Tuesday, 1 October 2013

2nd most valuable front court squash shot ....

Second most valuable front court shot ... The straight low long drive

So let's go back up to the front court area, and consider what is the next most valuable shot after the high cross court lob. Remembering that the cross court lob is a defensive shot, it makes sense to look at what options we have for attacking our opponent when we're in the front court.

But first let's look at the front court situation - 

If you've just been pulled into a front corner by your opponent, it is basically one of two scenarios: 

One, your opponent has hit the ball into a front corner from either a position already in the front, or from the T area. Either way, most likely when the opponent hits this ball, they're in front of you as they hit it, as you've either hit a weak shot that they've intercepted, or they possibly pressured you in the back court, and you're only option was to send something short into the front such as a boast, or maybe just blocking the ball towards the front. 

Second, is when the opponent has hit the ball into the front, or into a front corner, while they are behind you, as in when they've hit a boast out of a back corner.

In the first scenario, it is usually you who is now under pressure, as your opponent took advantage of positioning to return the ball to the front when you're in a disadvantaged position somewhere behind him. Thus, as you move forward to hit the ball that is in the front, you're effectively on the defensive. Whether you're quick to the ball or not, your opponent already is, or should be, in a good position to cover most of the shots that you may hit, in particular they're very likely going to handle, with relative ease, any shots that you hit crosscourt. (the only caveat is when your opponent's shot is sitting up a bit, and thus you can hit it flat or even downward a bit, thus you can hit a very hard flat, low cross court drive)

Even the shots that you hit wide enough to get to the opposite side wall without getting intercepted, your opponent will only have to take a step or two backwards and they'll be hitting the ball from the central back area, which means, that in keeping the front wall clear you will have to give away more than half the court. Really in this situation the only reasonable defensive shot is the high cross court lob. And that's exactly why it is so common at the highest professional levels; it is not only the very best defensive option from the front corners, hit well, the high cross court lob will completely turn the pressure onto your opponent.

As a complimentary option to the high cross court lob, the other shot that is very effective, is the straight flat drive down the wall from the front corner. 

When your opponent has sent you into a front corner, and they are positioned on the T, any shot that you hit, that stays in the front, runs the risk of being taken early, and driven by your opponent towards the back for a winner. Meaning, for example: your opponent hits a shot into the front, and you move in and re-drop the ball, if your opponent is in a good T position to cover the front, then unless your shot hits the nick, your opponent should likely move in and drive your shot to the back court. If your opponent has moved in quickly to do this, then it generally results in either a winner, or a shot that puts you under extreme pressure.

Really, when you've been sent into the front corner, you should only being hitting a re-drop in two cases: ... 1- You are sure that the opponent is out of position and has not recovered to the T, ... 2- You've developed effective deception in the front court (ala' K.Darwish, J.Willstrop, J.Power), and you can hold your stroke forcing the opponent to wait on the T, expecting and covering a deep shot, then hitting the re-drop to effect. 

If you frequently find that when your opponent sends you to a front corner, that you are not able to begin to assert control of the rally, then you're going to need a new stroke in your front court repertoire to not only get you out of trouble, but to put pressure back on to your opponent. Again, this shot is the straight, fast, low drive along the wall to the back corner.

What does this shot do? It takes the shortest distance from the front wall to the back wall. Because it's low, it is harder to intercept or volley. With your opponent on the T, this shot is the one that will most likely force your opponent to lift the ball, because it will have gotten past them; being low and long, their most likely option is to hit some sort of boast. 

The risks? Basically two risks: One, the opponent has anticipated the shot and moved toward the wall to cover the shot. Then this will in result in a Let or Stroke. Two, your shot is not accurate enough and hits the side wall, bouncing out making it easier for the opponent to handle the shot.

The first risk is ameliorated by developing two or three shots from that front corner. Because when you have two or three options that the opponent has to cover, they're less likely to anticipate. Unless they're feeling desperate and that a 50/50 guess is their best course of action. This takes practice, you need to develop an equal level of comfort hitting two or three shots out of both front corners. 

The second risk (the drive hitting the side wall) is also dealt with, through concerted practice. As with anything else, to develop a controlled and accurate drive, needs practice. It is important to note that for this shot to be most effective, you want to hit the ball so that it will travel past your opponent before it takes its first bounce.

So, if you develop into your front court game the high cross court lob, and the straight low, fast drive, you'll have the two most useful strokes. It will take time, they need focused practice. Hit well, these shots are going to frequently give you a dominant position in the rally. Hit poorly, these shots will cost you. But this is true with any shot in squash eh?

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