The more I watch professional squash the more I notice that they utilise the counter drop way more often than I thought. This has also made me realise that I very rarely play this shot myself and, indeed, many club-level players also neglect the shot too.
For those of you who don't know, a counter drop essentially means to play another drop shot straight after your opponent has played their own drop shot against you.
It can be an incredibly useful weapon on the squash court and can give you the opportunity to gain extra points, keep yourself in a rally, and put your opponent under a lot of pressure.
Let's talk about the counter drop...
Just a short note before I begin, it could be argued that playing a crosscourt drop off of your opponent's straight drop could be classed as a counter drop too, however, for the purpose of this article, I'll just be talking about a straight drop being played after your opponent's straight drop.
Anyway, I guess a good place to start when breaking down this shot is to discuss why it can be such an effective shot...
As I mentioned in the intro, the counter drop is actually played very often in professional squash. You may have already known this, but I only really noticed it within the past month or so.
From watching proactive players such as Mazen Hesham, Mohamed ElShorbagy, and Nour El Sherbini utilise the counter drop regularly, it's pretty clear that this shot is an attacking shot.
If your opponent has just played a drop shot and you're on the way to retrieve it before it bounces twice, your opponent is likely to have moved back to the T (or perhaps just in front) so they can cover the back corners of the court.
If you just get there before the second bounce and play your counter drop, your opponent will have to move all the way back into the front, however, if you get to your opponent's drop very early and play your counter drop straight away, they may still be moving back out of their shot towards the T.
This means that they have to completely stop that movement and then move back towards the front again which takes time and energy. This highlights just how important timing is when you're playing a counter drop.
This fast change in movement direction is very hard for your opponent to do and gives your counter drop a good chance of being a winner, however, if they do manage to reach it, it will certainly begin to wear them down and they may struggle to do anything substantial with their next shot since they're scrambling to get yours.
Once you have a better grasp of the counter drop, you can even start to play around with the timing yourself. If you get to your opponent's drop really early, you can try doing a hold, showing another shot (like a drive to the back), or even doing a fake swing followed by your counter drop.
I think that the counter drop is widely thought of as an attacking shot, but this got me thinking, the counter drop could also be classed as a defensive shot as well...
If your opponent's drop shot is very accurate and you're scrambling to get there yourself, this could mean that your opponent has had plenty of time to get back into position and prepare for their next shot. Meanwhile, you're at risk of playing a weak shot just to get yourself out of trouble.
Many players would go for a lob or a hard low crosscourt drive in this situation, however, your lob needs to be incredibly high and your crosscourt needs to have just the right amount of width, otherwise your opponent will look to pick it off with a volley it and you run the risk of losing the rally.
However, if you just stick in as best a counter drop as you can (given the high-pressure situation that you're in), it will still make your opponent have to do another uncomfortable movement into the front corner and could give you a little bit more time to get back into the rally.
Although it can be very hard to play an accurate counter drop in a situation like that and may be classed as a bit of a last resort, sometimes you don't have much of a choice.
You can't go straight because you'll run the risk of conceeding a stroke, and the crosscourt could be very risky too, so arguably, the counter drop might be the safest defensive shot to go for. But this is up to your own best judgement to decide!
The final benefit that I'd like to mention is that, if your opponent hits an average drop shot into a front corner, it gives you more of an opportunity to hit the ball even shorter and more accurate than your opponent.
Playing an accurate drop from the back of the court is tough, playing an accurate drop from the middle of the court is quite a lot easier, but playing an accurate drop when you're already right in the front corner should in theory give you the best chance possible of playing a very accurate shot.
If your opponent has taken pace off of the ball with their drop and it has bounced quite short, you can then take the pace off that again and the ball will land even shorter, forcing your opponent to move very far into the front corner to retrieve it.
You can then do what your opponent was probably about to do and look to pick off their crosscourt or straight drive with a volley.
However, it's important to note that, quite often, situations like this often result in a little drop shot rally at the front of the court as neither player wants to risk hitting it to the back in case their opponent volleys it, so just be prepared for this scenario!
When thinking about the risks and drawbacks associated with counter drops the phrase 'high-risk, high-reward' comes to mind.
If you're playing a counter drop, it has to be played very the highest level of accuracy possible. If you hit it a little too high or a little too loose, you run a very high risk of losing the rally, however, if you play it accurately enough, it also has quite a high chance of winning you the point too.
Then, if you're trying to play your counter drop as tight and low as possible, you run quite a high risk of making an unforced error and hitting the tin yourself, which isn't ideal.
It's vital that you play the counter drop with conviction, with confidence, and at the right time.
The counter drop also loses its effectiveness the more often it's played during a match. If you play a counter drop every time your opponent plays a drop, they catch on pretty quickly and will then begin anticipating it and capitalising on it.
You'll then find yourself on the back foot pretty quick.
Last, but not least, you need to be careful who you're using it against.
The counter drop can be a very powerful weapon against almost any player, however, if you're playing someone who is a much higher standard of player than you are, then you might struggle to play it effectively.
Also, if you're playing against a very fast-moving player or a very fit player, then your counter drops may not have the intended impact on them physically that you were hoping for.
If you're playing a match against someone new and they're very fast or fit, it's vital to be able to identify it fast and adjust your game plan accordingly. If the counter drop isn't working for you, it's best to just cut it straight out rather than trying it over and over again since you run a great risk of conceding more and more points.
If you're not confident with your drop shots, perhaps you shouldn't try playing counter drops during matches just yet. Instead, incorporate drops and counter drops into your training.
You could do some drills and conditioned games that involve drop shots (such as a front court game or playing a feed then a drop to yourself), or, you could focus on trying the shot out during friendly matches. This will really help you prepare to use them in competitive matches.
I would advise focusing on tightness first and shortness second because, even if your shot is very short, if it's loose and your opponent gets to it, they can play pretty much any shot they want. If it's tight, they're much more limited with their shot selection, even if it doesn't land as short as you'd first hoped.
A bonus tip is to add a bit of slice to your counter drop as this will help it cling to the wall more and die a bit further forward.
My final, and possibly the most crucial, tip (one which I briefly mentioned in the drawbacks section), is that the counter drop is most effective when it isn't played too often. If you just stick one in every now and again, your opponent will have to make sure to cover that shot every single time they play a drop.
This can be very mentally and physically tiring, especially if you're threatening the counter drop frequently and then playing a shot to the back instead over the course of the match.
Hopefully, this has inspired you to incorporate counter drops into your own game. I've got a team match tonight and will try to get a few in there!
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