CALLING THE SHOTS

 

 

 

 

THE STRAIGHT DRIVE

 

 

The straight drive is perhaps the most important shot in the game of squash, be it played from the front or backcourt. In squash, the ball has to remain as far away from the middle of the court as possible. The straight drive, which should travel adherent to the sidewalls, passes safely to the back corners. Unlike the cross-court shot, which will be discussed later. Safely, in the sense that the ball is out of the opponent’s immediate reach. Being tight to the sidewall, even if taken early on the volley, the opponent would not be able to attack or apply pressure.

 

For a technical explanation on how to execute the shot, refer to the section on technique by clicking here. Just bare in mind that your position should be perpendicular to the sidewall, and on impact, the ball must be just beyond the front foot, and in line with the arm and racket.

 

The section on technique explained the shot in detail from a static position. It is now time to start off from a more realistic position, and add some movement. Assuming that you have grasped the fundamentals, and are able to reproduce the shot from a static position without the ball, you may proceed. In order to practise this shot or train a less experienced player, the following video clips may be very helpful. This first clip shows how the feeder sets up the ball while the player starts off from a frontal position. The second clip demonstrates the same exercise without the help of another person. If you are still learning the shot and do practice on your own, make sure you start from this frontal position after setting up the ball. Your racket should be up and in front of you. Remember that racket preparation must be complete before stepping off the T. Observe the videos well; to co-ordinate the various movements as demonstrated. Here is a rear view of the shot. Note how the follow through is used to take the player back smoothly onto the T.

 

 

 

The player starts off from a frontal position. Only the head is turned towards the ball. The arm and racket are in front of the body.

 

 

The player does not take any step before completion of the back-swing. The feet are then turned, and the player is ready to step into position.

 

 

 

The player controls his weight transfer perfectly, moving back only after terminating the follow-through. The head is still forward despite the player's overall movement back to the T.

 

 

The player takes a comfortable step forward maintaining a good distance from the ball allowing room for an extended arm and racket.

 

When you have mastered the shot from this position, you may move back to the T a fraction of a second earlier, as demonstrated here. However, do not move back before impact, or tilt the upper body backwards.

 

The next phase would be to move onto the straight drive exercises found in the light blue columns of the Shot Squash 2000 CD.

 

Obviously, all the exercises shown on the forehand side, should apply to the backhand, and vice versa. The first basic exercise for the backhand that is used to illustrate and practise technique, is the one viewed here. Even when carried out with someone who feeds, it would be a good idea to finish the shot in the illustrated static position. This ensures good balance and co-ordination of the various body parts. This is just a reminder of what you have read and seen in an earlier section.

 

Now, as a development, the next phase is the one viewed here. It is most important that full shoulder rotation and a complete back-swing have been achieved before the player's feet leave the T. If a player has any difficulty, he/she should be fed an easier ball and try to achieve the correct upper body position while perfectly balanced on both feet at the T.

 

 

 

The player can now start off from a frontal position.

 

 

The player should get into this position only after turning the upper body then turning the feet towards the sidewall.

 

Moving on to the next phase, the player should practise moving back to the T just after impact, as can be seen here. This could also be done with the help of a feeder. Carefully note that the player moves back early but without inclining the upper body backwards.

 

 

 

The follow-through pulls the striker back to the T.

 

 

The legs are well bent and the hips and shoulder are as far as possible from the ball.

 

 

When it comes to where to send the ball, the important dimensions to the straight drive are length and width. Width implies the ball's line of travel along the sidewall, and being the easier of the two questions, shall be addressed first. Simply stated, the ball must travel as close as possible to the side wall, to the point of actually caressing it midway to the back of the court. Why at midway? Because at this point, an opponent who tries to volley may be discouraged or denied the possibility of making good contact.  

 

Things could get complicated though when the ball is driven from a point initially distant from the sidewall. A simple rule would be, the closer the striker's position to the T, the deeper and lower the point of contact between the ball and sidewall should be. Often the ball should be made to bounce on the floor first, and then touch the sidewall when on the rise. This would slow the ball down and make it "die" in the back corner. Experiment when practising and note where the ball bounces and how it reacts.

 

How far back should the ball bounce? A very important consideration to always have in mind is where the ball makes its first and second bounce. This applies to all shots. Those of you who are familiar with Shot Squash 2000 will understand this very well. Returning to the straight drive, the ideal or perfect length for this shot would be, first bounce within the service box, so that the second bounce is in the nick*  between the back wall and the floor. To get this kind of bounce, the ball has to be hit very hard as not to be intercepted by the opponent.

 

We call this ideal length because the shot is long enough to get past the opponent but not too long as to return off the back wall. If the ball returns off the back wall, it is as if the other player is given a second chance to retrieve the shot. Hence, the second bounce in the nick means, either the retriever moves fast and stretch, or the rally is over. Making the other player move fast and stretch is very important because that puts him on the defensive, could force a loose return, and will wear him down physically and mentally if done often enough. You may have a quick idea from the tactics section on how this shot is best utilised and the situations in which it is most effective.

 

One drawback to this perfect length is that against a good fast player, the ball has to be hit extremely hard and tight* to achieve this goal. That is because the first bounce is relatively close to the adversary’s position on the T. An opponent capable of moving fast across the court could  cut off this shot while still rising after its first bounce. At this point, the ball is not deep enough as to force him to stretch. Therefore, he could cut it off fairly early and return to the T promptly and efficiently, maintaining command.

 

If you are unable to hit the ball extremely hard and accurately, a compromise could be found. Try to make the ball bounce towards the end or just beyond the service box. Mind you, it still has to be hit fairly hard and low. This first bounce would develop a second bounce very low on the back wall. The outcome would be a much higher probability of getting the ball past our opponent, and even though not producing a winner, forcing the other player to stretch in order to pick up that very low second bounce.

 

 

 

The image on the left demonstrates perfect length. This is better known as a power drive. The ball is struck very hard and low to get it past the opponent but making its second bounce in the nick.

 

 

The shot trajectory shown above is more secure (in percentage terms). The ball is hit less aggressively, strikes the front wall a little higher and lands a bit further back. The second bounce is low on the back wall.

 

 

This alternative is very effective, as even the best players in the world are not always comfortably positioned to apply all their power. At the same time, high rates of success are more important than producing one perfect shot and nine loose ones.

 

Learning to hit a hard, low drive to a perfect length is essential. This "power drive" is a vital attacking weapon, which must be used at the right moment to gain an advantage when rallying to the backcourt. The photo below shows the ideal position best adopted to play this shot. Note how the choice of shot comes about.

 

My opponent has played a high drive  allowing the ball to come back high and comfortable off the back wall. I have all the time to adopt this unusual position with feet spread wide instead of the long step towards the ball. This allows me perfect balance and rotation in order to develop lots of power. Also note that my body is slightly turned towards the back corner.

 

 

 

 

This position serves many goals. First of all, your shot would be more difficult to read from this position. From a certain angle your opponent may not see the ball well, as the body covers it. From the same position you could also choose to play a sidewall boast. See this here in the section explaining deception. The lack of ability to read the shot and hesitation on the part of the other player will render him slower and less fluid, and keep him under pressure.

 

The power drive is best played with the ball slightly behind the body as opposed to the conventional position, in line with the front foot. The later is used when hitting relatively slowly.   Instead, in this case, where the ball will be hit with maximal power and the wrist will play a fundamental role, it is best to take the ball slightly earlier. The wrist should whip the racket head into contact with the ball. If this is done with the ball in line with the front foot, there is a big risk of hitting away from the sidewall and even remaining trapped behind the opponent.

 

A very different straight drive is also played on the squash court, especially when under pressure. The shot would be considered an over-hit. The photo to the right shows how deep the first bounce lands. This shot is somewhat easier and guarantees taking the opponent into the back corners, unless hit very loose. Also, being higher on the front wall and slower, you would slow the game down and gain some time to get back to the T. See these two areas in the tactics section for a more detailed explanation if desired.      1.       2.

 

 

 

If the opponent is always eager to volley this shot and you therefore, feel threatened, raise the ball even higher and let it pass just under the out-of-court line. This is a very effective defensive shot. It is out of the attacker’s reach and he wouldn’t gain much if he volleys.

 

 

 

If the defensive shot is not extremely high on the front wall, it will drop early within easy reach of the opponent. However, when played tight at the right height and speed, the opponent gains no advantage in volleying this ball.

 

 

When considering the drive hit from the front corners, it doesn’t necessarily have to be hit so hard. You will find that a fairly fast shot has a good chance of penetrating to the back. The striker being so close to the front wall will be rewarded with a fast rebound even if his shot is not extremely powerful.  play video  When in this frontcourt position, the player has a very good chance of attacking his opponent. It is very important to move well and not arrive late onto this ball. Arriving early gives the striker a vast choice of shots to play, and consequently, the opponent on the receiving end is threatened. You may go to this area, and see which factors determine a player’s choice of shot. However, by clicking here, you will see how a player may use deception from this position.  

 

 

 

Advanced players adopt a slightly different position when playing the straight drive from the frontcourt. The photo on the left illustrates how the player does not position himself perfectly in line with the ball at a right angle to the sidewall. When the ball is deep in the front corner, this position permits the player to move less. He is therefore quicker to move in and out of the corner. At the same time, the drive is more difficult to read. The position of the feet is more adapt for the cross-court, but

the position of the racket and use of the wrist are responsible for the ball’s trajectory down the   wall.  See the section on deception for more details.

 

* The nick is the angle between the walls (excluding the front wall of-course) and the floor. Expert players will often make the ball land in the nick when trying to hit winners. The ball bouncing in this area “dies” and is irretrievable when executed to perfection. The nick at the backcourt is normally hit on the second bounce, while that at the sidewalls is hit on either the first or second bounce depending on the type of shot.

 

* Tight, is squash terminology for shots, which remain very close to the walls as opposed to “loose” which refers to shots, which are within easy reach of an opponent. Tight shots are very difficult to attack or volley, and often stretch the opponent, while loose shots permit the adversary the luxury of not working hard and allowed the advantage of controlling the game.