23 November 2022 / 3-Min Read / Translate↗
Before we look at the first reason properly and talk about the other two (visibility and mind games) let’s check the actual rules. Now remember, this is for PSA and official tournaments. If you are playing with your friends, then these rules don’t apply and you can do pretty much what you want.
Guess which one is new
Section 11 relates to the ball and I want to highlight two points: 11.5 and 11.10, although i do recommend you look through the rules if you have time, it’s quite fun to see them try to cover all possibilities! If both players agree, then a ball must be changed, with or without the referee’s approval, or if one player wants it and the ref agrees. I don’t watch enough pro squash anymore but I have only once seen a player say that they didn’t want the ball changed. I don’t remember the details, and can’t even remember the outcome of the request, but nowadays it seems that there’s little problem. Let me know if I am wrong.
11. THE BALL
11.5. The ball must be changed if both players agree or if the Referee agrees with one player’s request.
11.10. No let is allowed for any unusual bounce.
This is the reason I gave in the introduction and in my experience it was the reasons for nearly every request I have seen. A dead ball is basically a ball that has lost its bounce. When you have hit as many squash balls as pros have, you get a gut-feeling about the ball and some balls just don’t feel right. They might even have a slightly inconsistent bounce, although you nor I might notice it, well I might but only because of my coaching, not because of my skill!
At the same time, a split might have appeared in the ball and it’s clear that the ball will break soon. Rule 11.1 says that if a ball breaks during a rally then you play a let and that’s pretty annoying if you win the point only to find the ball broke, so it’s better to change it before it does.
Don’t confuse this definition of a dead ball with my video about 5 Dead Ball Drills↗, which you can see below, where it means holding the ball before you hit it rather than it moving.
Please don't play squash with these types of balls
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As you have seen from the article thumbnail, a white ball doesn’t stay white all the match. Over time, the ink from the players’ stencil brand markings get imprinted on the ball. I do believe that now the PSA requests white ink, but I’m not completely sure – remember I don’t follow pro squash very much nor have a PSA Squash TV subscription.
Of course, that example is true for every match and players can still see the ball pretty well, but each glass court has its own “personality” with regard to how it plays, including the lighting, so sometimes the ball’s visibility might be more of an issue than other times.
In addition to the visibility, a ball can become shiny and therefore skid when it hits the floor instead on bouncing properly. For black balls, this is because the plaster or paint of the walls, as well as the ink from the stencils gets on the ball and it loses its “stickiness”. A skidding ball is unpredictable and doesn’t make good squash.
Sometimes players are looking for any advantage within the rules (and sometimes outside of them), so if a player is really hitting the ball sweetly and making life difficult for their opponent, it’s not unheard of for that player to ask to change the ball in the hope of disrupting the rhythm of their opponent.
In fact, it could work the other way around, when a player feels that nothing they try is working and a last resort is changing the ball. A bit like changing their racket if they are losing. It’s nearly always in the mind, but it’s unlikely to make things worse, so why not try it?
Club players, like you and me, keep playing with a ball until it breaks, but pros don’t have to. A black ball doesn’t lose its visibility, but if can become shiny and skid rather than bounce. In that case, change the ball! Avoid playing mind games with your opponent and ignore them if they try it. Got any thoughts on this article? Email me at the address below.