I mention this quite a lot but I cannot stress it enough – please get your RACKET BACK but NOT UP!
So often I see one of two mistakes when a player prepares by taking their racket up and not just back:
1st Mistake of Racket Preparation:
Racket not taken back, but instead directed directly toward the ball creating a ‘poke’ shot. This results in an elbow driven ‘stab’ at the shot, which also allows no follow-through. The backswing and the follow-through are what makes your shot, so this motion of taking your racket directly to the ball without any back motion can only result in making your shot considerably more difficult than it should be.
2nd Mistake of Racket Preparation:
Racket is far too high, with the player holding it way above their head. The consequences of this action are several.
Firstly it takes a relatively long time to get your racket so high that you waste time, and in a sport as fast as squash we need to save all the split seconds we can in order to be effective in our play. A high backswing is fine if you are playing somebody who plays at a comfortably slow pace, but if a high backswing becomes your natural instinct then you will struggle to hit the ball cleanly if you play against an opponent who hits the ball fast and low, you simply cannot prepare quickly enough, and if the ball is constantly around your ankle height, then bringing your racket down from high above your head to so low down is extremely time consuming.
Secondly, you will find yourself hitting down on the ball when you are pressed for time, meaning the likelihood of you hitting the ball down into the tin greatly increases.
Back not Up:
What I mean by taking your racket back not up; is to quickly bring your racket back towards the back of your body. Initially it doesn’t need to come further back than that. So if the ball comes at you quickly this gives you a short and ‘punchy’ swing, with a small but low backswing, and a shot follow-though. This is enough to direct the ball wherever you want when you have very little time to react. Mohamed ElShorbagy does this superbly. He has a short initial backswing, especially on the backhand. It come back level with the back of his body, and no higher than chest height. From here he can play any shot.
If a short and chest height backswing can become your ‘default’ take back you will be able to adjust to any type of opponent. Any time you have more time on your shot, and you want to generate more power or deception, you can simply raise you swing higher. This cannot be done the other way around. If you have a big and high ‘default’ take back it is incredibly difficult to change and adjust your take back to a shorter one when you are regularly deprived of preparation time in rallies.
The importance of Racket Preparation and Follow-Through
The follow-through is the most important part of the squash swing. This seems ridiculous because the ball has left the racket already, but the follow-through will determine control, power and guides your shot in the direction you want it to go in. The importance of the preparation or ‘take back’ is to allow the follow-through to occur. It is very difficult to create a follow-through with no backswing. When you do your swing becomes ‘jerky’ and disjointed, which in-itself loses control of the squash ball off your racket strings.
Many people think drop shots require a stunted follow-through, or even no follow-through in order to take pace off the ball. Do you? Next time you watch squash on BT Sport or Squash TV, please take note of the follow-through when the players play a drop shot. Players like James Willstrop and Ali Farag always have a follow-through to guide the shot where they want it to go, they simply use a soft and ‘cushioned’ follow-through to take pace off the ball in order to hit a soft drop shot.