Monthly Archives: May 2015

Easy Drill to Improve Lengths and Volleys

No player can deny that having a strong length and volley game is a great advantage on court. Being able to keep your opponent on the back of the court by using solid lengths is a very important part of the game as it keeps the rally under control and can lead to attacking opportunities. One of such opportunities is being able to volley on the mid-court if your opponent leaves an open shot. But in order to do this you need to practice. So I will talk about a fun and easy, three part drill that any player can do with a friend and that will help them strengthen both their length and volley games.

The first part consists of rotating drives on one side of the court while returning to the ‘T’ after every shot. The first player will start at the back of the court as if they were going to receive a normal serve. The second player will start by standing on the ‘T’ with the ball; this player will be the one starting the drill. Once the drill has started after the second player has ‘served’, both players will take turns returning just straight lengths to the back of the court while returning to the ‘T’ after every shot is hit. It is crucial that both players come back to the ‘T’ after every shot since this is what will happen during a real match. The idea is to try different types of lengths (hard and low, lob, etc.) and to get the other player out of position. Both players should concentrate on accuracy and good rotation; tight shots and clearing the ball are essential. This should be done until the players are able to have a fluid, long rally with minimum mistakes. The first part of this drill will help players gain the muscle memory necessary to hit straight, tight shots with good consistency. The first 30 seconds of this video shows how this first part works:

Now, the second part of the drill can be introduced to speed things up a little bit.

The second part consists of one simple thing: volleys. The drill will stay the same. Both players will start the drill in the same way as in the first part, but now volleys come into play. Either player is allowed to hit a straight volley to the back of the court (and only to the back of the court) whenever they wish to. So now two very important factors come into play: keeping the ball tight, and taking advantage of the volley. When one of the players is able to keep the ball tight, whether it is a high or low shot, they will prevent the other player of hitting a good volley or of volleying at all. But, whenever a player doesn’t keep the ball tight, their opponent can start adding pressure with volleys. The key elements here are to concentrate on keeping the ball tight, rotate fast, get into a volleying position, and to add pressure when hitting a volley. Players should get back to the ‘T’ fast and pay close attention to whether they will be able to hit a volley or not. If the possibility of hitting a volley presents itself, they should try to add pressure by hitting a hard and low shot to the back which will cause the other player to be out of position generating more opportunities to volley. The second part of this drill will help players recognize good volleying opportunities and to act quickly once these opportunities are present as well as to gain muscle memory as in the first part. The third and last part will add even more speed to the drill as well as more variety of shots.

The final part is the most fun. Now, players are allowed to hit volley drops. This new addition makes this drill very dynamic and explosive, putting to test both the players’ stamina and technique. If a player is presented with the opportunity to volley they now have multiple options on which shot to play and how to play it; now deception plays a very important role.  For example, if a player knows they will be able to volley their next shot, they should try to hold their racquet in position for as long as possible in order to surprise their opponent once they hit the ball. For example, a player can fool their opponent to think they are going to hit a volley to the back of the court to then continue to hit a volley drop. This part should be done as fluidly as possible concentrating on rotation, deception, and good accuracy. This last part will help players improve their physical endurance, shot accuracy, and to get used to a more dynamic and fast game. Also, players can feel free to change things a bit too if they wish too; instead of volley drops, volley cross courts to the back can be used and then the same drill will continue on the other side of the court. So, many different things are happening during this great drill where players can improve their technique, strategies, and endurance.

Drills are the best way for a player to improve their game and this drill will hopefully help many players accomplish part of that. It is always very important to have strong lengths in order to keep the game under control, as well as strong volleys to attack and add pressure. The combination of these two in a single drill will help simulate the dynamics of a real match thus providing players with a great tool to improve their games.

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Squash: A Deception Game

To deceive someone is to cause them to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage. In the game of squash this becomes a vital thing. Being able to deceive your opponent becomes a key element in squash as it is fundamentally one of the best ways to win a rally. Deceptive shots, either by accident or by choice, create an element of surprise that will throw off any opponent. Deception is an art; a great strategy in the game of squash that highly rewards those who are able to master it.

Squash is a deception game. The ability to play with your opponent’s mind becomes a great advantage when playing squash. It is arguably the hardest strategy to develop; but, when successfully developed, it is the most rewarding one. Whether it is a head fake or a surprise cross from the front, any shot that eventually deceives the opponent will create more opportunities to keep adding pressure in the rally.

Most deceptive shots involve identical racquet preparation on every shot and good wrist strength combined with a fast racquet movement. The ‘hold’ on open shots will reduce the chances of an opponent being able to read the next shot. A player would ideally hold the racquet in the same position for as long as possible before hitting the ball hence increasing the chances of misleading the opponent. Also, a player can ‘fake’ the racquet movement involving a certain type of shot and then continue to hit a completely different shot. For example, a player could make it look as if they were going to hit a drop shot by lowering their shoulder, but then go on to hit a hard cross court by quickly snapping the racquet using their wrist. These combination of deceptive plays will create surprise in a player’s game giving them a big advantage against their opponent.

The element of surprise plays a big role in a squash match. When able to surprise an opponent during a match, players will find themselves with various opportunities to win the point. If a point is not won straight away after a deceptive shot, the opponent will have to use extra energy to return the shot. If the latter occurs the opponent will most likely return an open since they will be out of position due to the unexpectedness of the player’s shot. For example, if an opponent is expecting a drop shot and is then surprised by a cross towards the back, they will have to change direction and run towards the back of the court in order to return the ball. In this case they will be out of position when hitting the ball thus increasing the possibility of returning a shot than can be easily attacked by the player. These are great gains in a match since the opponent’s physical energy is depleted while putting them under heavy pressure. This has been seen throughout the sport’s history where some great players have shown incredible deceptive skills that have left their opponents baffled.

A great example of deceptive play comes from a Canadian squash legend and former World Number 1: Jonathon Power. Considered to be one of the greatest shot makers in the history of the game, ‘The Magician’ kept fans on their toes every time he played demonstrating an amazing display of deceptive shots. Here is a video of his most famous deceptive shot where he does a perfect backhand fake on the back of the court to then hit an amazing drop shot that leaves his opponent completely static (0:13-0:31):

Another example of a great deceptive shot is James Willstrop’s famous double fake against Ramy Ashour:

Deception pays off very well in squash. Any player who is able to develop a strong deception game will have a great advantage against any type of opponent. This is one of the most powerful tools in the game of squash and it is widely used in many different ways by the best players in the world. Creating an element of surprise on court is essential whenever an opportunity to attack arises. The art of deception is one to be acquired by any player who aims for a much better squash game!

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New Tecnifibre Carboflex 130 S

The new Tecnifibre Carboflex 130 S has just arrived and I am lucky I got to test it out already. This is the racquet used by Women’s World Number 4 Nour El Sherbini and I have to say that it is incredible. For the past few years I have been playing with the previous models of the Carboflex 130 and I have to say that I like the new one a lot better. It also includes a new removable bumper which gives room to play around with the balance of the racquet.

The new design is a bit thinner giving the racquet more maneuverability. I found that it was easier to volley as I could get the racquet ready quick on the middle of the court, unlike the previous model where this was harder to do. This is all due to the streamlined shaft, which increases power without sacrificing speed. I found too that I could hold my swing longer since I could swing my racquet faster and with a shorter swing. The previous model had a great balance between power and maneuverability but Tecnifibre has managed to improve this even more with the Carboflex 130 S.

Carboflex 130 S The balance on this racquet is 355mm, the same as the previous model. But, a noticeable difference came when I started hitting the ball. I found that the amount of power generated by both racquets is very similar but when hitting the ball on the sweet spot the Carboflex 130 S generates a bit more power. Also, again when hitting the ball on the sweet spot it was easier to carry my swing on and power through the ball easier, allowing me to hit better hard shots. The type of strings affect the amount of power a racquet generates but, luckily enough, I have the factory strings on my racquet so I had a better idea of their differences when comparing them.

One of the biggest differences for me was how much better I could control the ball with the new model. I was able to hit better drop shots as well as return the ball where I wanted with more accuracy. The feel on this racquet was amazing. Anytime I needed to hit a drop shot I could hit with confidence because I knew the racquet would do what I wanted it to do. Even thou both the previous and the new model have the Basaltex Mutliaxial technology, the new model’s flex benefits provide a more powerful, fast, and responsive racquet that suited my game even better.

Nour El SherbiniA neat new feature of the Carboflex 130 S is the new CUSTOM FIT Bumper technology which allows the bumper to be removed when the racquet is being restrung. The result of removing the bumper is a lighter head thus allowing the player to have a faster swing. I myself didn’t get to try it out but I would highly recommend players who own it to give it a try since it is great to have two different balance settings in a single racquet. This new technology has been tested by Men’s World Number 1 Mohamed El Shorbagy which really says a lot.

Not even is this racquet aesthetically pleasing to the eye; it is also an amazing and powerful racquet. Tecnifibre definitely did a great job with this new model as it brings more maneuverability, great power, and enhanced feel. I had an amazing time playing with it and discovering how all the new features helped my game. I would encourage players who use Tecnifibre racquets and any other player to take out this new edition for a hit if you have the chance; you will not regret it

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Squash – Change the Pace

In squash there are many different strategies that can be used to beat an opponent. I will talk about a strategy that I believe is very important to keep in mind. It involves the pace of the game dictated by the player, its advantages, and how to change it during a rally. The change of pace is a great way to catch an opponent off guard and gain control of the rally. I will talk about some of my past experiences with this strategy and how it has helped me with my overall game. Also, I will give a useful tip on how to keep this in mind when in the middle of a rally.

Whenever I am playing a match against someone on my same level, I always consider changing the pace as a game strategy before I get on court. I play squash at varsity level and one time during a tournament I was playing against a player who had a more solid game than me, and between games one of my teammates told me to change the pace mid-rally. So I went into the second game with this in mind and I remember one rally I was playing slow, accurate squash down the wall and then suddenly changing the pace to a much more aggressive game. I was hitting the ball harder and trying to volley as much as I could around the middle of the court. I was surprised to find that this strategy was working very well. So I decided to keep trying it in different ways; I would start playing aggressively but then went on to hit a lob or an unexpected drop and then back on the aggressive game or I would play lengths as much as I could to then play a cross court when least expected. Surprisingly enough this strategy was the key element in giving me the win on that game.

After playing more matches against different types of players and using the change of pace as one of my main strategies, I realized how helpful it is. The change of pace is very effective in many ways. First of all, it is very unexpected. For example, if I am hitting nice and easy lengths repeatedly my opponent tends to relax and ‘get used’ to returning just lengths; so once the pace changes they will be caught off guard both mentally and physically. This is due to them being in a routine type of mentality where they are only playing one type of pace on a given rally and not expecting such a sudden change in the flow of the game. For example, one time I was playing a practice match with one of my teammates and I started the rally very aggressively playing every ball very hard towards the back of the court and volleying as well as much as I could. I started noticing that my teammate was getting used to returning those shots but had moved further back from the ‘T’ in order to have an easier approach on those shots. This is when I decided to apply the change of pace. He hit a bad shot and gave me an open shot in the middle of the court so I prepared my racquet the same way as I had during the rally but, instead of returning a hard shot towards the back, I hit a drop shot. My teammate just stood where he was because he thought I was going to keep hitting it back so he started a backwards movement but once he saw the ball go to the front there was nothing he could do about it.

When playing squash the adrenaline is running high and sometimes it is easy to oversee a good opportunity to change the pace of the game. So it is good to have something to keep it in your head throughout the game. The trick that I find very useful is to associate a specific word with it. For example, I use the word ‘pace’ to remind myself that changing the pace should be one of my options to beat an opponent. If I am playing a match, I would think ‘pace’ once in a while throughout any game in order to constantly keep myself aware of it. This word works for me but it can be anything; it really depends on what works best for a player. These are the things that have helped me win various points and that I believe are good to have in mind when playing squash.
The change of pace is proven to be an effective strategy by a lot of players and professionals and I would recommend any player to start working on it. It really helps with catching an opponent off guard as well as gaining control and dominance of the rally. So it is useful to remember that changing the pace can make a big difference in a match as it is surprising how many points one can get off it.

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Types and Importance of Defensive Shots in Squash

Squash is a very fast-paced and aggressive game that requires a solid defensive strategy as players can find themselves under pressure from their opponent a lot of the time. In the game of squash whenever a player is under heavy pressure from their opponent, defensive play is essential to both regain control of the rally and to conserve stamina. When in trouble on court there are different shots and strategies that can help a player recover from an undesired situation and get back to an attacking position. Continue reading

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