Shaping is Irrelevant
One of the most misunderstood situations in squash occurs when a player “shapes” to play the ball on one side of the body, then changes his mind and brings the racquet across in front of his body in order to play the ball on the other side. If the opponent is then in the way of the player's swing (which is often the case), what is the proper outcome of the rally?
Many players (far too many) believe that the outcome should be a let—claiming that the striker “turned” or “made a second attempt.” “He shaped,” they state, “so I don't have to get out of the way.” All such claims are wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
First of all, it is not turning. “Turning” under the Rules of Squash, requires that the ball go behind your body on one side and come out on the other. In our scenario the ball remains in front of the striker's body at all times. So it is not turning as defined by the Rules.
It is also not a “further attempt.” (You will have noticed that the Rules, in their wish to be scrupulously accurate, refer not to “second” attempts, but to “further attempts”—you have the right to swish and hack at the ball as often as you like before it bounces twice on the floor.) It is not a further attempt because there has not been a first attempt. Merely “shaping” is not an attempt. Under the Rules it is nothing.
So why do we have a problem at all? The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the Rules, but in ourselves that we do not read and digest them. This is what the Rules (in the form of Guideline 5) say about “Shaping”:
"When a player shapes to play the ball on one side and then brings the racket across the body to take the ball on the other side, it is neither turning nor making further attempts and, if interference occurs, Rule 12 applies. This position frequently occurs after the ball has hit the side wall and the front wall simultaneously and then rebounds into the middle of the court."
That ought to make things perfectly clear, but this Guideline has been there for more than 12 years, and still the great horde of ignorant squash players doesn't get it. Are they all illiterate? Can't they read?
No they are not illiterate, just misled. Because “shaping” is, in fact, a totally misleading concept: it is totally irrelevant to any consideration regarding interference, or anything else for that matter. The Rules don't need it, because the only thing that really matters is the concept of an “attempt.” Until the striker has made an “attempt” to play the ball, the opponent has to stay out of the way. An “attempt” is when the racquet moves forwards or downwards towards the ball. Once that happens, the opponent is off the hook—and he or she has fulfilled the obligation to be clear of that shot.
So you can shape as much and as often as you like: your opponent must stay out of the way until you have made an actual attempt to hit the ball. If the ball comes out of the nick and surprises you—so that you bring the racquet across to the other side of your body in order to be able to play the ball—your opponent must be quick enough to get out of the way of your swing, or you win the rally.
So, if it is irrelevant, why is “shaping” even in the Rules? The simple answer is because it has been there for many years. I wrote the present version of the shaping Guideline 12 years ago in an attempt to clarify the concept and the WSF adopted it. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! (But “Gladiator” still deserved the Oscar for Best Picture.)