Squash games vary in length from anything from a couple of minutes to close to three hours. However, most fall into a much narrower time band. There are many factors that influence how long a game will last including the skill of the players, the temperature of the courts, and the type of scoring system being used.
How long is a game of squash? A squash game will normally last around twenty minutes for beginners, forty minutes for club players, and between sixty and ninety minutes for a professional game. Squash is one of the quicker sports to participate in, and even the longest professional game of all time was under three hours.
This article will give an overview of how long a squash game is normally going to take for players of varying abilities. I will also talk about how to make a game longer or make it shorter, and why you would want to do this.
In trying to win any game, one big consideration is to try to make it longer or shorter, and I will try to guide you in how to do this.
Firstly, let’s just say that if a game is very one-sided then these will be the quickest types of games. This is clearly usually best avoiding. However, it will sometimes happen. Tournaments are one thing of course – you never know who you will come up against in an open tournament in a club, for example. Also, sometimes things happen like unavailability in a club, and players are drafted in that are out of their depth at that standard.
It is best, of course, to select hitting partners with which to practise drills, or regular opponents that are similar in standard to you – that is most beneficial to having fun and developing your game.
Beginners matches will normally last somewhere between ten and twenty minutes. There will only be a few shots per rally, so two or three points can be completed each minute.
These will usually be about thirty minutes. Rallies will be a little longer, and some rallies will be extended.
Good quality club player matches
These will usually be something like thirty to fifty minutes. Rallies will usually be much longer, with multiple shots in each. Some rallies will still finish with unforced errors, and kills and drops will often be winners if executed well, and so a club game is rarely as long as a pro game.
These usually last anywhere between an hour and ninety minutes, although some will last two hours. The longest squash game in history was between Leo Au and Shawn Delliere, lasting just shy of three hours at 2 hours 50 minutes. Shawn Delliere, a Canadian squash player that reached a career high of 35th in the world in 2013, has been in three of only four PSA matches to have gone over two and a half hours.
The great Jahangir Khan would regularly play single games in excess in forty minutes. During his great span of 500 unbeaten matches, one of his great attributes was stamina and prolonging every rally for as long as possible. He was not unhappy to lose the first game as long as it was a long one and had sapped his opponent of critical energy for later in the match.
However, these are just exceptions. A normal pro game will normally last about an hour. A really exceptional dual will be closer to an hour and a half.
What do you need to be able to extend games?
In squash the ability to play a long game is often a key decider in who will win a match. So what are the key skills to do that? Here are some pointers:
Cut down on unforced errors – Quite simply just keep the rallies going with shots that have minimal risk attached to them. Of course, when you start, all shots are a bit risky! You never know what’s going to happen. But when you progress just a bit you will start to understand there is no need to aim an inch above the tin or a centimetre below the line on the side wall when playing a lob. Playing it safe will pay dividends later in the game.
If in doubt play the lines – Play the percentages, and the number one in this is if in doubt, just play a straight drive down the line. It may be returned more regularly than a drop-shot, but it has almost no risk attached to it. Developing your accuracy is a key element in squash.
Go for everything! – Don’t give up! You’ll never know if you can make that drop shot unless you try. Starting to give up on points to save energy for later is usually not a wise tactic. Maintaining pressure on your opponent throughout a match is crucial. It will also increase the length of the match.
Take some speed off the ball – This is great for having a mini-breather during points, but also good for lengthening rallies. Calming down your swing and play is often one of the key pointers for beginners. An experienced club player will normally play much more measuredly and smoothly than someone starting off.
How can you improve stamina?
This is the biggie to get yourself playing longer matches, and doing better in those matches. There are several solutions:
Play more games – It’s certainly not rocket science, but this is probably the best way to increase your stamina. Whilst playing a match you will usually go above and beyond a state of stress and exhaustion that you would endure in a gym session. The game makes you do it! Sheer enjoyment and a desire to do well overrides the body’s natural signals of tiredness.
Do cardio activities linked to squash – The best cardio activities for squash are activities that mimic in some ways the mechanics of the sport. On-court conditioning drills can be a great place to start. Squash is essentially a sprinting sport – it is not about keep going at a certain speed. It is more a case of short bursts of activity followed by periods of inactivity. Activities that mimic this are things such as 400m sprinting, step-class style cycling, rowing and circuit training.
Prepare well for matches – Eating well, and getting lots of rest and sleep is of course the ideal.
How conditions may affect the length of a match
Other factors will come into play as well. Here are few of the most important:
Court temperature – Put simply, the hotter the court the longer the game will usually last. The squash ball will be warmer and bouncier leading to longer rallies and less opportunities for kill shots such as drops and boasts.
Age of the players – Realistically, most players will be looking for shorter matches as they get a lot older. Many older players are often the most wily, looking to kill off rallies and games with adept drop shots and lobs.
Condition of the court – A flat, smooth floor and walls will naturally lead to longer and more truer rallies. Uneven floors and walls will lead to many more mishits and rallies ending in unforced errors.
Type of scoring system used – The American scoring system that is used by most players now in squash generally leads to slightly shorter games as a point is won off every rally. English games will usually last slightly longer. It will of course have an impact if you play to 9,11, or 15, and what type of scoring system you use.
How to speed up your play
Sometimes you may want to play faster and get through points quicker. The usual reason for this is you see your opponent has run out of steam! They are puffing and panting, lagging and lolling. It is time to go in for the kill.
And the way to do this? Speed! They are on the ropes, so keep them there. Rush between points so you’re ready to serve in about two seconds flat. When they go off court to recover in between games, stay on and have a little knock-up against yourself.
During rallies put lots of speed onto your shots to keep them moving quick, but remember to keep rallies long. The longer the better, and the more you will gain an advantage.
How to slow down your play
The flip side of this is you may sometimes wish to slow things down. This is usually because you are on the receiving end of the same treatment. You are up against an agile beast, with spectacular lung-power and the ability to keep running. You’re not feeling quite so fit yourself, so it is imperative to slow things down. Here are some key ways to do this:
Take speed off the ball – Play lobs and slow shots down the wall to help you move more slowly back to the T and get a few more breaths in before you have to move again.
Walk slowly in between points – Take your time! There is no need to hurry.
Take full advantage of time in between games – Don’t be intimidated by your opponent immediately warming up again following the completion of a game. Take your full time allotted to you.
Take your time serving – Lots of bounces of the ball is a good trick! And just generally, don’t go too quick.
Try some riskier shots – Sometimes attack is the best way to go when you are completely knackered. Try some more drops, boasts and ‘magic’ shots.
How to vary your tempo
One of the great things in squash in variety. This is one thing that experienced players often have in abundance, even if their basic shots are similar with someone of a lower level.
If two players with equal shots play each other, the winner will be the one who has the upper hand in one of the other big areas of squash. The main things are probably stamina, speed and variety.
There are several things you want to vary. The first is shot power. Mix up harder drives with slower lobs. The second is target area. Combine cross-court with down the line shots, drop shots with lobs and drives. Take some balls early, and leave others to bounce. Vary, vary, vary.
How to play a player with a different tempo to you
The important thing when coming up against someone with a very different natural speed to you is not get frustrated. Also, don’t let them interfere with your natural game.
If they rush around in between points, continue to take your time.
If they are dawdling when you’re trying to serve quickly, just relax and don’t let it get to you. If you do your thing, then that is what’s going to get the best results.
So to conclude a squash match can be an extremely moveable feast in terms of time. When you are starting off it may only last fifteen minutes. But later on that time will steadily increase until you may be playing matches of between forty minutes to an hour.
The factors that effect this time? There are many! To make a game longer think about playing a bit safer, hitting the lines, and trying to reduce enforced errors.
You may, if you have the upper hand, want to speed things along to keep your opponent down and licking their wounds.
If, on the other hand, you are playing a king or queen of stamina, then you may wish to slow things down and take your time as much as possible without turning the game into a farce.
Whichever way, squash is generally a sociable sport, as it only lasts a fairly brief amount of time compared to many other games, and is a great way of getting out of the house for just a couple of hours max.
How long do your squash matches normally last?