4. My solo
Take opportunities to hit by yourself to improve and groove your skills.
This is what I do. Develop your own routine.
a) Easy hitting: I start with easy hitting to the service box. I warm the
ball with volleys, then drive and volley to warm myself up, get my eye in
and get some consistency. I move my feet for each shot so that Iím in the
best position. After easy hitting on both sides I move to the back corners.
b) Full length driving: Itís better to be longer than short. Step in and
out of the shot, turn the upper body to face the back, get the racket up and
try to be ready and waiting for the ball. Get a rhythm, use medium pace and
concentrate on getting the ball right through and straight.
c) Low drives and kills: From the back of the service box I practise
short kills with cut and low drives angled to bounce and cling and which
come back three-quarters the way down the court.
d) Volley kills: From behind and at the edge of the service box I hit
hard volley kills with a bit of cut, but with a short and controlled swing.
e) Drops and volley drops: From around the short line I hit volley drops
(softer with touch) and drops (with more cut). If I have an angle I go for
the nick. If not I play it to bounce on the floor and cling.
f) Short shots: Short
drops I practise by feeding it short and moving in from the T; counter drops
I feed short with controlled movement, concentrating on getting the ball
tight on the side.
Volleys are the key to playing squash at pace,
pressurising your opponent and creating time for yourself. They let you keep
the middle and get in front of your opponent. The player in front wins.
Always look for volleying opportunities during a match.
If your opponent makes it back to the T you should look to follow up with a
second volley to get him out of position. Donít just whack the ball around
on the volley or speculate with volley nicks. Use the volley to dominate the
T and use variation to avoid being predictable - various paces of straight
drives, crosscourts and boasts.
Think about using
combinations and think ahead. Look to follow up your short shots by
intercepting and making opponents scramble back for dying length volleys. If
youíve gone short try to intercept and play long.
6. Match day
If Iím travelling to an event I arrive at least a day
before my first match. Having checked all my kit before departure, I unpack
and then familiarize myself with the hotel, venue, travel times, practice
times, the courts and the match times. Then I make sure I eat well.
Now itís time to switch off, stretch, watch a film and
maybe get a massage.
Generally our matches are in the evening so thereís no
rush to get up in the mornings. If Iím playing at 9pm I may get up at
midday, practise at 2pm and relax. First I have a light breakfast and wait
for my practice. I always practice on the court Iíll be playing on even if
it means practising at strange times.
After practice I stretch, shower, eat (lots of pasta
and water), relax and switch off. Sometimes I might havwe a nap.
Then I start thinking about the match, making sure Iím
alert, aware, sprightly, heightened, but not tense. Mental preparation is
At the venue I sometimes watch the match before Iím on.
Then I warm-up, stretch and do some explosive bounding so that Iím ready to
play at full pace. I also do shadow work with the racket and practice
turning and jumping.
On court in the knock-up I try to stay comfortable, hit
the ball well, see it well and feel lighht on my feet. I give myself
reminders by saying ĎOn your toesí, ĎKeep away from the ballí, ĎBe awareí,
ĎFocus on the ballí. Sometimes I try out different shots and angles to test
my opponent a bit.
Then Iím ready to go!
7. Having a game
Hereís little time to think during a squash match, so
much of your thinking has to be done before you go on court. This is your
gameplan. You should practise it in practice sessions and games and
discipline yourself to stick to it during matchplay. But know when to change
it if itís not working.
My game plan is simple. I want my opponents in the back
corners and I want to be in the T. Here are my four main game plan tactics:
Take the ball early.
c) Control the T, feel sharp and aware.
Take opportunites to attack.
To get my opponent in the back corners I hit low and
hard so that they canít intercept and have to scramble back for the ball. I
hit flat with some cut which helps the ball stick in the back.
My strengths are to get onto the ball early, hit a good
length and make my opponents work hard getting to it. This makes them
concentrate on stopping me rather than getting on with their game.
Applying this kind of pressure forces opportunities for
me to attack. My tactics are to get the ball deep, get my opponent stretched
and force the weak ball or tactical error. Then I can attack or send an
opponent back deep into the corners again.
This is the pattern
of a rally. First I set up the rally with length, apply pressure to an
opponent and look for opportunities to attack. Just one attack is not always
successful so I donít become rash and lose my tactical discipline when they
get the ball back. I just set up the rally again and try to force the next
8. The T is the
Movement to and from the T is the axis around which the
game revolves. To recover the T and if possible dominate it is one of the
fundamentals of the sport. Today you cannot play the game from the back of
the court. The player in front wins. Itís as simple as that.
Recover quickly from your shots and get back to the T.
But make sure you are steady and balanced when you hit.
As you finish your swing, start moving out towards the
T. Try to keep it all as one smooth movement. If you play your shot in the
front corners youíll have to push back a bit more dynamically to reach the
T, but if youíre at the back of the court you can turn out of the shot.
Once on the T you should be perfectly balanced and
ready to go in any direction. If youíre anticipating a straight shot you
should hang into the side a little and look to intercept it. If a crosscourt
is a possibility you should take up a more central position. If a short shot
is a possibility, move forward on the T to cover the front of the court.
For me, squash is
like perpetual motion. I try to keep moving so Iím not stopping and starting
all the time or using heavy lunging which will tire me out.
9. Looking to
a) Straight volley drop: I play this off
both the crosscourt and straight drive. At the top level, taking the ball on
the volley is very important. Pros can cover most things but volleying cuts
down their time.
b) Drop off the boast: A boast, especially a
forced one, can provide a major attacking opportunity to drop or to hold and
drive again to put more pressure on. Sometimes we get involved in drop
exchanges where we are angling the drop to cling onto the side wall and it
is difficult to get a full swing at them.
c) Interceptions from the front:
After the drop
I look to pick up the volley and punch it away straight for dying length.
Often, all an opponent will be able to do with a tight drop is to hit it up
straight or crosscourt.
d) Kills: One of the things you are trying to do
when pressurising an opponent in the back is to force weak mid-court or
three-quarter court balls that you can kill. An opponent has to stay behind
to avoid being stroked and you have the opportunity to straight kill, fading
it into the side so that it doesnít rebound. If it is not a winner, it often
forces a weak ball that can be hit away.
e) Short variations:
Pushing an opponent deep
can frustrate them so that they play short from the back corners. This can
allow you to pounce from the T onto a short ball with a counter drop and
then follow up looking for the intercept; or hold and hit deep again,
perhaps with some deception, letting them come back to the T and then send
them deep again.
boast: Sometimes when Iím forced behind an opponent on my backhand and I
can sense that they are hanging in looking for the volley because they have
got in front of me I will throw in a surprise boast, if I can get the ball
before the back. When they are committed to volley this is a difficult
change of direction.
10. Variations and deception
As squash players we want the advantage of reading an
opponentís play, but we want to make it difficult for our opponents to read
us. We want to keep our opponents guessing by using variations and
Using variations can hold an opponent in position
longer before they move or can catch them out with an unexpected variation
they are slow to read and to move to.
Deception may wrong-foot an opponent and make them move
the wrong way, necessitating a time-consuming change of direction.
In your game, work to develop the attacking side of
your play and work on developing variations and deception. Be prepared to
experiment a bit in your practice games and be prepared to mess up while you
Variations are really different alter-natives from the
same positions on court. Try to set up the same way for a selection of shots
as this helps disguise them.
Later you can add deception by holding the shot or by
showing one shot and playing another. The idea is to keep an opponent
guessing so they donít know whatís coming next. There are two examples here.
One shows a mid-court positon with some of the alternatives I look for. The
other, in the front right corner, is my strongest attacking area; attacking
a right-handerís forehand where it is harder for them to get into the
corner. In this second example from the same set-up position I have a whole
range or shots and I can generate a lot of pace off a short swing which
allows me a range of variations and disguise.
My front right variations
1. Straight drive
3. Straight and crossourt kills
4. Straight drop and the flick crosscourt drop
5. The trickle boast
6. Lobs: deceptive lobs where you shape low for a
drop and flick up for a lob. Attacking lobs where an
opponent is up the court forcing a boast and then attacking
7. The narrow crosscourt
8. Full swing to drop
9. Short swing to drop
My mid-court variations
1. Short volley drop or volley kill
2. Shape early for a straight volley drop
and flick it crosscourt
3. A low hard crosscourt angled to die
through service box
4. Crosscourt volley hard in behind the
service box for the floor, side and back
5. A higher crosscourt volley floated a bit
more to the side floor and back then to die
6. Shape for a straight volley drop, hold it
and then punch deep