A backhand serve is hit using a backhand drive and is played from the service box from the player’s forehand side. This is probably the serve that you see the most of now in the professional game. But why is that, and how do you play a great one?
Why play a backhand serve? The backhand serve can create a difficult angle for your opponent and gives you a potentially quicker recovery to the T because the server doesn’t need to turn unlike when playing a standard forehand serve from the same position.
Here, we will give you some tips on practicing, improving and implementing the backhand serve into your game. We’ll also touch on body position and how the backhand service can give you a marked advantage in controlling the T, as well as provide 5 quick tips for developing a lethal backhand serve. Sound good? Okay, let’s dive in.
Why Use A Backhand Serve?
The backhand serve is a great weapon to have at your disposal as it enables the server to keep the ball closer to the side wall. You will most often see this shot played as a Lob Serve, but is equally effective as a Backhand Smash Serve.
The Importance of The Backhand Serve
Why is the backhand serve important in your development as a player? First, it’s a more difficult shot to execute, at least for most players when starting out. A good backhand serve takes timing, racket placement, coordination, and balance-all things that if developed well for this particular shot will also help you in other aspects of the game.
As in other racket sports, players tend to favor their forehand and develop that side of their game, making their backhand weaker. Once comfortable with that it becomes a habit which is hard to break. In tennis you’ll see players even run around their backhand, to hit a forehand shot. In a game as fast as squash you’ll rarely see a player try this, but if you always stay with a forehand service your game may suffer.
The point being is that it is to your advantage to develop both sides of your game, and in this case, your backhand service. Don’t sacrifice versatility for comfort.
The advantages to learning and developing a backhand serve and adding it to your arsenal of shots are many. If you want to truly grow as a player it is mandatory. Learning the backhand serve early will make the shot second nature and can give you an early advantage in a match as it can be a difficult shot to return.
The two main advantages to utilizing a backhand serve on your forehand side are seen in body positioning and shot angle.
First, by playing a backhand serve from your forehand side you don’t need to turn your body halfway around to get into position for your opponent’s return shot. This gives you a distinct advantage in controlling the center of the court and a chance to win the point.
The second advantage can be seen in your shot angle. The backhand serve gives you the chance to play a tighter angle shot towards the side wall. As it is harder for an opponent to return a serve that hugs the wall, you’ll find you can win more points off your service using the backhand.
Court vision, the ability to watch the ball and your opponent, are vitally important to winning squash. Developing a good backhand serve gives you the ability to track the ball better than you can by playing a forehand serve from the forehand side of the court.
Think back to our earlier point about body positioning; you don’t have to turn your body 180 degrees to position yourself for a return shot.
Playing a backhand serve from the forehand side means you’ll be able to watch your opponent better whilst keeping an eye on the ball, as opposed to having your back towards your opponent with a forehand serve.
Moving Towards The T
In squash the serve and return is crucial as far as who gets to the T-Position early in the exchange of a rally. Here is where we can see a key benefit of the backhand serve as you are carried towards the T-Position by the momentum of the serve alone. You will be naturally stepping into an advantageous position as a result of the movement associated with the backhand serve.
Spin To Win
Are you looking for serve that is on average more difficult for your opponent to return? Playing a backhand serve from the forehand side means the ball won’t come off the side wall as much, resulting in a more difficult service return for your opponent.
Typically, when you play a forehand shot, the ball caroms quite a distance from the side wall giving your opponent a more linear shot to return.
The backhand serve gives you a ball that stays tighter to the side wall because of the spin put on the ball by the nature of the backhand motion. The ball behaves as it would with a straight length shot, keeping tighter to the wall and presenting a tougher return for your opponent.
Think About It
This may sound confusing but bear with us. Many players will play a backhand serve from their backhand side of the court, which on the surface seems to make sense-backhand serve from the backhand side. But in reality, this is the same as playing a forehand serve from the forehand side of the court. You will find yourself facing away from your opponent, and the T, as well as away from the direction of the ball’s travel.
Try This: Make a conscious effort to think about your court position when serving as it relates to the T, your opponent and the return of your serve. By utilizing a backhand service from the forehand position you put yourself in an advantageous position at the beginning of the point.
At first, you may struggle with what to many players seems unnatural, but if you stick with it and practice the backhand serve, you’ll have added a useful weapon to your squash arsenal.
5 Steps To A Killer Backhand Serve
- Think Backhand Volley – As with the smash serve and body serve, treat the Serve a bit like a volley. As the Backhand Serve is often unnatural at first, people often come up with all sorts of awkward techniques, even if they otherwise have a great Backhand. Simply imagine you are playing a backhand volley lob and don’t attempt to make any additions to your natural swing for this shot.
- Toss The Ball At Arms Length – Players tend to crowd the ball when employing a backhand serve so keep space top of mind whilst serving. When you toss the serve, make sure you place it at about arm’s length, giving yourself enough space to play the ball.
- Give A Lift – As with a Lob Serve, the Backhand Serve you’re aiming for height. Make certain that you get the racket head under the ball, lifting it upwards. You aim point is the top third of the front wall. Higher is better.
- The Side Wall – A great technique with the Backhand Serve is the sidewall clip. Aim your serve to clip the sidewall near the back of the court. This will cause the ball to bounce close to the back wall, making for a difficult return.
- Bounce To Avoid A Pounce – This maxim helps you make certain that your Backhand Serve bounces before hitting the back wall. If you rocket a serve off the back wall your opponent will likely pounce on the shot and return it easily while you may be out of position.
Who Should I Watch?
Some pro players use the backhand serve as their default serve of choice.
Multiple World and British Open Champion Nick Matthew is an excellent example of this. At least ninety per cent of his serves from the forehand side of the court are using the backhand serve.
Ashour and Elshobaghy also play this serve a lot. It makes sense as it is a great way to start the rally, to get you in the middle and your opponent in the corner.
How To Practise The Backhand Serve
Serves are harder to find drills and other ‘fun’ ways to practise the skill. In the case of serves you really need to get out on court with lots of balls and simply try hitting backhand serve after backhand serve.
One tip is to try to either warm the balls up first to some extent, or else use bouncier balls than you would normally.
If you use a stone-cold double yellow dot ball when you are practising this serving drill, you will find that when it comes to a game, you are hitting it far too high and the ball will be boucing off the back wall.
If you have a partner that will help you achieve a serve practising drill, then that will work well. You can simply practise your serve, and get them to try to return it cross court back to you. This will help you use just one ball, and so keep the temperature of the ball higher. This makes your shots more realistic, which is exactly what you want.
Do You Ever Play The Backhand Serve From The Backhand Side Of The Court?
This would be very unusual. The reason the backhand serve is played is to narrow the angle that the ball comes off the front wall.
To play a backhand serve from the backhand side would actually be creating a wider angle than if you used the standard forehand. The serve would therefore be bouncing out closer to the middle of the court, and be easier to potentially play an attacking shot against.
Good luck with those backhand serves.
It probably is the hardest of the serves to play well, but when you get good at it, it is arguably the most solid and effective serve you can play. There is pretty much no attacking shots available when countering a good-quality backhand serve. It sets you up in the perfect position, and just gets the rally off to a flying start.
How does playing a backhand serve help a player track the ball?
Playing a backhand server allows you to track the ball and your opponent properly. With a forehand serve from the forehand court your back is to your opponent and the T and then you must turn 180 degrees to face the return shot.
What are the advantages of playing a backhand serve?
Keep in mind that the backhand serve has few advantages from the left box if you’re a right-handed player. Serving from the right box using a backhand serve changes the angle of the shot, typically making it easier to keep the ball close to the side wall. In addition it allows you to track both your opponent and the ball and enables a smooth transition to the T.