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The Squash Return of Serve


  • The Return of Serve is the first opportunity for the Receiver to move the Server (opponent) away from the centre of the court.
  • The Return of Serve feet positioning often determines the type of return possible.
  • The first thought when returning the serve should be "can I take this ball on the full (volley)"?
  • The second thought "how can I move the Server (opponent) from the T"?

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PSA Squash TV - CIMB Malaysian Open 2012

Return of Serve Feet and Body Positioning

Return of Serve Feet Positioning
Positioning with respect to the return of serve can be an individual decision. However, it is important to be able to:
  •  Respond to a range of serves.
  • Take advantage of loose serves.
  •  Volley many serves.

More on Return of Serve & Feet position

Squashgame Gold: Advanced Text and Video Content

Key points on the return of serve

  • Watch the server to anticipate the angle, speed and height of the serve.
  • Stand well out from the wall and back corners to receive the serve.
  • Move forward to strike the ball on the volley, preferably before the ball hits the side wall.
  • Stand in the Ready position, watching the ball.
  • As the server hits the ball turn into the Shape position and then set for a high or early return.
  • The following are aiming points on the front wall for return of serve:
  •  High on the front wall a racket length from the side wall to rebound down the wall to land in the back corner of the court.
  •  High on the front wall about the centre court to rebound into the opposite back corner.
  • In the front corner of the court, tight to the side wall

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Key points on Technique

Return of serve diagram
  • Balance is a major factor in returning the serve consistently.
  • The feet must respond quickly to whatever serve is offered so as to retain balance.
  • Try to position your feet parallel to the side wall when hitting the return.

More on Return of Serve Technique

Squashgame Gold: Advanced Text and Video Content

More on Return of Serve Technique

  • Watch the server serve the ball - don`t watch the front wall.
  •  If possible, take the serve on the volley.
  • Swing through all shots with an open face to help keep control.
  • If possible, move forward into the serve, then make the transition to the T.

Video Return of Serve off Side Wall

Taking the ball as it rebounds off the side wall
This video can be used as a pair drill. 
The concept of returning the serve as it deflects off the side wall is an excellent skill to practice and use as often as possible.  Why?
  • It gets the ball away quickly
  • It gives easy access to the T forcing the opponent behind
  • If the ball dies into the back corner it can force a defensive return.
  • It speeds up the game and puts pressure on the opponent.
What are the main points:
  • Keep away from the side walls when receiving serve.
  • Watch the serve very closely to get as many clues as possible.
  • Have the racket ready to intercept the ball quickly.
  • The first option with the return is to ask yourself, can I hit the ball before it hits the side wall?  Which can only be done if moving forward, and standing not too far back in the court.
  • The second question, can I take the ball as it rebounds off the side wall?  It will be necessary to adjust the feet positioning and the shoulders to account for the change of pace and height of the ball.
  • The third consideration, can I hit the ball straight down the wall? In which case there will be more adjustment to the feet and body and racket swing.
  • And finally, if it has to be a boast, be sure to have a full back swing, wait for the ball to rebound about a racket length, open the racket face and hit under the ball, to lift it out. 
  • The height and angle of the boast will determine how good the shot actually is when the ball reaches the front wall.

Video Resources

How good is my Return of Serve?

How effective is your Return of Service?

Good Bad
My return is forcing the opponent away from the T I get stuck in the back of the court
I am able to hit good length with my return The return is too short
The return is tight to the side wall The opponent steps in volleys my return
The opponent is not sure where I am going to hit the ball Cannot get any variety into my return
I have got all return of serves back into play Keep hitting the tin

Video clip Return of Serve Alternatives

Return of Serve Alternative Shots
The skill in returning the serve is to be able to recognise which return is the most suitable depending on:
  • the height of the serve
  • the depth of the serve
  • the speed of the serve
  • the width of the serve

Video Resources

Video return of serve volley drop off power serve

Volley Drop return of serve off a power serve
A volley drop off a power serve requires:
  •  a firm wrist
  •  good racket head control

This shot can be very effective if it drops tightly and softly into the front corner.  Strive to get angle into the corner, making it difficult to attack..

Video Resources

Video clip Return of Serve options

Return of Serve incorporating a drive, boast and volley
This video shows attacking returns as well as placement shots played to give time to recover into the court.  Note the following clues are being anticipated enabling early preparation for the return:
  • The angle of the serve
  • The width of the serve
  • The height of  the serve
all of which give indicators of where to move, how to move, and the best return options


Video Resources

Video Return of Serve off Wide Power Serve

Return of Serve off wide power serve
This serve can catch those who do not watch the opponent closely during serving  Why?
  • As the serve angles to the side wall the ball bounces into the court.
  • The angle off the wall can catch the receiver back-pedalling.
If the server continually keeps hitting this surprise shot it is a good idea to stand further away from the side wall.
A good optional return is a drop shot into the corner.

Video Resources

Video Volley Boast Backhand Return off Power Serve

Volley Boast off Power Serve
This is an excellent shot to get you out of the back corner and ready at the T .The volley boast takes the opponent forward, and provided the boast sits low into the corner, can set up a weaker return.
Always follow up the short shot ready to intercept the return, if it is a length shot, or pick up a short shot in the front of the court.

Tbe volley boast increases the speed of the game, and makes the opponent move forward, and change body position. . 

Volley options on Return of Serve
It is very difficult to predetermine what return is best to play in advance, as that decision will depend on a large extent to the type of serve you are returning, eg high or power, wide, deep, etc.
Try to develop a variety of return options to keep the opponent off guard, otherwise the opponent will tend to guess/crowd and be in position almost before you return the ball.


Video Resources

Video Return of Serve Decision Making

Return of Serve - Where to play the ball
This is an advanced skill and once mastered will take your game to a new level.
Often players become mesmerised or paralysed by the serve, and keep hesitating what to do, eg step in and take it on the volley, wait until it bounces, let it go to the back wall, as well as wonder where to hit it, ie deep, short, cross court, short or long.
Solo pair practice will be helpful to overcome some of this indecision in the future. 
Knowing what to do with the serve when it comes will help your confidence when returning serve.

Video Resources

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