A common question when many people first try either sport is what is the difference between squash and racquetball? On the surface there are some clear similarities. Both are played indoors in an enclosed court, and both use a rubber ball and rackets.
So what is the difference between squash and racquetball? There are many differences between squash and racquetball. You use a different size and shape of racket. The balls are extremely unlike other, the ball for racquetball being much bouncier. There is also a differently sized court, scoring system, and technique.
Many people are unaware of the numerous differences between the two sports. I have researched several authoritative sources, and have come up with a description of the definitive differences between the two.
Although both take place on indoor courts, the actual size of the courts differs.
Racquetball courts are slightly larger, measuring 20 feet wide, 40 feet long, and 20 feet wide.
Squash courts are wider but shorter, measuring 21 feet wide (just 1 foot wider), but only 32 feet long (8 feet shorter than a racquetball court), and only 15 feet high (5 feet lower).
The height is an issue because if the ball hits the ceiling in squash then it is out. However, the ball is allowed to hit the ceiling in racquetball.
Tin V No Tin
In squash the court has a ‘tin’. This is the metallic strip at the base of the front wall. If the ball hits this then the shot is out. This means there must always be a bit of height on each squash shot to hit above this mark.
There is no tin on a racquetball court. This means that shots can be played to hit extremely low on the front wall, just above the floor level. Hard kills in racquetball often barely leave the playing surface of the floor.
An obvious difference in the two sports is the different styles of rackets.
In general a squash racket has a longer grip, and the head is narrower.
A racquetball racket has a shorter grip and the head is wider. Racquetball rackets normally have a loop of string around the handle that a player wraps around their wrist. This is to avoid the racket slipping out of their hand during a ferocious power-shot.
The rules for squash rackets are more prescriptive than for racquetball rackets, where the rules are simpler.
For squash rackets there is a maximum length of 27 inches (686mm). This is five inches longer than the maximum for racquetball rackets, where the maximum is 22 inches.
Squash rackets can be up to 8.5 inches (215mm) wide, with a maximum strung area of 77.5 square inches (500 square centimetres). A racquetball racket usually has a slightly larger strung area, normally between 100 and 125 inches.
Squash rackets have a maximum weight of 255 grams (9oz), but the majority are between 90 and 150 grams (3-5.5oz). Racquetball rackets are normally less than 220 grams. In fairness, the weight of the two types of racket is not massively different. It is more the shape that differs.
To summarize, racquetball rackets are shorter and wider with a shorter handle, squash rackets are longer and thinner with a longer handle.
The type of ball used is a major difference between the two sports, and something that really contributes a lot to the different techniques and strategies employed in the two games.
Racquetball balls are 2.25 inches in diameter. The diameter of a squash ball is just 1.57 inches in diameter.
A racquetball ball is much larger and made of solid rubber. It is therefore much bouncier.
A squash ball is smaller and made of hollow rubber. It’s bounce is much lower.
The lower bounce of the squash ball means that many of the key shots in squash are played with very little power. Some of the most effective shots are drop shots, boasts and lobs.
In racquetball power is often the crucial winning feature of play.
A good technique varies considerably between the two sports. The type of ball used plays a big part in this as different types of shots are more successful in the two sports.
Cut V Striking The Ball With Level Racket
In squash the majority of shots will have a bit of ‘cut’ on them. That is, the ball will have some backspin imparted onto it. The racket is generally angled slightly towards the ceiling for every shot, as you want to get at least a little height on every shot.
Backspin helps the ball to stick to the back wall better. It is also a crucial component of drop shots, making the drop ‘die’ more quickly near the front corners.
In racketball, backspin is hardly used at all. The more standard shots have no spin on them with the racket being level. Some kills work well with a little topspin on the ball, which helps it dip in flight and keep lower.
The swing of the two sports is another obvious difference between the two.
The swing required in squash generally takes longer to learn and is slightly more complex. The racket goes from high to low to high again. In racquetball there is more of a sideways arc.
Cocked Wrist V Snap Wrist
Racquetball players often hit shots with a ‘snap wrist’. A loose wrist is therefore required. The wrist helps to whip the racket through the shot, and this is a key component of power in shots.
This technique is not recommended in squash. Instead a ‘cocked wrist’ is used. The wrist is held in a more static position throughout impact with the ball. The main reason for this is to maintain accuracy and racket-head direction through all shots.
Accuracy V Power
Squash is a game of accuracy. A more accurate but less powerful player will almost always beat a more powerful but less accurate player.
One of the key features of squash is trying to hit ‘good length’, e.g. hitting shots to the back corners, with the second bounce being close to the back wall. Another feature is trying to keep the shots ‘tight’ to the side wall.
Other shots such as drop shots are far more successful if they are played just above the tin and tight to the sidewall.
In racquetball power seems to be a much more important element. Low kills are a crucial shot, where the ball is hit hard and low just above the level of the ground.
Also very powerful shots can rebound quickly off the back wall and be very hard to turn. Any ball bouncing a long way off the back wall in squash is normally seen as a poor shot because it enables numerous attacking shots to try to win the point. You could play a boast, trickle boat, drop shot or just a low kill.
Use Of The Ceiling
In squash any shot that strikes the ceiling is instantly out and you loose the point.
However, in racquetball one of the most important shots is called the ‘ceiling ball’. This is a shot that hits the ceiling usually between 4 to 8 feet in front of the front wall. It then hits the front wall, bounces down and lands somewhere near the middle of the court before dying somewhere near the back of the court.
The perfect ceiling ball shot will hit the nick of the back wall with the second bounce.
This is clearly a shot that simply can’t exist in squash.
In squash a ‘kill’ is generally a shot that is designed to end a rally. It is usually struck when one player is in front of another. That player will strike the ball low and hard just above the tin. The idea is tokeep the ball close to one of the side walls and get it to bounce twice before it reaches your opponent.
In racquetball there are two types of kill: the ‘one-wall’ kill and the ‘two-wall’ kill. The one-wall kill is similar to the traditional squash kill, only you can hit much lower on the wall because there is no tiin.
The two-wall kill is a shot more unique to racquetball. It is a bit like an offensive boast, with the ball striking the side wall at pace before hitting the front wall and bouncing twice before their opponent.
Squash V Racquetball – Other Different Shots
There is a shot in racquetball called ‘Around the World’. This is a strongly hit shot that hits the side wall, then the front wall, then the other side wall before bouncing towards the middle of the back court. Such a shot is not really possible in squash, and would also be extremely ineffective as it would often result in a kill or drop with the other player out of position.
Squash V Racquetball – Rules
In squash, you can usually win any point, either serving or receiving. This is sometimes referred to as the American scoring system. Games are to 15, and a match is the best of 5 games.
Racquetball games are also to 15, but it is usually best of 3 games. The third game is just to 11.
Some differences between the two include:
In squash you only have one serve. In racquetball you are allowed a second serve if the first serve is out.
In squash there are lets and strokes if one player obstructs the other’s shot. In racquetball there is a similar concept, but it is called a hinder and a penalty hinder.
In racquetball there is something called a court hinder. This is when the ball has bounced unevenly off a part of the court, usually off the door frame. Nothing such as this exists in squash, and you just have to deal with any peculiar bounces.
In squash, you normally have to win by two clear points (though sometimes you can chose a margin of one or two). In racquetball you can win just by one point.
To find out more about the rules of racquetball, why not check out this excellent video:
Diving V Non-Diving
Diving seems to be a common feature of the play of many players in racquetball in an attempt to retrieve difficult returns.
Dives are very rarely used in squash, partly because it stops players getting back quickly to the T position.
A major difference between squash and racquetball is that in racquetball a different grip is used for the forehand and backhand shots. After a player has played a forehand shot, the racket is rotated slightly in the hand for the backhand shot. In this way, racquetball is more like tennis, where a very different grip is used for both the forehand and backhand.
In squash the situation is very different. The same grip is used for every shot, and so a player must adopt a grip that works well for both backhand and forehand with no change.
Another issue is the index finger. In squash the index finger of the hand holding the racket is traditionally separated from the rest of the hand. This finger provides extra control and accuracy to shots.
In racquetball the index finger will just sit next to the other fingers, and is not used in such a way.
If you’re interested in the different techniques between squash and racquetball, then you really do want to check out my youtube video where I outline the major differences. Don’t forget to subscribe!
Eyewear V No Eyewear
In racquetball the use of protective eyewear is mandatory in all competitions. Also, recreationally the majority of players use protective eyewear at all times.
The use of eyewear is not unknown in squash, but is much more unusual.
Eyewear is mandatory for juniors in most countries. However, the majority of professional players do not use protective eyewear, and neither do most recreational players.
Possibly the greater speed of the ball in racquetball is the reason for this, as well as the more ferocious nature of the swing in that sport.
Origin Of Squash And Racquetball
Squash was invented in England at the independent Harrow School back in 1830. It developed from an older sport that was known as rackets. Pupils of the school found that if they used the same balls they used for rackets, but ones that were punctured, they bounced much less and produced a more interesting game.
They found that many different shots and techniques were possible, and the game started to grow in interest.
It was also a more active game, because the players couldn’t simply wait for the ball to bounce back to them, but had to move in a more agile way around the court.
They built several courts to play the new game on.
The sport spread to other countries in the Victorian era, and was being played to some degree in other countries in the 1880s and 1890s.
Racquetball is a much newer sport. It was invented in 1950 by Joseph Sobeck, a professional tennis and handball player. He was looking for a sport that was easily learned by beginners, that was fast paced and exciting. The popularity of the sport spread throughout America over the next few decades, and as started to spread across the world more recently.
Popularity In Different Countries
The popularity of both sports is spread across different countries.
In general, squash seems to be currently more popular than racquetball in terms of players around the world, although statistics seem to vary depending on who you believe.
There seems to be approximately 20 million squash players around the world, with about half that playing racquetball.
There is estimated to be 3.5 million racquetball players in the USA, with about a million squash players.
The countries where squash is most popular is the United Kingdom and Egypt. It is also played a lot in France, Australia, Canada, USA and Pakistan.
Racquetball is a slightly newer sport, only being invented half way through the 20th Century, whereas squash is nearly 200 years old and so perhaps has had a longer time to grow throughout the world.
As you’d probably expect squash and racquetball are administered by two different bodies. However, in some countries the same governing body oversees both, for example in the UK.
The international body for squash is called the Squash Federation. The International Racquetball Federation oversees the sport of racquetball.
What is the difference between squash and tennis? Squash and tennis differ in many key ways. A squash court is enclosed, whereas a tennis court is open. Players use different types of rackets, tennis rackets being much heavier. A tennis ball is much larger, heavier and bouncier. Scoring, technique and gameplay all differ significantly.
Which uses more calories – squash or racquetball? Both sports burn a similar level of calories. Squash rallies often last longer and are more aerobic. Racquetball rallies may be shorter, but they often involve longer sprints. Both are extremely healthy sports and burn a significant number of calories per hour, more than almost any other sport.
Is squash easier for beginners or racquetball? Both are relatively simple sports for a beginner to take up. However, squash shots usually take longer to master as there is more technical points involved in the swing, and accuracy is a key ingredient to be successful. A racquetball swing is more natural, and accuracy is not so crucial.