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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on September 18, 2023

Squash Trick Shots 101

Trick shots can be a somewhat controversial topic in squash.

They can get players hyped up, they can get the crowd hyped up, and they can win you points when used correctly.

Despite what some people think, having a few trick shots under your belt can be very handy in squash. Sometimes you need to be able to improvise and sometimes you want to deceive your opponent.

There is an argument to be made that trick shots can be played in the wrong way too, for example, if one player is winning quite easily and they're playing trick shots randomly just to show off, which can definitely come across as cocky, rude, and perhaps even disrespectful.

With that said, I firmly believe that there are also many right moments to play trick shots too, and, this is what I want to focus on for this newsletter.

So, this week, I'm going to go through some of the more common trick shots in squash, and the situations in which they can be useful to utilize, and I will also provide some tips for execution...

The purpose of this newsletter isn't to try to convince you to learn and play all of these trick shots regularly during matches, chances are that you'll rarely need a lot of these.

It's more to explain how they are played, and how they can be useful in certain situations.

Plus, trick shots are great fun and I haven't really focused a newsletter on them before!

Let's start with a familiar favourite...

Behind The Back

The behind-the-back shot is quite self-explanatory, it's essentially when you hit the ball behind your back.

This is actually one of the more commonly played trick shots in squash, you will see it pretty often on the PSA World Tour.

Generally, a play needs to hit the ball behind their back when their opponent has deceived them or if they don't have time to leave a shot to go to the back of the court and have to react fast.

For example, if your opponent plays a hard body shot (a shot that hits the front wall then comes fast, straight towards your body), and you're on the T, perhaps you don't have time to split step, move back, and play a normal shot in front of yourself.

Instead, you may have to play the ball behind your back.

Possibly the most common time that a behind-the-back shot is played is when you have played a boast and your opponent moves in shaping up to play a wide cross-court, but instead plays a low, hard shot that goes just behind their back and down the middle of the court towards you (as you are most likely either on the T, or slightly in front of it to cover the drop shot).

A great example of this is one I am also going to feature in the 'Around the Web' section further down. You can watch it by clicking here, or by scrolling to the bottom to read more about the context of the shot and the match it was played in!

Just briefly, it's between Youssef Ibrahim and Mohamed ElShorbagy, Ibrahim hits a pretty accurate, low, hard two-wall boast. Although ElShorbagy is scrambling to get it, he then makes a clever play by hitting it down the middle, meaning that Ibrahim opts to play a behind-the-back shot, which he executes very well!

Of course, these guys are two top professional players, so, if you're looking to practice your behind-the-back shot, remember that it takes a lot of skill to actually play one accurately.

Generally, in amateur squash, the behind-the-back shot is just played as a last resort and not with any real purpose. In Ibrahim's case, you can see that he takes a brief moment to calculate the target of his behind-the-back shot, and then he also hits it with a decent bit of pace, which is very hard to do.

The best way to practice this shot is probably just by doing some solo hitting. Stand on the T and hit some balls directly toward yourself, or a little wider across the court, and then try hitting them behind your back.

If you've never tried this, it'll be strange at first, but you'll get the hang of it. If the ball is coming directly toward your body, the key is in the movement. You need to be decisive and shuffle your feet to get your body out of the way quickly, then, you can figure out the best position and stance to play the behind-the-back shot.

After that, you can start trying to actually control this shot and aim for some targets.

The Tweener

The tweener is essentially when you hit the ball between your legs and there are two ways you can hit one…

The first is when your body is facing the front wall and you have to wrap your racquet kind of behind yourself and play the shot through your legs.

The second is when you’re facing the back wall and you hit the ball through your legs toward the front wall with your racquet still in front of yourself.

Again, there is definitely a time and a place to hit a tweener and you see professional players hit them every now and again when the situation arises.

Generally, you may want to hit the first type of tweener (when the ball is in front of you) in a similar situation to the behind-the-back example I gave above.

If your opponent hits a low hard body shot that is heading pretty centrally towards you and is going to either bounce between your legs or just go through them, it can sometimes be quicker and easier to just do a quick split step with your legs (but not push off) and play a tweener.

The second tweener is a little more rarely used, as in squash, you shouldn’t be facing the back wall very often anyway.

Generally, I see this tweener get played when a player has to run from one of the front corners to one of the back corners very fast. 

For example, perhaps one player has played a boast and then the other player plays a drop, then the first player counter drops that drop so both players are at the front wall, then the second player hits a length to the back that the first player has to run and get.

There is always a chance that this shot to the back is going to bounce out at a strange angle, especially if it’s a cross-court, and this is when the second type of tweener most commonly gets used.

Again, both can be very helpful trick shots for getting you out of sticky situations and helping you stay in the rally when your opponent is throwing awkward angles at you.

The tweener is another one that’s easy to practice solo, just try hitting some balls back toward yourself and then hitting them in between your legs to get a feel for the best timing to make contact with the ball and how to angle your racquet.

The Mizuki

I actually wrote a newsletter that focuses on the Mizuki because it’s one of my favourite shots in squash (if you're interested in a deep dive into the Mizuki, click here, however, I'll do a basic breakdown of the shot here anyway).

The Mizuki is played high up as a volley on the backhand side and, to execute one, you would shape up for a backhand but, as you swing, you would flip your racquet underneath / downwards at the last moment so it basically becomes a kind of forehand.

Click here to see a clip of me executing the Mizuki in slow motion on YouTube (just make sure to head back to the newsletter straight after!

It is quite unorthodox and is one you'll see a lot less on the PSA World Tour, but, it still does happen and it can be pretty deceptive. Due to the way the racquet moves when playing the Mizuki, it's very hard to tell which direction the ball is going to move in.

As I mentioned, it's most often played high up on the backhand side as this is the easiest angle to execute the Mizuki.

So, essentially, the perfect opportunity to utilize the Mizuki is if your opponent plays a loose straight or cross-court lob to the backhand side.

Generally, your target when playing a Mizuki is a kill (either into the nick on either side or tight to the side wall).

I'm not advocating that you start playing this shot regularly, but, I do think that there is a case to be made that it can actually be an effective shot (rather than just a showboating trick).

I play them every now and again during matches also spent a good amount of time practicing this shot as a junior so I'm quite confident when using it.

However, one of the biggest weaknesses in my game is my regular high backhand volley, and, I actually sometimes find a Mizuki easier to play on that side when the ball is above my head.

This isn't really a good thing, and it's definitely something I need to work on, but I just thought I'd mention it anyway!

I found the best way to practice the shot is just by standing on the T and feeding high loose lobs to the backhand side then just trying to play the Mizuki.

Once you get a little more comfortable with that, I found the figure of 8 a good way to play with the angles of the Mizuki, as you can go for the cross-court kill or a straight kill depending on the angle.

The Fake

The fake is another regularly used trick shot in squash. 

A fake is essentially when you swing at the ball but miss it on purpose, then swing again and hit it the second time.

This is more of a proactive, attacking trick shot, especially in comparison to the behind-the-back and the tweener which are generally more reactive, defensive shots for getting you out of trouble.

It can be a very effective method of messing with your opponent's movement and throwing them off of their rhythm.

If your fake is deceptive enough, they may be fooled enough to begin to move towards a shot even though you didn’t actually play it, then, when you do play your actual shot, your opponent will have to scramble to retrieve it, and you may even win the point from this!

English PSA World Tour player James Willstrop is renowned for his incredible fakes.

In one of his most famous clips, he actually does a triple fake where he fakes two shots and then hits the third to win the rally against another excellent shotmaker named Karim Abdel Gawad (watch it by clicking here but make sure to come back to the newsletter)!

You can use the fake from almost anywhere on the court if you've got enough time, however, it's most effective when your opponent is under pressure.

This is another one you can practice solo just to figure out the timing etc, however, if you have a training partner whom you play friendly matches with who wouldn't mind messing around with trick shots in a match situation, then that is the perfect situation to really put the fake into action.

It will help you see the effect it can have on your opponent's movement and rhythm.


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

The Topspin Kill

Another shot that does what it says on the tin, the topspin kill is essentially where you roll your wrist over and strike the ball in an upwards motion while folding your racquet over forwards and aiming as low as possible on the front wall.

It can be played on both sides, but, I'd say that the topspin kill is far more commonly utilised on the backhand side because it's much easier to whip your wrist in the topspin motion on this side.

It can be played on the volley or off of the bounce, however, it's important not to go for topspin when the ball is very low as it's much easier to hit down on the ball with topspin.

Topspin isn't used very much in squash because, if you think about the way that the ball is spinning when you hit with topspin, when it makes contact with the front wall, it will bounce up a little which will inevitably give your opponent more time.

Usually, we slice our shots in squash.

This is one of the reasons why this shot is so risky, it needs to be hit very low and very accurately, with a lot of pace.

However, it can be a very powerful weapon for a few reasons...

Because of the way that your swing's followthrough moves up when you play a topspin kill, it can be very deceiving as it looks as though you're lifting the ball when you're actually rolling your wrist over and hitting it low.

Since it's so rarely used in squash, it often catches your opponent off-guard anyway which can be very helpful.

Youssef Ibrahim (who is also featured in this week's 'Around the Web' section) is an absolute master of backhand topspin kills. You can see what I mean in this clip of him hitting an absurd winner against Mazen Hesam by clicking here.

This is another one to practice solo, just play around with it. Hit some heavy drives that bounce out of the back and go for some topspin kills from there.

You can also hit a few high, soft boasts and play with some angles from those as well.

Overall, I would say that the risk vs reward ratio for a topspin kill is very rarely worth it. It's very hard to hit accurately and, if you miss your target even a little bit, it can put your opponent in a very advantageous position.

The 'No-Looker'

This one is one of the slightly more common trick shots I see from players of all standards. I actually see the no-looker from older, more crafty players pretty often.

The no-looker is basically where you play your shot like normal, but, as you make contact with the ball, you turn your head in the opposite direction to which the ball is going.

Since we usually watch the ball very intently in squash, players normally watch exactly where their shot goes as soon as they have hit it.

The no-looker makes it look as if you've hit a different shot than the one you have actually hit. For example, your opponent plays a weak boast, you slam a straight low drive but twist your head behind you the other way as if you were playing a crosscourt.

You can also exaggerate the no-looker even more by twisting your body in the opposite direction to the ball too, to make it a little more deceiving.

I couldn't source any clips of players doing no-lookers, but I imagine many of you may have seen or tried this trick before.

I'd say it's actually quite a low-risk trick shot, the main thing is that you don't mess up your timing and miss-hit the ball by twisting too early, which would impact the accuracy of your shot.

The Skid Boast & Corkscrew Boast

Now, most of the trick shots I've been going through so far are more focused on the way the shot is played. However, there are also shots that can be classed as trick shots depending on your definition.

I like to class the skid boast and corkscrew boast as trick shots, but, perhaps many wouldn't agree with that.

Maybe they're more classed as unorthodox shots but I thought I'd include them anyway because the skid boast is one of my favourite shots.

A skid boast is played from the back of the court, the idea is to hit it very hard and very high on the side wall and then the momentum will carry it to the front wall, and hopefully, the back corner on the other side of the court.

The skid boast can be played from the front of the court too, although, it's often not necessary to do so since a regular lob will usually do the same job!

Lastly, the skid boast can be pretty deadly if done perfectly, as the ball tends to hit three walls, it has an incredible amount of spin on it, therefore, when it drops into the back corner, it usually dies.

The corkscrew boast is usually played from the middle or front of the court and involves hitting very high right towards the corner (on either side), it should hit the front wall then the side wall, then travel high to the opposite back corner with a lot of spin.

Both of these boasts are absolutely ideal for getting you out of sticky situations as they give you lots of time to recover and get back to the T.

The spin on both the skid boast and corkscrew boast can be very deceptive as it's very unpredictable. Usually, your opponent has to volley it, otherwise, they will struggle to predict the correct position to be in after it has bounced.

These are another two shots you can work into solo practice, and then into friendlies so it doesn't matter too much if you mess them up.

The biggest key is finding the right angle for each one to make it as difficult as possible for your opponent to volley.

The Dive

Perhaps the dive isn't a trick shot either, but, it's something that very few players can execute and recover from.

If it gives you a chance of staying in the rally, then perhaps it can still be a helpful skill to have under your belt.

The dive involves diving onto the floor to retrieve your opponent's shot just before the second bounce, as it's usually an absolute last resort.

However, in the interest of health and safety, I'm not going to advise diving (in matches or training), as there is definitely a risk of injury!

There are a number of players on the PSA World Tour who are known for diving, Paul 'Superman' Coll, used to be more of a diver, but his game has changed a little since then.

Miguel Rodríguez AKA 'The Colombian Cannonball' is another big diver and he always recovers incredibly well to carry on the rally.

However, since I've already included a good few links to clips in this newsletter, I thought I'd use one of the craziest rallies of all time which features a rally between César Salazar and Karim Gawad.

At 2-0, but 10-9 up in the third, Salazar puts literally everything into a rally to take the game. He executes three whole dives, recovering from each one, and he even plays another shot while he's still on his knees trying to get back up, it is absolutely ridiculous!

Check it out by clicking here, then head back to the newsletter!

The Short & Long Holds

The hold is probably one of the most valuable tricks to have under your belt. Holds are used in most squash matches and, if you can practice and improve them, they can be so so effective.

A hold is when your opponent plays a shot and you move to it as quickly as possible (so you have plenty of time), then raise your backswing as if you're about to hit it, then you just wait an extra moment before actually swinging down and hitting the ball.

A short hold is the most common, which is where you just hold for a very short split second to throw your opponent off their movement a little and make them have to take an extra step or two (or more if you're very convincing).

A long hold is a little less common and is played when you have lots and lots of time. You basically just get to the ball as fast as possible but then just hold as long as you can (before it bounces twice) before actually playing it.

The long hold can make your opponent completely flat-footed and, if executed right, can make them have to completely reset their movement.

The hold can be a very powerful weapon, especially during a fast-paced rally in which you're in control, as that's when it will throw your opponent off of their movement the most.

The best way to practice both types of hold is in friendly matches. It's pretty hard to do during solo practice as you won't know if you were deceptive enough or not to fool your opponent.

Anyway, best of luck and I hope this week's newsletter has been fun and interesting.

Perhaps you'll try out some new shots, who knows?!

This article was taken from our On The 'T' 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 September 18, 2023
Alex Robertson