Zero to Hero: The serve and return of serve

29th November 2018

What is it?

The serve and return are essential components of the game of squash, and you need to be able to do both with equal competence to improve your overall playing standard.

Why do we use it?

Developing a good serve is a key part of your squash progression. A lot of players think of the serve purely in terms of getting the ball into play, when it’s actually a great opportunity to immediately put your opponent under pressure in a rally. Equally, developing your ability to hit a good return of serve will accelerate your improvement, as you’ll give away less cheap points and easy winner opportunities to your opponent.

Jesse has covered both the serve and return of serve in this video here.

It’s worth taking the time to practice hitting a good serve, as this will allow you to immediately get on the front foot in a rally – particularly so when playing at a beginner level.

A high lob serve to an opponent’s backhand volley is a notoriously difficult shot to have to deal with, so it’s well worth spending some time learning how to hit an effective serve as well as learning how to deal with that difficult return.


How to practice

Serves can be practised on your own or with a partner, whilst returns obviously need someone on court with you hitting the ball into the target area (unless you have the luxury of a ball machine being on hand).

A good pairs practice to do is the Serve/Volley game. One player is the designated server, the other is the designated receiver – the game is played to 11, and then positions swapped. The server scores a point if they can hit a good serve and get the ball to bounce somewhere in their opponents box, while the receiver scores a point if they can get the ball back into play with a volley (as you get more advanced you can make it tougher for the receiver by forcing them to have to hit their volley only to the back, or tougher still, hit only a straight volley that lands back in the quarter they’re receiving in). It’s only ever a two-shot rally, the rally isn’t played out to a normal conclusion – serve, return, then repeat.

Another good serve practice is to put up a physical target to try and hit. A balloon taped on the wall up near the out of court line behind the back of the opposite serve box is a good one, as is a large bin placed in the far back corner (though make sure it’s clean and empty first!).

A useful conditioned game to try if you’re looking to make the serve practice more match-related is to have one player serving every time and the other receiving every time, regardless of who wins the previous point. Play the game as normal to 11, and then switch roles.

It worth testing yourself on a regular basis in order to monitor your improvement. These basic serving tests for the right-hand box and for the left-hand box will allow you to gauge how successful your serving is. Keep track of your scores and monitor your progress over time. You should be aiming to make 15/15 serves hit the side wall on each side.


Additional useful content


This excellent playlist from Paul Carter explains how to apply maximum pressure to your opponent with the serve.



This playlist from SquashSkills founder, Jethro Binns offers up some step by step guidance on where to stand and how to use upper body rotation on the backhand side.



This playlist focuses in on the step by step processes taking place during the forehand return of serve.



Common Amateur faults and self-diagnosis

  1. Dragging the ball into the middle: If you find yourself giving strokes away or pulling the ball into the middle of the court, then it’s possible you may be over-rotating at the end of your swing or letting your follow through come too far around your body.
  2. Hitting the side wall: It’s likely that if your drives are hitting the side wall, then you could be getting too close to the ball. Focus on staying away from the ball and getting into the locked out position, whilst also paying attention to your contact point.
  3. Not generating enough power: It’s likely that you are not linking your movement to your shot, and not generating enough rotation at the beginning of your backswing.


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