Ten simple tips for squash players who are new to doubles tennis

You can tell squash players who are new to doubles tennis.

New to Doubles Tennis

They run down every ball, rarely come in behind a serve, and, hit loopy ground strokes from the base line.

Works great, when you play singles; not so much in doubles.

There is more to doubles tennis than power and speed. Keeping control is not easy when you are playing half-volleys or hitting an overhead shot off a deep volley.

It’s also about how two players can work together as a team. Often, it is about setting up a shot for your partner; or, shifting positions to defend against an opponents’ aggressive play.

One thing is for sure – your position on the tennis court depends on the situation, even when you are not hitting the ball. After all, in doubles tennis, you can win a lot of points without touching the ball.

So, here are ten simple tips to get better at doubles tennis.

Where you serve from, and where you serve to, are directly related

Generally speaking, players tend to be more confident on their forehand than their backhand. It would make sense to try to serve to your opponent’s backhand to improve the chances of getting a weak return. Position yourself closer to the centre line while serving from the deuce side. Take a wider position while serving from the ad side. The more you stretch your opponent on the backhand, the better your chances of a weaker return. If your opponent is left-handed, make sure that you make the adjustment.

If you are the net player, your position on the court depends on the opponents

The effectiveness of your partner’s serve and the aggressiveness of your opponent’s return of serve should have a bearing on your position on the court. Likewise, if your opponent has a massive serve and the opposing net player is always putting your weak returns away, you should rethink your position on the court. It is not unusual in doubles to have both players start out at the baseline and move in when you are firmly in the rally. Moving back to no man’s land – just behind the service line – is not going to help you any.

Don’t worry about looking bad, even the pros play from the baseline depending on who they play.

Here’s a good video on playing from the baseline.

By not coming in, you may be letting your opponents off the hook

Do you stay back when you should be at the net? If you are able to hit a deep, hard shot that stretches your opponent, you must come in to a volleying position to put more pressure on the return. With your partner already at the net, you essentially create a wall that your opponent has to break. The downside of hanging back is that there is no pressure on your opponents.

Unless your opponent has a killer passing shot or lob, you are in control.

When it comes to poaching, leave your opponent guessing

Making your opponent think that you are going to poach – intercepting a shot hit towards your partner – is as important as the act of poaching itself. You will force your opponent to make errors while trying to hit better shots to beat you.

If you are brave enough, you can try the I-formation which can confuse the hell out of your opponent when done right. The downside is that both you and your partner can end up on the same side of the court. Here’s a video that explains the I formation.

Cut off the angles

Depending on how far your opponent is stretched to the sides of the court, you will need to move up and to the side to cut off the angles. If your partner does not move in tandem with you, you are likely to leave gaps that your opponents can take advantage of. Try to do a quick assessment of your opponent’s shot-return options and position yourself to counter it.

Cross over to back up your partner’s move

If your opponent poaches a shot but is not able to put it away, make sure that you cross over to the other side of the court to cover the open court. You don’t want both you and your partner getting caught on the same side of the court.

If needed, move back to the baseline during the course of a rally

Occasionally, we all hit weak returns and fly balls. This is the time to move back to the baseline. They are in control. There is no sense in trying to volley an overhead smash by your opponent. If a player does not have complete control of the overhead shot, the chances of you getting hit are high.

By moving back, you have more time to react and run down what would technically be a put-away shot.

Lob to break your opponents’ rhythm

If your opposing team creates an impenetrable wall by coming in after every shot, occasionally lob the ball to the backhand corner to throw them off. A good defensive lob is sometimes as effective as a passing shot.

Hit to the person who is further back in the court

You don’t have to be Daniel Nester to know that when you return serve, you want to keep it away from the person at the net. The same logic applies for regular rallies. If one of your opponents is playing from the baseline it makes sense to hit the ball to that person.

This may not apply if you are coming in behind a shot to volley at a player’s feet or body.

Communicate with your partner

This is often overlooked by club players. When you watch professional players, you‘ll see that they communicate after every point. Why not you do the same? If you knew which corner of the court your partner is going to serve to, would you not be more prepared for the volley?

So, what are some of the adjustments that you find that you have to make while playing doubles tennis?

 

Five incredible rallies! Which one would you say is the toughest?

Five incredible rallies - squash tennis badminton table tennis

There are two sides to every sport – skill and endurance. The better players have both.

Can one compensate the other?

May be.

We all know players who are talented. Not all of them have the required fitness to last a five setter. On the other hand, there are players who are short on skills but never give up on a point. Whichever category you fall under, the five incredible rallies shown below will give you an appreciation for the skill and endurance required to play at the highest level.

The videos shown below are from YouTube and include advertisements which you will have to bear with for at least for four seconds.

In my opinion, badminton is one of the toughest racquet sports, if not the toughest.

However, it does not get a lot of respect from people who have not played the game. Perhaps they are not aware that a badminton smash can travel at 332 kph.

Here’s a 108-shot badminton rally between Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam and Danish player Jan O Jorgensen which lasts around 2 minutes. The jump smashes, and the backhand corner to corner clears, have got to take its toll.

Sticking with badminton, here’s another incredible 59-point rally from the Commonwealth Games 2014 in Glasgow. The speed and the dexterity required in a badminton doubles match is on full display here. Considering the quality of the game, the fact that Malaysia went on to beat England in this match seems less relevant.

Do you consider yourself a good table tennis player?

Take a look at this 41-shot rally between Nigeria’s Segun Toriola and Singapore’s Ning Gao. This rally reinforces the old strategy, that defence is the best form of offence.

Moving on to familiar territory, here’s a squash rally for a game point that starts out tame and then goes on for an amazing 116 shots, lasting well over two minutes. The match between Scotland’s Alan Clyne and Frenchman Gregoire Marche was won by the latter.

Surprisingly, this rally from Australian Open 2013, received a number of negative comments for being lame. Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils, both from France, trade 71 shots before Simon wins the point. With deep well-placed shots, neither player appears to have a shot at coming in and finishing off the point.

You be the judge.

So, which one would you say is the toughest?

Squash: Court sense and common sense for beginners

If you are an expert squash player, you can stop reading now. Squash court sense

If you are a beginner, or an intermediate level player, read on.

Most players who are new to squash, focus on learning the correct technique – footwork, swing, positioning etc. Yet, some simple things about squash may not be obvious to beginners.

Squash court sense is one of those things.

Having played racquet sports – tennis and badminton – all my life, squash was not too hard for me to pick up. I focused on learning the technique and understanding the rules to improve my game. I took lessons and played with better players who consistently beat me.

A number of them still do.

It took me a while to figure out that there are aspects of squash that are not necessarily tied to technique. I could have adopted them from day-1.

They come with experience. Or, with awareness.

Egg model of squashCheck out Tim Bacon’s “Egg Model of Squash Tactics” that gives you a simple model for shot selection.

So, here are a few things about squash that I learned the hard way.

You’ve got to keep your eye on the ball: This is not something that comes naturally to beginners. In most other sports, the ball and the opponent are in front of you. Turning your head back to keep an eye on the ball is key in reading your opponent’s next shot. This is where protective eyewear comes into play. The last thing you want is to take a hit on your face while watching the ball.

Try and keep the ball to the back of the court: Consistently hitting length involves good technique which beginners typically don’t have. If you hit shots where the ball ends up in the front of the court be ready for your opponent to go on the offensive. Most good players have no trouble getting to drop shots and boasts and will put you in a defensive position.

If you cannot hit consistent length, keep the ball close to the wall: If you are not able to hit clean length shots on both sides of the court, keep the ball as close to the wall as possible. The idea is to limit your opponent’s shot options.

Do not boast unless you have to: Just because there are side walls on a squash court, it does not mean that you have to play boast shots. Good players use boasts deliberately. They use defensive boasts to dig out balls from the back corners of the court and use offensive boasts as surprise elements in game situations.

Limit cross court shots: When you hit a cross-court shot, you are essentially hitting the ball to the side of the court where your opponent is standing. Unless the shot is low, hard, and wide you may be unnecessarily inviting trouble. You are better off hitting the ball down the wall to try to keep it away from your opponent.

Vary your serves: Surprisingly, squash players seem to forget the importance of a serve. While it is nowhere nearly as important as serves in tennis, varying them always keeps your opponent off-balance. Even if you have a great serve, it becomes more effective when mixed with a few variations. Check out this post titled “Do you need a better squash serve?

Power serves are for tennis: Unless you are using a power serve as a variation, you are probably wasting precious energy on the court. If you put a lot of effort into a hard serve, you may not recover quickly enough for your opponent’s hard return.

Minimize unforced errors: If you watch the pros play, you will realize that there are very few unforced errors in a game. They don’t serve out of court, nor do they hit tin after setting up a perfect kill shot. You may have to remind yourself that keeping the ball in play is half the battle. Unless of course you are playing someone half your age!

Cal your lets: It takes you a while to realize that you can actually win points in a squash game without actually hitting the ball. Not calling your lets would simply mean that you are playing from a point of disadvantage – like playing a shot with only half the front wall available to you.

Get out of the way: “Clearing,” or moving away from your opponent’s path is a big part of the game. If your opponent turns around to hit a ball off the back wall, make sure that you are not in between the ball and the wall. The good thing is that if you get hit on a turn-around shot, you get the point.

The bad thing is that it hurts like hell!

Five squash training aids worth checking out

Do you play squash during the summer? Squash Training Aids

Or, do you switch to golf, tennis, or some other outdoor sports?

Either way, if you are taking some time off from active squash, this may be a good time to invest in some training and tune up of your game.

The upside of squash training is that you can do solo drills. The downside is that it can be boring.

To break up the monotony of solo training, you could look at some squash training aids that could potentially help improve your game. Unfortunately, there are not many affordable training tools out there.

Most of the training tools for squash appear to be targeted and priced at a level which only clubs or organizations can afford. The average squash enthusiast would struggle to justify the spend required to acquire some of these training gadgets.

Here are five squash training aids worth checking out.

Footworker Pro: If you do a lot of ghosting as part of your squash training, this may be of interest to you. The concept is simple. The Footworker Pro adds a randomness to your ghosting routine by taking the predictability out of your movements on the court. With settings that take into account your skill level, the device offers variations on speed, duration and areas of the court covered – full court vs. front or back. The Footworker Pro, is placed on the front of the squash court and cycles through a random sequence of lights that turn on and off guiding the player to the next position from where the imaginary ball should be hit. Here’s a demo.

The Footworker Pro is priced at $300 CAD. A software only version of a similar tool is advertised by another company – Squash Footwork Pro – which offers a version that can run on your laptop for $30.

The Squash Cannon: If you don’t much care for solo drills, and cannot always find a partner to hit with, this one may be for you. The squash Cannon is a ball machine for squash.

Endorsed by none other than the former world number one squash player Jonathan Power, the squash cannon has a sixty-ball capacity and comes with a range of modes and timing settings to simulate game situations.

With a price per unit of $3987, this is probably a tool more suited for clubs that offer training for their members and potentially a revenue stream through rentals of the machine.

Here’s a video of the Squash Cannon being used for training.

Smartspeed: Technically, Smartspeed is not a squash training tool – it is way more than that.

With professional soccer player Christiano Ronaldo and American football running back Ryan Matthews featured in its case studies, it is touted as a system for reactive speed and performance training.  In simple terms, it uses a system of timing gates to measure the speed and agility of athletes.

With use cases spanning military, educational institutions, healthcare, and sports, the Smartspeed system is not for built or priced for the individual squash player. The best price I could find for a 4-set Smartspeed Pro system with a bunch of peripherals was $15,000 on eBay.

Here’s how the Smartspeed system is used for squash training.

SquashApp: If you are wondering if there is an app to improve your squash game, rest assured – there is an app for that, sort of.

The app allows you to create an account under one of four different categories – player, coach, Federation, or University. Through a series of inputs that reflect shot type and win/loss data the app generates an analysis of your strengths and weaknesses in a game situation. Here is a comprehensive blog post on SquashApp.

The Racket Bracket I wrote about this a few months ago in a post titled “Five tennis training aids worth checking out.” I believe that this tool could work for squash as well. The idea of cocking the wrist does not come naturally to most beginners and some intermediate players. The Racket Bracket forces players to position themselves and cock their wrists to hit the ball effectively. The goal is to ensure that the players move and position themselves in such a way that the contact with the ball is made at the right point and the right height. In a nutshell, the Racket Bracket prevents or limits the flexibility of your wrist, forcing you to improve your footwork and hitting technique. The Racket Bracket is listed online at $39.99.

Are there other modestly priced squash training aids that should have made this list?