Not much can beat whacking a ball in times of stress. Squash, with its small, indoor court is the perfect sport for sweating out your frustrations 'Squash allows you to let yourself go,' smiled 19-year-old Dick Lau Siu-wai, a full-time athlete and six-times champion of Hong Kong Squash Junior Closed. 'When you feel sad or gloomy, you can unleash all your feelings on the court.' The sport is much more than just an emotional outlet. It is one of the most prestigious and popular sports in Hong Kong thanks to the achievements of local players on the international stage at both junior and senior levels. Take 15-year-old Annie Au Wing-chi, who became the first Hong Kong player to win a title at the British Junior Open Squash Championships earlier this year. Also a top student at her school, Au said the sport has contributed to her success in studies. Squash helps me to develop a flexible way of thinking so that I can think out of the box,' said Au, whose comment is not surprising given that squash is a fast-paced game that demands tactics and discipline. Besides being talented, the two rising squash stars have at least one other thing in common - independence. Squash can be played alone. Unlike other racket ball games such as tennis and badminton, which involve at least two players, squash players like Lau and Au play solo at least three times a week to hone their skills. 'It may be difficult for people who cannot stand being alone and constantly need the company of others,' said Lau. 'Sometimes you will feel lonely but you just have to withstand it.' You also need to be self-confident during competitions. 'You need to be very independent because no one can help you on the court when you are competing. You must handle all the problems alone and rely on yourself,' said Lau. Patience is also a pre-requisite to playing good squash. Don't expect yourself to become a decent squash player just by playing the game occasionally with friends. Lau said it takes an amateur at least one year to master all the basics including the skills of racket efficiency, correct swing, power control, game tactics and footwork. Newcomers sometimes sprain their wrists or forearms because they don't know how to properly execute a full swing, which is a series of body movements involving your shoulder and waist rather than just your arm. Au and Lau suggest that beginners, especially children, start by playing mini-squash, which involves smaller rackets and bouncier balls. 'Beginners should not take squash lightly, thinking of it as easy. If you practise squash seriously, you will find it a very interesting sport,' said Lau. For more information, call Hong Kong Squash on 2869 0611 or visit www.hksquash.org.hk .