In the previous article, I unpacked the counter drop shot. Going into that much detail on the shot has really helped me begin to use that shot better in my own match situations over the past week.
So, this week, I thought I'd unpack another shot that I (and many players I know) struggle to get right... the crosscourt drive.
This might be surprising since the crosscourt is seen generally as a pretty simple shot, however, it is actually a pretty high-risk one too. Proper timing and accuracy are essential.
I'll be unpacking the crosscourt drive and will provide some tips for executing them well.
First off, I'll just break down what I mean by crosscourt drive. A crosscourt drive is a shot that's played from one side of the court and lands in the back corner of the other half of the court to the one you played the shot from. It can be played softly or with a bit more pace.
You can play crosscourt drives from the front of the court, the middle of the court, and the back of the court, and, your positioning and timing play a huge role in where that crosscourt lands.
It can be a pretty valuable shot when done right.
You can use crosscourts to catch your opponent off-guard (especially if there has been a lot of straight drives in a row beforehand), you can use them to tire your opponent out by moving them around the court more, and, you can use them to give yourself a bit more time to recover back to the T.
Now, possibly one of the biggest shortcomings of my game is that I play way too many crosscourts, and, what makes that even worse, is that I often don't hit them particularly accurately.
In the intro, I mentioned that the crosscourt drive is quite a risky shot and I feel as though this is something that isn't talked about enough in the squash world. If you're playing a crosscourt, in many situations, your opponent will be on the T while you do so.
If your crosscourt isn't wide enough, it just takes one or two small steps for your opponent to take your loose crosscourt on the volley and put you under immense pressure, or even play an outright winner and get the point.
If your opponent picks your crosscourt on the volley, you're going to have to cover a lot of the court in a short space of time.
So, as I'll mention in the tips section further down, getting the correct width and hitting your targets is what makes a crosscourt work.
Plus, if you play the crosscourt too often, your opponent will begin to predict it and they'll have an even better chance of capitalising on it with an early volley. So yes, I'd say it's pretty risky.
But, if you can use it properly, it can give you a big advantage over your opponent, so, below are some of my tips for becoming the king or queen of crosscourts...
1. Get that width and know your angles
Width is what makes or breaks a crosscourt.
As mentioned before, if your opponent gets the opportunity to volley it, you can end up in hot water fast. The ultimate goal of a crosscourt is to get it past your opponent so they have to move into the back corner and you can take control of the T.
The best thing you can do to figure out width is practice it in friendlies and drills. This is the easiest way to work out which angles your opponent will struggle to volley the most.
Some might argue that there are certain areas on the side wall that you should aim for so your opponent can't volley it, however, I'd argue that it completely depends on where you're positioned on the court and where your opponent is positioned too. No two positions are exactly the same.
So, I'd personally say that figuring out the right width from different positions is going to be a bit of trial and error.
There are some great drills for practicing width. My personal favourite is just a simple crosscourt game. You're in one half and your opponent is in the other half (forehand and backhand sides) and you have to hit every shot into your opponent's half.
The ball can land in the front or the back, it doesn't really matter as long as it doesn't land back in your own half. This drill allows you to practice crosscourts from the back, middle, and front of the court.
Another great drill is the crosscourt volley game. This involves both players standing on the T line on either side of the court and the idea is to try to volley the ball crosscourt past your opponent.
Of course, they'll then be volleying it straight back to your half if you don't get the perfect width, and the rally goes on like that until a player makes a mistake or can't volley it.
Both players should be aiming for around service line-height on the front wall.
It's quite a fast-paced drill and the rallies may be short, but it's very beneficial for learning volley crosscourts and getting those angles right.
2. Position makes perfect
Now, it's quite difficult to pin down the correct position for a crosscourt, it depends a lot on your standard and racquet abilities. There are a lot of very high-standard players who can flick their wrists and play crosscourts out of the back corners from seemingly impossible angles.
These players probably won't benefit much from this tip.
Getting around the ball to play a crosscourt from the back can be a lot harder for amateur players and club-level players. Positioning is key.
You need to be able to get your feet and body a little bit behind the ball so that you play your shot when the ball is slightly in front of you to ensure you can get that good width. In contrast, when you play a straight drive, you can play the ball when your shoulders and the ball are parallel with the side wall.
If your shoulders are facing more toward the back corner, it becomes very difficult to get your racquet round behind the ball to generate the angle you need and you may end up hitting the shot loose.
However, if you're playing it from the front of the court, you can get a little more creative with your positioning by showing multiple shots.
You can get in position to play a straight drive, but it doesn't take much extra effort to slightly change your swing at the last moment and flick a cross court. This leads me on to the next tip...
3. Combine hold and wrist for extra deception
This mainly applies to crosscourts played from the front of the court, however, it can be used from the back corners too.
Timing is everything in front court situations.
If your opponent plays a defensive boast, your options are as follows: you can move in fast and take the ball super early, you can take your time and play a decisively accurate shot, or you can get to it fast but then pause and hold until the last second to catch your opponent off-guard and disrupt their flow and movement.
I'd argue that the hold followed by a crosscourt is one of the most effective shots you can do off of a boast. If you can move in fast, your opponent is likely to react by rushing their own movement back toward the T as they need to be able to cover a drop shot in case you play one.
If you then execute a hold, this will make your opponent stop more abruptly on the T and even go flat-footed, and then, when you play a beautifully perfect crosscourt, they're going to have to push off hard and move all the way back into the corner they just came from.
There are a couple of things you can do to make this shot even more effective: you can use your body to block your opponent's view of the ball and they'll have no idea where it's going until after you've hit it, or, you can do my personal favourite shot and move in showing a straight drive but then flick it cross court at the last moment.
It does take a bit of practice to develop the strength to hit a good crosscourt using a lot of wrist, but once you get the hang of it, it's great fun.
If you combine this wristy crosscourt with a well-executed hold, it's a recipe for disaster for your opponent.
You also don't need to apply much pace to get the ball to the back of the court, so you can use a shorter swing and access a bit more wrist.
Just remember, the risk is still very high. If your opponent believes that you're going to play a crosscourt and commits to trying to volley it, and then you don't get good width on top of that, chances are you will lose the point since you're so far in the front corner.
4. Get your ratio right
It shouldn't take long to cover this point, but, it's the one I struggle most with as I play far too many crosscourts.
Crosscourts lose their effectiveness the more you play them.
If you go straight a lot more often and then throw in a crosscourt more rarely, it can have a much bigger impact on your opponent.
My coach always used to say for every 5 drives you should play 1 crosscourt. Perhaps it's not a good idea to set a specific limit like that, but it could be a good place to start if you're like me and play this shot far too often!
Anyway, I hope you've learned or gained something from this week's newsletter, I'm hoping that by writing this all down, I will learn from it as well and improve my own game.
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!