Kneipp Forum I — Squash vs Tennis
28, 2003: by Team Kneipp
Squash vs Tennis
Our article about
squash versus tennis (published
here on SquashTalk in July 2002)
has generated a lively discussion, as we expected. Here are some of the
most interesting emails we received with respect to that article:
From: Matt Arkett
Subject: Squash vs Tennis
I just discovered
your articles on Squashtalk and think they are great. I agree wholeheartedly
with your argument re: squash Vs
tennis. As a fellow player, it is so frustrating to see the top squash
players in the world getting paid so little. The exertion of a professional
squash player far exceeds his/her tennis counterpart. I think tennis players
who have ever picked up a squash racquet know this deep down…. but don’t
want to admit it : ) Keep up the good work!
Canadian Ice Service Environment Canada
Subject: Squash vs Tennis
Hello Joe, While
I agree that squash is generally much more taxing than tennis physically
or endurance-wise, one must take into account that in a high level tennis
game, every ball is being crushed. Professional tennis is well known to
be a pure power game these days, and therefore I would imagine the energy
costs of a player who is slugging every ball is higher than that of a
squash player, when compared on a stroke-by-stroke basis. I know I certainly
do not play squash that way, and if I did I would be winded rather quickly.
Also, I fail to see how the average squash pro has less raquet skills
than a tennis pro. I find the squash stroke infinitly more variable and
complex than the tennis stroke – and that is reflected in how squash has
a much larger array of shots than tennis. Heck, no one even plays the
slice anymore in tennis, and the absence of a short game needs no mention.
How does that create for a tennis athelete with more racquet skills?
Jacques van Leeuwen
Subject: Squash vs Tennis
Hi Dan/Joseph, interesting
thoughts you guys wrote down about
the differences between tennis and squash. I have the same discussion
with colleagues that play tennis over and over again. I believe there
is one big difference between tennis and squash that was less discussed
in your article. The total duration of a match between tennis and squash
is very different. (I am not aware of the true average duration of tennis
matches, but they are most of the time longer than a squash match, although
they have less nett playing time) This longer time requires a longer period
of concentration. I personally believe that the hard part of tennis is
to keep your mind focussed for this (much) longer period.
Best regards, Jacques
van Leeuwen Victoria Squash – Rotterdam
PS: From a physical
point of view, the feeling after a tennis match could be compared to a
three to four hour shopping experience on a Saturday in the Kalverstraat
in Amsterdam. You feel sluggish, your legs are burning, you probably need
a Alker Seltzer for your headache, but after a hotshower and two beers
you feel OK again.
From: Martin Scullion
Subject: Squash vs Tennis
Hi there. Just read
part 1 of the ‘Tennis vs Squash’
debate, I was really staggred by the stats regarding the actual time
in play and the rally lengths of the tennis players. I regularly play
a guy who played junior wimbledon, he has now become a very good squash
player but he has always said to me that the tennis guys have superior
racket control/skills whereas the squash players are generally much fitter.
As regards movement
tennis seems to require movement only in a couple of directions, well
only side to side if you’re a baseliner :-), whereas squash can pull you
in several different directions at once, well it does when I play it !!.
Another area which would be quite interesting to look at would be that
of injuries, cos although they are not doing as much work the tennis pro’s
seem to get crocked quite often, in some cases more so than squash, although
this could be because there are simply many more of them and so the likelihood
of a high profile player getting injured is much more likely.
I think a fairer
comparison would be that of Badminton vs Squash, I think you’d be surprised
at the speed & fitness of these guys, again it’s a racket sport which
is largely disregarded in favour of tennis, but having seen a couple of
reasonably high-level tournaments I was hugely impressed with their reflexes
and speed which is easily comparable with that of top squash players.
Really enjoying the articles, keep ’em coming.
From: Ashley Goh
Subject: Squash vs Tennis
Dear Joe, First of,
I want to thank you and Dan for taking the time and effort to write such
great columns. It is wonderful to get insights into the world of squash
from one of the top pros, and to find out what’s going on in your head.
If I can’t be there to watch the big tourneys, at least I can read your
columns. Martin Bronstein recently described you as “voluble” in one of
his articles and I must say that this has paid huge dividends in your
writing. There’s nothing worse than a writer who has nothing to say.
I started out as
a very good tennis player (US college level) and when that got old, I
took up squash at the San Francisco Bay Club. As a tennis player, I considered
myself extremely strong and fast but squash soon taught me a damn hard
lesson. People who say tennis is tougher clearly haven’t played squash
So what I have to
say to those tennis people who say their sport is tougher is this: Get
on a squash court and sprint your ass off for an hour before you talk.
I doubt you’ll even make it. Then get ready to limp around in pain for
the next two days as your glutes ache like hell. Pete Sampras wouldn’t
last a game with Peter Nicol at his current level of fitness. Guys like
Sampras, Krajicek, Ivanisevic and Philippousis can go through matches
at Wimbledon winning points with one big serve or one big forehand, never
having to run a piddle. No squash player can do that for even one point.
And squash players have to explode to cut off a drive or reach a drop
shot time after time, using every ounce of effort to reach a tough shot.
Tennis players often drift around in smooth, languid rallies that usually
do not require split second reflexes or desperate lunges since they have
so much time to react to a larger, slower ball struck from much farther
away than the front wall of a squash court. Thanks again Joe and Dan,
best of luck on the tour.
Ashley Goh Seattle
“I am fitter, so I win.” –Jansher Khan
From: Craig Lamb
Subject: Squash vs Tennis
I just read
your article comparing tennis and squash and I wanted to make you
aware of a few points. First I have been a tennis player and travelled
the satelite circuit for a few years with little success. I also know
and have spent time with alot of top squash players including Power and
ryding. A couple things to keep in mind that contribute to the difference
in prize money. 1) Squash is terrible on TV and tough to follow. The average
sports fan does not have the knowledge to understand what is a let, what
is a stroke and so forth. This does not make it enjoyable for the average
fan to watch.
The big bucks comes
from Television contracts and squash will never ever make it. 2) Only
a few nations in the world have a decent squash programs even worth discussing
while Tennis boasts one of the most popular sports in the world. This
being said its clearly much more difficult to make it to the top of the
tennis world as the competition is much greater. 3) At the top level of
tennis there are a few guys with average fitness as you point out but
there games allow them to be this way as they have a ton of talent with
Up until recently
I have seen the level of Jon Powers fitness and it is not that impressive
but I will admit squash does require more endurance but tennis players
are more then comparable athletes as far the the racquet skills needed,
distance of some sprints and the variety of shots necessary. 4) You use
one set of Hewitt vs Nalbandian at wimbledon as an example of time played.
I can understand that you being a squash player you wouldnt understand
that despite the fact they are both baseliners the average points are
still super short on grass compared with other surfaces.
Try comparing the
finals of the French open on clay. Regardless this is still a plus for
tennis as the players need to know how to play on many different surfaces
not simply the same on over and over. This requires different movement,
variety in your game and so forth. Both sports are great as I play both
but squash is not even close to the same level on a world scale for participation
or acceptance on television. If you have a problem with tennis players
making more what do you think of professional golfers? Baseball players?
At the end of the day to make a living in a sport your competing against
the other athletes out there and thats the standard set. Squash has a
low level of world participation, in fact most people in the United States
don’t even know what it is.
Your skills in tennis
as in squash must be superior to the other athletes and that takes tons
of dedication and training. I would be happy to put the fitness levels
of the top tennis pros against the top squash pros. This would include,
muscle strenth, explosivness, endurance and so forth. Fitness goes well
beyong being tired and exhausted. I have also seen the movement of alot
of the top squash players and at times its slow with very little steps,
just gliding arond the ! court. at other times its intense and amazing
rallies that would exhaust even the fittest athletes. The same is true
of tennis. Until you have played both sports on the top level its hard
to understand the finer points. But to use matches such as invanisivec
vs sampras and a final on grass is to say the least, very misleading and
biased. Keep in mind there are only a couple hundred men at the most that
make a living playing tennis and compared with world participation that
Sorry to harass you
with another email but you took your rips and Mark Phillipousis. Keep
in mind despite the fact that before his injury he was top 10 in the world.
This would make him better then thousands and thousands more players that
train hard for his sport then either Nicol or Power in their respective
sport. To be top 10 in the world in tennis is no small feat considering
the amount of depth in the sport. The depth is squash is not even in the
same ball park as tennis.
From: Todd Borden
Subject: Squash vs Tennis
Dear Dan, Your
articles are great! I look forward to every one of them. I am a squash
enthusiast in Santa Barbara, California, where Robert Graham coaches.
I think you guys have struck upon a wonderful balance of squash information
and “regular people” incite that is very hard to come by; you normally
get one but not the other. I really hope you continue to write about the
tour and training. I saw Joe play for the first time in Birmingham at
the British Open in 2000. I was amazed at his tenacity on court, and at
his good humour off court. I find this combination to be rare, but also
very admirable. I hope you guys can one day find your way to Santa Barbara!
Best of Luck, Todd Borden P.S. I also was at Wimbledon in 1996 and saw
Richard Krajicek win his semi-final over Stoltinberg. I could not agree
with you more about the superiority of squash over tennis–especially
the way Mr. Krajicek plays the game. I probably spent more time looking
at his girlfriend during that match than on the tennis!
From: Patrick van
Subject: In response to Joseph Kneipp’s column Squash vs. Tennis Date:
Wed, 09 Oct 2002 20:51:55 +0200
Hi Joseph, I spoke
to Olav the other day at Squash World, who told me about your squash vs.
tennis comparison on Squashtalk.com. With special interest I read your
article and I must say that some of the things you say are true and others
are just not, in my opinion. Being a former tennis professional (who by
the way did not earn those big bucks) and now playing squash for over
5 hours a week for almost a year,I’ve been in some of these discussions
and think that I can relate to both sports.
First of all, I can
very well understand that world class athletes in most sports get frustrated
when comparing the different prize money levels to those of for instance
(the world top-150) tennis players. Anyone who tries to rationalise this,
based on terms like fitness, devotion, time, costs,training effort, etc.,
should not. It just cannot be done. Different sports all require their
specific talents, devotion and efforts and a world class athlete in one
sport is not at all superior to an athlete in another.
In that respect,
you could say that a tennis player should not earn more than a squash
player for instance. However, tennis is obviously much more a spectator
sport, which therefore results in more spectators -> attention -> media
-> visibility -> sponsoring -> TV rights = available money. And yes, we
are talking a lot of money. And although I agree that the amounts are
sometimes absurd, it is a good thing that most of the money goes to those
who really are attracting the crowds: the players. But this is the one
and only reason why tennis players (and we are talking basically the world
top-150 players) earn what they earn, and therefore they earn it! Other
grounds therefore are not an issue.
Now when you try
to compare the sport tennis to the sport squash in respect of fitness,
training efforts, etc., that is a whole different ball game. And basically
cannot be done. Different sports all require different specific needs;
physically as well as and mentally. For instance, I do not agree with
you that squash players are more fit than tennis players. Yes, squash
is a very intense and fast game that can wear one out really quick. Not
only top players, but also people who just started to play. It is a sport
that requires a lot of one’s cardio vascular system. It gets your heartbeat
going really good and really fast. With the rallies usually being longer
than in tennis and the time in between points being shorter, it just wears
you out faster.
Tennis players I
think nowadays have a 20 second time limit in between points and use it
when necessary. To grab a towel, put in string-savers, do whatever. Usually
just to compose again and to bring the heartbeat down to around 120 if
possible. Why wouldn’t squash players take a little more time in between
points? I’m sure it would make a lot of difference, especially in a long
match. Tennis is not as much a cardio vascular sport like squash is, but
much more an ‘all-body’ sport I would say. The power that is being used
to hit the ball is not comparable to that in squash. The weight of the
racket and the ball as well as the speed of the ball and the impact of
it, make it impossible to hit the ball like you could in squash.
Every shot needs
good footwork and a perfect preparation of the whole body in order the
get the necessary control and speed. No single shot therefore is hit with
the arm only, but is an effort of the whole body. When you watch a tennis
player’s movement closely, you will see what I mean: nearly every shot
is being hit with the player coming ‘through’ the ball; stepping or falling
forward, and after that moving several steps back, in order to do the
same at the next shot. When hitting a ‘lazy’ shot, you probably will be
blasted away by your opponent.
These two aspects
of the game and the one of running quite some meters at a higher speed
than in squash and therefore with a much higher impact when turning and
moving, make tennis a physical tough game. Especially on the top level.
Tougher than squash? Different tough I think. An example: I didn’t play
tennis for several months when I played a match some weeks ago. It was
a match that lasted for over 3 hours and the next day I could hardly walk
straight because of sore muscles and stiff joints. And that although I
play squash for at least 5 hours a week and thought I was fitter than
ever. Yes, I was able to run and to keep on running until the end, but
the power in the muscles was the problem. I just could not keep hitting
the shots like I should because of a total physical wear out. Now this
was a match, with the resting moments during the match as you stated.
From experience I know that a good practice session would have been several
Some time ago I joined
a training for 2 hours and I had to quit earlier, leaving the court with
a headache… As I said, the two sports really cannot be compared. They
are both tough, both in their own specific ways. If a world class tennis
player had the technical skills to compete, he would not be a match for
a world class squash player on the squash court in terms of fitness or
otherwise I’m sure, but that goes visa versa on the tennis court. But
doesn’t this go for any tough physical sport?
Now your point regarding
your belief that the amount of training and pain a squash pro inflicts
upon himself from day to day is without any doubt at a level superior
to that of the average tennis pro. I cannot believe that. As a tennis
pro I was practising on and off court daily for at least 4 hours a day
(when not in a tournament). Practising hard with often heartbeats over
200 a minute. But besides that, I know from experience that more training
doesn’t necessarily lead to a more improved game. The fact that (older)
squash players get serious problems with backs and hips etc., in my opinion
has nothing to do with amount of practise, but more with the specifics
of the game: the surface and the way of movement the sport requires. And
besides, most players on the tennis tour eventually have to stop playing
because of injuries. Shoulder, knee, back and hip problems urge them to
quit (I’m sure you’ve heard of your fellow country man Rod Laver?). And
that even though the average tennis pro takes very good care of himself
and is being taken good care of on the tour as well.
Concluding, in my
opinion there are no certain athletes superior to others, and no sport
is superior to another. In fact, it’s impossible to compare different
sports or the top athletes in it. The fact that athletes in certain sports
get rewarded much better than athletes in other sports, is not fair in
terms of efforts, but is just a fact of history, organisation and popularity
of the sport. It depends on the money that goes around in it because of
attractiveness for spectators and media. So in this case, for you as a
squash player, I guess it’s just bad luck you’re not a tennis player…
Hope to hear from you soon or maybe we’ll meet at Squash World. Best
From: Hans Ling
Subject: Tennis vs squash
Date: Mon, 26 May 2003 10:51:39 +0200
Hi, I read your article
on squashtalk.com from Swedish Open in Linkoping. In the “Stefan Edberg
and Joe Kneipp on Court” -article, you finish with saying that you will
publish an article based on an interview with Stefan Edberg where he talks
about the difference between playing squash and tennis. Is that article
still planned to be published? If not, I would be very greatful if you
just could, in short words answer this mail with his comment around this
issue. Swedish Open is now also set for 2004. Hope to see Joe there again.
I love the way he plays squash. Especially his movement on court. He never
seems to be in a hurry. I dont know how he does it, but it looks fantastic.
I guess one big factor is that he reads the game so well. (Wish it was
Best Regards, Hans
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