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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on April 01, 2024

7 Strategies for Outmaneuvering Larger Opponents in Squash

I recently wrote an article on 7 strategies for playing against taller opponents in squash and it got me thinking about other body types that we often come up against as players.

The first thing that sprung to mind was larger, more stocky opponents and, since I actually played one of these players just the other night, I thought that that would be a great topic to roll with.

I didn't go into that particular match with much of a game plan which was my first big mistake, so, I did end up losing. However, it was a great opportunity to reflect afterward on what I did wrong, what worked well, and what I would do next time.

Larger players, like players of every other body type, have their own strengths and weaknesses, and, they often adapt their playing style to suit their body type.

This can make them very tricky to play against for a number of reasons, however, there are also many ways that you can adapt your own strategy to maximise your chances of success in a match situation (something which I will certainly be doing next time I come up against a larger player).

So, without further ado, let's dive into 7 of the best ways to outmaneuver larger opponents on the squash court...

Rather than talking through a structured game plan, instead, the strategies and tips I'm going to go through will explore a range of different options to try against larger opponents and why they can be effective.

You won't be able to do all 7 at once, however, combining a few of them should help give you an edge over those larger opponents.

Also, if you're reading this and you have a larger body type yourself, I just want to mention that these strengths and weaknesses are just generaizations and may or may not apply to you as a player, so I don't mean any offence at all!

However, I also hope that this article can still be helpful to you as it may help you realize some of your own strengths and weaknesses to work on, or, it may help you prepare for the types of tactics that your opponents may try to throw at you!

Anyway, on with the newsletter...

1. Be Aware Of Their Racquet Skills

Generally, larger opponents will be well aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and, chances are, they will have adapted and procured their game accordingly (as I mentioned in the introduction).

For this reason, it's very common for larger players to be particularly handy with their racquet.

Again, going back to my match the other night, the player I played against had unbelievable racquet skills. Any time I played a weak shot that came out into the middle, the guy would put the ball away with a pinpoint drop shot straight into the nick.

It's important to just be aware of how threatening larger players can be with their racquet skills.

There are a few ways to counteract this, first off, try to focus on playing tight lengths and don't play anything out in the open that they might be able to volley or take early, especially if they're in control of the T.

Keep the ball deep in those back corners to keep them off the T as much as possible be patient in your rallies and wait for opportunities to attack when you have a clear advantage.

Any time you do go for an attacking shot to the front of the court, it needs to be accurate, otherwise, you run the risk of it bouncing out and giving the other player an even better chance to counterattack.

If you find yourself under pressure or out of position, don't hesitate to lift the ball high and deep to reset the rally and regain control of the T.

By staying disciplined in your shot selection and maintaining a strong defensive position, you can neutralise the larger player's ability to use their racquet skills and win quick points.

2. Use Height

There are a bunch of benefits to using height and some of them are indeed specific to playing against stockier opponents.

Stockier players often have a bit more muscle and can hit the ball pretty hard when they want to as well, which can make it seriously hard for you to neutralize and control rallies. Height can be a good way to counter that strength.

Generally, larger players will also be very good at volleying any shot that is of volleying height, however, lifting the ball with straight and cross-court lobs restricts their ability to volley accurately.

By using height, you can force your opponent to stretch and reach for the ball if they do want to volley it, increasing the likelihood of errors or weak returns. If you've ever tried to go for a winner or attacking shot off of a high lift, you'll know how difficult it can be to control the ball.

The alternative to this is that they don't volley your lift and have to move deep into the back corner to dig it out. This can open up opportunities for you to capitalize on their positional disadvantage and potentially weak return with an attack of your own.

Another thing that height gives you is time.

You can use this time to recover back to the T and get in a positive position to be more offensive on your next shot.

Deploying this height strategy effectively allows you to dictate the tempo of the game and control the flow of rallies on your own terms.

Plus, if you're throwing in lobs while mixing in shots of different paces, you can keep your opponent guessing and prevent them from settling into a comfortable rhythm by adding that element of unpredictability to the game.

It's worth mentioning that mixing up height and tricky angles is also something that larger opponents are often good at doing themselves for the same reason above (to give them time to move back to the T and play the game at their own pace), so make sure to watch out for that!

3. Lengthen The Rallies

Making rallies longer is a great tactic to employ against many players if fitness and consistency are your strong points, however, in the context of playing larger opponents it can be a particularly powerful approach to take.

While it's important to emphasise the fact that fitness levels vary among players of all sizes, larger individuals still often have a little more weight to move around that may mean that they face greater challenges in maintaining stamina over extended periods of play.

By focusing on extending rallies, you can increase the physical demands on your opponent and test their endurance throughout the match.

You may already be aware of your opponent's fitness capabilities, if so you can use this knowledge when deciding if this strategy is the right one.

If you're facing a larger opponent who is very fit, lengthening the rallies can very well backfire and you may find yourself struggling with fatigue instead.

Anyway, this approach involves playing patient, consistent lengths and crosscourt that keep the ball in play and require your opponent to cover lots of ground with each rally.

By forcing them to move continuously, you can gradually wear them down and exploit any signs of fatigue that may emerge as the match progresses.

This fatigue may also have a knock-on impact on their shot quality, especially in the latter stages of a match, which neutralizes the common strength of larger players that I mentioned in my first tip (their exceptional racquet skills).

In addition to the physical side of things, lengthening rallies can also have psychological implications for your opponent.

Facing a relentless barrage of shots and being forced to defend repeatedly can erode their confidence and mental resilience over time.

As they begin to feel the strain of prolonged rallies, they may become more susceptible to frustration and lapses in concentration, providing you with more opportunities to attack.

This strategy isn't a short-term approach and it's likely that you won't reap the benefits of lengthening the rallies until the third, fourth, or fifth games. This is why it's so important to be consistent if you are deploying this tactic.

Lengths can be hit with medium to hard pace, just make sure not to go too hard or you will tire yourself out fast as well.

Make sure to try your best to hit those targets and keep your lengths as tight as possible and your cross courts as wide as possible so your opponent doesn't get the chance to volley and take control of the rally.

4. Keep It Low, Keep It Fast, And Take It Early

Keeping the ball low and playing at a fast pace can be a great strategy when facing stockier opponents in squash.

This strategy again aims to capitalize on their potential limitations in mobility and agility, as well as their increased difficulty in retrieving low shots quickly.

Having to make repeated explosive movements will certainly start to take its physical toll on any opponent, however, this may be even more difficult for a larger player to do over and over again, allowing you to put some serious pressure on your opponent.

It's important to mention that this approach is very difficult to execute physically, so it's vital to be aware of your own physical state. You don't want to wear yourself out!

If you're trying out this approach against a larger opponent, think about your targets.

Utilise that mid section of the court by hitting low, hard, dying lengths and kills that bounce twice well before the back wall.

These kinds of shots take a lot of time away from your opponent and force them to scramble to retrieve every single one.

Taking the ball early to play these shots also allows you to put even more pressure on your opponent and limit their time to react.

This aggressive style of play forces them to play defensively and retrieve the ball from difficult positions, increasing the likelihood of them either making mistakes or playing weak shots for you to carry on your attack.

Make sure to hold an assertive T positioning (perhaps half a step further forward than normal) so you can take the ball as early as you can.

Being able to anticipate your opponent's shots is also a bonus, however, I know a lot of stockier players who are incredibly deceptive, so make sure you're not doing any guessing!

Lastly, try to stay light on your feet so you're always ready to pounce on any opportunity that pops up to take the ball early and crack those low, hard kills.


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

5. Twist Them And Turn Them

Twisting and turning your opponent is another strategic approach that involves exploiting their larger size and potentially slower movement to force weak shots.

By utilizing angles, holds, deception, and changing the direction of the ball, you can force your opponent to make unnatural movements that take a physical toll too.

The most effective way to twist and turn your opponent is by playing hard cross courts with good width, or, playing two wall boasts and trickle boasts when you're in the front.

Bringing in some deception can also enhance the damage that this tactic does by keeping your opponent guessing and off balance.

You may be able to taxi them (or at least catch them flat-footed) by using feints, holds, and disguised shots.

Creating that uncertainty and hesitation with your opponent makes it much harder for them to execute their own style of play or fall into a rhythm.

It really is a great way to take time away and force them into awkward positions where they are more vulnerable to attack.

Being aware of the other player's positioning can be an excellent way to maximise the impact of these shots. If you catch them edging across during a straight length rally, then that's probably the time to throw in a quick cross court or boast.

Use your peripherals (if you can) if they're behind you and then try to hit it into any open space they may leave, forcing them to cover more ground and make more high-impact movements.

6. Don't Get Sucked Into Their Game & Play To Your Own Strengths

When facing larger opponents, it's crucial not to get drawn into playing their style of game and instead, focus on playing to your own strengths.

While it may be tempting to engage in physical battles and try to outmuscle your opponent, go for more shots, and hit it harder than them, this approach often plays into their hands and allows them to dictate the pace and rhythm of the match.

It's easy to get sucked into playing reactively and going for counter attacks when your opponent is going for tricky kills again and again. You've just got to resist that urge!

Instead, assess your own strengths and weaknesses and develop a game plan that maximises your own advantages while exploiting your opponent's vulnerabilities.

For example, if you're a smaller, more agile player, you may want to focus on using your speed and movement to your advantage, while also utilising your precision and shot-making ability to control the rallies on your own terms.

Another effective strategy, as I mentioned above, is to play a more patient and tactical game, focusing on consistency and accuracy rather than trying to hit more risky winners.

By maintaining a steady pace and forcing your opponent to play more shots, you can increase the likelihood of them making errors and create opportunities to capitalise on their mistakes.

Just try your best to look for those opportunities to impose your own style of play, whether it's by varying the pace of play, taking the ball early, or using angles and deception to keep your opponent off balance.

7. Stay Patient And Keep Your Head

This is the same point I finished on when I was going through the strategies for facing taller opponents too, and, to be honest, it's something you should be doing in every single match, regardless of who your opponent is.

However, larger opponents can often be quite frustrating to play. Their bigger frames often make it a little more difficult to move around and past them, and, matches certainly have the potential to get more physical.

Even smaller things like not being able to see the ball when they're in front of you can make it very easy to lose your head and get frustrated.

But, this is the time to focus on sticking to your game plan and avoid getting discouraged if things don't go your way. Stay mentally focused and resilient, and trust in your abilities to turn the match in your favor.

The mental side of the game can often have more of an impact on the outcome of a match than the physical side, so, maintaining a positive mindset can make a significant difference in your performance on the court.

Keeping your head in the game is crucial for maintaining focus and making good decisions under pressure.

This means staying mentally disciplined, regardless of the score or circumstances of the match. Avoid getting caught up in negative thoughts or emotions, and instead, stay positive, confident, and composed.

Once a point is over, try to forget about it and focus fully on your strategy for the next rally instead.

Your mentality can also have a big impact on your opponent's mentality too. If they see you getting frustrated or playing erratic shots, it can give them a big confidence boost and they may start trying to get in your head further.

Equally, if they see you looking confident and focused, it can get in their head knowing that, no matter what they throw at you, you're going to put your all into the match. 

Remember, squash is a game of momentum, and fortunes can change quickly.

Even if you find yourself trailing in the match, stay patient and stay focused on your game plan. Keep working hard, stay positive, and trust in your ability to turn things around.

With patience, perseverance, and a clear head, you can overcome the challenges posed by larger opponents and emerge victorious!

This article was taken from our 'Control the Kitchen' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!

Published by Alex Robertson April 1, 2024
Alex Robertson