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Retrieving straight and deep

Published: 01 Aug 2007 - 09:43 by jimbob1965

Updated: 24 Sep 2008 - 17:00

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Hi all

I have become an avid 'lurker' on this forum and have enjoyed reading all the tips to improve our games in this fascinating sport of squash.  Although I have posted once before, it was not really on a subject to do with the technical side of the game, so I thought it was about time I changed this.

One aspect of my game I find increasingly frustrating and on which I would appreciate some advice is the following.  When my opponent hits a deepish return that goes past me, but is one I am able to get to and return, I sometimes find it difficult to return this shot straight and deep, particularly if my opponent's shot is cross court and comes off the side wall at an angle behind me.  I usually end up returning these shots with a rather weak boast that hands the initiative straight to my opponent. 

Allow me to explain further.  As the shot has gone past me, assuming I was unable to intercept it on the volley, I usually have to skip back to the ball but am presenting myself to the ball at an angle, rather than with shoulders parallel to the side wall and pointing in the ideal direction of travel for the return.  This forces me to angle the shot as a boast, rather than back down the side wall and deep to the back corners.  I have watched many matches via, as well as by actually attending tournaments, and notice that the pros seem able to return these shots with consummate ease straight back down the walls and deep, even if they too have to present themselves at an angle to the ball and side walls.  Do they achieve this by adjusting their swing somehow, or is it by use of the wrist to compensate and flick the ball in the required direction?

I have subscribed to Gold membership and have looked at some, but not all, of the videos, but if there is a particular video that demonstrates this technique, then please point me in the required direction.  Otherwise, is there any chance of posting up a video showing how this should be done, with slow motion so we can truly appreciate the skill involved?

Many thanks for a great site and service - it has definitely contributed to my game and I hope it will continue to do so, especially with the advent of the Gold service.  Keep it up!



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From rippa rit - 02 Oct 2007 - 20:18   -   Updated: 02 Oct 2007 - 20:26

jim - sure that player has just about turned his wrist insideout; might have been better to hit it onto the backwall from that position (if he knew how to get it into the front corner angle of course), as the return was not very tight by the look of the target spot on the front wall. Oh well, at least he got it back and the opponent might have goofed the return!

See on the lefthand side of the article there is a tab called Relevant videos, Page Tags, etc  relative to this article/page, so that will save me putting in the video links. Here are the Squash Library videos placed appropriately.

The main key points in getting a ball onto the front wall from behind is to get your racket at right angles to the side wall, and open the racket face to get a bit of height - you get that?

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From jimbob1965 - 02 Oct 2007 - 10:00

Click Below for Attached Images

Retrieving straight and deep

Saw this image on Squashsite and it reminded me of the debate we had about how to hit the ball straight and deep when the ball has gone past you.  I think this perfectly demonstrates the technique involved - the deep lunge, shoulders parallel to the back wall and the heavy wrist movement.  Easier said than done!



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From rippa rit - 06 Aug 2007 - 15:50

Jimbob - you will have so much to do when you finish reading all this advice!
So here's the wrist article for your info.

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From jimbob1965 - 06 Aug 2007 - 09:37

Thanks again Fatness - more useful advice.  I am playing again tomorrow night, so will continue to try these techniques.  Once I have mastered the basics and am getting a good success rate with those straight and deep retrievals, then I will hopefully progress to flicking the returns cross court.  Can't wait to see the looks on the faces of my opponents when that happens!

One further thought on this - would shortening the grip help to achieve the required wrist action?  One more thing to think about when there's enough to occupy the mind already I know, but perhaps the shorter grip would make it easier to turn the racket head more quickly in the required direction?  I suppose the consequent loss of power would then make it even more necessary to open up that racket face to lift the ball onto the front wall.  Also, some strengthening of the wrist would help I am sure, so if anyone can suggest some good exercises, that would be most useful.



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From fatness - 04 Aug 2007 - 19:21

Hello Jimbob,

sorry for mistake, my first post is the technique used if you have time on the ball. i have seen the jp and mike way video you are talking about. to get a ball back down the wall that has gone past you needs a fair bit of wrist work to compensate for taking the ball so late in the stance. This should not pose a problem, the most important thing is to give yourself plenty of space between you and the ball. if your swing is close to your body you will never get this right. I used to make this mistake too! If you have a cocked wrist and arm paralell to the floor when striking there should not be a problem. maybe even give more space than usual when playing this shot. I found that after i mastered this that i could even pull shots that have gone past me crosscourt! totally catching opponents by surprise. I remember when practising this that my main problem was i was just too close, so stay away from that ball!

Also your problem with tha ball landing short is because you are taking the ball from behind you. you are now taking the ball very early in the downswing. during the early stages of the downswing, the racket face is extremely closed, almost facing the floor. To compensate you have to "open" the face of the racket in order to get good length. Make sure your technique for holding the racket is correct in order to perfect this. It is vital you have space too, otherwise you cant open the face properly

The main thing here is that you are taking time and effort to study and perfect your technique, which is the first step to really improving and becoming a good squash player. keep this attitude up and you will go far. i see a lot of players in my club who take offence or get bored if you try to give them tips, these are usually the "d" players who never move up.

keep up the good work, hope this helps. i am sure Rita or someone will be along to say if i have something wrong here?

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From jimbob1965 - 04 Aug 2007 - 08:35   -   Updated: 04 Aug 2007 - 08:50

Thanks Fatness for the reply.  Must admit that it did cause a bit of confusion at first, along the lines that Sparty anticipated, but I think I see the distinction here.  If there is time enough to adjust the positioning so that you can get the shoulders parallel to the side wall (rather like in one of the Gold videos where Zac retrieves one off the side wall deep on the backhand side), then this is the preferable approach.  However, quite often, there just is not the time available and the ball is moving so fast, so you inevitably have to lunge towards the ball, like Jonathan Power in the Mike Way video.  I have also been studying my replays a bit more closely and I notice the same technique being employed by the majority of the pros.  They usually attack the ball at a 45 degree angle with one foot completely outstretched and then flick the wrist to get the ball straight.

I have played one game since my original post and have tried the technique in the heat of a match with varying success.  I continued to hit a couple of weak boasts, followed by a straight drive that fell far too short, but did manage one reasonably straight and deep drive, so it is something to keep building on.  There is a lot to think about in such a short space of time so it is going to take some time and effort to get this into my game naturally I am sure.  I am determined to keep trying though!

Thanks again for all your time and thought with this problem.  Unfortunately I do not have access to a coach at present so posting on here is the next best thing for me.



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From rippa rit - 04 Aug 2007 - 07:44

The original question in para 2 above read:
"When my opponent hits a deepish return that goes past me, but is one I am able to get to and return, I sometimes find it difficult to return this shot straight and deep, particularly if my opponent's shot is cross court and comes off the side wall at an angle behind me.  I usually end up returning these shots with a rather weak boast that hands the initiative straight to my opponent. "
I would not have called that a "dig" (no need for a shovel).
It is a good lead up shot to learn before getting stuck into how to get the "dig" shot out of the corner though.

jimbob - I hope you can get the bits out of these posts that you need, eg approach to the ball, feet/body positioning, back swing positioning, racket face.. 

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From nickhitter - 04 Aug 2007 - 06:36

In order to avoid confusion, I think Fatness is describing the technique for a slightly different shot, than a dig. To return a deep cross court that you have time to move into position for then that is correct (shoulders facing the sidewall), however to play a straight ball after the ball has gone past you, you need to turn further away from the ball ( shoulders facing backwall) as in the Mike Way video (dig shot)

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From fatness - 03 Aug 2007 - 20:20

Hello Jimbob,

I recall i had this problem a few years ago. I got some lessons from an ex irish no 1 coach who sorted it for me. It is hard to explain here, you really need some coaching to sort this. The first mistake i was making was crowding the ball. if you run directly to the ball and have no space you will never get this shot right so make sure you have this right first. If you crowd the ball the only shot you might get is the boast. Secondly, do not move in an angle directly to the ball otherwise your entire body is facing the back wall leaving only a boast option, even your wrist wont compensate if your entire body including your feet are facing back wall. Thirdly, get your movement right. Rather than chasing the ball into the back corner, move backwards from the tee firstly and when you are paralell to the position of the ball then move towards the ball and the side wall. this has the effect of a) giving you plenty of space b) you are automatically paralell to the side wall now c) it is easier to go in on the "right" foot, bend knees and transfer weight.

I am no pro but am a strong "b" player. try this but do get some coaching from a pro too.It took me about 6 months to get this right on both sides but what a difrence it makes! you should jump up a division at least if you get this right. Get that ball tight and deep and now its your opponent thats under pressure. getting this movement will allow you to push up onto the T after playing your tight shot into the back corner, then wait for your opponents weak reply and then bang! into the nick!

hope this helps,

ps. would you agree Rita?

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From rippa rit - 03 Aug 2007 - 07:33   -   Updated: 03 Aug 2007 - 07:36

As I am reading all this advice while sitting on my chair, I have my knees moving, my hips flexing, and in my mind doing this shot from behind as discussed above.
This is a learned skill, not a 1, 2, 3, 4 and you got it stuff.

This practice does work:
  • For starters, just stand in the middle of the court, or even under the clothesline where there is space, and practice moving back a couple of long lunging strides, and at the same time flex your hips and knees. 
  • Try to take your shoulder level with your leading foot - practice going sort of limp so every muscle will sort of mould around into that relaxed position, and after a while pick up your racket, and try the same movement, swinging the racket as though your are unwinding.  Leave room between your elbow and body so the swing feels free.
  • When you feel comfortable and not stiff as a board, put a ball on the floor/ground about 2m away and move as though to retrieve the ball by placing your body in the right spot to actually connect with the ball if it were, say, as high as your knee.

We all could spend two sessions a week for ten minutes or so doing the same type of exercise recovering front court as well as back court shots, and all of a sudden things will gel, and all the body parts will start to talk to each other, and bingo, easy.

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From nickhitter - 02 Aug 2007 - 19:17   -   Updated: 03 Aug 2007 - 03:30

It's easier than you think, it's just knowing how i guess! the main thing is keeping away from the bal and turning away from it more. It's important that you warm you wrist up when trying this for the first time, as it involves a lot of wrist snap and extension. Especially as you when you get better at it you can find you can drive the ball to the back rather than float it up high, this requires a good wrist. If you read  you may also find that of interest on the forehand side.

The Mike Way videos were orginally 3 VHS videos ( "Power Squash" volumes 1,2 and 3) although you can buy 1 dvd now with them all on. There is also "Power squash 4 footwork and Court Movement" which I need to see myself, so I'm gonna buy it off ebay tonight.

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From jimbob1965 - 02 Aug 2007 - 09:13

Thanks for all your replies and advice.  The Gold videos have certainly been enlightening and have given me lots to work on, and not just in terms of this particular scenario.

Thanks Sparty for the Mike Way video upload as well.  I have seen this shot performed so many times by the pros and yet it all happens so fast that you don't get the chance to appreciate how it is achieved.  Now I do at last and can't wait to get on court to try it out for myself.  I'm sure it will take a lot of practice to master though, but it will all be worth it to see the expressions of amazement on some of my regular opponents' faces when they expect the usual defensive boast from me but instead are faced with having to scamper to the back corners to retrieve a perfectly placed deep dig shot!

By the way, are these Mike Way videos on sale anywhere?

I'll let you know how I get on in my next games.



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From nickhitter - 02 Aug 2007 - 06:15

JimBob, I have edited the video and posted an extract, this section concentrates on the backhand dig, although the forehand side uses similar principles. I've made it low quality cause it's a big file anyway, but the full version of these videos is well worth getting for anyone interested in improving and developing basic to intermediate squash technique. you may have to wait a while for the download.

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From raystrach - 01 Aug 2007 - 20:45

hi jimbob

we will be expanding our resources on this problem very soon, but there are a couple which address it.

go to the video directory here and select the following

Backhand Return of Serve off wide Power Serve
Forehand Return from the Back Corner

almost certainly your main problem will be that you do not give yourself enough width and/or you are backing up to the back wall (at least to some extent). especially when the ball hits the side wall and goes toward the centre of the court, you need to keep moving away from it (ie the width)

also your shoulders need to be going across the corners, at least partially, so that your swing does not goes toward the back wall, but rather parallel to it . (it is amazing how even good players cannot do this very well!). combine that with a high backswing and it starts to become a lot easier. you may also need to let the ball drop quite low as it comes off the back wall. (it get further away as it drops)

ps. within a few weeks, we will have a "gold" discussion available on each page of the library. this may prove useful to you in cases like this.

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From rippa rit - 01 Aug 2007 - 20:05   -   Updated: 01 Aug 2007 - 20:20

jimbob - if you go to the Squash Library tab, Strokes/Movement, hit the Drive tab there are quite a few videos in the Gold area, with a blurb on each video, but in particular this one is the most relevant I believe. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Often these shots where the ball has gone behind are referred to as recovery shots ( meaning you hit it and then recover to the T (center court).

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From Viper - 01 Aug 2007 - 19:57

As Iam........... says Mike Way videos is where you should head.

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From nickhitter - 01 Aug 2007 - 19:14

I believe the shot you are referring to is a shot is called 'the dig' and I have a video by Mike Way featuring Jon Power on my PC with him explaining it in great detail. I'll try and get time to edit the relevant part out and upload it for you.

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From Adz - 01 Aug 2007 - 19:09

Hmmm..... To return the unreturnable...... a common goal for many a squash player.....


One thing I've noticed is that the higher up in standard you get, the less shots become "unreturnable" in the back corners! In principle it is a VERY easy shot to return, but practise might be a little more difficult!

All you have to do is get your racquet face behind the ball and at the correct angle to direct the ball to the place that you want it. Now how you do this is where it gets a lot more difficult!

Firstly you can try to get your entire body behind the ball. You may need to shift your butt close to the back wall and bend your legs, but this is the easiest way as long as the ball is 6 inches or more off the back wall or the floor.

Second option is to get your racquet behind and under the ball. This might involve some severe wrist contortion and you might need some added flexibility, but this allows you to get even closer into the ball without losing too much position on the court. This is definately a more advanced retrieval and needs some good forearm/wrist strength and flexibility.

And that's pretty much it I'm afraid! All other techniques are variations of one of the above two. Some people use a vertical swing (2nd opt.), others press completely against the back wall facing outwards (1st opt), others use topspin to cut the ball out (2nd opt). The most important thing is to get on there and practise!!!! Start by trying to get your body behind the ball and then gradually work forwards increasing the bend in the wrist but KEEP THE RACQUET BEHIND THE BALL!! It's the golden rule of straight retrieval!

Also remember that this type of shot will limit the power  in your return, so aim high to bring the ball back into the rear corners of the court! Once you get REALLY good at it then you'll be hitting crosscourts let alone straight drives!!


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From nmc8 - 01 Aug 2007 - 16:06


This is a prblem I had when I returned to playing about 6 months ago however after a few lessons with the local pro this is one of my favourite shots as you can set yourself tp play what looks like can only be a boast and then straighten the shot up to deceive your opponent.

I am no coach and probably will get some of the technique description wrong but I find that if the ball has gone past me on the forehand side rather than moving from the T side ways towards the side wall I increase the angle towards the back corner and pick the angle the ball is going to come of the side wall.

The next thing is to make sure that you arrive at the point of contact with your right foot leading and with a stretched step as if you lead with you left you will have closed down your stance and will not be able to straighten the racket through the shot.

Keep your shoulders square to the back corner and as you swing rather than swinging square to your stance which will naturally force you to boast  bring the arm down and along your chest as if hugging yourself . This will straighten the ball up the wall as the racket is travelling parrallel to the wall but your set up and stance is set for a standard boast.

Also the longer you can hold this position before hitting the ball the better as this will hopefully deceive your opponent into thinking you have to boast.

Unfortunatley I can offer no video clips.


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