Attention to detail is so often overlooked on easy shots, and it’s a massive sin!
It’s easy to watch players like Gregory Gaultier or Raneem El Welily and think you can get away with being lazy on the basic shots, like the serve, or an easy drive from the back corner, or even a nicely set up drop shot. The fact is you can’t, and neither do they. Greg and Raneem make it look easy, as so does Roger Federer on the tennis court, because they have practiced and practiced their movement and technique to make it look smooth and effortless. For these examples their quality of movement gives them time on the ball, and their smooth body rotation seamlessly linking in to their technique can make their shots often look lazy. I’m sure we can agree the world number player one in a brutal sport like squash most certainly cannot be lazy!
Let’s look at a few shots:
Yes it’s easy to hit a serve, but it is not easy to hit a good serve consistently. Always take a second to think and focus. Once you know what type of serve you want to hit and where you need to aim, the work is not yet done. You still need to hit the ball. Pay close attention to your ball toss, something which no body ever talks about. You need to set the ball up perfectly for yourself in order to make striking the ball to your desired spot on the front wall as easy as possible. Make sure your ball toss is not too close to your body.
If you’re facing inwards to the court (facing your opponent), your ball toss wants to be out in front of you, so you can step forward and make contact with the ball directly above the centre line dividing the two sides. As you step in to the shot, lean in with your head too. Watch the ball intently. This will give you balance and focus.
If you are serving with your back to your opponent, make sure you stand at the back edge of the service box, as legally close to the T as possible. This will give you enough space between you and the ball in order to make contact away from your body and with a straight arm at point of impact.
The drop shot
Bend! Get down to the shot. If you are too upright you will bring your racket down from high above the ball, hitting down too much, making your shot considerably more likely to hit the tin.
Try to get as close to the height of the ball as you can. You need to take make contact with the ball a nice distance away from your body. Not so far that you are over reaching, and not too close that you are in any way hampering your own natural swing and follow-through.
James Willstrop is a wonderful role model. Look how low he gets. His eyes are looking along the line of the shot he is playing, not from way above. Perfect.
The drive from the back corner
Treat the drive like a drop shot. Bend. Get down to the height of the ball. If the ball bounces up off the back wall at a reasonable height then you do not have to bend as low, making your life slightly easier. Likewise if the ball stays down low off the back wall, you must put more effort in to bend down lower.
Bending down to the height of the ball, not only gives you stability and greatly improves your chances of hitting a good shot, but it also gives you options. With your knees bent and head balanced looking intently at the ball, you can decide to play pretty much any shot safely, whether it be a straight drive, a cross-court lob, a quick boast or a long straight drop shot.
Below I have a few examples of what not to do and what to do: