The serve is one of the most important shots to practice in squash for beginners, and one of the key questions is where do you aim? There are different types of serves, and all of these have separate targets. This article will walk you through each of these, and get you on the right path to serving well and starting rallies off in style.
The short answer first. Where do you aim your squash serve? There are four main types of serve in squash, and where you aim differs for each. For a lob aim high on the front wall. For a smash aim just above the service line, as you do for a body serve. For a backhand serve aim slightly to left of the center about halfway up the front wall.
Let’s walk through the four main types, and exactly where you need to aim for each, both on the front wall, and also on the sidewall.
We are talking about serves from the right hand side, but just switch everything round for the other side.
#1 – The Lob Serve
The Lob Serve is one of the most common shots in squash, and is probably the most common serve in the game.
The idea is to hit the ball over your opponent and get it to die near the back corner. This makes it hard for the opponent to be able to move to the ball, let alone return it.
Even better, the player who uses this serve can more easily move towards the T of the court, allowing them to have time to deal with the opponent’s return from one of the best locations.
In addition, the lob can help the player who uses it choose where the opponent can hit it, of course meaning the player who launched the lob in the first place has a good idea of where it is going to go.
With all this, you can see why overall this is one of the best shots to use.
Where To Aim
Front Wall – Slightly to the left of the center, and in the top third
Sidewall – Between head-height or above
Bounce – The first bounce should happen before it hits the back wall, so the ball doesn’t come bouncing out again.
Lob Serve Basics
To actually do the Lob Serve, there are some basic steps:
1. Walk forward before you hit the ball
By taking a step forwards, this shifts your weight into the ball, meaning it will hit with even more impact.
2. Toss the ball with minimal force from the length of your arm
With an arm’s length established before you toss the ball into the air, you should have enough space to hit the ball. When you toss the ball, keep the toss soft and not too high into the air, giving you much better control.
3. Lift the ball
When the racket hits, it needs to be under the ball, then the racket needs to move upwards. A good rule of thumb is to aim for the front wall, specifically the top third of it.
4. The ball should bounce before it hits the back wall
If you put a ton of force into the lob serve, there’s a good chance it will hit the back wall and then just bounce forward again, meaning your opponent won’t find it hard to hit it back and put you on the defensive.
However, if you master making sure it goes far back but doesn’t have enough force to hit the back wall, your opponent will struggle to run back and hit it before it bounces twice.
5. Using the Side Wall
Get the ball to clip the side wall relatively far back. By doing so, it will bounce closer to the back wall and be at an awkward angle, making it harder for your opponent to return the ball.
#2 – The Smash Serve
A Smash Serve is what it sounds like. Smash the ball hard!
The key to this serve is making sure the serve is done with lots of force and at a low height, so when you do so, it will hit a side wall and bounce multiple times before it can hit the back.
If this is done right, the quickness of the ball’s movement will rush your opponent for time, and may cause an inaccurate shot. Though rarely played by the pros, it can be a very valuable shot against beginners.
The biggest problem with this shot is that you can easily overshoot and hit the ball so hard that is just goes to the back wall and back, making it easy for your opponent to return it.
The second biggest problem is that the ball can be hit with such speed that you may not have time to put yourself in the T-position if your opponent does return the ball.
Where To Aim
Front Wall – Aim slightly to the left of the center, and low – just above the center line.
Side Wall – It should hit the sidewall low down roughly level or in front of where your opponent is standing.
Bounce – The first bounce should happen very soon after the ball hits the sidewall. Ideally the second bounce would be happening near the backwall.
Smash Serve Tips
These are some tips for Smash Serves:
1. The impact is similar to a volley
When you do the Smash Serve, the ball should be hit just like a volley. It is better not to hit the shot like an overhead tennis serve. Although this is not illegal, it can cause shoulder problems.
To play a smash, you put your whole body into the hit and try to strike the ball both early and in front of you. The more you do all three of these things, the quicker the ball will go, and therefore, the less reaction time your opponent has and the better off you will be.
Remember – it is not a tennis serve!
Tennis and squash are similar in some regards, but they differ in others. If you hit tennis style, then it will make it harder for you to balance and get smoothly back to the T. Worst of all, this can even cause you actual injuries.
2. The side wall is where to aim (most of the time)
You should be trying to hit the side wall closer to the back, making it harder for the opponent to react to the ball before it hits the ground and bounces twice.
Combined with the heavy impact you are using, this can be used to make the ball move quickly in odd angles.
3. Make sure it bounces well before the back wall
Assuming you are not going for a back serve, you want to make the ball bounce twice as close as you can to the back wall. This will limit your opponent’s ability to return the ball at a good angle and with a good amount of force.
#3 – The Body Serve
The Body Serve is usually used as a variation or surprise serve.
You are basically going to try and hit the ball at your opponent!
The aim is either to get them to be hit by the ball (which makes them instantly lose the rally) or to force a misshit as they are off balance and often expecting the serve from a different angle.
Where To Aim
Front Wall – To the right of the center and low – just above the service line.
Sidewall – This serve will not hit the sidewall
Direction – At your opponent!
Bounce – Hopefully roughly just behind where your opponent is standing, before hitting the back wall.
Body Serve Tips
Here’s a guide to performing the Body Serve:
1. Hit the front wall, but specifically to the right of the middle
Normally when you serve, you want to hit the side wall to make the ball bounce in a manner that will make it hard for your opponent to hit it.
In this case, you want to hit it against the front wall and aim for the middle, to maximize your chances of it hitting your opponent on the full.
Take care to make sure the ball does not return and hit you! Obviously the faster you make the ball move, the harder it is for your opponent to avoid being hit by it.
2. Start off like a volley
Keep your racket at a similar height as the ball and move through the ball at a constant height. You can achieve more than enough speed and power to make sure your opponent will be unbalanced getting out of the way.
#4 – Backhand Serves
The Backhand Serve creates a difficult angle for your opponent to hit.
At the same time it gives you an edge in recovering the T-Positions, since turning is unnecessary in this serve, unlike most other serves. This is probably the reason that this serve is used most prominently by pro players.
This serve is almost exclusively played from the forehand side of the court, but using a backhand shot.
Where To Aim
Front Wall – Aim to the left of the center, and about halfway in between the middle red line of the front wall, and the out line at the top.
Side Wall – Aim to the hit the sidewall quite far back, probably behind your opponent, and at about their head height roughly
Bounce – Your are aiming for the first bounce to happen before it gets to the back wall.
Backhand Serve Tips
1. You are doing a volley but with the backhand
Volleying has been discussed before, but this one requires a bit of extra advice. All beginners begin serving usually with their forehand. Serving with the backhand does often feel a bit more unnatural at first.
However, it is just a case of muscle memory. Keep practicing the shot, and it will come to feel more natural. The benefits of this shot are great if you can play it well.
2. Keep the ball at arms length when you toss it
Spacing is usually important for serves but it might be especially important this time around, to give you the space to play the ball.
Tossing the ball into the air should be done at arm’s length, so that way you have more than enough space to hit the ball.
3. Make sure the ball is lifted
Usually, the backhand serve is a modified version of the Lob Serve, so if it is done this way, you want to try to have the ball hit high up on the front wall.
4. Aim for the sidewall
Like with many serves, it is best for your shot to go towards the back of the court, and preferably clip near the back of the sidewall. By clipping the sidewall and then bouncing close to the back wall, it will make it extremely hard for your opponent to return it.
5. Make sure it bounces before it hits the back wall
As discussed in most of the other serves, it is best for the ball to travel towards the back of the court but bounce before it hits the back wall. As discussed before, this makes it harder for your opponent to dig it out of the back.
6. Vary your backhand serve!
The usual backhand serve looks a bit like a lob serve, only maybe slightly more powerful.
However, this is not the only backhand serve variation. You can play much higher lobs, where the ball hits almost the top of the front wall, or you can play smash serves if you are able. Just pratice them first!
Squash Serve Drills
Now you know the basics of where to aim and how to play each of the four serves, it’s time to practice!
Serves are not the easiest skill to do drills for, but it is far from impossible!
If you are practising on your own, probably the best way is to get a pile of squash balls.
You probably might want to warm them up a bit first, or else use bouncier balls like blue spots.
Using cold double yellow dots will not help much, as you will be hitting different targets on the walls that would not be the same for warm balls.
It is much easier to practice with a partner. Simply pick one serve out of the four, and play it multiple times. Your partner can simply cross court it back to you and then play the next serve. Try to play each one at least ten times.
Some serves are easier than others, and some will need longer spent on them. Usually the backhand serve is a harder one, but definitley worth working at.
You now know the full info about where to aim when you serve!
Squash is a game that is all about target-hitting, and when you start to get a firmer idea in your head of where you should be aiming, you will usually find that your shots will slowly become a bit more accurate.