Squash has been called the ballet of racquet sports, by me if by no one else. At club level, you will often find that the player who looks most stylish is the better player. Do not be afraid to exaggerate the good points in your stroke. I have seen no one lose because they had too much style, because they had too high a backswing, because they were too early for their shots, because they hesitated before the downswing, because they stretched for their shots and gave themselves room to play the ball.
I have seen many players struggle because they fell short on the basics of style, because some part of their swing, or their movement, wasn't right, and this was preventing them getting to the right place to play the ball, or was impeding a clean shot. Maybe they found it hard to turn advice into practice.
I like the adage that in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. In squash, a good way to turn theory into practice is to practise. A lot. Until you get it right.
|A solid and stable base, leading knee bent and the trailing foot sideways, is a good basis for a shot. When you have time, get into position early, decide on the shot, delay with the racket poised on the backswing, and swing to make a good connection with the ball. The later you can start to bring the racket down, the harder it is for your opponent to read the shot. A later swing means you need to impart more force to the racket, of course.
|Take a high backswing and follow through, almost vertical racquet to vertical racquet for a medium strength shot. For a harder shot, at the top of the backswing the racket should curl almost to the horizontal in front of you, or close behind your head on the forehand only.
A side benefit of getting the racket high as you move towards the ball is that if opponent is slow to clear you are much more likely to be awarded a let or a stroke if it looks as if you were ready to play a shot - a drooping racket is unconvincing to say the least.
|Don't get too close to the ball - a stretch to the ball, with room to play, will result in a much better shot. It's not just the final step, with the stretch, that is important. Your penultimate step puts down what will be your trailing foot for the final step, so this step must be just right. If it is wrong, your last step will either be too much of a stretch, or will leave your feet so close that you are unbalanced or cramping the ball.
|Your leading foot is in the right place if you are the right distance from the ball to execute a good shot. For a ball below waist height, the handle of your racket should miss your knee by little over a hand's width.
|Your trailing foot was the leading foot one step back. This earlier step is vital for a balanced stance. For a backhand shot, you should place what will be your trailing foot almost parallel with the side wall to help turn your body towards the back corner.
|To the T
|After almost every shot, try to get back to the T in the centre of the court ready for the next shot. This is most important when you are under pressure, as your opponent will try to deceive you with a drive or a drop, and you must be ready for both.
|As you move back to the T you should be watching your opponent and trying to second-guess his next stroke. If you get it right, you can set off to the ball early and your movement can be smooth, which will tire you less.
|Don't dash back to the T - trip and skip if you have the time - it will keep you fresher and better balanced. This means being on top of the game, and not letting your opponent control the game.
|Your leading knee should be bent when you play your shot, to stabilise you for the stroke and to help you spring back to the T after the shot.
|Don't try to hit the ball too hard - a well placed shot that dies as it reaches the back of the court is just right. The soft hitting defensive player is quite happy for you to keep the ball warm, and to keep the ball bouncing off the back wall. It's the well judged length that tires your opponent. Keep the power for the occasional passing shots.
|Try to get to where you intend to hit the ball nice and early - this gives you time to take a steady stance for your shot, and lets you hesitate in your racket swing and mislead your opponent.
|Don't serve to win - serving to stop your opponent returning a winner is quite good enough. It is good to have a variety of serves, hard serves, lob serves, and to be able to serve well when tired and under pressure. But serving hard with the intention of out powering your opponent leaves you vulnerable to the drop down the wall or the lob return.
|On the backhand, make sure you are turned towards the back corner - you can't play a decent backhand if your body is facing the front. The trailing foot should land almost parallel to the side wall to help turn your body to the back corner.
|If a ball is going to hit the side wall and fade into the back wall nick, you must make an early decision to take the ball early - intercept it before it gets to the side wall, or soon after. Play a steady rail or cross court lob. Nothing fancy is required - the initiative you gain from the early interception means it is unlikely opponent will play a forcing shot in return.
|Taking a serve on the volley is easier than you think - with a high backlift, just hit the ball cleanly and gently with enough lift to clear your opponent. The only danger is a power kill to just above the T, and this is not easy from a high volley.
|A long drop is not a percentage shot - it is very risky - a gentle lob cross court or back down the wall is safer. And only play the long drop if your opponent is still close to you in the back of the court and will have a lot of distance to cover to retrieve your drop.
|Boasts are fine, but open themselves up to a nasty drop shot in reply. Only boast when you have to, or when you are sure that you are wrong-footing your opponent and that he will not reach your drop to make a good return.
|Watch videos of professionals playing and copy them - try to find a player whose style you can identify with. When watching a game, don't watch each player's shot - choose one of the players to follow, and try to see the game from their point of view, following the ball and their movements.
Copyright (C) Richard Hart 2015 - 2018