As someone who plays both squash and tennis, I am often asked which one is the harder sport to play. Considering that I love both equally, I will attempt to do some basic comparisons of the two, and arrive at a conclusion. To avoid complexity, I will stick to the singles version of the two games. The views below pertain to club level players and not to professionals.

Court

Tennis courts are larger and require players to cover more court than squash. However, with the modern-day baseline game, the players get a split second more to react between shots. As per studies conducted, the average ground stroke in tennis takes less than 2 sec.

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Squash courts are much smaller than tennis courts and have walls on all four sides. Both the players play on the same court, alternating shots, using the lines and “tin” on the front wall to keep the serve in play.

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Unlike tennis, the back wall often keeps the ball in play, making the rallies longer. Squash players have to be constantly on the move, but have to cover far less court than tennis players.

Difficulty level: Even

Equipment

Tennis racquets vary in size and weight.  Based on the material and the size of the frame used, their weights range on an average between 250-325 grams. From a racquet sports perspective, tennis balls weigh the heaviest at around 57-58 grams.

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Squash racquets are lighter and weigh in the range of 110-175 grams. Squash balls are smaller in diameter than tennis balls and weigh on an average 23-25 grams. Squash balls practically do not bounce until they are warmed up before a game by repeated strokes against the wall.

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Difficulty level: Tennis

Serve

Tennis serve is the hardest component of the game that a new player encounters. Beyond the mechanics of a good serve, a poor serve is often easily attacked by the opposing player, putting the server at a disadvantage. A good first serve can deliver an “ace” when the opposing player is unable to make contact with the ball. Tennis players get a second serve when the first one is out of play, which emphasises the fact that even experienced players struggle to keep up a high first service percentage.

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Squash serve in comparison is mellow. Power squash serves are not the norm. Skilled players use surprise elements in their serve by varying the spot to which they direct their serve. Unlike tennis, squash players rarely rely on service points or aces to win crucial points. An ace is harder to achieve in squash since the back wall often puts the ball back in play.

Difficulty level: Tennis

Return of Serve

Tennis: In my opinion, return of a good serve is harder than the serve itself. Returning a serve, carefully placed to a player’s backhand corner, makes for difficult play. It also opens up the court for the server’s next shot. Putting back in play, a powerful first serve that combines good placement, can only come with years of experience. Professional players’ serves are often clocked at above 150 mph.

Squash: A return of serve is more of a set up shot in squash rather than a defensive or attacking one. The main intent of the returning player is to hit “length” that allows him/her to get to the “T.” Occasionally, a weak serve gets attacked by the receiving server in the form of a drive or a drop. A squash shot can be hit at speeds above 150 mph. However, the wall slows the ball down for the receiving player.

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Difficulty level: Tennis

Rally

Tennis rallies involving baseline players can be long. Points are often won from unforced errors when one of the players tries to close off the point by hitting a harder, deeper or more angled shot. Rallies involving serve and volley players tend to be shorter, but more entertaining to watch than ones involving baseline players. Tennis players use different techniques while returning shots on the back hand that include single-handed, double-handed or sliced returns.

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Squash rallies are quicker and involve the players constantly moving and at the same time keeping an eye on the ball. The ball is often behind the players and has to be kept in play without interference. Through a combination of drops, drives, boasts and lobs, the players try to keep the ball away from their opponent.

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Difficulty level: Squash

Volley

Tennis: Volleys are a vital part of serve and volley tennis. However, with more and more players opting for baseline play, volleys are limited to the rare times when players “rush the net” or “chip and charge.”

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Squash: While the traditional squash players were content playing length off the back wall, the new crop of players try to volley more balls in the air, effectively reducing their opponents’ response time. More rallies are played in the forecourt than ever before, making the game more aggressive and engaging.

 

Difficulty level: Even

Drop

Tennis: Drop is often a surprise shot in tennis. A good drop is a difficult shot and happens when one of the players fakes a drive, but suddenly changes the shot to a drop, catching the opponent by surprise.

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Squash: In squash, drop is an essential tool and can be used in an attacking or defensive manner. A drop or a re-drop that does not sit up can make all the difference in the outcome of a game. Unlike tennis, a squash player cannot get good unless he/she perfects the drop shot.

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Difficulty level: Squash

Fitness

Tennis: Played at the professional level, tennis can be a gruelling sport that can take four to five hours to complete. At the club level, a game of singles tennis takes an hour or two at the most. People with average physical fitness can play tennis well into their senior years. As they slow down, players switch to doubles tennis to continue enjoying the game. Improper techniques may lead to injuries like the famous “tennis elbow,” shoulder cuff and/or wrist issues.

Squash requires a higher level of physical fitness. The typical time allocated for squash at most clubs is forty minutes. The constant movement and lunges take their toll and give the players a quick but thorough work out in a relatively short time frame. Squash players tend to injure their knees the most. Novice players who do not clear, or play too close to their opponent risk getting hit by the racquet or the ball.

Difficulty level: Squash

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Conclusion

While both the games bring a high level of difficulty and excitement to players,[Tweet “Tennis edges out squash as the harder sport to learn”]. A tennis player who gets on a squash court for the first time will be able to keep a few rallies going. I cannot say the same for a squash player who gets on a tennis court for the first time!

Personally, I prefer squash. It is a quicker workout in a shorter span of time. At the end of the day, it is about having fun.

 

 

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