I often hear performance excuses related to the court or the ‘unfavourable’ conditions like; “The ceiling was too low”, “The front wall was very slow”, “I didn’t get on court to play my match until 10.30 at night”, “I played against someone unexpected”, “The ref was bias against me” or “The court was too warm and bouncy”.
Sound familiar? How many of the above excuses have you used before, or heard one of your team mates use, or even more annoyingly, heard your opponent say after you’d beaten him?!
When you see these written down you realize how ridiculous they sound. The conditions were the same for both players on court. Yes, I do recognize if you are the ‘away’ player you can argue that your opponent is more used to the conditions of their ‘home’ court so they know the best tactics to use for that particular court. However; my coach always used to tell me that the dimensions of squash courts are the same in every club in the world, and general tactics in squash will always work well whether you are playing on a bouncy court or a cold ‘dead’ one, or whether it has a high ceiling or a low one. Driving the ball to the back of the court, not playing too many angles (like boasts and cross-courts), making sure your serve hits the side wall, and staying calm – these are things that work in any squash environment, with the last; remaining calm, being the most vital.
So, above all remain calm and stick to the basics of good squash – which involves hitting simple drives aimed at around the service line on the front wall.
Let’s single out a few potential issues and see how we can deal with them.
A low ceiling
Annoyingly you can’t lob as well, but you can still lob, you must simply adjust the height of your shot and aim slightly wider. That way you can prevent your opponent from volleying by using slightly exaggerated width. The same goes for the serve if you usually like to play a lob serve. Hit lower and slightly wider, and once a game maybe serve down the middle to add variation.
The court is too hot and bouncy
I’d personally be tempted to hit hard and low more often. Not low kill shots but low drives which will still run to the back of the court because of the bouncy ball. Another option would be to hit slightly softer so you do not constantly over-hit your drives, the only danger with this would be if you cross-court too much you could find yourself ‘floating’ the ball through the middle of the court too often making it easy for your opponent to volley. Also, do not use the boast often. A boast with a bouncy ball is very difficult to control, and will sit up for your opponent to attack. Use straight drop shots, and even if they are higher or bounce further back than you would like at least you have the security of the ball running along the side wall, thus hampering your opponents’ shot. But remember, over-hitting is better than under-hitting, so don’t be too discouraged if you find your shots bouncing off the back wall more than you’d like, it’s much worse to under-hit and leave the ball in the middle of the court.
I played against an unexpected opponent
So? Play to your strengths. Stick to the things you know you’re good at. If it’s playing slow then do it. If it’s playing fast then do that. You don’t need to go onto court armed with specific tactics every time you play somebody. Have faith in yourself and the way you play squash.
The ref was bias
Undoubtedly a very frustrating circumstance to deal with, but there are ways around it. Try to involve the ref as little as possible. Play your shot whenever physically possible, even if there was a little contact and you feel you can control your shot. Make sure you always hit the ball away from yourself, that way you can never be in the way of their shot. Do not argue, it will not achieve anything apart from getting yourself wound up. Calmly make your point if you feel the need to disagree with the ref, or gently ask the ref to encourage your opponent to keep play as continuous as possible, but stay in control of yourself – good squash will prevail in the end!