[Updated on 1 January 2024] Squash began in 1860 at Harrow School in England. Schoolboys found that by puncturing a rubber ball, it would “squash” when it hit the wall, making play more challenging and exciting. Squash became popular and it spread across England and over to the United States and Canada. In 1904, the United States formed the first squash organization and in 1907, the pro at the Racquet Club in Philadelphia invented doubles squash.
The Differences Between Singles vs Doubles Squash
Although the singles and doubles squash are variants of the same sport, there are some distinct differences. In North America, where doubles squash was created, people played squash using a hardball because it worked better on the indoor courts in the colder climate. Doubles squash was created using the same ball and it continues to be used to this day.
There are two games of doubles squash that are sanctioned by the World Squash Federation. The first is hardball doubles, which has been dominant in Canada and the United States since the 1920s. The second uses a softball and is played on a wider International singles court.
The Equipment and Courts of Singles vs Doubles Squash
The first and most apparent difference between singles and doubles squash is the court and the equipment. Squash singles courts are a standard 32 feet long by 21 feet wide. The doubles court is 45 feet long and 25 feet wide. The larger court accommodates the fact that four people are on the court together instead of two.
The ball used in singles squash is a softball, which has been the ball used everywhere except North America since the 1920s. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Canada changed to the softball version of the sport and the United States and Mexico followed in the 1990s.
Squash doubles was invented in Philadelphia, where a hardball version of singles squash was already in practice. The doubles game still uses this hard ball today, which means that people will need different rackets to play doubles squash.
The racket used in doubles squash is heavier and more durable than the singles racket. The grommets are protected, which is necessary because they would otherwise break more easily with the impact of the hard ball.
Generally speaking, the dress is the same, including whites, squash shoes, and eye protection. The primary equipment difference is the racket and the ball.
In both singles squash and doubles squash, the match is the best three out of five games. However, the points needed to win a game are different. In singles squash, each game is played up to 11 points. The winner must win by two points and the game continues until one player has a two-point advantage.
In doubles squash, the game is played to 15 points. If the game reaches a 14 to 14 tie, then the next team to 15 wins. It is never necessary to win by more than one point, which makes doubles squash different from most other racket sports.
The rules of international doubles squash allow for scoring to be up to 11 with the first team to reach 11 winning. This version of doubles squash is similar to international singles squash played with a softball on a court that is slightly wider than the singles court.
How the Game Is Played
The rules for play are generally the same for singles and doubles with doubles being slightly different to account for the additional player on each team.
In both versions, play begins with a serve. The team or player to serve first is generally determined by spinning a racket. The player has two attempts to hit the serve in and play continues until the serving player loses a point. In doubles squash, the team member who starts the serve continues to serve until the team loses a point. The second team member will have the service the next time it is their turn.
For both versions of squash, return of service has occurred when there is contact between the racket and the ball without the player losing control of the racket. In addition, the ball must not hit the ground more than once. The ball may only be hit once on the return.
Difference in Rules
The differences in play are directly related to the rules involving having two people on a team instead of one. In singles squash, the play goes back and forth in a rally until one side loses a point. In doubles squash, however, there are additional rules.
At the beginning of the game, a squash team will designate one player to receive left side service and the other to receive right side service. The designated player must make the return on his or her side throughout the entire game. Once the return of serve has been made, either player on the team can take the shot as long as the shots alternate from one team to the other.
In addition, there are safety rules in both types of squash. Once a player hits the ball, both team members must get out of the way to provide their opponents with the opportunity to get to and hit the ball from any location on the court. If there is interference, a player can request a let, which means that no point is awarded to either side.
With the exception of team members alternating shots, the game is played the same way in both singles and doubles squash.
In singles squash, the players have a four-minute warm-up followed by continuous play. In doubles squash, the two teams warm up separately and each side uses half of the five-minute warm-up period. If there is a delay due to a problem with equipment or any other situation, one player from each team is given a short warm-up before play resumes.
Singles vs Doubles Squash Strategy
Playing singles squash is mentally stimulating and physically challenging and playing doubles squash is even more so. Because of the different court sizes and the fact that there are two additional players in double squash, each version does have some different strategies for play.
In doubles squash, the court is four feet wider than in singles squash but there are two people on a team so the ground each must cover is reduced to 12.5 feet. This makes skill in doubles squash even more necessary whereas fitness is mandatory in singles. Many older squash players who find that they are less agile than they switched to doubles squash because their experience has given them a toolbox of skills that allow them to play strategically instead of with speed and agility.
In singles squash, players want to use the rails to hit shots. The goal is to hit the ball straight back to the floor near the back of the service box and to keep it close to the sidewall. Because each player has to cover the entire court, there is a better chance of getting a shot past the opponent this way.
In doubles squash, players make greater use of cross-court shots. There are four different corners on the court and the goal is to hit the ball into a corner that isn’t being covered by one of the two opponents. This opens up the court because players force their opponents to move to get to the ball and this creates a better chance of catching them off balance. In singles, players open the court by hitting the ball down the rail. This is the biggest difference in strategy between the two.
Another difference between singles and doubles squash is where the players recover after a shot. In singles squash, players want to get to the T area so that they have a greater chance of return. In doubles squash, the players want to stay at the red line.
As a result, hitting a shot into the front of the court can also be a good strategy because players are further back at the red line. If players can get to the front, attacking shots are great and are used more in doubles squash than in singles.
One strategy that is only in doubles squash is to try to split the opponents so that the player can find an open corner. Doubles squash is much more about the thoughtful placement of the ball to get the opposing team off-balance whereas singles is about fitness and agility needed to return the shots.
In addition, while playing doubles squash, if one team member is weaker than another, opponents will try to hit as many shots as possible to that player. When people decide to play doubles squash, having a teammate of equal skill is very important.
Both singles and doubles squash are fast-paced and intellectually stimulating; players try to outmaneuver their opponents to score more points. The variations in strategy are a result of having two people on a team versus one so it is important to learn the differences before switching from singles squash to doubles.
Hardball Doubles Squash Vs. International Doubles Squash
Hardball doubles squash is the first form that was created in North America in 1907. It is still the dominant form played today with over 150 courts in North America. The World Squash Federation recognizes both forms of squash with the primary difference being the type of ball used and the size of the court. The strategy remains the same, although the hardball moves faster.
Can Someone Play Both Singles and Doubles Squash?
Although there are some differences between singles and doubles squash, people certainly play both. It is often the case that someone plays singles squash and then transitions to doubles squash later in life. Doubles squash is very strategy-based and the years of experience playing help with devising strategy.
However, because the two versions of squash are different and have different strategies, it can be difficult at first when transitioning from one to the other. Singles squash players often make the mistake of dominating the T area when they play doubles squash, which opens up the court for the opposing team to hit shots past them.
The Bottom Line
In trying to understand what is the difference between singles and doubles squash, it is important to look at the games and their strategies. Singles squash and doubles squash are similar in terms of general rules but they are different in terms of strategy.
Doubles squash uses the hardball that was popular in North America until the 1990s and the ball moves faster in the game. In addition, having a team versus a single player on each side changes the strategy for winning points.
Although the goal is to win points in both games, how that is accomplished differs as well. Singles requires that the winner have a two-point edge whereas doubles only requires that a team reach the point number first.
A Final Note on Transitioning from Singles Squash to Doubles Squash
Having two players on a team reduces the amount of court that a player needs to cover, which changes the strategy for hitting winning shots and defending as well. Doubles squash depends on good communication between teams and using the open corners to make strategic cross-court shots that are hard to return; singles requires dominating the T so that players have the best opportunity to get to the next shot.
Although these two variants of squash have their differences, both are mentally stimulating and require a good level of fitness. Often, singles squash players switch over to doubles later in life and some people play this game well into their 70s. Either way, squash is one of the best forms of exercise for all ages.