Workshop Q&A


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QUESTIONS

LEFT HANDERS RETURNING SERVE ON THE FOREHAND
Q.10 Jeremy Allen from Trowbridge, Wilts UK. writes, I recently played against a left handed player, no problem there. He insisted on playing forehand on bothsides, so that I was in danger of getting a ball in the back of my neck after serving to (what should have been) his backhand. I alterd my serve, but it made no difference, even to the point when my oponent was right up against the wall.

TROUBLE PLAYING TALL OPPONENTS WITH GOOD REACH.
Q.9
Couple of my opponents are really tall guys, 6'4" and 6'6". They play almost the same game. They have a great retrieval game and they give me BIG trouble with cutting off my balls. They just have a LONG reach! I find it difficult to pass the ball behind them! I try to hit hard to put ....

LOOSE RETURN OF SERVE
Q. 8.
I seem to give loose returns when the opponent uses a low smash serve, what should I be doing?
Martin C

EARLY LET CALL
Q. 7.
  I have played a loose drive or mid-court boast
.....: do we play a let, or is it my point?

IS HARD HITTING IMPORTANT
Q.6.
Is it important to hit hard throughout the whole match? Is hitting hard and low a very fundamental skill in squash?

BEATEN WITH PACE
Q.5.
I have an opponent who just beats me with pace and in the end I just don't get there?

FIGHTING WITH THE REFEREE SPOILS MY CONCENTRATION
Q.4.
I tend to get involved with the referee and this spoils my concentration. Any tips?

OPPONENT BEATS ME WITH THE VOLLEY
Q.3.
I have an opponent who cuts me up on the volley. But for that I would be in the game. Do you have any advice?

TROUBLE RECOVERING FROM HARD GAMES NOW I AM OLDER
Q2. I am reasonably fitdnything I can do?

MY GAME IS STUCK
Q1.
I seem stuck in League 4 at my club and I really think I could play to a higher standard but it is just not happening. What should I do?

________________________________________________________________________

ANSWERS

LEFT HANDERS RETURNING SERVE ON THE FOREHAND
Q.10 Jeremy Allen from Trowbridge, Wilts UK. writes, I recently played against a left handed player, no problem there. He insisted on playing forehand on both sides, so that I was in danger of getting a ball in the back of my neck after serving to (what should have been) his backhand. I altered my serve, but it made no difference, even to the point when my opponent was right up against the wall. I can't find anything in the rules about it. I'm sure I was told very early on in my squash playing life that this is not allowed, essentially because it is potentially dangerous. I have never encountered it before. Any thoughts?
Jeremy.

A.10 Opponents returning serves on the forehand from the back hand court. This is not something disallowed in the rules – although dangerous play certainly is – and you need to find another way around this problem

Now your problem, you serve from the left box to a left handed opponent playing a forehand return (or indeed playing a forehand shot during the course of a rally). Nothing illegal or dangerous here. The likely problem is your serve. Really you have quite an advantage but you are not making use of it. Ideally your target is to hit the side wall before your opponent can volley (hit the side on the full), then the floor and then the back. i.e. target it at the side, floor and back. It does sound as if you are not aiming far enough over on the front wall. Keep moving your target area to the right across the front wall until you are able to hit the side wall in front of your opponent.

Interesting you actually aim further to the right on the front wall when serving from the left rather than from the right side, but not by much. You may have noticed that this area is the first part of a front wall that wears out.

You should go on court and practice your service by yourself.

Develop a variety of serves. You can even use very high serves that will go over an opponents head and it may not be that crucial if they rebound back into the court (ideally you will get them to rebound and cling to the side wall.)

TROUBLE PLAYING TALL OPPONENTS WITH GOOD REACH.
Q.9
Couple of my opponents are really tall guys, 6'4" and 6'6". They play almost the same game. They have a great retrieval game and they give me BIG trouble with cutting off my balls. They just have a LONG reach! I find it difficult to pass the ball behind them! I try to hit hard to put them under pressure but I lose some accuracy and they put me away! If I hit nice but hard length, they let the ball go back and then have a GOOD swing at it from the back wall which could put me under pressure. If I slow down the pace and hit softer to get more control and tight shots, it COULD put them in some trouble but it's not a winner for me. They have good reach and retrieve and they get to everything. I tried nice high lobs but it doesn't seem to threaten them at all. If the lob is not PERFECT, I'm dead! What do I do?

I'm known in the club for having really good shots and skill with the racket but if I cannot hit alot of winners and finish my opponent off, I eventually tire out and lose the match!
Ahab


A.9. Unfortunately your opponents have two fundamental abilities in squash – good volleying and good retrieving ability.

Tall players can use their advantage with reach to take the ball out of the air but may not be as quick on the turn or to get down to low balls in the front so you can investigate these avenues.

You have thought about your tactical problem with these opponents and tried different things. One way you can look at tactics is as the balance of a number of different elements – for example shots to the back and shots to the front, or hard and soft shots. For example a basic tactic is to get your opponent in the back and then attack (play to the front) when you have two conditions: your opponent out of position (off the T) and an easy ball.

To get a good volleyer back: hit mainly straight; when you do crosscourt put more width on the ball and try to find the safely to the side wall; hit lower and harder; use very high lobs.

You have said when you hit very high and the ball rebounds off the back or out of the back corners you are in trouble. It is still probably a good idea to play some of these shots and if you do give your opponents an opportunity try to anticipate their return. (You do have some experience of this! Go straight there!)

You have (or you believe you have) a problem with over-hitting and opponents able to take advantage or the rebounding ball. Experiment with the length of your drives, pull them a little shorter and your find a range that pushes them to the back and gives them a problem. If your opponent leaves a gap punch in a lower dying length ball that will not rebound.

It does seem you are having some success at getting your opponent’s back with the slower game and lobs. This is not however the whole game. Look for opportunities to attack, to apply pressure on the volley and with hard hitting, and play a positional game where you are moving your opponent.

It seems you could develop your attacking shots some more and get a bit fitter but these are other questions.

Have a look at the opportunities Peter Nicol uses to win points in the Workshop section.

Remember tactics is about playing the right shot at the right time.


LOOSE RETURN OF SERVE
Q. 8.
I seem to give loose returns when the opponent uses a low smash serve, what should I be doing?
Martin C

A.8. It depends on where the shots are loose. If you are pulling the shot out into the middle when you are trying to hit straight you are hitting the ball in front rather than to the side. Use your feet, move to the side of ball.
Alternatively aim right across the court, hardish, at or above the service line to get length and across enough to get width. Your target is to beat your opponent’s potential volley and hit the side, floor and back to put your opponent in the back and to take the T.
If the ball is kicking off the near side wall it has got behind you and you need to move your feet to the side.
It may be useful to watch how other players handle this service. Consider moving forward to volley.
A good practice that simulates this situation is where Player A (frontcourt) crosscourts and Player B (backcourt) straight drives or volleys and then boasts. This allows the practice to be continuous.
Also try having someone smash serves at you so you can get some practice at this. See your coach!

EARLY LET CALL
Q. 7. Thanks for the ability to ask questions on Squash Player. I have 2 questions:
i. I [A] have played a loose drive or mid-court boast; my opponent [B] is on the T; I can read his shot and it’s going to be a straight drop; he moves forward to play the drop; before the ball hits the front wall I move in and ask for a Let (because of direct interference); his shot (for which there was no interference) hits the Tin. What is the call: do we play a Let, or is it my point?
ii. Same scenario as above, except this time his drop shot (my opponent) dead-nicks…do we play a Let, or is it his point?

Many jugs of beer have been consumed in attempting to answer these 2 questions. I await your response.
Mike H

A.7. Not every senario in squash is perfectly covered in the ‘Rules of the Game’ but outside the rules we have the ‘The Squash Player Principles’, ‘Common Law’ and ‘Common Sense’.

A.i. Player A wins the rally.
Player A is trapped behind Player B who has dropped from the mid-court. Player A asks for a let early but Player A’s hits the tin. Player B has played a shot without interference or distraction and it has hit the tin.

It could be argued technically that the rally will end immediately the let call has been made, i.e. while the ball was travelling, but the ability of the referee to discern this is not practical and a sensible decision has to be made. (There is some precident for this in rule the Appeals rule (11.2.1.2 The Referee … shall award a stroke to the player, if the Marker’s call interrupted that player’s winning return.)


Q. ii. Player B wins the rally.
A.i. Player B has hit a winner. No let.

IS HARD HITTING IMPORTANT
Q. 6.  Is it important to hit hard throughout the whole match? Is hitting hard and low a very fundamental skill in squash?
Jason Tan

A.6. Hitting hard is important in squash. It is a hard hitting aggressive game. However it is a brilliant game in that it allows different styles and rewards different abilities. Tactics can be seen as a balance of defence and attack, hard and soft shots, positional play and pressure play.

Hard hitting can apply pressure to your opponent (deprive him of time) but it can also deprive you or recovery time. (Time to cover your shots.) Pick the right time to hit hard and apply pressure. Hit hard been you have the opportunity (from the mid-court (you do not need recovery time), when you have an opening (an easy ball) or when your opponent is out of position (ie. You have a gap and play the ball to die - rather than rebound - into this gap.)

Play slower recovery shots (lobs, straight lobs and high crosscourts) when you need recovery time.

The problem with hard hitting it that it can lead to loose play, it gives less recovery time, it can be tiring, your opponent may not mind it, it can lead to more rebounding shots

Fundamentally you should adapt your tactics to your strengths and your opponents weaknesses, develop a game plan and be able to change tactics that are not working.

Yes hard low hitting is important and useful but it is not the whole story. Use it if is works (remembering to develop your skills in the long run so you don't just become a basher) but remember to pace yourself through a match and each rally by balancing hard and soft shots. Pick the times to hit hard and apply pressure. It you can do it a lot of the time fine  but it is not the whole story.

BEATEN WITH PACE
Q.5. I have an opponent who just beats me with pace and in the end I just don't get there?

A.5. Slow the game down. Play tighter balls. Don't be rushed. Take time when you serve. Try to anticipate your hard hitting opponent. Are there patterns which will allow you to move early.

FIGHTING WITH THE REFEREE SPOILS MY CONCENTRATION
Q.4. I tend to get involved with the referee and this spoils my concentration. Any tips?

A.4. Resolve not to get involVed before you go on court. Accept that you will get some decisions you don't like. Prepare alternate strategies. If you do get involved try to refocus. Having a simple game plan is useful. Refocus on the next rally rather then brood on the past one. This is the positive approach.

OPPONENT BEATS ME WITH THE VOLLEY
Q.3. I have an opponent who cuts me up on the volley. But for that I would be in the game. Do you have any advice?
A.3. The general rule if your opponent is playing winning shots or shots that are troubling you is to look at where he is playing them from – and don’t put the ball there.

Basically tighten up your game so there are no easy volley opportunities there. Probably you should straighten up and hit lower and harder under his volley reach area. (Unfortunately this may take some effort and there is also the danger of hitting short.) Try to keep the ball out of the air – certainly until you are in front. If you do stray there anticipate where the ball is going before it has been struck. It sounds as if you may know this is but are not moving early enough. There are other issues. Perhaps you are too readable and should vary your game more; you can play more short balls if you have that capability (although there are dangers in this); and you could try very high shots that will go over his volley reach area. Remember to volley yourself – of course! Perhaps you can get in first.

TROUBLE RECOVERING FROM HARD GAMES NOW I AM OLDER
Q.2. I am reasonably fit but now I am getting older I have terrible trouble in recovering from hard games. Is there anything I can do?
A.2. Warm-down after your matches. Keep moving. The stiffness is caused by lactic acid, a by-product from the chemical reaction in all that energy you have produced to play squash. Flush it out by maintaining the blood flow with gentle exercise for 10 minutes walking or jogging. Perhaps even consider a light recovery run later in the day.
Stretch after a match when the muscles are nice and hot and pliable.

MY GAME IS STUCK
Q.1. I seem stuck in League 4 at my club and I really think I could play to a higher standard but it is just not happening. What should I do?
A.1. Really you are saying I need an assessment of my play, my potential and of what I am doing. You are also saying given this how do I improve my game.

You feel you can improve which is a good start. Start with a realistic self-assessment. Write down your strengths as a player, weakness and things you think you need to improve on to lift our standard. Seek other opinions, real criticism. Ideally this will be from an experienced coach who will analysis your game and set a direction for you. Remember it is not the coaching that will lift your standard it is what you do with it. Seek advise from senior or more experienced players.

There are a whole range of things you can do to improve using practice (solo, pairs, practice game), fitness training, coaching and matches. It is best however for this effort to be targeted on what your individual needs are as a player.

Here however are some guidelines. Play regularly (a club player wanting to improve needs to play a minimum of three times a week, a competitive player four or five times with other training). Play matches that will extend you. Prepare for your matches. Work out a game plan (learn from your previous experience), arrive early and warm-up so you are ready and focused when you go on court. Learn from your matches.