Category Archives: Squash Tips

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 – 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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The Benefits of a Head Light Squash Racquet

I have been playing with Black Knight Ion Element PSX Squash Racquet this season and must say I love it. It is not the normal type of racquet I have played with for the past few years though. I had been playing with tear drop racquets with a more even or head heavy balance. I like the more natural power they create. I originally tried the Element PSX to get my opinion on it and write a review of it. I liked the feel on contact of it. I really like the thin beam and have come to like the smaller head and sweet spot of the racquet. What I have really come to like is the relatively light weight of it and its head light balance. It is very quick to play with. I find that has really benefited my game. It has helped me to volley more, it has helped me be more deception with my shot selection and I am still able to generate good power. Continue reading

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Squash – Get the ball back to the front wall

Squash is fundamentally a simple game. All you need to do is hit the ball before it bounces on the floor twice and get it back to the front wall without it going out. Sometimes it really pays to remember that. I was playing a good friend of mine, who I play pretty regularly and I had a plan on how I was going to win the match against him. I wanted to play nice tight squash up and down the side wall to prevent him from being able to attack. My friend given an open ball is very good at hitting a low hard drive that puts me under a lot of pressure. I did not want to give him that opportunity this time around. My strategy though while sound was just not working for me. I was doing a fairly good job of limiting his attacking play but he was being patient too. Ultimately more often than not he was winning the rallies. The rallies were generally long with good shots up and down the wall but I was being forced to cough up a weak ball sooner than he was too often. I ended up going down two games to none. Going on to court for the third game I realized I needed to change things up or risk going down in three straight games. I decided to do three things different. I was going to volley more often, I was going to be more aggressive but more importantly I was going to out work my friend and do everything I could possibly do to get every ball back to the front wall.

The first part of my plan did help a bit. I was volleying more and that helped keep my friend off of the ‘T’. I was taking the ball early, before he could recover to the ‘T’ as much as possible and doing a good job of mixing up a few short balls with the rest of the balls going to a back corner. I was starting to control a bit more of the play and was working him around the court more. I was slowly starting to the turn the tide in my favour with this part of the new game plan.
Not only was I volleying more but I was being much more aggressive with my hitting. Rather than hitting mostly slower paced balls that I was hoping to keep tight I was increasing the pace on my drives and hitting them lower. I was doing a pretty good job of keeping them tight and was making it hard for my friend to get some of the balls back. I won some points outright and setup other points by forcing weak returns that put me in a good attacking position.

Ramy Ashour lunging for a ball at the MWT Mullhouse

Photo credit to SquashSite

The last part of my strategy though is what really won me the match. I was utterly determined to get every ball back no matter how much I had to run to do it and how weak my return might end up being. I got back a bunch of balls that I had no business getting back and worked extremely hard to get myself back in position to cover my friend’s next shot. I will confess that some of the shots were just too weak and I could not cover his next shot but some of them I got back, covered the next shot and was able to reset the rally to a neutral position. I even picked up a few points on errors. Technically they were unforced errors on my friend’s part but by working hard you can put some doubt in your opponents mind. Doubt that they can end the rally and often they will start trying to hit too good of a shot and errors will slowly start to creep in to their game. One particular point I remember I was up 9-7 in the fifth game and utterly losing the rally. I got two or three very difficult balls back. On the last one was I sent from the front corner deep in to the back corner on my backhand side. All I had was a side wall boast to a waiting opponent who was going to drop the ball. A good drop would win. A just okay drop though he knew I would get back as while I was out of position I was scrambling back to cover the short ball. He ended up catching tin trying to hit too good of a drop. That set up match ball for me which I ended up winning.

Adjusting my play in the third game ended up winning me the match. Volleying gave me more control of the ‘T’ which helped. It helped me put some more work in to my friend’s legs. Being more aggressive won me some points and setup some others. Ultimately though it was the third part of the change in plans that won me the match. I worked extremely hard to get the ball back to the front wall no matter how hard it was to do so. I got myself back in to a lot of points and ended up winning my fair share of those. I also won a few outright when my friend made an “unforced” error. My goal going in to most matches is to control play and win on skill but sometimes that will just not work. In times like those it often pays to remember to just get the ball back to the front wall no matter what it takes. It is surprising how often that will end up winning you a match.

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Squash – Movement to and from the ball

Movement in squash is probably the most important aspect of the game. It is also one the things that really separates different levels of players. When moving to the ball there are a few key elements to consider. Most of the time if you can you need to get on the ball quickly to have the option of putting time pressure on your opponent. You also need to approach the ball in a manner that leaves you options as to where you hit the ball. One of the most critical points of moving to the ball though is leaving yourself in a good position to move off of the ball. I believe this is probably the biggest differences between high level players and lower level players. Continue reading

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Ramy Ashour – Racquet Preparation and Deception

I was watching Ramy Ashour play Adrian Grant this morning on and was amazed at how deceptive he was in particular when the ball was played in short on the forehand side. His racquet preparation looks identical between a drive and a drop which makes reading what he is going to hit nearly impossible. There was a terrific video on featuring Jonathon Power where Jonathon went over that very subject. Continue reading

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New Player Buyer’s Guide – Racquets

While to some it may seem that the summer has only just begun, we at Control the T have our sights set on the turn of the seasons.  The point in time where summer turns to autumn marks the beginning of the new squash season which inevitably brings a wave of players back indoors and onto the courts for another year.

This can be an especially exciting time since several players new to the game may be trying their hand at squash for the very first time.  In past blog posts we’ve discussed the exceptional fitness, health and enjoyment related aspects of the game which is an attractive component of the game for many folks.  It is not uncommon for new players who would love to capture these rewards by incorporating the game it into their regular exercise routine. Continue reading

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Back to Basics and the Fundamentals

The inspiration for this post was a twitter post from Roger Federer that was a simple statement with an attached picture.

This simple statement and image coming from the most successful tennis player of all time really makes a powerful statement. In fact you can read many things in to it. Practicing the simple fundamentals of the game would be the first thing that comes to mind. For a tennis player hitting countless tennis balls against a wall is one of the simplest ways to practice the basics of the game. When I see a racquet leaning against a wall painted like a tennis net I get an image in my mind of a boy hitting the ball against the wall because he loves playing the game. When I think of Roger Federer doing this I think of dedication and willingness to the basic things that are necessary to remain great. All three of these are really important in squash as well of course.
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Amr Shabana’s Forehand – Preparation, Hold and Deception

I am watching the Grasshopper Cup 2014 on currently and am having a good look at Shabana’s forehand. It really is a thing of beauty. He has my favourite forehand on tour. There are several components of it that I really like. His racquet preparation, his hold, how deceptive it is and how consistent it is are what make it so good.

Amr Shabana wearing the Salming Race R1 2.0

Photo credit to

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