Squash Coaching Blog: No Side Wall

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One of the hardest things in squash, which the top players do incredibly well, is to hit an aggressive drive which runs away from their opponent.

This sounds easy, to get the ball to run into the back corner, but it is not. Whenever you have an angle to hit a straight drive there is a massive opportunity to either win the point or at least set up an easy next shot. By ‘having an angle’, I mean that the ball has come off the side wall and is coming toward the central line slightly. This happens after your opponent has played a loose cross-court which is slightly too wide or too short and not wide enough, or a poor straight drive which has bounced into the side wall before it hits the floor resulting in the ball coming away from the side wall. In these cases your opponent must stand slightly to the other side of the ‘T’ so they do not get hit from your shot. This opens up a big gap on the straight line for you to hit into.

As I said, it sounds easy to hit a straight drive into this big gap, but it is not easy to execute well. What you are aiming for is a low drive which will not bounce off the back wall, and most importantly a straight drive which does not hit the side wall. The second your shot hits the side wall, pace comes off the ball and it begins to travel back towards the centre of the court, giving your opponent a good chance to recover your shot.

If you can avoid the side wall (so your shot runs almost parallel to the side wall), then your opponent basically has no chance of retrieving your shot (as long as you do not hit too short or too long). The Egyptians are exceptional at this. They seem to understand better than anyone that there are often situations where it is better to hit the ball loose, away from the side wall, knowing their opponent is stuck in a position where they cannot reach one back corner of the court

Once you are looking for these situations you will soon realize they actually crop up almost every rally, sometimes a few times in a rally. These are your half chances which you must pounce on. It’s easy not to recognize these chances, they pass you by and the rally simply continues. The first step is awareness, then the next step is execution.

Look out for these situations the next time you play, and simply hit a running drive into the space, and watch your opponent scramble. Any possible risk free way of winning a point is essential (by ‘risk free’ I mean to win a point without the risk of aiming close to the tin).

In both these pictures you can see how ElSherbini and ElShorbagy have their opponents stuck behind them, and slightly to the other side of the T. All they need to do is to hit low and straight, avoiding the backhand side wall, and then they’ll win the point.