Racket and body preparation before playing any shot in squash is vital. The right preparation will enable you to execute your shot perfectly while at the same time giving you options.
In the olden days of squash teaching, coaches across the World used to shout at their pupils “racket up, racket up, racket up!!!” People literally used to think that you had to stand on the ‘T’ with your racket above your head to be ready to play the next shot. This is ridiculous.
A players ‘T’ positions needs to be relaxed, with the racket off the ground but whatever is comfortable. I believe the instant a player sees where the ball is going and they begin to move to the ball, the shot preparation begins. In this blog I am going to look purely at racket preparation, not necessarily whole body preparation (ie. shoulder turn, transfer of weight etc).
As a player, your racket arm needs to move in tandem with your first movement off the ‘T’. Whether your first step is forwards or backwards, it is then your racket starts to come into the ‘ready’ position. The racket needs to be back, not up. A big initial preparation is unnecessary and limits your options. Swing size can increase nearer the ball if you need to generate power.
On approach your racket needs to be back, slightly away from your body with the elbow bent at roughly 90 degrees. It should be somewhere comfortable between hip and shoulder height. This is what I call your “default swing”. It should come immediately into this position, coming straight back, not going out toward the ball first. The initial swing does not need to be head height. You also do not want it down too low or out in front of you pointing toward or following the ball (unless completely at full stretch). Initially follow the ball with your movement, not your racket.
The advantage of having a medium sized default swing is from there you can do anything. You can stay at that size to control in a drop shot, you can raise it slightly to zip in a drop or kill shot, or slice through for a medium paced drive. You can also build the swing higher to generate more power for harder drives and kill shots. This default swing can also enable you to react quickly and volley or block the ball if somebody hits the ball hard or quickly, whereas a larger swing preparation that goes out before it comes back will not allow that.
LESSON – the racket should immediately come back, not up.
In these pictures we can see Greg Gaultier, Mo ElShornagy and Ali Farag have a perfect default swing as they approach the ball. From here they could push in a drop shot; they could quickly build their backswing higher to hit a hard straight or cross-court drive; or even, it’s a nice sized swing to hold the ball for as long as possible to draw their opponent forward for the drop shot and then hit the ball elsewhere on the court as they all still have enough of a backswing to generate sufficient power to hit any shot other than a drop.