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An Open Face is a Winner

Start the swing with an open face so that the contact point is still open

Start the swing with an open face so that the contact point is still open

Published: 23 Nov 2004 - 18:30 by theguru

Updated: 07 May 2007 - 23:53

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My dear parents always told me "to have an open heart, you must have an open face". This I have carried with me for my entire life with one exception.

My Mother and Father were not aware of the game of Squash when they told me this otherwise they would have had the difficulty of explaining why it does NOT apply when playing.

In the game of Squash, it is truly a battle of survival, where there can only be one winner. It is a game of cunning and deception, of endurance and stamina, but most of all, a battle of wills. Therefore, to show one's hand or to show any compassion for an opponent can be seen as a sign of weakness.

But of course, the face my good parents were talking about was that which sits in front of the ears, not the one that sits at the end of a Squash racket.

Those who have studied these things know that the vast majority of Squash professionals hit the ball with an open face racket (see diagram). So why is it that those of us with only a fraction of the talent and skills continue to insist on hitting the ball with a closed racket face?

Do they want to hear the sharp crack emitted from the ball hitting the racket's flat face?(only to see it career into the tin!)

Do they want to feel the exhilaration of seeing the ball travel at up to 200 km per hr? (to be followed by it bouncing towards the center of the court.)

Yes, it is true that the closed racket face generates more power, but the open face provides more accuracy. Refine your technique sufficiently and you will have the power as well.

It is also true that it is far easier to put down other members of the human race rather than lift them up. And so it is with Squash. It is far easier to hit the ball into the tin rather than with sufficient height to get length. Do we take the easy path?

So how do we achieve this open face technique? First we must start with an open face preparation. Without this there is almost no way we can strike the ball with an open face. There are a number of ways of finding the solution. Choose one or all to help you:
  • Lay the racket back in your racket preparation
  • Have the palm of the hand facing upwards on the forehand and downwards on the backhand.
  • Start the downswing with the butt of the racket handle moving towards the ball.
  • Have your elbow pointed towards the floor, NOT towards the wall, on the backswing (otherwise you will look like you are about to fly. The last person to believe that man could fly was Leonardo da Vinci. He was not able to do it, neither will you!)

All these things will result in an open face preparation and downswing. Be sure you do not rotate your forearm too much. Swing straight through the ball and your task will be achieved.

As for the result, if you can achieve this, your open face racket will provide greater attack, better defence and more cunning deception. While this would not make my dear departed parents happy, you can smile and say 'Sorry' after you have won the match.

And why, do you ask, does an open face help with deception? The answer can be made at another time when the Guru speaks.




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Replies...

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From raystrach - 07 May 2007 - 23:53

hi momo

i think i can answer this onein place of the guru who is off on extended stress leave!

the best way i can explain it without video is to ask you to hold your racket comfortably in front of yourself
  1. if you are right handed, imagine the front wall is on your left and the backhand side wall is in front of you(reverse instructions if left handed)
  2. now hold the racket so that you can only see the edge of the racket
  3. in theory, the face of the racket should be at 90degrees to the floor and parallel to the front wall
  4. now move your wrist so that it starts pulling back or is becoming more "cocked"
  5. you should now be able to see at least part of the racket face
  6. the other thing you may notice is that it is no longer parallel to the front wall - it is angled towards the forehand side
there is your answer - it is always easier to hit cross court with an open face racket for this very reason
let me know if this is totally confusing to you and i will try to post a video

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From Momo - 07 May 2007 - 23:38

I don't know why yet, but playing with an open face has fixed my cross court from the back of the court.  These were always too straigtht (and too often chopped off for a winner), but since I changed the grip to open the face I strated to consistently hit the side wall reasonably deep and with power.   Any explanation?

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From raystrach - 03 Jan 2007 - 09:42

hi adam

there is little or no movement of the racket with the wrist. if you look in our  library(strokes and movement), you will see that it is  the rotation of the forearm which causes the racket face to close (and  also to generate a lot of power and racket head speed).

look at the diagram carefully see the arrow, also not that the racket shaft should be horizontal. it is facing slightly upwards on impact. your shot has to go right "through" the ball

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From SamBWFC - 03 Jan 2007 - 03:12

Adam,

 

With an open racket face you have to swing more underneath the ball rather than play a more 'horizontal' kind of shot. If you did that with an open faced racket, you would get no length on the shot due to the backspin.

 

You see professionals varying their shots a lot. I tend to play with a more closed face as I'm more comfortable with it, although I've been recently practicing with an open-face to vary my style. If you use psalive.tv to watch squash, I recommend watching Nick Matthew vs Thierry Lincou in the British Open final, shows a good demonstration of using open-faced shots and swinging underneath the ball, especially from the back corners.

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From adam_pberes - 01 Jan 2007 - 16:01

By Open... Whcih Direction Would "open" Be,,, Do you mean open as in you are trying to put backspin on the ball(rotate the racket in your wrist) or The whole racket is open(slightly facing the side wall)Racket head behind hand)???

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From rippa rit - 13 Dec 2005 - 19:44

Viper - the important point is with this approach to hitting the ball as shown in this pic it is possible to drop, volley, volley boast, lob, or hit the ball to any part of the court as necessary.....and right at the very last minute.

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From Viper - 13 Dec 2005 - 15:25

That is a very open racket and I take your point.

Mind you that pic could be misleading, ie she could be about to play a slice drop volley.

 

What ever way she hit it she was a favourite of mine, so graceful, it is a real pity she is fading out now.

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From rippa rit - 13 Dec 2005 - 14:37

Viper - here is a really good example of the open racket face on the forehand, as well as the butt of the racket pointing towards the ball

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From rippa rit - 13 Dec 2005 - 12:33

Hi All,

The technique shown in the photo of Sarah is one frame of a swing that will be open                             AT CONTACT!!!  ;this is where looking at one photo is deceptive. The shoulder is turned behind the ball to build momentum similar to a coil of a spring. The raquet will whip thru the ball(what you have described as snap)The face will be open at contact and this is the important bit. The raquet is up early always (when the opponents ball hits the front wall) and the raquet will go thru the ball open(the diagram shown with Rays original post is ok to the contact but after this point it will risk hitting the ball flat or topspin by trying to snap the wrist too early (you will risk clipping the top of the tin too often or the ball will pop up after bouncing giving less penetration to the back of the court as a result) Look to pronating the elbow past the contact point this will keep the face open, imparting back spin.

Why put spin on the ball? Will promote skidding off the floor keeping the ball low after the bounce making it harder to retrieve; better depth and accuracy from shots not perfectly hit; a match is not a perfect world. The ball will travel faster(see physics 101)The French first employed rifling in gunbarrels to increase distance and accuracy with their muskets giving an extra 2-300m over Brtish unrifled muskets. etc etc

 

If you look at Carol Owens swing it is very similar(may have to do with the same coach) Look at the whole swing not just one frame as it is deceptive. A swing pattern that has produced 2x World Champions and numerous state and National Representatives may be worth exploring

Seek always to improve the existing, all knowledge is good, take what is relevant and disregard the rest

All the best

David M.

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From rippa rit - 13 Dec 2005 - 08:33

Viper & Ray - interesting you refer to Sarah's backhand backswing. 
  • Yes, she has a very pronounced loop in her backhand, and it is very effective (and it may not work for every one as she has beautiful timing and quick reflexes) and she does get more power from that looping action, so from the sort of closed racket face at the top of the backswing she loops the swing either down and open for low shots or adjusts the angle for volleys and higher attacking shots.
  • It is a very relaxed looking swing and movement around the court too.
  • That has been a peculiarity in her style since a junior, but she has gradually learned to really control the wrist action to gain more control, but to sacrifice the loop would also be a loss of power. 
  • Sarah sure likes to dominate the centre and takes the ball early, and always has her opponent giddy turning around chasing the ball.
  • Suppose it is the combination of attributes that compliment each other too very specific to Sarah.

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From raystrach - 12 Dec 2005 - 21:15

yep - that is a visit to their site which is ok

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From Viper - 12 Dec 2005 - 21:12

"the tin starts to get higher"

I like that

 

Is posting links to pics ok ?

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From raystrach - 12 Dec 2005 - 21:09

dear viper

what you see with this pic is that sarah is at the very top of her backswing with heaps of time to play the ball. she pushes the preparation up so far it actually curls over the top. at the point of impact her racket will be open as she comes down and through with the downswing.

the problem is with most mere mortals who do this - the racket will not end up open - it will stay closed and soon as the pressure goes on or tiredness sets in , the tin starts to get higher!

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From Viper - 12 Dec 2005 - 20:59

I do not see any "open faced racket" in this action.

(Can someone who can manage to do it post this pic please in the thread)

http://www.squashpics.com/topwomen/images/WS%20-%20Fitz-Gerald%20009%20TOC011407.JPG

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From raystrach - 11 Dec 2005 - 12:44

aprice

this pic of a volley is the point immediately before the "snap" that i have described
  • palm up on the forehand
  • elbow pointing down
  • racket face open
  • palm will face down after the hit

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From aprice1985 - 11 Dec 2005 - 03:19

so is it going from palm up on the forehand to palm down or vice versa?

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From raystrach - 10 Dec 2005 - 22:53

hi aprice

this snap is  actually an extremely quick rotation of the forearm  and happens just before racket/ball impact. most people actually do it, but the pros do it explosively. (it is the "swish" when you swing the racket.)  this is how they generate so much racket head speed without any apparent effort.

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From aprice1985 - 10 Dec 2005 - 21:45

Could I just ask about the comment by ray as to the movement form open to closed being an explosive snap.  When do you  do this to achieve power i.e. at what point in the swing?

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From rippa rit - 10 Dec 2005 - 12:20

Viper - I play tennis these days too.  
  • There are about 8 or 9 grips used in tennis in this era and to successfully execute all the shots (and what has happened to the volley since the rollover face - it has disappeared unfortunately, and so has the excitement as a spectator).
  • Try changing your squash grip into that many angles in the short space of time - what, got a rubber arm!
  • Notice when tennis players get to about half court, on the run, the ball is low, the rollovers mostly consistently hit the ball out or into the net, and the smart ones open their racket face to lift the ball over the net most likely playing a drop shot (by changing their grip).
  • Try playing squash with a tennis grip and let me know how you dig the ball out of the corners?  Also, tennis players, when driving,swing the whole arm mainly from the shoulder too. 
  • Who said tennis and squash are the same?  The attributes may be the same, but not the technique.

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From raystrach - 10 Dec 2005 - 11:36   -   Updated: 10 Dec 2005 - 11:39

easy, a tennis ball is big and fluffy

therefore it has aerodynamics - topspin or slice makes the ball travel in the air a certain way

spin on a squash ball will only affect it once it hits something - a wall or a floor, and then its effect can be minimal.

you must remember that at the top level,
  • the forearm rotation (pronation/supination) that causes the racket to go from open to closed is an explosive snap, not a slow movement.
  • that is why they develop so much power with an open face.
  • it requires great timing (therefore practice) to achieve this.

of course the other thing is accuracy.
  • an open face tends to slice the ball somewhat - the ball is propelled in the direction of  the swing
  • a closed face is more like a trampoline - the ball is propelled in the direction of the racket face
  • it does not take einstein to figure out that if the racket face is only out slightly the ball will go in an unintended direction
  • it is much easier to get the overall swing right
oh yes - almost forgot when slowing the ball down or washing the power off as you previously described, you generally have a limited amount of racket rotation

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From Viper - 10 Dec 2005 - 10:25

I get the idea and I can and do hit with an open face at times, especially when slowing down the tempo and looking to hit a real tight ball to length, but I am not convinced an open face should be the norm.

Question :

 If an open face is so valuable, why in tennis (a similar game) is nearly all shots hit with a closed face ? They too have a tin to contend with - a net.

Open faced shots are rare in tennis.

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From ppoppin - 25 Nov 2004 - 00:45

Guru,
I get it, winners are grinners.
I now take open face to mean "head up, shoulders back" when losing too. Good one!

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