I am watching a match between Jonathon Power and Peter Nicol on www.psasquashtv.com and am inspired by Jonathon’s play. He uses all 4 corners of the court beautifully to stretch his opponent out. What I find truly incredible to watch though is his use of deception in the front corners. Even watching the match on the computer it is difficult to figure out what shot he is going to play. There are really three things I believe that made him so hard to read at the front court. His body position, racquet preparation and how good he was at hitting the various shots.
Your body position in the front corners is critical as it gives you the ability to hit the drop, the straight length or the cross court. In particular leaving yourself the straight shot is critical and what Jonathon did so well. It is a hard shot to play and most players don’t even leave themselves the option with their approach to the ball in the front corner. Jonathon on both the forehand and backhand would setup the same for a drop, a straight drive or the cross court drive.
Racquet preparation is equally critical to your body position. Jonathon’s racquet preparation when he was in the front corner looked the same for the drop or either drive. It is very important to have your racquet in a position that will allow you to drive or drop. Many players when they are going to drop have already extended their racquet out in such a manner that prevents them from driving the ball. Likewise they will only have their racquet back when they go in to the front corner when they are going to drive. Focus on being able to hit a drop, or the straight or cross court drive every time you go in to the front corners. Work on making your racquet preparation look the same for every choice.
The ability to hit a quality drop, a quality straight drive or a quality cross court drive front corners is the key. Jonathon Power was great at all three shots. He had an amazing drop. He could kill it in to the nick given the angle or if the angle did not present itself he would keep it hugging the side wall. His cross court drive had the width to get by his opponent at the ‘T’. The straight drive from Jonathon was lethal. It is a very tough shot as your can’t pull it at all, you can’t catch the side wall it has to be very straight. Jonathon hit the straight drive from the front corner beautifully.
Jonathon Power was terrific in the front corners and his opponents rarely knew what shot was coming. His body position, racquet preparation and the fact that he could play any shot with such quality from the front corners left his opponents guessing as to what shot he was going to play.
His discussion on not rushing back to the ‘T’ is critical and not something that I think you hear discussed that often. Most people are taught to get the back to the ‘T’ which is of course critical but with too much emphasis this can definitely lead to players rushing back to the ‘T’. This can cause a couple of problems. Getting stuck as Peter mentions and getting hit behind as well I would think is a risk too.
If you arrive back at the ‘T’ long before you opponent is going to play their shot it is very easy to get got caught flat-footed. If your opponent is very good at holding their shot as Peter Nicol noted Jonathon Power was then if you are at the ‘T’ too soon you have to wait, and wait for your opponent to hit the shot. They will definitely be trying to catch you flat-footed. Arriving back at the ‘T’ right when they actually are playing their shot will help prevent this from happening.
I think another point to this is that if you are to aggressive moving back to the ‘T’ you risk having your opponent hit the ball back to where you just left if they take the ball early. Your aggressive movement out of that corner will make it difficult to change direction and go back to where you came from.
Getting back to the ‘T’ is critical in squash but definitely take the great Peter Nicol’s advice and try not to charge back to it. Move fluidly and try and arrive when your opponent is going to play their shot so you don’t get stuck and caught flat-footed.
Gilly Lane today announced his retirement from the PSA Tour due to injury.
Back injuries are a very difficult injury to recover from. I have been fortunate to have never hurt myself as seriously as Gilly obviously has. I have suffered one back injury playing squash that was incredibly painful but I was extremely lucky that I recovered from it quickly.
Gilly Lane made the announcement on his Facebook page today stating “It’s been a tough couple months struggling with this back problem and today is even tougher. I have decided to retire from the PSA Tour due to the injury I suffered in July. I think the time is right to begin to pursue other avenues and start the next phase of my life. I want to thank Tommy Berden, Lucas Buit, Floris Minnaert, John White, Natalie Grinham for their coaching and constant support. Thanks to US Squash for their backing and efforts to put us in the right position to succeed. Also LJ Anjema and Cameron Pilley for being great friends and role models and my parents and family for their endearing support. It wouldn’t have been possible without my family and I owe them everything.”
On Twitter Gilly tweeted the following “Tough day as I have decided to retire from the PSA Tour. My injury has not healed in the manner I wanted it to and it’s time to move on.” He then tweeted “Looking forward to the next phase in my life.”
James Willstrop is on quite a roll. He has won his last two tournaments and has moved to #2 in the world. This is the 2nd time that James has reached #2 in the world. With a win in India this next week he could move to #1.
The 2012 season is really looking interesting. Hopefully Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour will be back and injury free. Can James Willstrop reach and possibly even maintain a #1 position with these 2 playing injury free? His current run has not included victories over either of them. With the form that Willstrop has shown it seems possible though. The control with which he has been playing has been astounding. He is moving the ball around the court with astounding precision and giving his opponents so few opportunities to attack.
I expect that Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour are definitely going to push James harder than he has been pushed in his last couple of tournaments. Ramy’s attack will no doubt be tough for James to counter. The intense physical pressure that Nick plays with will also prove difficult for James. It will be interesting if we can get all 3 of these players playing at the top of their game who will come out on top. Will James’ precision on court be enough to contain Ramy? Will it be enough to force Nick to let balls go past him to the back of the court to keep him from exterting his physical presence he normally does by playing so high on the ‘T’? I definitely look forward to watching and finding out!