Ask any player that plays a racquet sport, what is the hardest one, and you will get an answer that is biased toward the sport they play. Tennis players believe they participate in the hardest racket sport due to the length of a tennis match, where Badmington players point to the speed of their shuttlecock. Squash players are usually too tired to comment.
Squash is not only the hardest racquet sport of all, but it’s also the healthiest sport of all, according to Forbes. Squash is a racquet sport with the longest average rallies, the highest in-play percentage, least recovery time, and most distance covered per match compared to tennis and badminton.
Squash, tennis, badminton, and most racquet sports require the same skill set. Good racquet technique, excellent court movement, exceptional hand-eye coordination, mental strength, and aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Squash is the hardest racquet sport to play, especially professionally, when factoring all of the above and looking at certain game conditions.
What Is The Hardest Racquet Sport In The World?
Squash, tennis, and badminton are frequently compared when the question arises of which racquet sport is the hardest to play. Most racquet sports demand a high level of speed and agility, strong hand-eye coordination, and a high level of fitness and stamina.
Good racquet technique is a non-negotiable when partaking in a sport that features a racquet. Tennis, squash, and badminton all feature a racquet, but that’s where most of the similarities stop, as each sport is unique, making it difficult to say which one is the hardest to play.
I believe that squash is the hardest racquet sport due to the insane distances covered in a short period, less reaction time when playing shots compared to tennis, and also the high in-play percentage compared to most sports. Squash rallies, on average, are much longer than tennis and badminton combined.
What Makes Squash The Hardest Racquet Sport In The World?
In 2003 the highly influential Forbes ranked squash as the number one healthiest sport globally after considering calorie burn, aerobic endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and injury risk. Forbes based their finding after having consultations with exercise physiologists, personal trainers, coaches, and competitors.
Fast forward to today, and Thanks to creative collaborations with Sports Data Labs and interactiveSquash, the Professional Squash Association (PSA) is now able to capture data using cutting-edge new technology to strengthen further the argument that squash is indeed the hardest and most physically demanding racquet sport in the world.
Distance Covered During A Match
The availability of new biometric data to test certain factors in a squash game has highlighted how intense a squash game really is. Players cover distances of up to one kilometer per game of squash, with matches played in a best-of-five format (some players can easily cover 5 kilometers per game.)
Movement on a squash court is largely made up of three-to-six-meter sprints, with 30-40% of the time spent moving backward, hundreds of changes in direction, followed by a lunge or dynamic movement before striking the ball — a movement that needs exact timing, strength, and fine motor skills. Squash will test you physically, mentally, and spiritually!
Let us quickly compare some data of the longest squash match played in 2018 to the longest tennis match played at Wimbledon in 2017. The squash match was played in Sweden featuring Tarek Momen and Mathieu, and the tennis match featured Rafael Nadal and Giles Muller.
|Duration Of Match
|4,965 meters (5,429 yards)
|3,645 meters (3,986 yards)
|Average Distance Per Point
|48 meters (157.4 feet)
|9.4 meters (11.9 feet)
|100 points (Momen hit the ball close to a 1,000 times)
Noted this match was played on grass, where points tend to be short and sweet due to the speed of the surface. The average meters per point will be higher on surfaces like clay and hardcourts. For example, in the US Open Final, Djokovic vs. Medvedev, the Russian covered 4.98 km (3.09 miles), averaging 27.4 meters (89.9 feet) per point. The match lasted 2:15:51.
This fact still doesn’t take away the fact that Momen did more than 500 court sprints in a row, made up of three-six-meter dashes, of which nearly half would have been backward, followed by lunges or dynamic movement to set up a shot before bursting back to the T to ready himself for the next shot.
Average Length Of Rallies
The longer the rally, the more exhausting the game. A study done by the University Of Maylasia suggests that a squash rally lasts 25.98 seconds on average, compared to the average rally of 4.62 seconds found in badminton.
The study indicates that a squash rally lasts 5.6 times as long as a badminton rally. Tennis rallies, on average, look something like the following:
- 0-4 shots – 70%
- 5-8 shots – 20%
- 9+ shots – 10%
The intensity of squash rallies and the average time of one makes squash the hardest racquet sport when it comes to rallies. Rallies are energy-sapping points that will test your fitness and stamina, pushing your body to the limits. Limits that squash seems to push a little more than other racquet sports.
In-Play Percentage During Course Of A Match
The high in-play percentage in squash places the racquet sport very near the top of relative in-play tables, with only field hockey and soccer registering higher numbers.
Even at the highest level, tennis matches last far longer than squash and badminton matches. The Wall Street Journal published a study that looked at numerous tennis matches and compared active play time to overall match length.
According to the researchers, tennis matches have an average active play time of 17.5 percent. The remainder of the time is spent by players moving from point to point, changing ends, and toweling down. Squash requires you to play for long periods without much rest in-between actively.
Recovery Time Between Points
While playing squash, players’ heart rates often peak at 190-200 beats per minute, and the average recovery time between rallies is 4-10 seconds. According to the PSA website, the average recovery period in badminton, another high-intensity racket sport, is 12 seconds.
What Is The Fastest Racquet Sport?
The fastest racquet sport in the world, measured regarding the speed of the projectile used in the racquet sport, is as follows:
- Badmington: The fastest racquet sport on earth. The world record speed for a Badmington smash is held by Danish player Mads Pieler Kolding. He managed to smash the shuttlecock at a speed of 265 mph (425 kph) in a Premier League match.
- Squash: The fastest shot measured in squash is that of big-hitting Aussie Cameron Pilley. In 2014 he managed to hit the squash ball at a speed of 176 mph during a match in England.
- Tennis: The fastest serve belongs to another big-hitting Australian, Sam Groth. He recorded this speed at an ATP Challenger event in South Korea in 2012. The ATP does not recognize service speed records at Challenger level, so the official ATP fastest serve belongs to American John Isner, who clocked 157.2 mph.
Badminton might be the fastest racquet sport globally, but on average, badminton points are quick, high-intensity affairs, which gives the players more time to rest more frequently. Squash points tend to be longer, demanding more energy and movement from players, without affording the same recovery time as in badminton.
The question of which is the hardest racquet sport in the world is difficult to answer, as most racquet sports are hard to master due to the specific challenges of each one.
I may be wrong, so you should try as many racquet sports as possible and come to your own conclusion. The bonus is your fitness levels improving massively, as all racquet sports require you to move; some just a little more with a little less rest in-between.