Squash is a game best played simply.
Keeping things simple not only gives you a clear head, which is vital when playing such a fast paced sport, but it makes the most sense when you analyse patterns of movement.
Often in rally you will be placed in a situation where there is one really obvious shot to play, but you’ll find thoughts creeping into your brain like “he knows I’m going to hit a straight drive, so I’ll trick him by flicking the ball cross-court instead”, so you hit a cross-court instead of the obvious straight drive into the open space, and guess what – your opponent is stood right there; you’ve hit it right on to his racket and you lose the rally! Sound familiar?
If a shot is obvious, it’s obvious for a reason – it’s the right shot to play, irrelevant if your opponent knows where you’re going to hit your shot or not. Obvious shots arise because a big gap has occurred to one of the four corners, often one of the back corners. For example, if your opponent plays a loose cross-court drive which hits the side wall and comes out toward the middle of the court, then your opponent will be stuck behind you, they cannot get to the T because of their loose shot, so a huge gap has been created for you to hit a straight drive. HIT IT! Hit the obvious shot. It doesn’t matter if it’s obvious, the distance will be too big for your opponent to reach. A squash court can look quite small sometimes, but when you’re out of position and you need to run into one of the corners it feels extremely big – too big!
A simple philosophy of squash is ‘to hit the ball where your opponent is not’. If a large gap occurs – hit into it. This is the simplest tactic and it keeps things incredibly simple in your mind. As soon as doubt or different options pop into your head, your decision making will slow down and so your shot quality will also decrease.
If we look at two of the greatest players from the last 15 years – Nick Matthew and Amr Shabana. They hold 7 World Championships between them. The way they play squash is incredibly simple. They hit straight drives, not too hard, not too soft, and when their opponent plays a loose cross-court, a loose drop, or a loose boast, they pounce with a simple straight drop or drive into the open space. Yes I know Shabana could do the occasional amazing angled shot which no-one saw coming, but this would be a once in a match occurrence, the rest of his play was measured and simple.
So, learn from the best, keep it simple. Don’t try to second-guess your opponents’ thoughts. If there is a big space in the court – hit into it. No crazy angles and no trying to force something different or unexpected, your staple squash has to be simple drives and simple straight drops into the space.