There is an old debate on whether squash or tennis is harder. Lets enter the court and explore the similarities and differences between them, and make a meaningful comparison.
This comparison will be made in terms of game speed, movement, strength and fitness, and overall difficulty.
Which is faster?
The speeds of the games can be compared in several ways:
The squash ball travels faster, usually whacked at over 100 miles per hour. Some of the harder hitting players such as Cameron Piley have hit it over 170mph. In tennis, these kind of speeds are recorded during the players serve. John Isner holds the record for the fastest serve in tennis (157.2 mph).
Ball Return frequency
Both sports have drops and lobs that slow down the rally. In terms of rally speed, squash and tennis are relatively equal.
Does a squash match end faster than a tennis match
In a best-of-five-games or sets match, the minimum number of rallies for a squash match would be (11×3) 33 points while a tennis match would have (4x6x3) 72 points. This means, even a totally one-sided squash match would end earlier.
Do you run more in squash or tennis?
Lets try to assess court coverage:
A tennis court (2808 sqft) is much larger than a squash court (672 sqft). While squash players share the same floor area, tennis players move in only the area on their side of the net (1404 sqft). That is still more than twice the size of a squash court and theoretically more area to cover for a tennis player.
Squash vs tennis court Movement and footwork
During a typical rally, Tennis players move laterally behind the outer court boundary and return to the centerline. Squash players step in and out of different court points and return to the T. Both find themselves scrambling to various extremes of the court.
While all other types of court movement are relatively similar between both sports, tennis may be further out in this area. The difference however is not substantial enough to deem one sport more movement intensive than the other.
Do squash players move faster than tennis players?
Assuming that players of each sport have refined their footwork and court coverage efficiency, the answer is no. The speed of movement is the same for both sports.
Strength and Power
we immediately assume it requires more arm-strength to hit the (larger) tennis ball with the (heavier) tennis racket. However, tennis players are not any bigger or bulkier than squash players. So, are they stronger or not?
Are tennis Players stronger?
In both sports, the grip technique has been developed such that minimum arm-strength is used to swing the racket and transfer its momentum into the ball via the strings.
Yes the tennis racket is heavier, but when held correctly and swung efficiently, the weight of the racket and rebound is not felt in the arm. The tennis racket would feel just as light as a squash racket.
Squash vs tennis fitness
Aside from the racket and the swing, both players do strength and fitness training to perform at the highest levels. Athletes of both sports have incredible core strength, quads, calves, shoulders and forearms. The cardio levels of both players at the highest intensities are also similar during the toughest rallies.
In conclusion, both are equally fit. For a tie-breaker we could have an arm wrestling match between Paul Coll and Djokovic.
Squash and tennis are both incredible racket sports and make a complete athlete out of anyone who plays them. They are so similar in terms of physicality and gameplay we end up stretching ourselves to establish any meaningful differences between the two. Last question:
Is tennis more difficult?
While difficulty of learning either sport varies from player to player, tennis does have the added challenge of imparting and controlling spin on the ball.