Monthly Archives: June 2015

Review of the new Black Knight Quicksilver MAX and Quicksilver LT

Recently we received the new Black Knight Quicksilver LT and Black Knight Quicksilver MAX. These are Black Knight’s new racquets from the Quicksilver series and, even though they are very different from each other, they are both amazing for different reasons. I took them out for a hit earlier this week and was impressed with what these racquets can do. Also, I got Cameron Seth, the University of Waterloo Squash varsity team’s captain, 2014 OUA champion and MVP, and 2014-2015 Men’s All-Stars, to try them out as well and give me his thoughts since he has been using the previous Quicksilver nXs model for a couple years now. I will give my opinion about each racquet in different categories with some of Cameron’s comments as well.

Power and Sweet Spot

Both racquets where able to generate a good amount of power but in different ways. As for the Quicksilver MAX its power is generated from its weight; weighting 135 grams (5 grams heavier than the Quicksilver nXs) with an even balance, this racquet can generate good enough power. Also, it was easier to get the ball to the back of the court with a slower swing which is a great advantage since it takes some effort off the player when swinging.

Hitting with the Quicksilver LT I noticed a big difference on how I was able to generate power with it since it is only 125 grams (5 grams lighter than the Quicksilver nXs) with a slight head light balance. Featuring the first teardrop design of the Quicksilver series: this is where all its power comes from. At first, just by holding the racquet, I thought I would not be able to generate as much power with it but once I took it on court I was proven wrong. This racquet snaps the ball incredibly fast which allowed me to be more aggressive. Also, my low and hard shots would fly by my opponent giving them a really hard time returning the ball.

Each racquet had its own sweet spot in different places. The MAX felt like the whole head was its sweet spot since every single shot felt so smooth on my hands and I felt little to no vibration through the racquet at all. I absolutely loved hitting the ball with this one. For the LT, Cameron took it for a hit first and told me its sweet spot was harder to find as it is higher up on the racquet. This is due to its long vertical strings that come from the teardrop design. But, once I hit with it and was able to hit the ball on the sweet spot, my shots would fly towards the front wall as the trampoline effect due to the longer strings was maximized.

Control and Stability

As expected, both racquets are very different when it comes to control and stability. This is because of both the weight and design of the racquet. A heavier, bridged racquet with a thicker beam such as the Quicksilver MAX will generally provide better control than the lighter, thinner teardrop Quicksilver LT.

Black Knight Quicksilver MAX Squash Racquet

Black Knight’s Quicksilver MAX

With the MAX, I could feel the racquet going through the ball very solidly thus creating more spin and control on the ball. Also, the bridged design decreases the trampoline effect thus providing less variability in the direction of the ball as it comes off the face of the racquet. As for stability, I will rely on Cameron’s opinion since he uses the previous Quicksilver nXs. The first thing he noticed was how much more stable the MAX was than the nXs; this is due to the MAX being thicker and heavier. He found this feature to be a great improvement from Black Knight as the racquet was much more forgiving while dampening vibrations better.

With the LT it was harder to control the ball which is natural since the trampoline effect is greatly increased by the racquet’s teardrop design. But don’t get me wrong, this racquet was still able to provide good control whenever I needed to hit precision shots. As for stability, being a light racquet with a slightly head light balance, this racquet is a bit less stable; but, an accurate player will find this not to be a problem and will enjoy the racquet’s full potential.

Maneuverability

A racquet’s maneuverability can be greatly exploited by a player if the right type of racquet is chosen; this is a very personal choice and each one of these racquets provide their own type of handling that will benefit different types of players.

The Quicksilver MAX being heavier is harder to maneuver on shorter, quicker swings. With a more solid and fluid swing racquet control is remarkably good though. Having said this, a player with a more controlled and fluid swing will find this racquet very helpful. However, a player with a shorter swing looking for a more stable racquet can also benefit from this racquet if they are able to swing a bit of a heavier racquet fast enough. For example, Cameron has a short swing but since he has enough strength to swing the racquet fast, he ended up wanting this racquet over his Quicksilver nXs.

Black Knight Quicksilver LT Squash Racquet

Black Knight’s Quicksilver LT

With the Quicksilver LT maneuverability is absolutely amazing; this is not surprising due to the fact that it has a head light balance while weighting only 125 grams. Using this racquet I was able to use very short swings to attack my opponent at the front of the court. I was also able to implement deception much better since I could hold my shot for a longer time. Furthermore, my racquet preparation was much faster which allowed me to intercept shots in the form of volleys at the middle of the court. This is greatly favorable for an aggressive player who likes to put constant pressure on their opponent. Also, someone with a shorter, quick swing with profit from this racquet as well.

Conclusion

These racquets are amazing. Whether looking for more control and stability or more power and maneuverability, these are two great racquets to keep in mind. I think these racquets will benefit many players with different play styles at different levels. If you can generate great power but are looking for more control, go for the Quicksilver MAX. If you are very accurate but want to generate more power on short swings, take the Quicksilver LT. For the Quicksilver LT I have to say that I absolutely enjoyed a great deal using all of its power and handling. As for the Quicksilver MAX, I will put it in Cameron’s words: I love this beauty.

To learn more about the Quicksilver MAX click here. To learn more about the Quicksilver LT click here. If you are in our area feel free to come to our Pro Shop and try out these new additions to the Quicksilver series and tell us how you like them!

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Easy Drill to Improve Your Front Court Shots

This week I was training one-on-one with my coach, and we decided to improve my game at the front court by working on: taking my time, starting my swing from the same position every time, making a shorter swing, and using my wrist more. The reason he told me I needed to do this was to incorporate deception on every shot, as well as increase my accuracy while retaining the same amount of power as before. Surprisingly enough, by the end of practice I was hitting better shots at the front with a shorter swing that always started from the same spot. It was very helpful and I believe it’s worth discussing so that other players can try it out as well.

The first thing we worked on was quicker racquet preparation. I stood on the ‘T’ while he fed me the ball on the front court. The idea was to have the racquet ready before getting to the ball; as soon as he fed the ball I would first get my racquet up and then I would get to hitting a shot. A lot of players start their swing as they are close to the ball and this is not a bad thing; but, on quick shots and under pressure, this will take too much time from the swing, possibly leading to hitting a loose shot. If however you have your racquet prepared before reaching the ball, once you get to it you will have more time to think where to return the shot. This is the first step, and if you wish to do this, you should concentrate solely on having your racquet ready before moving to the ball.

Once I was able to get to every ball with my racquet ready beforehand, we moved on to hitting every shot from the same position with a shorter swing. The first thing we worked on was to have a shorter swing. The reason for this was to be able to hold the shot for as long as possible so that the opponent has less time to read it. The idea here is to concentrate on using the forearm and wrist instead of the whole arm to generate power; the same amount of power can be generated using a shorter swing by generating more racquet speed in increasing the velocity on the forearm and wrist movements. Then, I would concentrate on getting my racquet back on the exact spot every single time in order to create uncertainty on what type of shot I would hit next. Try having someone feed you easy to return shots so that you can concentrate on your racquet preparation, footwork, and making a shorter swing. From the same position you can hit: a drop or cross court drop, a low and hard length or cross court shot, a boast, or a length or cross court shot to the back of the court. All of these shots are possible due to the shorter and faster swing and I believe any player can see the advantage of being able to hit multiple shots from the exact same racquet position!

Towards the end, we worked on including the wrist more to improve accuracy. This is a bit harder to explain as it depends on how every player feels about using their wrist. The main thing we concentrated on was hitting the crease or ‘nick’ with both drop and kill shots. Also, we concentrated on stopping the swing almost immediately after hitting the ball, i.e. having a much shorter follow through. Having a full follow through when trying to hit accurate shots is not ideal since there is more racquet movement and therefore more influence on where the ball is going. A shorter follow through will keep the ball in line as the effect of the racquet going through it is minimum. If you want to improve accuracy on the front court you should concentrate on using just the wrist to give direction to the ball. However, there is no ‘textbook’ wrist movement so you should find your own comfort zone with wrist shots. A great way to practice this is having someone feed easy, loose shots at the very front of the court and hitting the ball using the wrist only, i.e. no forearm or upper arm movements, and always having accuracy as a top priority. Always keep the crease in mind, trying to hit the ball about 2-3 inches above the tin. This way you can become comfortable with your own wrist movement that gets you the best shots. Furthermore, you should always keep in mind your balance as it is essential for accuracy and better shots; you can read more on this here.

Finally, we practiced hitting different shots from different places on the front court while applying everything we learned at the same time. Always keep in mind your body and racquet position, keeping your head down, and your wrist movement. Having said this, if you are looking to improve your front court game you can try out this very helpful drill. The best way to do it is to take it step by step while concentrating on each step’s main goal to finally include everything in one single movement. It is always good to try new drills to improve any aspect of your game, so give it a try and see how your game can improve.

Please feel free to leave your ideas, opinions, thoughts, and/or questions on the comment section below and we will be more than happy to help you!

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Head Heavy, Head Light, or Even Balanced: What Should I Use?

When planning on buying a squash racquet there are many things to take into consideration:

  • how it will fit your game
  • the weight of the racquet
  • the type of throat
  • the balance

The choice of balance in a squash racquet depends on the type of player and I believe that many players have a hard time knowing which balance fits their game best. I will talk about the balance of squash racquets and how each type fits different types of players.

Head Light BalanceHead light racquets, as the name indicates, have lighter heads and thus the weight is balanced towards the handle of the racquet. Here, maneuverability is the key element of the racquet and thus it is excellent for aggressive players who like to attack with volleys, players who have short swings, and players who are yet to develop more wrist strength. If a player likes to volley a lot, a head light racquet will be beneficial due to the fact that it has increased maneuverability. A player will be able to bring the racquet up faster which is the most essential movement when it comes to attacking with a volley. For players with short swings, fast racquet speed is a must and a head light balance will help greatly with this as it is easier to swing. However, this type of player has to be sure that they can generate enough power by themselves (i.e. without the help of the racquet) to ensure enough ball speed. If a player doesn’t have a strong wrist yet, they should consider a more head light racquet as it will be easier to maneuver with less strength. Head light racquets will often be heavier in order to help generate power; but, if increased power with decreased overall weight is what a player is looking for, a head heavy racquet is the best choice.

Head Heavy Squash Racquet

A head heavy racquet will have most of its weight towards the head. Having a head heavy balance will help the racquet move through the ball easier and thus it best suits more patient players who like to play a solid length game, players with more fluid swings, and players that have a hard time generating power by themselves. A patient, length game is a great game strategy and players who like to implement it should consider a head heavy racquet. The reason is that, since it helps to generate power, less effort is needed to get the ball to the back of the court hence saving the player more energy which is needed to keep up the longer rallies that arise from such strategy. For the same reason, a player with a more fluid swing will find this balance helpful. A player that can’t generate enough power by themselves can swing slower but still generate enough power; this is common among young players who are yet to develop more strength. Head heavy racquets are great for players who like to have a more patient and fluid game, and/or young players who need aid in generating power. If a player is looking for a combination of the previous two types of balances, they should consider even balanced racquets.

An even balanced racquet will have a relatively equal weight distribution. This type of balance is considered to be more flexible and will fit players who like to volley while generating a decent amount of power. A player who likes to ‘switch’ up their strategy mid-rally will find this type of racquet helpful. It is maneuverable enough to be able to provide good racquet preparation speed as well as good swing speed and powerful enough to generate good power on more fluid swings. This balance I believe is helpful when a player likes to change the pace in the middle of the point.

Any player who is considering getting a new racquet should look well into the balance of the racquet and which type fits them better. However, the choice of balance should not be dictated solely on a player’s type of game; personal preference is top priority here. Having said this I strongly encourage players to try out all three types of balances before acquiring a new racquet. Here at Control the ‘T’ Sports we have a wide variety of squash racquets that you can take a look at.

If you would like to read more about how to choose a squash racquet please download our guide to buying a squash racquet by filling out the form below.

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The Rules of Squash Every Player Should Know

Ideally, every player should have read and should know the rules of Squash; but, there are some rules that sometimes are ignored simply by the fact that none of the players or officials know them. I have read the “World Squash Singles Rules 2014” from the World Squash Federation and here are some of the rules that I believe every player should know, as well as commentary on how they are bypassed or misinterpreted by players and/or officials:

Section 3: Officials

  • Subsection 3.3: The correct position for the Officials is seated at the centre of the back wall, as close to that wall as possible and just above the out-line.

From my competitive experience the last part of this rule has not always been implemented. Many times Officials (in this case players themselves) sit behind the back wall but on ground level instead of above the out-line. This can influence, for example, a call on an out-ball where the Official would be looking from below the out-line thus not having a good line of sight on the ball when it is close to or on the out-line.

Subsection 3.7: The Referee

  •  Rule 3.7.10: must ask the player for clarification if uncertain about the reason for a request for a let or an appeal.

Many times inexperienced players that are refereeing a match find themselves not knowing why a player called a let. Also, most often than not, the player refereeing doesn’t know what to do and takes a decision that may not be the correct one. If a player ever finds themselves in such a situation, they must ask for clarification from the player in order to make a better and fair decision.

  • Rule 3.7.13: must apply Rule 15 (Conduct) if a player’s conduct is unacceptable.

Sometimes players who are refereeing do not apply this rule because they might feel intimidated. A referee should never hesitate to apply Rule 15 against a player who is showing misconduct.

  • Rule 3.14: must suspend play if the behaviour of any person, other than a player, is disruptive or offensive, until the behaviour has ceased, or until the offending person has left the court area.

Most of the times when there is a disruption by a person, other than a player, it is a player who tells the referee to ask that person to stop the disruption. A referee should never wait for a player to do this. Instead, the referee should suspend play immediately if a disruption occurs and should ask the person to stop or leave the court area.

Section 4: The Warm-Up

  • Subsection 4.1: At the start of a match the players go on court together to warm up the ball for a maximum of 5 minutes. After 2½ minutes the players must change sides, unless they have already done so.

This is one of the most misinterpreted rules in Squash. Often, the players will warm-up for as long as they desire without the referee asking for a change of sides and later on for a time-out on the warm-up. A lot of players don’t know the maximum time allowed for warm-up which leads to longer-than-allowed warm-ups and therefore a delay of game.

 Section 5: The Serve

  • Subsection 5.7
    • Rule 5.7.2: at the time the server strikes the ball, one foot is in contact with the floor inside the service-box with no part of that foot touching any boundary of that box.

This is a very well-known rule; but, if broken, a fault must be called by the referee. This is not the case most of the time a player commits this type of fault. The reason is that some referees don’t even pay attention to the serving player’s feet as they serve, hence missing a fault that must have been called.

 Section 7: Intervals

  • Rule 7.1: A maximum of 90 seconds is permitted between the end of the warm-up and the start of play, and between each game.

Some players don’t even know that there is time allowed between the end of the warm-up and the start of the match. Also, many players take over 90 seconds between games and referees most of the time fail to call the player’s attention on this. A referee must give a 15-second warning (i.e. there are 15 seconds left before players must return to court) and if a player fails to come back to court on time, Rule 15 (Conduct) must be applied. Note: it is the players’ responsibility to be close enough to hear any announcement made by the referee.

 Section 8: Interference

  • Rule 8.2: A striker who believes that interference has occurred may stop and request a let, preferably by saying “Let, please.” That request must be made without undue delay. Notes:
    • Before accepting any form of request the Referee must be satisfied that the player is actually requesting a let.
    • A request for a let includes a request for a stroke.
    • Normally, only the striker may request a let for interference. However, if the non-striker requests a let for lack of access before the ball has reached the front wall, that request may be considered, even though that player is not yet the striker.

Here I will concentrate on the last point since I find it very interesting. The reason is that usually a player will request a let after the ball has come back from the front wall and an interference occurs. But, according to this rule, if a player is the non-striker, (i.e. the ball has not reached the front wall and therefore this player may not hit the ball yet) they can request a let if they believe they don’t have direct access to the ball even though they are not allowed to hit the ball yet. Also, another reason I find it interesting is how this rule is designed to keep the players’ safety a priority; there is no need to wait for the ball to be within striking distance (and therefore having the risk of hitting the other player) in order to stop the point.

  • Rule 8.4: The Referee may allow a let or award a stroke without a request having been made, stopping play if necessary, especially for reasons of safety.

Many times referees will not stop the game even though a dangerous play has occurred. This is due to the fact that, if a player does not stop play even through a dangerous play, the referee may think they don’t have the right to stop the point since a player didn’t stop it in the first place. Referees must apply this rule when necessary in order to protect the players’ safety; especially when dealing with beginners as they don’t request a let as much as more experienced players.

  • Subsection 8.6:
    • Rule 8.6.4: if there was interference, but it did not prevent the striker from seeing and getting to the ball to make a good return, this is minimal interference and no let is allowed.

This is one of the most commonly misinterpreted rules in Squash. Many players believe that if there was any type of interference, regardless of how minimal it is, at least a let should be awarded. This is not the case. If there is minimal interference and the striker can still play their shot and make a good return, then no let is allowed if the player stops the point. Normally, if this happens for the first time in a match, the referee will allow a let and tell the player that they should play those shots in the future. If the player fails to do so on another point, then no let is allowed and the referee must remind the player once again that they should hit those shots.

  • Subsection 8.8: If the striker requests a let for lack of direct access to the ball, then:
    • Rule 8.8.1: if there was interference but the striker did not make every effort to get to and play the ball, no let is allowed.

This rule can create a big debate between players and the referee. Sometimes, a player may think that because there was enough interference to allow a let, a let must be allowed. This is not the case since a player must ALWAYS make their best effort to get to the ball regardless of the interference (i.e. a player must show that they would be able to hit the shot if there were to be no lack of direct access). Note: Every effort to get to and play the ball should not include contact with the opponent. If any contact that could have been avoided is made, Rule 15 (Conduct) must be applied.

  •  Rule 8.8.2: if the striker had direct access but instead took an indirect path to the ball and then requested a let for interference, no let is allowed, unless Rule 8.8.3 applies.

I find this rule very interesting. It could lead to a lot of confusion during a match since there will be an interference; but, in this situation, not let should be allowed regardless of the magnitude of the interference. Rule 8.8.3: if the striker was wrong-footed, but showed the ability to recover and make a good return, and then encountered interference, a let is allowed, unless the striker would have made a winning return, in which case a stroke is awarded to the striker.

  • Subsection 8.10:
    • Rule 8.10.1: If the striker caused the interference by using an excessive swing, no let is allowed.

This is one of the rules that cause controversy on court. Sometimes, a player will exaggerate their swing in order to request a let. This is called excessive swing and no let should be allowed. Unfortunately, many players, as they referee, don’t know this and they take it as a normal interference thus allowing a let, or in the worst of cases, a stroke. Note: If there was interference from the striker exaggerating their swing in an attempt to earn a stroke, a let should be allowed as stated in Rule 10.8.2. Rule 10.8.2: If there was interference but the striker exaggerated the swing in attempting to earn a stroke, a let is allowed.

 Section 14: Injuries

  • Subsection 14.3: Categories
    • Rule 14.3.1: Self-inflicted: where the injury is the result of the player’s own action. This includes a muscle tear or sprain, or a bruise resulting from a collision with a wall or falling over. The player is permitted 3 minutes to recover and, if not then ready to resume play, must concede that game and take the 90-second interval between games for further recovery. Only 1 game may be conceded. The player must then resume play or concede the match.

In this case, players must be aware of the time frames allowed during injury time. The opponent should be aware of this and tell the referee to implement the rule when the time is over, if the referee forgets or doesn’t know about it.

  • Rule 14.6: It is always the injured player’s decision whether or not to resume play.

No player should ever let the referee or opponent pressure them into continuing play when injured.

 Section 15: Conduct

  • Rule 15.7: A player guilty of an offence may be given a Conduct Warning or penalised with a Conduct Stroke, a Conduct Game, or a Conduct Match, depending on the severity of the offence.

Referees should know that a Conduct Stroke, Conduct Game, or Conduct Match can be given to an offending player before a Conduct Warning is given (i.e. a referee is not obliged to give a Conduct Warning before giving a penalty; a penalty can be given straight away). Any warning or penalty will be given considering the frequency and/or severity of the offense(s).

 These are the rules I believe are mostly misinterpreted or not known of at all by players. Any squash player who desires to play competitively should read the rules carefully in order to fully understand them and apply them whenever they must officiate a match. Also, players should keep these and all other rules in mind so that they are able to appeal in a correct manner. A player who knows the rules will be able to provide a better playing experience to themselves and others as well!

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Good Balance Leads to Great Shots

Balance is a very important part of the game when it comes to hitting good shots. You need good balance in order to get a solid hit on the ball, and to be able to stay quick on your feet for the next one. Recently I have concentrated on this and I have found that the results are great. I am finding myself hitting more accurate and more powerful shots thus helping me win more points. Here are ways that good balance will help you hit better shots and be quicker when getting back to the ‘T’.

I play varsity squash and the other day I was playing a match against one of my teammates. Our coach was watching and after the first game he gave me some tips on how to hit better shots. He told me that whenever I had time to hit a good shot I was rushing to the ball and thus hitting it when I was off balance. He said I had to take my time, make sure I was balanced and well positioned, and then go on to hit the shot. So I jumped on court for the second game and concentrated on what he told me. So whenever I had time to I made sure I had good footwork in order to position myself with good balance in front of the ball. I placed myself on my normal hitting position but I made sure that my feet were planted solid on the ground; I made sure I used good strength to keep my legs and torso still through my shot. Having done this I was able to hit much more solid and accurate shots. It worked really well for me.

The reason for good balance leading to good shots is the fact that you are able to hit your shots on the racquet’s ‘sweet spot’ more often. If you are off balance previous to hitting a shot, your torso will move around and hence your shoulder as well; all this affects your swing and where you hit the ball. For example, on one shot when playing against my teammate, I tried to hit a straight length as my torso was moving backwards and I ended pulling the ball across resulting a shot right down the middle. So, if you manage to stay balanced leading to the shot, your torso is stable thus giving your arm all the strength and accuracy needed to hit a solid shot. You will also be able to control your shots better since there is no ‘extra’ movement from your body being off balance. In other words, your whole movement will be concentrated solely on your swing leading to more ‘sweet spot’ shots.

Good balance is also an advantage when it comes to the aftermath of the shot; you need it in order to get back to the ‘T’ quick. If you are off balance there is a need for extra movement to get your body back into balance so you can get back into a good position on the ‘T’. For example, after hitting a shot at the front of the court you will use your back foot to propel yourself back to the ‘T’ but, if you drag it too much as you are hitting the shot, you will need to position that foot on the back again to be able to start your movement to the ‘T’; this will cost you around one second which doesn’t seem like much, but when it comes to this game this is very valuable time. Therefore, if you keep your balance through your shot and your legs are stuck on the ground, you can put all the strength on that back foot to get you back on the ‘T’ ready for the next shot.

Good shots are built upon many different things and balance is one of the most important ones. Having good balance will help you hit better shots regardless of what shot it is or where on the court you are. It will also give you the benefit of getting back on the ‘T’ faster thus giving you more time to react against your opponent’s next shot. Get your feet on the ground and get ready to hit great shots!

Also, here is a video of a rally between Mohamed El Shorbagy and Ramy Ashour. Notice how on every shot,even under pressure, they are able to plant their feet and keep their balance concentrating only on their swing and what shot they want to make:

 

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