When first starting out in squash a common question that many people have is can you volley return the serve. This question comes about because in several other sports you are either not allowed to volley the return, or it is extremely unwise to do so. In tennis, for example, the serve is the only shot you are not allowed to volley. That is why you don’t see anyone attempting to return serve at the net.
But can you volley the return of serve in squash? You are allowed to volley the return of serve in squash, and in fact this is considered the best shot to play. Keep your racket well back when preparing to meet the ball, have your shoulders front on to the side wall, and attempt to volley the ball back down the line.
This is usually the best return to play though it is not also possible. Also, it can be quite a difficult shot for some beginners to develop, and sometimes the serve makes it very difficult or even impossible to play.
Read on to find out more…
Volleying The Serve
To go into this in a bit more depth, yes you certainly can volley the serve in squash. In this squash differs a lot from many other racket sports.
Also, the volley is recommended as the best shot to play. Why?
The following are the main reasons:
- By the volleying the return you are making sure you don’t get stuck near the back wall playing a boast
- You are applying pressure to your opponent by taking the sthot early before they may be in a good position at the T. This is especially true if they have hit a powerful serve
- If you volley the ball you will be closer to the T than if you take your shot at the back corner
- You have a wider range of options for shots. You can play down the line, play cross court, or attempt a drop or kill
- Extremely skilful players can attempt the cross-court nick shot
There is a different techniique to use on both sides of the court that we will now have a look at…
These are usually more challenging to develop for beginners, but will normally become easier with practice.
To play a successful backhand volley return, try to follow these guidelines:
- Keep your racket high up when preparing to play the return
- Start with your body at about a 45 degree angle to the side wall, but rotate your shoulders towards the sidewall as you are about to play the ball. At the moment of impact you want to be pretty much facing the sidewall
- Watch your opponent and the ball
- Maintain a cocked wrist
- Steer the ball towards your target area high up on the front wall
- Play the majority of returns down the line
- Aim to keep the ball tight to the wall
- You want it to bounce behind the service line
Forehand volleys are a more natural shots and beginners can often play them much more successfully.
Here are some guidelines to follow when playing the forehand volley:
- Give yourself plenty of room away from the sidewall
- Move your feet quickly into a good position
- Again, try to hit most returns down the line
- Rotate your shoulders towards the sidewall before making impact
- Try to hit the ball before it hits the sidewall
- To volley after it has hit the sidewall, give yourself a bit of time to see how how it bounces off the wall
- Attempt the odd variation, such as a cross court, or forehand drop to either front corner
How To Return The Different Serves
1. Lob Serve
These can often be the hardest serves for a beginner to return.
Just getting the ball back is the first priority. Keep your shoulders front on to the sidewall and just concentrate on steering the ball back down the wall and hitting high up on the front wall.
There is no need to hit the return hard. Just concentrate on accuracy. Play the ball as high up on the sidewall as you need to.
2. Backhand Serve
In this type of serve, your right-handed opponent uses their backhand to hit the serve. This causes a tighter angle to the side wall.
The principles are the same however. Keep your racket back, give yourself room, and try to hit the ball with your shoulders facing the sidewall.
3. Smash Serve
If your opponent hits a hard serve towards the sidewall, then if you are able to volley it you will be in a strong position in the rally.
These types of serves are not normally used by professionals for this reason. If you can successfully volley this serve, then your opponent will not have had time to get back to the T and you will have the upper hand.
However, volleying these types of serves is sometimes easier said than done.
To start with it may be easier to let the ball bounce back up off the back wall. If the ball bounces towards the middle of the court just ask for a let.
If not, just play a drive down the line. Your opponent will probably be not fully on the T because they will have had to make room for your shot, so you will have quite a lot of open court to aim at.
4. Body Serve
This serve is normally used as a variation. The ball is basically whacked straight towards you. These serves are difficult to volley, because you haven’t got enough room to play the ball away from your body.
The standard way of playing this serve is get out of its way and let it hit the back wall. Then you have lots of time to play a drive usually back down the wall.
If the ball bounces back a long way off the backwall, you can attempt other shots such as drops, attacking boasts or low kills.
Times When You Can’t Volley
Sometimes it does not make sense to play a volley and you have to adapt. Examples of these are:
- A lob serve that is too high up to be able to control a return
- A serve that hits the sidewall in front of where you are standing
- A body serve
In these cases the best strategy is to let the ball bounce off the sidewall and possibly even the backwall.
If the ball is too close to middle so the court ask for a let.
Otherwise play a normal drive shot if you can.
Other Types Of Return
Occasionally you may be forced into a defensive boast as a return.
This should only be a last resort! These should only be played to truly excellent serves that have been really tight to the side or back wall.
Some players attempt to run around their return, especially on the backhand side, and play a forehand. However, this is not recommended as it leaves you out of position and struggling to get back to the T.
How To Practise Volleying The Serve
The simplest way of practising the skill is to return serves from a partner. Get them to mix up serves and try focusing on moving your feet quickly into position.
Work on staying well away from the ball, keep your racket up, and staying side on to the front wall.
The most improtant shot to practise is the return down the line. However, have a go at a few other types of shot as well.
Other Rules of Serving
In squash the main rules for the service are:
- One foot must stay within the service box at the moment of striking the ball
- The serve must hit the front wall first
- The serve can hit any numbe of other walls following the front wall
- The serve can hit the back wall on the full
- There is no second service
- The ball must hit the front wall in between the central service line and the top line
- Its first bounce must be in your opponent’s box at the back of the court
Is there a second serve in squash? There is no second serve in squash. If the serve is out of court then the player loses the point, and the other player will serve the next point.
Can you serve overarm in squash? Yes, you can serve overarm in squash. This type of shot is usually hit hard with a smash style action. You are aiming to hit the side wall quite low and get the ball to bounce before hitting the back wall. This type of serve can be very effective against beginners, or players with slow footwork.
Can your serve hit the back wall on the full? A serve in squash can hit the backwall on the full. As long as the first bounce is in the opponent’s box at the back of the court, the serve is good. This serve is not commonly used, however, as the ball will bounce back towards the middle of the court and is vulnerable to winners.