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Stroke to the incoming striker

Stroke to the incoming striker

Published: 24 Jul 2004 - 18:26 by rippa rit

Updated: 18 Mar 2008 - 20:08

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When recovering drop shots and boasts from the front of the court it can be difficult to give the incoming striker fair view, and freedom of stroke, particularly if hitting the ball hard.


  •  The harder the ball is struck the quicker one has to move. (Ref says "stroke" 'cos you are not clearing the ball.)
  • Straight drives from the front corners are difficult to hit "tight" to the side walls. (Ref says "stroke" 'cos you are hitting the ball back to yourself not giving the opponent fair view and/or freedom of stroke).

Optional returns from the front corners to prevent a stroke:- 

  • Lob (high to the back corners) that cannot be volleyed. A cross court lob is easier to execute.
  •  Boast (if the opponent is hanging back or crowding, expecting a drive).
  •  Drop off a drop can be effective too, if the opponent is hanging back waiting for length.

 If you mix up long and short from the front of the courts all shots will be more effective.
More on the technique of returning a lob.

Link to Gold video clip showing how effective a lob can be, allowing plenty of time to get out of the way avoiding a stroke being conceded to the opponent.

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From rippa rit - 10 Jan 2008 - 21:38   -   Updated: 10 Jan 2008 - 21:57

rooshoot - Explaining what I meant by this comment:

"Also I'm not sure if I'm taking you out of context when you say "all shots landing from mid court, and further back, must be tight irrespective" but also say "many length returns are not consistently tight"

I suppose you could say from critical observations in the video clip the drives are certainly not tight in some rallies (say score of 5/10),  and  seldom land in the back of the court (say score 5/10); which is not what I would like to see of my charges, and I would be saying slow down, and get the ball under control, otherwise it is a waste of energy, and the speed of the ball is not effective in that case. If you hit shots loose like that it is not the performance of a person who expects to win. 

Compare the rallies when the ball is controlled with tight length. Notice the position of the opponent, the amount of extra work involved, the extra time, and the greater the opportunities. The person who gets the control will eventually wear down the opponent unless there is some tactical shift.

About the boasts and xcourts question -

Certainly all attacking boasts must be very low and very tight landing into the sidewall nick (which top players can do as they should/would practice that shot all the time in training).  Defensive boasts, as well as the back-the-front backwall shot, should be pounced on early by opponent and attacking nicks or winners (kills) attempted (certainly not a length drive, I mean, unless it can be very deceptive).

Deception -

Take another look at the videos and look for deception; replay them again and again, there are several instances of a player being deceived, and not in position to cut the ball off, or letting the ball go past as they were too slow to realise where it was going and cut it off, then had to chase.

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From rooshootup - 10 Jan 2008 - 11:34

Ok, all your points are taken.  John White has much work to do when he is taken forward (often with the boast) and then moved back to the diagonally opposite corner.  And the harder White hits his shot the less time he has to get there. 

They do seem to always recover from being wrong footed and a few times find the ball is hit straight back to them (probably in the opponents quest to deceive them).  The winners are generally hit when the ball goes to the furthest corner from the opponent. 

Also I'm not sure if I'm taking you out of context when you say "all shots landing from mid court, and further back, must be tight irrespective" but also say "many length returns are not consistently tight" 

Isn't that acontradiction?  Also, would you agree that boasts and x-court drives must also be tight?  And if yes, then is there a risk in the shot?  And if yes, is there a shot just as effective with less risk?  I know I'm missing the point of deception/delay but I struggle with the concept given that a squash court is a small confined space and given the speed, agility and recovery abilities of the elite players. 

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From rippa rit - 08 Jan 2008 - 20:30   -   Updated: 09 Jan 2008 - 06:59

Rooshoot - just commenting on your points repeated below, with my comments in itallics to make it easy to follow:

  • are rarely wrong footed (Rippa - take a look at the forum article/video about "flashy shots" - lots of wrong footing)

  • move like cats around the court (Rippa - sure do, and makes it look as though they are never in trouble, as all the balls tend to come back)

  • are never on their heels (Rippa - I doubt very much that a player could play one game, let alone five, without putting their heels on the floor).

  • don't move backwards while waiting on the T (if anything they creep forward to reduce the angles) - (Rippa - take another look at some top videos with special emphasis on backwards movement, or not moving forward in the first place).

  • are all over slow shots like a rash (unless high or super tight) - (Rippa -  all shots landing from mid court, and further back, must be tight irrespective; whereas when both players are at the front, the most important thing is to get the ball away as quickly as possibe before the opponent recovers their position in the court, hence the back wall back-the-front shot often hit by John White.  Tight is not the criteria in this situation).

  • have no problem timing the ball - EVER (Rippa - unforced errors hit at this level of pro play is about timing)

  • do not slow down - (Rippa - often play in second gear, and then take it up a notch when a lose shot comes up)

  • often hit the ball tight - taking the opponent away from the T (Rippa - many length returns are not consistently tight; half a racket head off the side wall, or less, and in particular hitting the side wall nick 1m from the back wall)

  • treat loose boasts/x-courts with contempt - (Rippa - true)

  • seem to have oodles of time - (Rippa - partially their speed, and partially their anticipation)

  • generally agree that the player who does more running will lose - (Rippa, true; unless the losing player changes tactics).
I will now have a look for a few video clips of top rallies for observation.
Hey, I am not too hung up on this, but I do not want to mislead our forum followers. There are differences in these matches quite relevant to this topic I believe.

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From rooshootup - 08 Jan 2008 - 12:26

In my observations high level players, say solid state 1 players

  • are rarely wrong footed

  • move like cats around the court

  • are never on their heels

  • don't move backwards while waiting on the T (if anything they creep forward to reduce the angles)

  • are all over slow shots like a rash (unless high or super tight)

  • have no problem timing the ball - EVER

  • do not slow down

  • often hit the ball tight - taking the opponent away from the T

  • treat loose boasts/x-courts with contempt

  • seem to have oodles of time

  • generally agree that the player who does more running will lose

I never thought of all those weaknesses you point out!  I think that theory can be quite a lot different to practical playing.  For instance, working around an opponents body can be pretty difficult, especially with the minimal interfearence rule and the fact you have to make every effort to get to and play the ball.

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From rippa rit - 07 Jan 2008 - 20:47

rooshoot - my guess,  you are not a tactical player?  I will talk through a few things, stuff that has probably been discussed many times previously, especially in the Squash Library/Tactics.

About delay, as first point of discussion:

  • to disguise your shot
  • get opponent moving in the wrong direction to chase the ball
  • delay so the opponent, who was once on their toes, is now gradually going onto their heels making take off slower and more exertion.
  • waiting for the opponent to move back, and then playing short, catching them on the back foot

Change of pace:

  • can take the power out of the opponent's game
  • upset opponent's timing, and also starts to suck the opponent into slowing down

Committing early:

  • the use of false cues, eg big backswing, little hit, position of feet, etc.
  • good idea if the opponent is out of position and a winning shot is being attempted.

Dominate T

  • make sure if you are not at the T, the next shot you are, definitely
  • use volley drops, volley boasts, to keep pressure on opponent


Without mixing up the shots, especially in the first game, how can you find weaknesses in the opponent, eg

  • is opponent volleying and making life difficult?,
  • is opponent playing drops  (if not  that means you can stand a bit further back);
  • is the  the answer to a drop always the same?
  • are the majority of front court shots going cross court?
  • is the opponent getting out of breath after a long rally?
  • is the opponent getting frustrated when I get all their good shots back?
Etc.etc.  It has often been said "I heard what you said a few weeks ago, but now I know what you mean".  Just sit on these thoughts and maybe you will come back and say the same. 

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From rooshootup - 07 Jan 2008 - 11:10

At my level and higher, I think that the basic court movement patterns are generally followed.  Therefore, if the idea is to make your opponent run the furthest distance to retrieve the next shot, why delay?  Especially if they don't know what you're doing with your swing.  My experiences and observations are:

  • Stopping, starting, twisting and turning -  initially found this to be very difficult, but am continually improving with practice and am now retrieving balls I never thought possible!  Also, if it means running a shorter distance to the ball, I would prefer it (and unfit players would definitely agree with me!) 

  • Change of pace - shouldn't the idea of hitting the ball away from your opponent dictate the pace, eg hard to give them less time to get to the back, or soft to make them run further into the front corners.  Or soft and high to allow yourself time to return to the T? 

  • Commiting early - If your opponent is running the furthest distance to the ball, so what?  And if they commit way to early, a simple change of shot would then be a winner, and isn't that the ultimate use of deception?

  • Dominate the T  -  Easy peasy, provided your shots are really tight and your opponent is loose.

  • Opponent weakness - at my level there are no obvious flaws, but if you can exploit it, well and good.

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From rippa rit - 03 Jan 2008 - 20:17   -   Updated: 03 Jan 2008 - 20:21

Here is our link to Squash Library/Drills Routines/Restricted Games and I suggest you start looking at some of this kind of training, as well as pair routines, to get an appreciation of what the different tactical strategies do to an opponent's game, eg

  • change of pace,
  • twistimg amd turning the opponent
  • delay

Also observe what these routines do to your movement, especially the stopping and starting type shots combinations.  Players who get to the ball and hit immediately never really know what their opponent is doing usually (they never take the time to find out as they are in such a hurry), and find court movement a lot easier while keeping on the run, as opposed to stop/start/twist type movements.  Also moving players hitting at the same pace generally never really come to the T but pass through it on their way to the ball and that makes it difficult to play touch shots, and volley, and there is a 10:1chance their game is very repetitious and predictable.

Most players do commit to move before the ball is hit, even if it is just getting the weight transfer in the direction they intend to move - an example of this is when watching the tennis and winners are hit when the players get their opponent on the wrong foot.

A good match to watch, if you get a chance, an unfit skillful player versus a fast young hard hitting player.  Why would the skillful player expend half the energy, and have the hard hitter running all over the place?  Generally, shot selection, exploiting the weaknesses of the opponent, dominating the T.

Give it a try for a couple of months and see what discoveries you make.

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From rooshootup - 03 Jan 2008 - 11:37

Yep, I get that.  Good movement is essential which also helps you to track your opponents movement.  But I still wonder why I see and have received so much punishment for hard drives, tickle boasts and x-court drops played from the front third/quarter of the court (when the opponent is behind me and a good mover).  Why is variety so important when good fast opponents do not commit either way until the the ball is actually hit rendering deception useless anyway!  So, therefore, what is the reason for waiting and 'delaying' your shot apart from giving your opponent extra time to recover to the T?  I want to be able to beat good players that don't get sucked into traps.

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From rippa rit - 02 Jan 2008 - 16:24

rooshoot - trust me.  When following the ball, keep well away, and then that leaves plenty of room for correction/adjustment of angle, height, footwork, shot options, etc

If the ball is following the wall closely down the line (side wall) still do not go any closer to the side wall than the corner of the service box - it is easy to move closer, but damn hard to get away if you are in too close and cramped up.

In days gone by I would draw an inner court (particularly used for ghosting exercises), making up the court inside the both service boxes, and two racket lengths from the back wall, and two racket legths from the front wall, which is where the player needs to cover/travel (that makes the court a lot smaller too), and then the adjustment can be made within a couple of seconds of hitting the ball, by stepping over this line, lunging and reaching for the ball.  We do not have to get so close to the ball and the wall, and then we can pay more attention to factors like, the angle of the ball, the rebound, the speed, the height. 

You get that OK? 

It takes practice and a different mind set; and it is not always most beneficial to get in and hit the ball early at the top of the bounce either, depending on the circumstances and position of the opponent. Solo practice and hit balls at various speeds, heights, angles, court positions, and try out these concepts. I like players to stand back and observe the ball characteristics which is something you can do if on court alone and "playing around".

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From rooshootup - 02 Jan 2008 - 12:46

But my aim is not to play the wrong option!  How do I keep 2m from the ball when I have been told to take the ball early?  What about the tight ones - which are numerous? How do I know when I have played the right/wrong shot selection when the result is also dependent upon:

  • quality of my shot

  • movement of my opponent  ??

For example couldn't a wrong option be masked by excellent shot quality and/or poor movement by my opponent?  Thanks and I will try your suggestions.


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From rippa rit - 23 Dec 2007 - 20:13

rooshoot - going to the front of the court in a sideways movement, and keeping about 2m from the estimated ball striking position, will mean you can see if your opponent is on your heels and whether to lob, drive, cross court or tickle boast. This will depend on how much space there is for your shot, and how quickly you can recover (get out of the way).  Obviously, off a tight front court shot, eg boast or drop, it is unlikely there will be much room between you and the wall (a nice tram line) to direct the ball without the opponent sitting on your shoulder, and if this is the case the cross court lob will be perfect.

If I were you I would take one thing at a time to develop the required skills, eg

  • movement to the front of the court (side on and not too close to the ball)
  • focus more on the court position of the opponent and if the best shot selection was taken
  • use variety in the front of the court so the opponent does not hang on your back, and therefore stays more around mid court, not to step into your shot and call "let" (sort of setting up a trap for you) as you chose to play the wrong option..

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From edmpnd1961 - 23 Dec 2007 - 11:51

U can learn to play a trickle boast,a cross court drop, a delay straight drive too, and As for " fair view of the ball" is the most difficut of rules to interpet. Just learn to put the ball furthest fm yr opponent and u will not face this problem.

Happy Holidays and Cheers

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From rooshootup - 20 Dec 2007 - 11:15

That all sounds great.  I appreciate your analogy and I will try to put all those tips into practice.  However, when your opponent boasts, drops or whatever, basically moves you to the front, (granted if they are slow moving out of the front, or generally slow, then that is a different situation) there must be a moment before you hit the ball when you lose all visibility of your opponent (unless you have eyes in the back of your head).  They could move a step in any direction and (provided they dont take elephant steps) you would be none the wiser.  Feeling where/if/how_much they move smacks of guesse work to me.  Sure you might get it right the first time, the 2nd time you might hit your shot really tight, but the third time when your shot is a not so tight, it is hard work getting to the opposite corner in only 1 or 2 seconds (or less).  I've seen people applaud a little boast and then a "great" x-court drive but seem to forget that in the next rally or rally after that or whenever, the same player is working their butt off all due to that same shot!  Am I seeing things incorrectly?  I have read posts about having deception and a variety of shots, which I'm sure helps...  But, from the front of the court, boasting or driving seems like a lot of risk for little return.  I appreciate you don't want to be always lobbing due to predictability so I think mixing up the lob with a drop should work to stop the opponent from moving really early.

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From rippa rit - 19 Dec 2007 - 21:48   -   Updated: 19 Dec 2007 - 21:49

rooshoot - no, do not leave this to the pros, this is about spatial awareness, and fortunately we only have one other player to worry about on the squash court.  There is an expression called "wide eyes" which is just the same as when we drive down the road, no pressure, taking in heaps of info, eg speed, oncoming lights, lanes and so on, wet conditions, etc  but still keep the car on the road, then, eg  when we come up closer to a set of traffic lights we get "narrow eyes" and focus on the various aspects in front of us more closely without the same attention to the larger area within our space.

If  this senario is still making sense to you, next time you go on the court keep a wider view of the court while chasing and waiting for the opponent, and then when you are about to perform your shot focus in, and until that time you are getting a feel for what is happening within the court, eg speed of the ball, angle of the shot, rebound, height, opponent's position, opponent's shot selection due to ball positioning and so on.

It is just awareness and practice, and you will be surprised how suddenly this will make sense to you.

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From rooshootup - 19 Dec 2007 - 11:44

rippa rit -  I assume my periperal vision covers 180 degrees.  So are you saying I have to watch the ball and my opponent (or back corner), while each are in the respective opposite sides of my peripheral vision, while moving quickly to the ball at the front of the court which may or may not hit the nick or cling to the side wall or die before hitting the side wall?  wow.  I might leave that one to the pros! 

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From rippa rit - 18 Dec 2007 - 21:49

rooshoot - when going to the front of the court (the opponent behind) always turn side on immediately you know if you are addressing a forehand/backhand shot, and prepare your racket, so you will then be able to see the 2 front corners, and 1 back corner, and if there are no white bits of shoes, body, racket in view, shadow, there is only one other corner or area of the court the opponent is lurking. You will have quite a wide peripheral vision (that does not mean take your eye off the ball by the way), and that is the same for all court movement.

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From rooshootup - 18 Dec 2007 - 16:58

"A little boast can be good too off the drop if the opponent is hanging waiting for the drop, and especially if approaching from the opposite side."

rippa rit, how do you know your opponents position when they are behind you? 

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From rippa rit - 17 Apr 2007 - 06:55

Mike a drop off a drop is ok if your opponent hangs back, or as a surprise shot - but if you keep that going too often, just like the cross court shot, you need to keep changing what you do up the front.   You know what happens,  the opponent just crowd looking for a let or stroke, or guess what you are going to do and pounce on it.
A little boast can be good too off the drop if the opponent is hanging waiting for the drop, and especially if approaching from the opposite side.

Good work Mike, the more shots you develop the more difficult it is for the opponent to read.

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From mike - 16 Apr 2007 - 14:00

If while recovering a drop my opponent has come forward (preventing me from dropping again) I tend to hit a hard low cross court shot. I find that it buys me a bit of time to get back to the T and is a good change of pace from the slower shot before. May even surprise them and be a winner if fast enough.

Of course I'm often guessing where my opponent is because it's hard to look backwards while putting on a big run to the front of the court.

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From rippa rit - 02 Feb 2007 - 16:20

adam - if the opponent is in front it is their court, their turn to hit the ball.  If you cannot sight the ball, and provided there is no interference, you need to move into such a position behind the opponent as to be able to see the ball, and then run run run.
It is easier to chase the ball if you can see it, than it is if you are trying to get a glimpse of it while planted behind the opponent - maybe, dare I say it, you are hoping to get a let or stroke.
I am not saying you are playing the player instead of the ball, but that maybe what the Ref is also referring to.  Especially if you have hit a shot that has landed around the middle of the court. ?

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From adam_pberes - 01 Jan 2007 - 15:41

What Excactly Does It MEan By "fair View" of the ball, Cause Most of the time when I'm playing , And I Ask for a let because I cannot see the ball, The Ref Says no let for the fact that The opponent was too far away from the ball (I still couldn't see it hit the front wall or come back) OR the ref says It bounced Twice About 2 Foot infront of the opponent, So you wouldn't have got it.. But If I COuld have seen the ball, I Most Likely COuld Have - Any ideas for this except for keep Calling the lets( the refs arn't pro's Just regular squashies who all have their own variations-like me!

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