Corkscrew Serve in Squash

Corkscrew Serve in Squash

For any of you who haven’t heard of the corkscrew serve in squash – this might be a bit of an eye-opener!

The first time I experienced one, I thought my opponent had simply completely miss hit the serve – and almost laughed out loud – until I discovered that I was caught completely unawares and he won an easy point.

The second time he did it, which was quite a while after the first time, I was again caught off-guard – and realised that it wasn’t a miss hit serve, but performed intentionally – and with some degree of skill.

I have since tried to master the art of a good corkscrew serve – and it’s certainly not as easy as it looks when it’s done by someone who is skilled at it (as with most things in squash – and life in general!).

In case you have also suffered at the hands of a corkscrew serve and always wondered how to do it, here are a few pointers:

Why use a corkscrew serve?

I always tell any beginners I am coaching that the serve is the only time in the game when the server has as much time as he wants before he has to hit the ball – and for this reason alone he should never rush the shot. However, it’s also a time when the receiver can prepare well for his return shot – which is one reason for occasionally throwing in a surprise corkscrew serve.

It can catch your opponent completely off guard, provided it’s used sparingly throughout the match, as the trajectory of the ball is far from the ‘normal’ trajectory. If done well, it can be almost impossible to return too, as it will end up coming out of the corner travelling parallel to the back wall, low down and close to the back wall.

How to perfect a corkscrew serve?

Practice, practice, practice…… This is a shot that few, if any, players can just watch someone else do, and then do it themselves. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, as you are serving in the ‘wrong’ direction.

I have to freely admit here that I still have a long way to go before being in any way proficient at this serve, but it does come off for me sometimes. There’s a very good video from SquashSkills that demonstrates the serve very well – and also towards the end of the video, it demonstrates how relatively difficult it is to be consistent with the serve!

The idea is that for a right-handed player, serving from the left hand service box, the ball is hit from low down, from a position as far right as the server can reach, with a high degree of power and follow-though, high onto the left side of the front wall so that it bounces back off the left hand side wall in an arching trajectory high over the head of the opponent into the back right hand corner, striking the side wall low down near the back wall. The spin acquired by the ball from it’s initial impact with the front and side walls causes the ball to spin out of the corner parallel to the back wall.

[Note: you MUST hit the front wall first (and not the side wall and not the nick between the front and side walls) for the serve to be ‘legal’]

corkscrew serve

Corkscrew Serve

When to use a corkscrew serve?

Generally, as this type of serve is so challenging to perform consistently, I would not suggest using it when you are match point down! However, when you feel like mixing things up a bit, that’s a good time to give it a try. When playing a relatively inexperienced player, it can certainly catch them out – although against a more experienced player a poorly-executed corkscrew serve will receive just punishment!

Next time you have some court time on your own, give it a try – but be prepared to practice quite a few times before you start to get the hang of this serve – and don’t even attempt it with a cold ball. You need a well-warmed-up ball to be able to get it to even approach the right trajectory.

Have fun – and I’d welcome comments from any readers who have particular experience with this type of serve – or funny stories about when they’ve used it not so successfully 🙂

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