your shot arsenal. Sit back and relax as we break down these meticulous details so you can jump into the fun part- actually trying out the best serves for you!
Serving in squash: The short answer
Whether you are new to squash or not, it is important to understand that the serve in squash is only a somewhat important shot. Players might not be known for having big , powerhouse/weapon serves the way tennis players or other racket ball athletes might be known for. Honestly, squash players might not really even be known for having super accurate serves! Experienced players are comfortable with the idea that more often than not, the serve in squash is not extremely pivotal and is just meant to start a point.
The most important piece of information squash players should know is that above all else, you do not want to mess up the serve. There is only one opportunity to get the serve in play, unlike tennis, so the first priority is starting the point. The second priority is making sure your opponent cannot easily attack the ball or hit an aggressive return off of it. We realize this is kind of a daunting task- making your serve in accurately and on one go, all while being aggressive enough to keep your opponent on the defense. Piece of cake, right? Hopefully, this article provides some sound advice to implement so this idea does not freak you out too much!
The overhand serve is overall very similar to a serve you might see in tennis. Essentially, the basis of the overhand serve is that you make contact with the ball above your head instead of below it. Again, this technique is far more common in tennis, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in squash. Here are the pros and cons of serving overhand.
- Players can normally hit this shot at a faster pace
Obviously, hitting at a faster pace can put some pressure on your opponent’s return, something you definitely want to focus in on if you are the server looking to set up a point to put yourself in an advantageous position.
- Allows beginners to get a feel for the racket and settle into a comfortable grip
Arguably the hardest part of learning a racket sport is becoming comfortable with the racket itself. The best players eventually reach the point where the racket feels like an extension of their body. At first, it can feel like a foreign object! Using an overhand serve might help new players adapt quicker to the feel of the racket and can speed up that learning curve.
- Faster pace means less accuracy
The faster pace of the overhand serve might mean less accuracy when getting the ball in play, which as previously mentioned can be detrimental to a game because players only have one opportunity to get the serve in. When the serve comes in overhanded, the returner will be able to strike it from a downward trajectory. This type of serve is easier for your opponent to return because the volley is easier to take around waist level. With that same token, the returner might have less room for accuracy when the serve comes in at a faster pace.
Overall, the pros and cons seem to level themselves out so there might need to be some other variables when making the decision of whether the overhand serve is right for you.
Standard serving technique vs. overhand serving technique
To begin, it’s important to lay the foundation for the serve technique. This foundation can be broken up into a few simple steps.
- Step one foot out of the service box towards the “T” and keep the other foot inside the service box
- Aim to make contact with the side wall with the ball right where opponent is standing
- Know the “out” lines on the court when serving
- Vary your technique
These four steps will help you steady yourself physically
and mentally before executing each serve. Having a small routine for yourself
before you serve is always a good idea to hit the
“reset” button before each point, calming your nerves and preparing your mind for the point ahead..
For the sake of this article, we will use the term “standard serving” when referring to the most common type of serve in squash- the underhand serve. It is used the most often because it’s easy to execute and generally reliable in terms of consistency if learned correctly. The reasoning behind this is that by serving underhand- normally at the waist level- you can lift the ball with your racket high enough to hit the side wall at the height which requires an opponent to volley it, instead of letting it land on the bounce first.
In addition to the position it puts your opponent in, it becomes much easier to control both the precision and accuracy of the serve when it is underhanded. It’s far more delicate than a normal ball strike, meaning the server can use a lot more finesse to really feel the ball as they are hitting it. The ability to slow down is great when serving as it provides a time to set up for the rest of the fast-paced point. Overall, it allows for control and precision.
As previously mentioned, the overhand serve is a great shot for beginners. When comparing it to the standard serve, the biggest and most obvious difference comes down to the way the racket is gripped and the position of contact. The standard serve is underhanded, and the overhand serve is just that, overhanded. Learning the difference in positionality and execution for these serves is definitely not rocket science, but the tricky part is understanding the benefits each one can provide and assessing whether or not these are worth implementing in order to improve as a player and ultimately defeat your opponent.
The tennis serve vs. the squash serve
The serve in tennis and squash are inherently similar in that they are both vital in starting a point, and set up the trajectory of the point in terms of whether or not the server or returner is on the offense or the defense. Beyond that, there is not too much similarity between the two.
The serve in tennis is arguably the most important shot. Players spend years and years developing and refining their serves by learning how to add topspin, backspin, and even kick. There is a very specific grip solely for the serve that differentiates itself from other groundstrokes and volley grips. In tennis, for men especially, the faster the serve the better. Professional players are clocking in top speeds of 130 mph. In order to develop this type of power and speed, players need to spend extra hours cross training and lifting weights to provide the most excellent foundation for the serve. Since the serve is so vitally important, players get two chances to make them.
On the other hand, the squash serve truly functions as nothing more than a necessity. That is not to say the serve is not important because it can most certainly put a player in an advantageous or disadvantageous position right off the get-go. However, less time is focused on developing different ways to trick opponents with the serve the way it is so focused on in tennis. Part of this is due to the fact that squash players only get one serve. Naturally, the focus is going to be less on smashing a low-percentage shot into the opponent’s corner and more focused on setting up the point in an intelligent way. The serve in squash is not determinant of how good of a player you are. In tennis, the serve is the very first foundation that every other aspect of the game is built upon. It is believed that if you can start off learning the hardest, fastest, most aggressive serve, then the rest of the game can follow suit. That is why you often see players, even on the professional level, that have a really amazing serve but use it as a way to cover up other weaknesses in their game. The thought behind that is, if the serve is so hard the returner can’t even start the point, then the server, who might actually have weak groundstrokes, volleys, or mental strategy will be okay because they don’t even get to the point where they have to hit those shots.
In squash, the serve is taught as a necessary component of the game, of course, but squash players cannot rely solely on this shot to win matches. They must be very well-rounded in all aspects of their game or else they will simply not be able to compete at a high level. Once the squash player’s main arsenal is fully developed, they can then focus on the fun of building up a more intense serve when their confidence in the other aspects of their game is built up more.
Four main categories of serves
Overall, there are four main types of serves each squash player should, at some point, consider implementing into their game. Like we said, it’s not absolutely pivotal to be able to have an abundance of serves or be a master at all of these, but they are great to slowly introduce to your game as time goes on and you continuously improve. It is nice to be able to have various options on hand to adapt to different types of opponents. Sometimes, when it comes down to it, it is just really fun to be able to mix up your serve options to keep things fresh! Whatever you need to do to be able to keep improving and keep your interest level in squash high should be done. Try these four different types of serves and see if you like what they might do for you!
Obviously, we have already delved into the underhand or “standard” serve extensively above. Keep in mind that although the focus of this article is on the difference between underhand and overhand serves, they are still technically a subcategory of the larger overarching shot, the serve.
The same above can be said for the overhand serve in terms of its importance as a stand-alone shot but also recognizing it as a subcategory of the serve. Nonetheless, it makes the list as one of the four main types.
The backhand serve is a serve hit with backhand technique played from the service box on the server’s forehand side, either the right-hand side diagonally to the left-side of the court, or the left-side of the court diagonally to the right side of the court. It is great for the server because it can create a very tough-to-receive angle, and allow the server to recover back to the “T”, the most ideal court position, a bit easier. The backhand serve is hit just like hitting a backhand volley. It feels quite unnatural at first, so many players are inclined to come up with techniques that make it feel and work easier. However, it’s just like a backhand volley lob, so if a player knows how to hit this shot they should use it as a basis for their backhand serve rather than trying to add things to the shot which might make it unnatural and detrimental in the long run.
The player should lift the ball just like they would with the underhand serve, while aiming to hit the side wall. Make sure the backhand serve bounces before the back wall so it won’t fly off the back wall, which makes it very easy for your opponent to return and attack.
The most awkward part of the backhand serve is probably the spacing between your body and the ball. When prepping the serve, throw the ball at an arm’s length out in front of you. This will give you enough space to play the ball effectively and comfortably.
The lob serve is a type of underhand serve. The ball is meant to be hit high on the front wall with a high trajectory. It should make impact with the side wall just below the “out” line. If this shot is executed well, it can be extremely difficult for your opponent to hit a volley return because it is so high above their head. It is very difficult and uncomfortable to hit a high volley, and is a low-percentage shot which creates an opportunity for error.
This shot requires a lot of timing for the returner due to the fact that the ball, after coming down from a lob, creates a very steep downward trajectory for the returner. As a result, it’s no good if it’s too high, but at the same time, your opponent can’t let this ball past them or else it will die in the back of the court.
Essentially, this shot is somewhat of a nightmare for the returner, but it is very difficult to execute properly on the server’s part. It requires a near perfect happy medium. The ball can’t be hit too hard by the server or else it won’t die in the back of the court. Of course, it can’t be hit too soft either or else it will not create the intended high-ball effect and could open up an opportunity for the opponent to pounce.
The overhand serve is not nearly as common as the underhand serve, but that does not mean it is wrong to do. For the beginner, it is a great way to get comfortable with starting a point and generating enough power to be competitive with your opponent right away, as long as it is dependable and consistent enough to start points rather than give free points away. As you begin to improve, it is a good idea to add in different types of serves to keep things fresh and fun for your development, but also make you unpredictable for your opponent. You can’t go wrong with most of these service options, as long as you take the time to practice them enough to master them and effectively add them to your squash shot arsenal!