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Strategies for every kind of squash opponent

This is an excerpt from Squash: Steps to Success - 2nd Edition by Philip Yarrow & Aidan Harrison.

The attacker

The attacker goes for lots of winners using a frontal attack and relies exclusively on his weapons as opposed to exploiting your weaknesses. This opponent often hits the ball hard and volleys a lot. After serving, he will step up and look to volley your return. When returning serve, he stands up in the court and hits lots of kill shots, a special favorite being the crosscourt volley kill shot into the nick. The key to beating this opponent is to hit very tight serves and returns of serve. Normally, if you can get into a rally, you will win the point because this opponent will get frustrated and make errors. It is important to understand that he is going to hit a lot of winners during the match and will likely be very streaky. But he also will be prone to hitting shots in the tin and is likely to run out of steam if you extend the rallies.

Try This

Make sure your serves hit the side wall before your opponent can volley the ball. This will make it much harder for the attacker to hit a winner with his return of serve and thus get you into a rally. Once a rally has developed, your chances of winning the point increase.

After your serve, stay up in the court and look for the kill shot from your opponent. You can do nothing about it if he hits a kill shot that rolls out of the nick. But if your serve is tight, his kill shot often will sit up a little. If you can get on to it quickly and hit a straight drop, it may lead to an easy winner because this opponent rarely follows up to the front of the court quickly.

Hit your returns of serve straight and low. The attacker will seize on crosscourt shots, hitting a straight kill shot that will force you to run the diagonal of the court to stay in the rally.

Try to step up and hit returns of serve early. Use a shorter backswing and a fast, punchy stroke to hit a hard, low return. This will reduce the time your opponent has to set up and will make it harder for him to hit a good volley on his next shot.

Lob some returns. The attacker tends to move forward after serving. A good lob return will force him to backpedal. Also, most attackers hit great volleys off hard-hit crosscourt shots or loose straight drives but do not volley as well when moving backward and when the ball is high above their heads. Often, they will attempt low-percentage winners from very difficult positions, leading them to hit the tin.

Avoid This

Do not get lured into staying back in the court and trying to hit hard returns past your opponent. Usually, the attacker is great at cutting off these shots on the volley and hitting a winner to the front corner.

During the rally, do not let this opponent dominate the T. It is critically important to get in front of the attacker. If you allow him to dominate the front of the court, he will quickly finish you off by dispatching a string of kill shots into the front corners. Force him to hit winners from behind you. This will increase the chances of his hitting the tin or leaving a shot that sits up just enough for you to hit a drop shot.

Do not get drawn into simply hacking at the ball as hard as you can. Although hitting with pace is important to give the attacker less time to set up for a possible winner, it is more important to hit tight. The attacker will be able to use your pace against you if your shots are loose, but if you can keep your shots tight, you will force your opponent to commit more errors.

Advanced Tactics Drill 5. Two-on-One, Five-Shot Limit

Per Rally

Play a conditioned, or modified, game against a team of two other players, similar to the last two drills. Again, you play normally, but this time the team of two must hit every shot below the service line and so that the ball does not bounce beyond the short line. In addition, if you are able to extend the rally beyond five shots, you win the point. You always serve regardless of who won the last rally. These rules encourage the team to attack and try to end the rally as quickly as possible. Play three games using point-per-rally scoring to 11 points.

To Increase Difficulty

Increase the shot limit per rally.

To Decrease Difficulty

Do not allow the team to hit boasts.

Success Check

Stay well up the court.

Make sure your serves hit the side wall.

Avoid hard-hit crosscourt shots.

Score Your Success

Win two or three games against the team = 5 points

Win one game against the team = 3 points

Your score ___


Complete Player

The complete player is the hardest to play against. This player is fit and fast. Her length is solid, and she attacks well when given the opening. She plays good shots from anywhere in the court and consequently provides the greatest tactical challenge. Keep in mind, though, that even a player who seems complete most certainly will execute some shots better than others. Every player struggles in some positions on the court. It is just a matter of maneuvering this opponent into these positions.

Try This

Focus on playing to your strengths as much as possible.

Even though your opponent may seem comfortable with all shots, watch carefully and try to discover any areas of weakness you can exploit. Varying your style during the match can help to identify your opponent’s weaknesses.

If you identify a weak point, keep hitting the ball to that area to exploit it as much as possible.

Make sure you keep most of your shots deep and tight. This opponent will have the skills to take advantage of anything that you hit loose.

Vary the pace of your basic drives. This opponent likely will play best if she has the chance to groove her shots off constant hard-hit drives.

Challenge and attack this opponent with confidence at every opportunity. Even a seemingly complete player may become tentative suddenly if she perceives that her opponent is growing in confidence during the match.

Avoid This

Do not idly sit by and let this opponent use her strengths throughout the match, even if those strengths play into the stronger parts of your game.

Do not be lured into going for quick winners. Be patient, wait for opportunities to present themselves, and take only calculated risks.

Do not show any signs of frustration. You will need all your mental strength to overcome such a talented and experienced opponent. This sort of player will feed off your frustration and grow even stronger and harder to break down.

Advanced Tactics Drill 6. Two-on-One, No Restrictions

Play a game against a team of two other players, similar to the last three drills. This time there are no restrictions on either you or the team. This is the best way to simulate a game against the complete player. It may seem like a daunting task to win against two players. It certainly isn’t easy, but it is not impossible. Try to follow some of the advice provided in this section, and see how many points you can win. Play three games using point-per-rally scoring to 11 points.

To Decrease Difficulty

Give yourself an appropriate head start to make the games close. For example, you may begin at 5-0.

Success Check

Play to your strengths.

Vary the pace and style of your game.

Attack with confidence.

Score Your Success

Win two or three games against the team = 10 points

Win one game against the team = 5 points

Your score ___

This is an excerpt from Squash: Steps to Success, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Squash: Steps to Success 2nd Edition



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