Games are played to ether 9,11 or 21 points (with the exception that the receiver may opt to call "set two" and play to 10 when the score first reaches 8-8). Competition matches are usually played to "best-of-five" (i.e., the player to win the most out of 5 games). At one time this scoring system was preferred in Britain, but also among countries with traditional British ties, e.g. Australia, Canada, Pakistan, South Africa, India, but now at competitive levels, only PARS to 11 is used (see below).
Point a rally scoring system (PARS)
Alternatively, in the point-a-rally scoring system (PARS), points are scored by the person who wins each rally, whether or not he or she served. The winner of the previous point will serve at the start of the next point. Traditionally, PARS scoring was up to 9 points (or the receiver calls 9 or 10 when the game reaches 8-8). However, in 2004, the PARS scoring was increased to 11 for the professional game (if the game reaches 10-10, a player must win by two points). PARS is now used on the men's Professional Tour, and the tin height has been lowered by two inches for the men's professional tournaments (these changes have been made in a hope to shorten the length of the rallies and therefore the match). The women's Professional Tour uses the original tin height, but started using the PARS to 11 scoring system as of July 2008. In the International game, club, doubles and recreational matches are usually played using the traditional British scoring system, but the European Squash Federation (ESF), World Squash Federation (WSF) and several national federations are now using PARS to 11 on a trial or permanent basis. Scoring systems and rules can be adapted subtly to accommodate shorter game time or multiple players. As of April 1, 2009, WSF has declared that PARS to 11 will be the only official scoring system allowed for all levels of competitive squash.
The referee is usually a certified position issued by the club or assigned squash league. The referee has dominant power over the squash players. Any conflict or interference is dealt with by the referee. The referee may also issue to take away points or games due to improper etiquette regarding conduct or rules. Refer to Interference and Obstruction for more detail.
Types of shots played
There are many types of shots played that lead to interesting games and strategy.
Strategy and tactics
A key strategy in squash is known as "dominating the T" (the intersection of the red lines near the centre of the court where the player is in the best position to retrieve the opponent's next shot). Skilled players will return a shot, and then move back toward the "T" before playing the next shot. From this position, the player can quickly access any part of the court to retrieve the opponent's next shot with a minimum of movement.
A common strategy is to hit the ball straight up the side walls to the back corners; this is the basic squash shot, referred to as a "rail," straight drive, wall, or "length." After hitting this shot, the player will then move to the centre of the court near the "T" to be well placed to retrieve the opponent's return. Attacking with soft or "short" shots to the front corners (referred to as "drop shots") causes the opponent to cover more of the court and may result in an outright winner. Boasts or angle shots are deliberately struck off one of the side walls before the ball reaches the front. They are used for deception and again to cause the opponent to cover more of the court.
Rallies between experienced players may involve 30 or more shots and therefore a very high premium is placed on fitness, both aerobic and anaerobic. As players become more skilled and, in particular, better able to retrieve shots, points often become a war of attrition. At higher levels of the game, the fitter player has a major advantage.
Ability to change the direction of ball at the last instant is also important to unbalance the opponent. Expert players can anticipate the opponent's shot a few tenths of a second before the average player, giving them a chance to react sooner.
Just before the match, the players spin a racket (usually up or down of logo) to decide who serves first. This player starts the first rally by electing to serve from either the left or right service box. For a legal serve, one of the server's feet must be touching the service box, not touching any part of the service box lines, as the player strikes the ball. After being struck by the racket, the ball must strike the front wall above the service line and below the out line and land in the opposite quarter court. The receiving player can choose to volley a serve after it has hit the front wall. If the server wins the point, the two players switch sides for the following point.
After the serve, the players take turns hitting the ball against the front wall, above the tin and below the out line. The ball may strike the side or back walls at any time, as long as it hits below the out line. It must not hit the floor after hitting the racket and before hitting the front wall. A ball landing on either the out line or the line along the top of the tin is considered to be out. After the ball hits the front wall, it is allowed to bounce once on the floor (and any number of times against the side or back walls) before a player must return it. Players may move anywhere around the court but accidental or deliberate obstruction of the other player's movements is forbidden. Players typically return to the center of the court after making a shot.
Hand-out scoring system
This scoring system is based on a serving system, in which one must gain the serve to obtain a point. Having the serve is sometimes considered to be on offense . The opponent (who does not have the serve) is considered to be on the defensive and must score to win the serve and then score again to gain a point.
Points are awarded if, during the course of play:
Where the server does any of these things, or fails to hit the serve in, then the players change roles and the receiver will serve the next point, but no points are awarded.
The squash court is a playing surface surrounded by four walls. The court surface contains a front line separating the front and back of the court and a half court line, separating the left and right hand sides of the back portion of the court, creating three 'boxes' - the front half, the back left quarter and the back right quarter. Both the back two boxes contain smaller service boxes. All of the floor-markings on a squash court are only relevant during serves.
There are four walls to a squash court. The front wall, on which three parallel lines are marked, has the largest playing surface, whilst the back wall, which typically contains the entrance to the court, has the smallest. The out line runs along the top of the front wall, descending along the side walls to the back wall. There are no other markings on the side or back walls. Shots struck above or on the out line, on any wall, are out. The bottom line of the front wall marks the top of the 'tin', a half metre-high metal area which if struck means that the ball is out. The middle line of the front wall is the service line and is only relevant during serves.
Colour Speed Bounce
Orange Super Slow Super low
Double yellow Slow Very low (normal competition ball)
Yellow Slow Low
Green or white Medium/slow Average
Red Medium High
Blue Fast Very high
Interference and obstruction
Interference and obstruction are an inevitable aspect of this sport, since two players are confined within a shared space. Generally, the rules entitle players to a clear view of the ball after it has struck the front wall, direct straight line access to the ball, room for a reasonable swing and an unobstructed shot to any part of the front wall. When interference occurs, a player may appeal for a "let" and the referee (or the players themselves if there is no official) then interprets the extent of the interference. The referee may elect to allow a let and the players then replay the point, or award a "stroke" to the appealing player (meaning that he is declared the winner of that point) depending on the degree of interference, whether the interfering player made an adequate effort to avoid interfering, and whether the player interfered with was likely to have hit a winning shot had the interference not occurred. An exception to all of this occurs when the interfering player is directly in the path of the other player's swing, effectively preventing the swing, in which case a stroke is always awarded.
When it is deemed that there has been little or no interference, or that it is impossible to say one way or the other, the rules provide that no let is to be allowed, in the interests of continuity of play and the discouraging of spurious appeals for lets. Because of the subjectivity in interpreting the nature and magnitude of interference, the awarding (or withholding) of lets and strokes is often controversial.
When a player's shot hits their opponent prior to hitting the front wall, interference has occurred. If the ball was travelling towards the side wall when it hit the opponent, or if had already hit the side wall and is now travelling directly to the front wall, it is usually a let. However, it is a stroke to the player who hit the ball if the ball was travelling straight to the front wall when the ball hit the opponent, without having first hit the side wall. Generally after a player has been hit by the ball, both players stand still, if the struck player is standing directly in front of the player who hit the ball he loses the stroke, if he is not straight in front, a let is played. If it is deemed that the player who is striking the ball is deliberately trying to hit his opponent, he will lose the stroke. An exception to all of this occurs when the player hitting the ball has "turned", i.e., let the ball pass him on one side, but then hit it on the other side as it came off the back wall. In these cases, the stroke goes to the player who was hit by the ball.