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The Complete Guide To Squash Serve Drills

The serve in squash is a key shot to learn. It is the first shot of any rally, and so sets the tone. A good serve will get you off to a great start, meaning that your opponent will be challenged to hit an accurate return, and you will be in an excellent position on the T when that happens.

It is also a shot that you have the most options for out of any shot. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ squash serve. There are four main types of serve – namely the lob, the smash, the body serve, and the backhand serve. On top of that there is also the basic serve, or the ‘wide’ serve (so technically there are five).

This article gives a quick overview of each of the serves, and lays out a drill to help you practice the skill.

We will also start with a couple of drills that are specifically designed for beginners, and help you to groove the racket swings required to play the different shots.

So go on! Take the time to find out and then try these serve drills, and take your squash serve to a new level.

Serves and Drills

There are basically two ways to hit a forehand serve – using an underhand forehand or an overhand forehand. Let’s have a look first at the underhand, which is by far the most popular method of serving in squash

Underhand Serve

The basic idea is that you gently throw the ball out in front of you, and then swing the racket through, making contact with the ball at roughly thigh or waist height.

It is important to try to keep your wrist ‘cocked’. This helps with accuracy in the shot. Start the backswing high, swing low through the ball, and follow through towards the target. For most serves you strike the ball with a slightly open face, and the ball is travelling to well above the service line on the front wall.

Underhand Serve Drill

This is about as simple as it gets. This is a drill for beginners to check that you are using the correct swing-path and general technique.

Stand in the service box, but you will be aiming to hit the ball straight towards the front wall, not aiming at the opposite side of the court.

The idea is to hit the ball towards the front wall, striking somewhere in the middle between the top line and service line. The ball will loop back towards you.

Catch the ball then repeat the shot. All you are focussing on is getting the mechanics right in the shot.

Movement To The T

A key feature of a successful serve is movement. Executing the serve is one thing but following that up with good court positioning is just as critical.

This should be taken into account when performing service drills. Where do you go once you have delivered the serve? The short answer to that question is that you should get as close to the T-line as possible.

This next drill practises this simple movement.

Movement Drill

This is very similar to the first underhand serve drill. Simply stand in the service box and strike an underhand serve so that it will bounce off the front wall back in your direction.

This time, the moment you strike the ball, you set off towards the T. When you get there, you move back towards where the ball is returning and try to catch it.

Then you play the serve again, and repeat.

Overhand Serve

This is a more unusual serve in squash, but is regularly seen in the amateur game. It is often the most common serve used by many beginners.

The overhand serve is less like a tennis serve, and more like volleyball serve. The contact point is about level with your head, not well above as in a tennis serve.

Your arm should be extended, and roughly horizontal away from your body. Your wrist will be cocked, meaning the racket head is higher than your shoulders, roughly level with your head.

Throw the ball up away from you, and above your head, and swing through the ball. The racket head keeps about the same distance from the floor throughout the shot.

Overhand Serve Drill

Once again stand in the service box, facing the front wall. You will not be hitting cross court this time either, but just practising the mechanics of the strike, by hitting it back to yourself off the front wall.

Throw the ball up, and strike it with an overhand hit towards the front wall. It should come back in your direction. Catch it and repeat.

It cuts off the angles and options available to your opponent.

Backhand Serve – Overview

The backhand underhand serve from the right side of the court can be unnerving to the uninitiated player but it is definitely a shot worth developing. This is the serve that is probably used the most now in the professional game. Players such as Nick Matthew use it as their default serve from the right.

As has already been suggested, you would stand on the right side of the court, facing your opponent.

One foot in the service box and one foot out, with the view to approaching the T-line once the serve is delivered. Your goal is to hit the ball with height and on the diagonal, with the view to getting it to come off the sidewall.

The backhand serve allows you to watch your opponent just a little more and think one or two steps ahead of him before the rally gets into full swing. It is also the serve that gets you quickest back to the T.

Backhand Serve Drill

The key is probably to find your spot on the front wall, where you are confident that the right angle will be found to put your opponent squarely on the back foot.

Try a few backhand serves, and make a note of the point on the front wall that gets the best results – the ball hitting the sidewall about head height, and roughly level with your opponent.

When you have found the spots you can either mark it in some way, or just make a mental note. Continue hitting that spot. Repetition breeds success.

Lob Serve – Overview

The lob serve is the most used serve in the amateur game. It can be truly deadly, particularly in the hands of a master. Also, many beginners have huge problems in returning the lob serve.

When preparing to hit the lob serve, your racket face should be slightly open and at about shoulder height. In fact, if you take a brief glance back over your shoulder, you should be staring directly at your racket face.

For the lob serve the swing path will be high to a low contact. You want to aim high up on the front wall, and slightly to the left of center.

The perfect lob serve will hit the sidewall high up in your opponent’s back box, before bouncing before the back wall.

Lob Serve Drill

This time, instead of fixing your target on the front wall, focus on getting the ball to bounce on a target placed in the back left corner of the court – that is if you are serving from the right hand side of the court of course. Start with something large like a hoop. Try to land the ball in the hoop off the sidewall.

If you do well with that, you could make the target smaller – a newspaper for example.

As is the case with any shot of a lobbing nature, you are taking a lot more pace off the ball and focusing a whole lot more on precision. With there being a lot less pace on the ball, it does give the receiving player that much more to think about too.

It goes without saying but the higher you hit the ball off the front wall, the steeper the trajectory on its way down. Try different types of trajectory, lower and higher, and see how your accuracy level is with these. It is all about finding how the shot will work best for you.

Smash Serve – Overview

The smash serve is a really common serve in the amateur game. It is usually played as an overhand serve.

The ball is struck to hit to front wall just above the service line, and in the middle of the wall. The idea is to hit the sidewall low down roughly level with your opponent, and the second bounce should be close to the backwall.

When hitting the smash serve, it is common to think tennis. However, volleyball is probably a bit more appropriate. In tennis, players tend to stretch to the maximum and they have their feet leave the surface. That is going to get you nowhere on a squash court.

In volleyball, the point of contact with the ball is usually a little lower, closer to the head. That is more or less what you should be trying to achieve with the squash smash serve

Smash Serve Drill

The target area to really think about here is where to hit the sidewall. Put a hoop or other similar target balanced against the sidewall. It should be maybe just in front of where your opponent will stand, and low down.

Experiment with different target points on the front wall. When you find one that means you will be hitting the sidewall in the hoop, then focus on that point. Attempt multiple serves aiming at that point.

You can mark the point on the front wall in some way. A piece of tape, or a piece of paper stuck up.

The point with all of these drills is that it is great to get a firm mental picture of all the different target areas that you need to aim for during different shots.

Lob From Left – Overview

The lob from the left is certainly not as prevalent a shot as the lob from the right.

You must take into account that when delivering the lob serve from the left hand side of the court is that your opponent will be receiving it on the forehand. The margin for error decreases significantly. The key is plenty of height, and getting the ball to hit high up on the sidewall.

Lob From Left Drill

The main target is the point on the sidewall you want the ball to hit. Mark this point in some way. A piece of tape will do the job.

You want the tape to be above head height just in front of where your opponent will be standing.

When that mark is in place, it is all about experimenting with finding your spot on the front wall – a spot that would give your shot the desired angle. When you have found it either make a mental note, or else mark that as well.

Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Body Serve – Overview

You may think that this is squash and not dodge ball. Well, you can turn it into dodge ball if you want – by using the body serve.

So, instead of focusing on finding wider angles, this time find a spot off the front wall which will allow the ball to head directly at the receiving player. This should really be used as a variation though, and nothing more.

You are hoping to get your opponent off balance, and rushing their return. It is a form of surprise, not one of the staple shots.

Body Serve Drill

The biggest thing to consider with this shot is where to hit on the front wall to get the line of the shot right. Line is much more important to this one than weight of shot – (you basically just want to hit it really hard!)

Mark where your opponent will stand. You could put a bag there, or some such thing.

Then experiment with points on the front wall whereby the shot hits or goes close to that object.

When you have found it, mark it with a piece of paper taped up. If you hit ten body serves, how many times can you hit that piece of paper?

Basic Wide Serve

This is the standard serve that you learn when you begin the game. With a forehand underhand strike, you hit the ball towards the center of the front wall, and try to hit the sidewall at about head height, before dying near the back wall. It is neither a lob serve, nor a smash. It is somewhere in between the two.

The idea with this serve is to limit your opponent’s stroke making options. More often that return can be predictable because there is not a considerable amount of room to manoeuvre.

Your opponent may be forced to take the ball high off the side wall or risk letting it bounce and taking it very low off the back wall. Neither option is ideal.

Wide Serve Drill

Your target area or final destination here is the sidewall, about head height and level with your opponent. Mark that point in some way, with tape or a piece of paper.

Then once again experiment with different points on the front wall you need to strike before you find out where to aim to get the ball travelling towards the desired target.

When you have found, try the shot ten or twenty times.

This is a simple serve to play under pressure, as there is so little that can go wrong.


There are so many different types of squash serves, that sometimes knowing which to choose or how to practise them can be a daunting experience.

The thing is to try them all out, and then you can find out which you are best at. Also, it will give you a clear mental image of the target areas to aim for on the front, side and back wall.