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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