It is important to master the following basic skills if you are new to the sport:
Gripping the racquet
It may sound simple, but a good racquet grip can be the key to success. Poor grip will mean you cannot direct the ball accurately or with any great degree of subtlety. To achieve the correct position, imagine someone is passing you a racquet, handle first, and you are grasping the handle. This is the “shake hands” position, in which the thumb and forefinger create a V shape on the grip.
The swing can be broken down into the back swing, down swing and follow-through. The swing should start and finish with the racquet above your head, or you may be in danger of obstructing, or injuring, your opponent. To perfect the three elements, remember to:
- Prepare well in advance for the back swing. Leaving it too late with reduce your options in terms of the stroke you use. It also helps disguise your intentions, as your opponent won’t know what shot you are going to play.
- Keep your knees bent and your elbows in, raising your shoulders so that your head is tucked in as you make contact with the ball. The racquet face should remain open, so that make you contact cleanly with the ball.
- The back swing should not be excessive. As soon as you have made contact with the ball, bring the racket upwards above your head, keeping your elbow bent so that racquet does not swing wide of your body. Again, failure to control your follow-through could obstruct or injure the other player.
Mobility is important but don’t overlook economy – don’t waste energy sprinting forwards and shuffling backwards. Striding, lunging and sidestepping are much more effective than using lots of small steps. You will find it difficult at first to judge strides, often arriving beyond the ball or losing your balance after over-striding. By striding, your body position is lower and your knees are already bent, a much better position from which to stroke the ball than an upright, running posture. Some experts believe martial arts training to be useful for squash players. Karate, for example, focuses on balance and suppleness which can really improve a player’s movement on the squash court.
Your position on the court is key. The centre point of the court, from which all movement should start, is located about 0.5 metres behind the T, where the short line and half court lines meet. After playing the ball, you should try and return to this central area, or you risk being stranded in the wrong area of the court.
You may need to move quickly to another area of the court before your opponent plays his or her shot, however, for example to play a winner when you know your opponent is only able to make a poor return. In these circumstances, returning to the centre point would waste valuable time and energy. As you learn to “read the game” and anticipate your opponent’s shots, you will be able to track the likely trajectory of the ball and time your movement to coincide exactly with the arrival of the ball.