Coaching Blog: Front Backhand Movement

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Tarek Momen is quick…. very quick – we all know that… but his explosive, attacking movement to the front backhand corner is absolutely textbook, as can be seen in this series of photos.

In this first picture we can see Tarek’s approach to the ball.

2015-05-15 22.59.59It’s dynamic, ending with a large, diagonal lunge toward the ball. He’s going to plant his foot, heel then toes, and on full impact on the floor his swing will follow through, looking to take the ball in line with his diagonal lunge ie. he will hit the ball in front of his body and planted foot, thus continuing the momentum forwards for maximum power.

Taking the ball in front of your body (compared to taking it at 90 degrees, perfectly facing the side wall) will usually lead people to open up their body to face the front corner, thus creating a cross-court shot position (whereas perfectly facing the side wall is a straight drive position). Tarek corrects this by turning his hips in mid air, which will also force the shoulders round. It’s almost like he is coiling his hips in preparation to uncoil and explode into the shot.

This coiling and uncoiling of the hips allows him to take the ball far out in front of him while maintaining his shoulder turn. This shoulder turn gives him options. He can play straight or cross-court. Taking the ball as far out in front of his body as possible provides more forward momentum for extra power and also means he hits the ball earlier – therefore taking additional time away from his opponent.

This second picture shows Tarek immediately after impact.

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As we can see from this picture, Tarek hits a straight drive. Miguel Rodriguez (his opponent) is firmly planted with both feet on the ground. Tarek’s diagonal approach made Miguel possibly anticipate a cross-court drive, and the large diagonal lunge meant he took the ball slightly earlier than Miguel expected, so not giving him time to slit-step.

Tarek’s balance is perfect. The large lunge forward with his back foot anchored, means he can spring back after the shot, using the back foot as a pivot point for his front right leg to then overtake it and go straight back to the ‘T’. As long as you can keep the back leg in position, the larger the lunge forwards, the larger the step back to the ‘T’ after the shot, thus getting back to the ‘T’ in one step, ready for your next shot. Recovering the ‘T’ after every shot is vital, and the quicker the better, something top players make look easy

We can see Tarek’s follow-through has gone straight though the line of the shot, perfect for controlling the ball. A straight drive follow-through should end up more or less out in front of you, while a cross-court drive follow-through will come across your body much more.

It’s obvious looking at Tarek’s balance and follow-through that he hit a perfectly well controlled straight drive. We know from the previous photo that he got a lot of power too. Both these factors have helped him hit a clean winner.

When looking at squash movement, it is always very important to turn your shoulders. This makes straight drives tighter and gives you options on every shot. Most people know this, but I always feel the hips are neglected. It is possible to turn your shoulders without engaging your hips (you simply move your racket arm back to prepare your swing and keep your hips static). I see many people doing this. This offers limited power and dynamism at full stretch.

It is very difficult and awkward to move your hips but not your shoulders. If you move your hips first, your shoulders will follow. When practicing movement, always look to the hips first. A player with loose hips will turn their shoulders and be able to create power. Transfer of weight is always a popular phrase in squash, and rightly so. Weight transfer from back leg to front leg is essential in generating power. This coiling of the hips means you can still build up weight at the back of your body, even when you are moving forward, ready to transfer the weight to the front of your body just before impact, creating an explosion of power (even for a light-weight guy like Tarek!).