Squash Coaching Blog: Responding to the power drive.

posted in: Coaching, Performance | 0

This is a tough one. If you have played a shot to the front of the court (eg. Boast or drop) but your opponent pounces on it and hits a hard low drive, how do you recover from this.

The first mistake I see people make is to hang back, behind the ‘T’. If you play any shot to the front of the court you must always look to move forward. You have to in case your opponent plays a counter drop; if you are leaning back or behind the ‘T’ you simply cannot reach this counter drop. But also, like a goalkeeper coming out to meet the attacker, it narrows the angle. Yes, moving forwards in the court gives you less time to react if your opponent hits hard, but it gives you much more chance to reach his shot before the second bounce.

My advice would be to come forward, all the way to the ‘T’, and then lean slightly for the cross-court. The majority of the time people will cross-court from the front corners (because they are nervous if the hit straight they will give away a ‘stroke’ if their shot is not tight enough). Do not guess the cross-court though! Just lean that way. Also do not lean back – just lean to the side. A guess is when you have already taken a step to one direction before the opponent has made contact with the ball – this is bad!

This lean towards the cross-court side will increase your movement should your opponent hit to that area, but also this lean will not be preventative should you need to change direction to cover the counter-drop or straight drive. Another reason to cover the cross-court over the straight is because people hit cross-court shots harder than they hit straight shots (again because they are nervous of the ‘stroke’ when hitting straight from the front, so they hit slightly slower in order to control the accuracy of their shot, eliminating the chase of a ‘stroke’ against them).

So, you have your ‘T’ position. You have your slight lean. Next you need to decide whether to move directly sideways across the ‘half-court line’, or side and back. If your opponent hits a narrow cross-court you need to hit the ball before the side wall, so hold your ground across the ‘half-court line’. Strike the ball on this ‘half-court line’. If your opponent hits wide; into the side wall, you need to move one step to the side, then one or two steps back (depending on how deep their shot runs to the back of the court). If the ball will come off the back wall before you need to strike, then good news. This is a chance to win the rally as you have a nice angle to hit straight to the back, making sure your shot avoids the side wall (your opponent will have to stand to the other side of the ‘T’ so they do not get hit, opening up a big space for you to hit straight). If you need to reach the ball after the side wall, but before the back wall, you need to get as far back as quick as possible. There’s a chance you will not be quick enough to get behind the ball, so your options are to boast (as the ball is behind your front leg), or depending how competent you are with the wrist, to hit straight. The danger of hitting straight when the ball is behind you, is that if you cannot or do not judge the correct amount of wrist that’s required to run the ball straight into the back corner (without hitting the side wall), you might hit a poor straight drive that clips the side wall and leaves the ball in the centre of the court for your opponent to punish.

There you have it. Several things to think about when assessing this specific situation. Most importantly though: reach the ‘T’, hold your ground as long as possible and do not guess!