How To Decide who Serves First In A Squash Match

You spin the racket, right? Yeah, that's the official way, but was it always like that and are there more interesting ways?

12 December 2022 / 3-Min Read / Translate

The first reference I found, after a very quick serach of my "Squash Library" (grand name for a few squash books In have), shows the book Introducing Squash by D.G. Butcher 1948 mentions spinning the racket for the right to serve first. The book actually says "MCMXLVIII" and I had to spend a few minutes firstly trying to remember Roman Numerals and then finding a website that converted it! It may appear earlier, but I couldn't find any books in my collection before that. I'll do some more research when I have time and update this article.

Let's quickly clarify what spinning the racket means just in case it's not obvious to you. Some rackets have "My Serve" and "Your Serve" printed on each face of the racket. You spin the racket and whichever face is up when the racket lands is the answer. But not all rackets have that option, so people then use the logo on the butt of the racket and say "up" or "down". Normally, the player spinning the racket shows their opponent his butt (sorry, couldn't resist that puerile joke) to make it clear what is "Up" and what is "down". So far so good.

Here is a quick question for you, with the answer at the bottom of the article. If a player wins the serve, can they give it to their opponent?

A More Casual Way To Decide

When I first started to play squash, oh so many years ago, in all the games I played, I was taught to decide who serves by playing a rally - seems silly, right? The person who happened to be holding the ball at that moment, would start the rally with an easy shot, not even a proper serve, just a weak drive and then each player was expected to increase the intensity of their shots until a "full on" rally was in progress. The winner of that rally served. Phew, what a waste of a rally.

I honestly don't know why it was done that way and when I asked, I was told "That's the way we have always done it", which is a stupid reason for doing something.

Interestingly, at least for me, when this happened, I tried to hit a winner on the first shot (we were not properly heated up, so it seemed like a perfect tactic), only to be scolded and told, that's not fair, play nicely.

Let's Copy Snooker

In snooker, each player hits a ball from one end of the table to the other and the closest ball to the cushion wins the right to break. I have to admit that I haven't watched the start of a snooker match in over 25 years and they might not do it that way any more. Wouldn't it be ironic if they spun a cue to decide who served?

Anyway, I have two suggestions that I feel would add some "spice" to the process of deciding who serves. I. even created a video over a year ago to demonstrate the idea to a tournament director.

Idea 1: Place an object on the court, perhaps something related to the sponsor and each player has to hit the ball off four walls and get their ball as close as possible to the object.

Idea 2: Each player has to hit the ball off the front wall, let it bounce off the back wall and get as close to the short line as possible. With this idea both players could do it at the same time to add to the "excitement".

Here is the video demonstration:

Final Thoughts

Even thought the rules do say that a racket must be spun to decide serve, feel free to invent your own way - and as far as I am concerned, the more outrageous, the better! Send me you ideas via email.

After I published the article, I remembered that I released a "Let's Talk Squash" video on this exact subject - one of the problems of getting old! Anyway, here is that video:

QUESTION ANSWER: Yes, the spin defines the right to choose, not the obligation to serve. Although, unless your opponent has a terrible serve, there's little point in giving it away.

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