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Undercut - Not that easy

Published: 10 Nov 2007 - 19:28 by rbrowne7

Updated: 16 Nov 2007 - 20:28

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    Hello to all the regular Forum members - Just a question - Having watched a number of high level State Grade players in South Australia I have been quite amazed at the ability of several players to kill a ball off with undercut. They play great length with undercut so that if you do not cut it off at the back of the service box you are in a lot of trouble in the back corners. If the ball  is anywhere near half court they play a full power undercut kill shot where the ball bounces two or three times before it reaches half court - quite amazing to the average player like myself., I have played one of these guys a number of times and it still amazes me - I'm a reasonable player no pushover - but I have great difficulty trying to replicate these type of shots. Does practice make perfect or are these guys just a cut above the rest?

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From raystrach - 16 Nov 2007 - 20:28

for jimbob's benefit, rita has been away for a few days and may not have been able to collect her emails


ps. although i havn't  followed this post religiously, when i scanned it, i could not see anyone mention  the side wall. the side wall acts as a brake, so getting the ball to hit the side wall after it has hit the front wall is a big help in keeping it short.

if you can get around the outside of the ball to some extent (as you can with an overhead volley) this also helps draw the ball into the side wall

the third thiing is that you should minimise any forearm rotation so that maximum spin is imparted to the ball which help draw the ball down to the floor a lot quicker - hiitng the ball in what is almost a karate chopping motion is very effective in doing this - very useful when you hit the ball at the top of the bounce

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From Adz - 16 Nov 2007 - 19:07

    rbrowne I think I understand where you're coming from now!

It sounds like you're describing a vertical swing (please see other thread which I'm sure someone will link to shortly!). Essentially it's where the racquet travels in a steep downward motion as opposed to a horizontal motion in a normal swing. I use this shot quite often from the back of the court to get the ball out of the corners either straight or crosscourt on the forehand. When used mid-court this swing type would cause the low kill shot that you describe. I'd probably suggest watching some video clips of John White for mid-court examples or David Palmer for back-court examples.

For technical details you'll need to see the other thread cause we put loads of stuff in there at the time.

Hope that helps!


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From jimbob1965 - 15 Nov 2007 - 23:46

Sorry to hijack this thread, but Rita, I have tried to contact you direct by email but have my doubts as to whether the messages have been finding their target (Email program issues!).  Can you just advise me back direct whether you have received my messages of the past few days?

Whilst posting within this thread, all I will say is that I am currently trying to adjust my basic swing technique based on the advice given here and throughout this brilliant website (years of getting it wrong to break down!), so to be able to look at more specialised and advanced skills like this would mean great progress had been made for me!  It's progressing slowly - I thnk I can ghost the technique reasonably well, but then putting it into practice on court is a much tougher prospect and the old habits come flooding back.  It's going to take a lot of patient further practice, both ghosting on and off court and solo work on court, to reprogram the brain, but I am determined to get there!



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From rbrowne7 - 15 Nov 2007 - 22:14

Hi Guys - Thanks for all the advice- It is much appreciated. However just to clarify, my body position is usually pretty good , technique sound , grip correct and with open racquet face- but still these shots are pretty hard to play consistently. To be honest I was expecting to hear about  maybe really strong firm wrist with  a completely different swing through the ball. To explain a bit further - things like take the ball at it's highest point (maybe - but I do have trouble with that under these circumstances) and maybe a somewhat different high to low exagerated swing slicing through the ball at full power. This cuts through the ball and kills it short rather than sending it to the service box - Does that make it any clearer?- I've seen thousands of guys over the years and to be honest not many play this shot well or at all even at high levels!!!!

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From raystrach - 15 Nov 2007 - 09:00

hi rbrowne

i have just come from adelaide but i will be there again over the next month or two. contact me off forum  if you want a breif hit while i am down that way to demonstrate how it is done


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From rippa rit - 15 Nov 2007 - 07:47

Adz - I thought you sounded awake before you started that post!! After coffee you should be flying!!

Well, analysis by we have a description to suit the scientists, the layman, the theorists, the practical, the lot. In short, go practice executing high and low, flat and slice, hard and soft and I am sure it will all start to make more sense.

We would love to know how you go with it all.

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From Adz - 13 Nov 2007 - 19:24

    Sorry to be a pain, but are we talking about the same things here? rbrowne is looking at how better players can consistently hit kill shots with power, whilst rita and sparty are talking about the movement of the forearm. Yes they are related, but the power play drive comes from much more than just forearm movement. I liked the extract from the manual, but I have to say that it sounds very mechanical and difficult to follow for a beginner (I guess that's why it's level 2 and not level 1?).


Ok, so you want to play harder kill shots?? Is your timing, body position, swing and grip correct for the type of shot you wish to play? Think VERY carefully about that question.

In power, timing is everything. You miss-time the shot and everything will go badly wrong. How do you get great timing? Practise! Nothing else will do it. You have to understand how your body moves to make the racquet face make contact with the ball. You cannot be taught timing by ANYONE but yourself. You can be shown examples of swings and told when to start swinging, but you cannot be taught how to time a shot (so get practising!).

Body position is key to getting the flow of your swing correctly. Do you watch golf? Ever seen a pro-golfer with a random looking swing? I bet you haven't! They get consistancy and power from having the same swing arc time and time again. That's what you need to aim for in squash. Body position must be correct to allow for a flowing swing (so no jerky actions!). This flow allows transfer of body weight into the swing, which in turn gives weight and power to the shot. Couple this with timing and you get a fast, heavy swing that really does smack the ball very hard!

Now, in order to make best use of the flow of your swing arc and the timing of the swing, the racquet face needs to make contact with the ball in the most open position possible for your direction of shot. This gives the maximum sweet-spot on the ball and will give the maximum power to your shots.

Is this sounding easy yet??????

OK, so NOW we get to what Sparty and Rita were talking about...... how to ensure your racquet face is in the most open position? Use your wrist and your forearm to manouver the racquet head into the correct position (also the snapping action of the wrist (think of swatting a fly) and the rotation of the forearm (think screwing in a screw) add to your swing flow and can also help to add a sharp jolt INTO the swing (not against it - see earlier note about jerky movements).

This really takes a lot of practise to get right. Plenty of time on court pounding the ball into the wall. You need to find yourself someone who knows how to teach technique: Trust me, there's plenty of coaches out there but not all of them can teach technique correctly - most will follow the instruction manuals that Rita posted earlier and have no real understanding of what it means when you turn your wrist a fraction of a degree, or move your feet 2 inches to the left to correct a students balance. You need someone with pedigree and experience and ability (and patience!). Sometimes this does not mean the most qualified coach.

Anyhow, that's enough from me...... I've only just started work and I quite fancy a coffee to wake myself up!!


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From rippa rit - 11 Nov 2007 - 16:50   -   Updated: 11 Nov 2007 - 16:56

Sparty - I understand the pronation refers to the forehand forearm rotation, and supination refers to the backhand forearm rotation.  For those who are having difficulty with understanding what is being discussed here, I quote from the Level 2 Coaching Manual a couple of sections:

"The Forehand Drive

A.  Preparation    ............

B. Forward Swing. It is in this phase of the stroke that the different body segments summate (add together) to develop racket head velocity.  The sequence of movements is as follows:

  • The shoulders rotate, the weight is transferred onto a flexed (bent) front lower limb(the lower limb comprises the thigh, leg and foot) and the upper arm moves forward (that is the elbow leads the forward swing). This forward movement of the elbow causes the forearm to become parallel to the floor and the racket, which is still cocked at the wrist, is also in a completely "open" position.
  • Much of the power in the squash stroke is then generated as the forearm pronates (inward rotation of forearm so the racket moves from an open to almost perpendicular position), the elbow extends (increasing effective length of limb) and the trunk continues to rotate.
  • The hand then assists in the generation of racket head velocity as a small amount of wrist flexion occurs prior to impact. This must not be considered a wrist "flick" and the racket head must remain partially cocked at the wrist joint. Racket head velocity is thus generated primarily by a summation of body weight transfer, trunk rotation, movement of the upper arm and forearm with a MINOR contribution from the wrist.
  • At impact
  • a semi-open stance is desirable where the front (left) and back (right) feet are generally in line.  A closed stance should not be used as it hinders stroke fluency.........................
C. Follow through
This phase of the stroke permits maximum or near maximum racket head velocity to be achieved at impact, ............."

"The Backhand Drive
A. Preparation .................

B. Forward Swing..........
  • The initial movement is to drop the racket down to between hip and shoulder height as the trunk rotates................
  • The shoulders continue to rotate as the elbow joint extends.......
  • Further shoulder rotation and elbow extension are then combined with forearm supination (outward rotation of the forearm to cause the racket to become almost perpendicular to the floor) to further increase racket head velocity.........."

Then it goes on to describe the impact and follow through stages just as done for the forehand drive.

If you can relate to this description of the drive and examine your own use of the arm during the swing you will find this rotation which is only about a quarter of a turn maximum, together with the releasing of the elbow on impact, will generate considerably more power in a drive.
If you straighten the arm too early it will cause loss of power, likewise if  it is released too late, or not at all.

Let us know how it goes.....try it out on your spouse with a saucepan and see if impact is lost if no rotation of the arm occurs, and what happens if straightening the arm does or does not occur. So now we should be able to understand what makes a swing, a jab, a punch or a push....can you relate to that?

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From nickhitter - 11 Nov 2007 - 12:13

Rippa wrote....."and then the pronation/supination of the forearm follows which imparts the power"

Let's be clear on this because these are very confusing terms for people who haven't learnt correct basic drive technique yet.

Pronation and supination are opposites,  and when related to forearm action mean...

Pronation = forearm rotated so palms down

Supination = forearm rotated so palms up

In an ideal 'on paper' squash technique -  When playing a backhand drive, the forearm starts pronated, and then supinates to create the power in the shot just before ball impact. When playing the forehand, the forearm starts supinated and pronation occurs during the stroke to create power in the shot with naturally the opposite rotation.

In practice though, you will see many  players differ from this slightly in that often, (especially on the backhand side) a player may take the preparation higher and go supination/pronation/supination! Which is why some pros can get away with having a slightly closed face on preparation and still strike the ball with an open face.

The total amount of forearm rotation either way just before ball impact (forehand or backhand) must not be more than approximately 30-40 degrees  otherwise a closed racket face will result and your shot will fly into the tin!

It is important to know that the total amount of rotation is actually quite small ( remember most peoples forearms can rotate 180 degrees) It is the speed and timing of this small forearm snap that creates the power.

It is quite helpful to practice this rotation slowly off court to 'program in your technique' so to speak, the correct point of rotation at which you should be striking the ball.


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From rippa rit - 11 Nov 2007 - 08:58

rbrowne - not sure how you are thinking about the open face racket, especially in the context of how we speak in the forum. I am not disagreeing with Sparty's post as you will see in almost all the pictures on squashsite the players prepare with an open racket, so that is the beginning, and they generally all have the correct grip at that time.

The confusing thing for you may be these points, as while preparation is the same, the execution does change depending on the shot, and the purpose of the shot, eg:

  • The lob has an open racket face and is a soft high shot.
  • The boast has an open racket face and is usually hit with speed and power and used to lift low balls out of the corners.
  • The drop shot has an open face as it is used alot in the front of the court to lift the ball up above the tin and is a delicate shot.
  • The other shots (drive, volley) which are our basics,  have the same preparation (open racket face), and then the pronation/supination of the forearm follows which imparts the power, and the degree of this forearm movement depends a lot on the height of the ball at the time of execution (higher or lower than the tin). For example, if you over-pronate the forearm, maybe in order to gain more power,  the racket face will close and often cause unforced errors.

One thing is for sure, to develop this technique a lot of attention needs to be focussed on the gripping of the racket and the stability of the wrist.

Hope this helps you get the idea.

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From nickhitter - 10 Nov 2007 - 22:18   -   Updated: 10 Nov 2007 - 22:19

Hitting the ball with open face, cutting the ball and still being able to hit with power are part of the basics of good squash technique and should be learned early on....however that doesn't stop it from still being one of the hardest things to master consistently (as the top players do).

The majority of mere mortals hit with closed face/no spin for a least some of the time, especially when trying to get full power. I think squash is something everyone can learn to do to a high standard with correct coaching and hard work, but ultimately, as in all things, there is an element of natural ability that the very top players are born with.


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