Shedding light on the thrilling racquet sport of squash

January 29, 2023 — by Saachi Jain and Daniel Wu
Playing squash at the national level, junior Dhruv Nemani practices countless hours every week.
Diving deeper into the lifestyles of competitive squash players.

For some, the word squash brings to mind pictures of a bland vegetable. Yet for juniors Neal Malhotra and Dhruv Nemani, it carries an entirely different meaning: a sport, a family and a lifestyle.

Characterized by its lightning fast nature and technical movements, the indoor racket sport consists of two players hitting a tennis-like ball at high speeds against a wall, hoping to prevent their opponent from returning the ball after one bounce. The ball travels incredibly fast — with one professional player’s shot even reaching more than 175 mph, the same velocity required for a Boeing 747 jumbo jet to take off, and faster than racket sports like tennis.

Malhotra’s first exposure to squash occurred at age 12 after a successful run in tennis, where he qualified to compete at the national level. Curious to try a new sport, Malhotra’s friends brought him into the squash scene, practicing with him at the Bay Club in Santa Clara and allowing him to learn the basics.

“I immediately fell in love with the sport,” Malhotra said. “Given how unique and dynamic squash is, it really falls into its own category of racquet sport.”

Unlike most sports where competitors often have little connection, Malhotra said that due to the small size of the squash community, players often connect with one another on a personal level, creating a sense of family and togetherness.

Nemani’s exposure to sports also began with tennis; however, because he was always on the smaller side, he found it difficult to sprint across the large court and later switched his focus to squash.

It was a good move. Nemani is so accomplished in the sport that he plays it at the national level, traveling to states like Seattle or Rhode Island. However, his national ranking dipped slightly in recent years, which he attributed to a lack of practice and attendance of tournaments during the pandemic, highlighting the rigor that comes with competitive squash.

“During lockdown, I practiced slightly less than I would’ve in a normal year,” Nemani said. “Coming back [from the pandemic], I’ve resumed a semi-normal practice routine. I go to an academy in Redwood Shores for group lessons three times a week and practice solo three times a week in Santa Clara.”

Prior to the pandemic, Nemani was ranked 40th in the U-15 division. Now that his age group has leveled up, he is ranked 80th in the U-19 division.
Nemani wishes that the sport can grow in popularity to levels similar to tennis or badminton. He said that its low following could be due to the lack of proper court infrastructure and various expenses that come with playing at the national level.

“The community is very tight-knit and friendly,” Nemani said. “I’d love to see it expand and grow in the coming years, as squash is just such an incredible sport that is fun for everyone of all ages.”

6 views this week