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taking the ball early

Published: 04 Apr 2009 - 13:52 by fatness

Updated: 07 Apr 2009 - 13:27

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hello there,

playing squash for a number of years now and my movement is fairly ok and my swing technique is sound technically. there is one flaw in my game which is keeping me from the top level at my club, that is seeing the ball and taking it early. what happens when i am under pressure is this - i hit a good length to the back then move up onto the t. i then watch ball and opponent intently. just before he strikes the ball i take my eye off the ball. i also have a habit of jumping in the wrong direction just a millisecond before my opponent hits the ball, or transferring weight backwards.

i know its easy say dont move until your opponent strikes the ball and watch the ball at all times but its far easier said than done, especially at matchpoint in the fifth set!

this bad habit of mine is seriously hindering my otherwise fairly sound game, help and advice much appreciated.

thanks in advance

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From fatness - 07 Apr 2009 - 04:18

great adivce from everyone, thanks a million

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From paul-sf - 06 Apr 2009 - 17:01


it sounds like you are working on the same problem that I have. recovering to the T isn't a problem, but getting wrong footed happens too often. I especially have trouble with the guys who have the same setup every shot, but you never know where the ball is going to go.

Try playing a controlled game, where the first player is positioned at the T and always hits a fairly loose straight drive. The second player can either drive or boast. It's a fun game and will suppress your instinct to guess which way your opponent is going to hit the ball.


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From rippa rit - 06 Apr 2009 - 08:19

fatness - this problem is all about how you are moving away from the ball as you have finished striking it. Don't hit the ball and run for your life back to the T.  Glide away from the ball watching it all the way (not just glancing over your shoulder, or turning your back on the ball, but getting a really good look at the ball at all times).  If you cannot be comfortable watching the ball, the angle of your body is incorrect and maybe get more "square on" to the ball, and keep a bit further away from the ball to, out of the line of fire of the opponent's shot, and then you will see not only the flight of the ball, the anticipated landing point, the angle and speed, plus what the opponent is doing, and the type of return they are able to play. Their return will be dependent on some of these clues you will pick up, eg whether the ball is bouncing far enough out of the back corner for the ball to be driven, how far off the back wall and how high the ball is bouncing, whether the opponent is taking the ball slightly behind their body (use of wrist or a boast coming up), or whether the ball is coming a little further into the court (move if it is into a different position to allow for this) - glide and move with the ball as it is travelling to the back of the court, and keep doing so as it then moves off the back wall. Remember Hashim Khan said "the cat wattcha the bird, you wattcha the ball" - be more cat like in your movements, get down, crouch, be ready to run and move with the balls every move.

Let me know how it goes - suddenly something will click if you can follow what I am trying to imply.

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From fatness - 05 Apr 2009 - 22:23

thanks for advice there rita. i will try it out and see how i get on. my main flaw is that even though i move well out of the back corners after playing a good length, and move up onto the tee i should be at a big advantage in this position but all too often i dont read the ball well enough to get the volley in or i might transfer my weight in the wrong direction just before my opponent plays his shot.

i just feel that i am not capitalising from my good length shot and my opponents weak reply drom that good length shot if you know what i mean.

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From rippa rit - 05 Apr 2009 - 08:14   -   Updated: 05 Apr 2009 - 08:25

fatness - you probably still feel your question has not really been answered, as I went off in my world of talking about watching the ball, whereas your query was "taking the ball early".  I see these problems on court are all catch 22 questions.  Let me look at this in another way, the things I see relevant to your question.

You can practice volleying to improve your reaction time as well as pick up flaws in your racket work, see video. You can do ghosting and court sprints to improve your speed around the court. This video of ghosting is not my idea of training a person to move around the court correctly.  Why? A guy is moving around making imaginary swipes at the ball paying no attention where the imaginary shot is going, not following the path of the ball, and therefore not really training the skills thoroughly, as movement without tracking the ball will do nothing to assist "reading" the ball during a game. Why do I say this?  When you strike the imaginary ball in ghosting you must watch the shot you just did "in your mind" go to where it is to go, eg cross court lob (so you take long low strides to the front court, imaginary lift the ball up high onto the centre of the front wall, look up into the ceiling while moving back to the T and feel the ball land in the back of the court just where you aimed), straight deep drive (move with a metre of the ball with your racket back and flex your knees, swing through, recover to the T while watching the imaginary ball die in the back corner), volley, etc. and this is what helps you move in such a manner as to follow the flight path of the ball when playing. Once having got this, put some quick volleys into these ghosting routines as you get better to see if the racket is ready as you move to the T, if it is not, you will not be quick to intercept the ball and "take it early", even if you react to it early.  The racket work is vital too to this skill.

What am I suggesting to train this skill?

1. Get the footwork fluent and balanced as you move foreward and backwards from the T (centre court).

2. Put your racket in your hand and get the feet and racket work moving in harmony so that you are completely prepared to strike the ball when arriving at the hitting position.

3. Do a ghosting routine to match a Pair Routine, eg Drive, Boast, Drop, Drive going through the shot in your head while your body and racket are also going through the motions of the routine as suggested above.

4. With a partner repeat this routine. During this routine you should be quite automated in the movement, racket work, tracking of the ball, movement to the centre court, awareness of your opponent, etc.

Players are not very patient in doing this stuff as they feel stupid and awkward at first, feel it would all be better done if the ball was also moving on court - wrong idea. If you are all out of sync without a ball you will be all out of sync with a ball, but running in such a hurry you will not notice how unco the movement is.  Patience, methodical, take your time, and after a few practices you will start to see the fluency happening.  For simplicity, just start off with, say, drive and boast, get it right, and then the rest will be sooo much easier.

Do you understand my point?

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From fatness - 05 Apr 2009 - 01:04

thanks for advice. i read the relevant content but i decided to create a new post to see would anyone give different advice. the more info on the site the better i would have thought

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From rippa rit - 04 Apr 2009 - 17:00

Well when I put in two key words the Relevant Content tab went mad with previous posts so I will not repeat myself. Well.......... Some of these posts refer to watching the ball, and the manner in which players move back into the centre court.  If you are not tracking the ball all the time, and just getting a glimpse of the shot it will be hard to follow and you will flinch as the ball is wacked by the opponent causing a loss of sight.

After returning the ball, move into such a position that if the opponent hit the ball, it would be possible to volley the return (intercept the shot), and you cannot expect to do this if you are standing in such a position as not to see the ball coming from the opponent's racket, so

  • get away from the centre court, if necessary (certainly if the ball is not hugging the wall)
  • give plenty of room to see the angle of the return
  • closely watch the opponent's racket to judge the speed of the hit
  • get as many clues as you can coming from the opponent's body, swing, footwork, body height, backswing. 
  • no back-pedalling, no side-stepping, move out of the line of fire and watch the ball squarely giving no chance for the ball to hit you, and then take off (get on your toes just as the opponent is about to hit the ball/bounce a bit).
  • relax your movements, keep travelling as the ball is travelling, move forward, then back, etc according to the bounce and speed of the ball, clear the ball.

Give it a try, it works. 

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From daveamour - 04 Apr 2009 - 15:53   -   Updated: 04 Apr 2009 - 15:55

I agree that this is one of the hardest skills to master for some reason but I have found that playing games against considerably weaker players is great practice.  When you do so never play winners - always just keep the rally going and pratcice your t skills.  You have more time and so can think about what you are doing more and so then  practice makes perfect.  Try and arrange games like this at least once a week. 

I would also recomeng some solo ghosting which is fantastic practice and not done enough I don't think by people in general.

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