The back of the court is often seen as a place for building the foundations of the rally using depth to create volleying opportunities for yourself, however, there is a lot to be said for mixing things up a bit and playing a drop shot from the back of the court.
Of course, this shot comes with a decent bit of risk, but, if executed well, it can also reap big rewards!
In this article, I'll dissect the back court drop shot, give some tips for execution, and run through my favourite two drills for practicing it...
The back court drop shot is something that I only recently incorporated into my own game, and, now I've had a bit of practice at the shot, it's allowed me mix things up even more during rallies.
It's always good to have another shot in your arsenal!
I've never really noticed it before, but professional players actually use this shot a lot more than you might expect.
Next time you're watching a pro match, keep an eye out for back court drops and see for yourself.
This is what encouraged me to try it out myself, as beforehand, I always used to think it was far too risky.
But, can you blame me? It is a pretty risky shot!
Your opponent is most likely positioned on (or almost back to) the T when you're in the back of the court, so they don't actually have too far to move to retrieve your drop shot from the back.
If you compare this to playing a straight drop off of your opponent's boast, for example, in this situation they will be moving all the way from the back of the court into the front which can put physical pressure on them.
Anyway, if your drop shot from the back isn't short enough, or if it comes out into the middle of the court, your opponent pretty much has free reign to play any shot they want, while you will have to scramble out of the back corner to reach it.
Hopefully, this isn't putting you off playing drop shots from the back, it's just important to be very cautious if you do want to play it, as a small margin for error can make a big difference in the rest of the rally.
So why should you play it at all?
Like many shots to the front of the court, even playing one drop shot from the back shows your opponent that you're capable of playing it and forces them to have to cover that shot as well.
Considering the majority of rallies in squash are to the back of the court, if you've shown your opponent that you might play a drop from the back, they'll have to stand just a little further forward on the T in case you play it again.
This means they have further to move into the back of the court each time you play a drive, and, possibly the most important factor of the back court drop shot, it also makes it harder for your opponent to get into a rhythm with their own movement.
Many length exchanges involve quite low-energy movements and players often don't move all the way back to the T if they're just expecting another deep drive. But if you throw a drop shot from the back into the mix, it can catch your opponent off-guard and stick in their head which can affect the fluidity of their movement.
With that said, it is a pretty tough shot to play, so, here are a few tips for executing the straight drop shot from the back of the court...
Positioning is Vital
Given the risky nature of this shot, the stars need to align in order for you to play it. Having plenty of space and being in the right position are key ingredients.
There isn't necessarily an 'ideal' position to play this shot, but essentially, as you move into the back corner to retrieve your opponent's drive, you need to make sure you're not too close to the ball.
Otherwise, you'll be forced to flick your wrist and hit with a more unnatural swing, which can really affect the accuracy of your shot.
The straight drop from the back requires a very standard swing that isn't too short and flicky, but isn't too large and sweeping. Ideally, your backswing will show that you could play a deep drive if you wanted too, but your follow-through will be shorter when you proceed to play the drop instead.
In order to execute that swing, you need to be positioned well. Make sure there's enough distance between yourself and the ball when you lunge in to play this shot.
Also, when you move into the back, make sure your shoulders aren't facing the back corner too much, but, also make sure they're not facing the front wall too much either, as this can make it tricky to execute your shot at the right angle.
Ideally, to play a drop shot from the back, your shoulders will be in line with the side wall.
Pick Your Target
When I visualise the drop shot from the back in my head, there are two angles you can aim for, and the one you go for depends on where your opponent's drive lands and bounces in the back corner.
You can either aim for a drop shot that's tight and clings to the side wall, or you can aim for a drop shot that lands in the nick and rolls out.
The ideal time to go for the tight straight drop is when your opponent's shot is a straight drive that's somewhat close to the side wall (although if your opponent's shot is pretty tight, then this isn't a great time to go for the drop from the back).
By 'somewhat close' I'd say if their drive is perhaps within a foot or two from the side wall, then you should be able to execute a tight straight drop from this angle, any further out and you might opt to aim for the nick instead.
But, I'd say that the best time to aim for the nick when playing a drop from the back is either when your opponent plays a deep crosscourt or a very loose straight drive.
If their deep cross court hits the side wall, then the floor, then the back wall, and bounces out more towards the middle of the court (rather than the corner) and enough for you to access that large backswing, then you are positioned at a great angle to go for the nick.
This would also work if their cross court landed floor, then side wall, then back wall. Essentially, any deep length that bounces out the back loose enough for you to cut that ball toward the nick will work great.
Learning which back court drop to go for at which time just comes with practice.
Play With The Pace And Add Some Cut
You can always experiment with the drop from the back of the court. Changing up the pace is just another great way to keep your opponent on their toes.
You can opt for a soft, delicate drop shot that lands very far into the front corner and forces your opponent to have to cover a lot more court.
Or, you could opt to play your drop with a little more cut and power to make your opponent scramble to reach it.
Adding some cut (or slice) to this shot can also help the ball die faster (or bounce twice faster).
Either option works well, but being able to do both just gives you more ammo in your match!
Photo credit: Steve Cubbins
Take Your Time
Playing a drop from the back is very different to playing a volley drop or a drop off of a boast.
Usually, with a volley drop or a drop off of a boast, you will be aiming to take the ball early to take time away from your opponent and keep them off the T.
When it comes to playing a drop from the back, your opponent will already be on the T so taking the ball early and rushing it won't have the same effect of keeping them off the T and making them have to move further.
Therefore there's no need to rush the drop from the back.
To execute your shot as accurately as possible, it's vital to give yourself plenty of time to guide the ball in exactly where you want it to go.
The best time to play the backcourt drop is when your opponent has hit their shot a little too hard so it bounces out of the back corner a lot, this will give you all the time you need to play your shot well.
Watch Your Opponent
Last, but not least, keep an eye on your opponent and their positioning when you play your drop from the back.
This will help you figure out whether it's going to be an effective shot.
Make sure to observe their stance and racquet position which will indicate how relaxed or alert they are, if they have quite a relaxed stance, perhaps a drop from the back will take them by surprise and make them scramble.
Also, observe their position to see if they're hanging back at all. If they are, perhaps that's the ideal time to play a drop from behind them.
Then, just after you play your drop, watch how they move to retrieve it. You'll be able to see if they hesitated or guessed and started to move in a different direction first and this will tell you if your shot was deceptive or if it caught them off guard.
It's also a good idea to keep an eye on your opponent's positioning in later rallies after you have played a back court drop (to see if they have modified their positioning to cover this shot).
There are tons of basic drills that are perfect for helping you practice this shot, you can incorporate the drop from the back into any conditioned games or sequences with your training partner too.
The key to unlocking and procuring this shot is practice, practice, practice.
Here are a couple of my personal favourite drills for improving your drop from the back...
The Front v Back Game
It's quite self-explanatory, but essentially, the front vs back game involves one player hitting from the front and one player hitting from the back.
The player at the front has to hit everything to the back of the court (bouncing behind the T line) and the player at the back has to hit everything to the front of the court (bouncing in front of the T line).
The player at the front gets to practice their straight and crosscourt drives from the front, and the player at the back gets to practice their boasts and drops from the back.
Of course, if you want to learn the back court drop, then you should focus your efforts on playing that shot more in this drill!
You can do it without scoring, or, to add a more competitive element and make it a little closer to a match situation, you can add scoring in.
I did this drill with a friend of mine the other day and we played first to 21 points and swapped positions after every five points.
It's worth noting that the player at the front tends to do more physical work than the player at the back, which is why it's a good idea to switch regularly.
This one is a pretty basic one, but sometimes that's all you need! I often use this drill to warm up with a training partner too.
Essentially, one player is at the back playing drop shots to the front, and the other player is at the front playing straight drives to the back.
That's all there is to it really!
Again, this one can be just like a routine without scoring, or you can add in points to make it a little more exciting.
You can also put down some targets to help you know where to aim (for both players). I'd advise using something like pieces of paper so the ball still bounces when you hit the target and the rally carries on.
However, if you're scoring while playing this drill, you could say that you get two points for hitting a target.
Just have a bit of fun with it!
For the player playing the drop shot from the back of the court, I'd advise putting the target around one and a half racquet lengths from the front wall and making sure it's also tight against the side wall.
Of course, you should adapt the location of the target to your own abilities and also to what sort of drop from the back you're trying to improve.
If you're wanting to practice a very soft drop from the back, then put the target closer to the front wall, if you want to practice the drop with more pace and cut, then move it further away.
Anyway, I hope this week's newsletter was helpful! If you don't play this shot currently, I'd highly advise trying it out, if you do utilise it currently, hopefully these tips might help you improve the shot.
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