Right, let’s talk tactics – the volley drop.
A hugely important shot as this is often your winning shot or sets up an easy winner into the open space in the back, either way it is vital. However, like the boast, we must play it at the right time otherwise we can put ourselves in big trouble.
I’m constantly striving to simplify squash as much as possible by breaking it down into a handful of simple rules, for example my particularly popular recent blog suggesting which shot to play from each of the 3 zones of the court (front, middle and back).
Let’s look at volleying a straight drive and volleying your opponents cross-court drive.
Intercepting a straight drive.
This is an ideal situation to hit a straight volley drop (especially on the backhand). Why? I know people often think here would be good to hit a volley boast or flick cross-court drop because the diagonal line is the furthest point for your opponent to run. True but it is not the hardest or slowest position for your opponent to run to. The front corner on the same side is. Let me explain…
Moving the full length of the court on the diagonal is a long distance but it’s a straight line, and one in which your opponent will continuously gain speed on. You have to remember that your opponent will automatically move towards the T after their drive from the back corner, so to then cover the straight drop they have to change direction to cut back to the same side. This change of direction slows them down considerably.
Not only is the straight drop shot from this situation the hardest place on the court for your opponent to run to, but you have the advantage that even if they reach your drop shot, they will be hindered by the side wall, meaning the chances of them hitting a loose return for you to easily hit into the open space are very high.
Intercepting a cross-court drive.
If your opponent cross-courts out of the back corner, more often than not this is actually a good situation to volley straight but to the back. Why? You may think you are turning down a great opportunity to win the rally here?
Yes, it can be a good situation to win the rally (if you have a forehand volley drop like Nick Matthew!), but let’s remember what we just learned – your opponent will naturally come out of the back corner towards the T, they will then very quickly see they’ve hit a loose cross-court and speed up in case you volley their shot (which you are going to do). So actually, your opponent will reach the T very quickly, so are pressuring your drop shot which you will no doubt sense. This sense of pressure can make you tense up and hit the tin if you play a volley drop, or hit slightly too high or wide resulting in your drop shot hitting too high on the side wall and therefore sitting up near the middle of the court for your opponent to attack.
This is why I feel it is a good situation to volley straight to the back. You opponent rushes forwards to cover a potential drop shot, then has to stop in their tracks, push off to move into the back corner. Not only does this ‘stop and push back’ drastically slow your opponent down but it tires them out too. I personally love seeing my opponent run around getting tired!
Like I always say, variation is the key to good squash, but so are simple rules which keeps your head clear and your demeanour calm. Stick to your simple rules, and you only need to vary your shot from the same situation about every 4 times. You’d be surprised how little you need to stray away from your basic rules in order to add doubt. I know you will feel predictable but honestly, just that variation every 4 shots from the same situation is enough to keep your opponent guessing.