I participated in a local squash tournament recently. While refereeing a 4.5 game, it occurred to me one of the biggest difference between the 4.5 players I was watching and a 3.5 player like me is the consistency of the shots. No matter what the opponent hit (fast, off speed, off the wall, tight to the wall, lobs, etc), these 4.5ers were able to almost always respond with a deep rail or a deep cross court lob consistently. When they were not able to, the opponent would take advantage and start to put pressure. From the pressure, mistakes would snowball into a point or somehow counter pressure would bring stability back to the game (i.e. back to shots/strokes).
In the past during this particular tournament, I wasn’t used to the speed of the game. The courts were “fast” meaning the ball warmed up quickly and became very bouncy. The bounce affected the timing of the my swing and subsequently my shots and my game. It also didn’t help that everyone smashed the ball as hard as possible so that added even more pace to the ball. Additionally, my fitness has always been lacking and my mechanics break down as I’m tired. I continue to work on all these different aspects of the game as much as possible in between the tournaments but I’m realizing that I may need to go to the “round robins” to play with a variety of different people.
With this recent tournament, looking back at the match I lost, I was unable to consistently return my opponent’s serves and shots with a deep rail or lob. From the serves, many of my shots were too short and too shallow allowing my opponent to put pressure. And even if I was able hit a semi-decent rail, they were too far from the sidewall or bounced too far off the back wall allowing my opponent time to setup his shot. When I was able to hit deep shots that put him under pressure, I was able to control the rally and ultimately be able to win the point. This tells me that I’m just not consistent enough to be able to execute these shots yet during a game. Ultimately, it comes down to who is able to make the least amount of errors.
Looking back at the matches I won, I was able to hit the deep rails that put my opponent under pressure from the start (especially when he served). When I wasn’t able to hit deep rails, I ended up being under pressure and generally lost or got lucky and the opponent lost the point. So again, it tells me that I’m not consistent enough to execute. One really positive outcome is that my recent change to my lob serve really helped with winning points against my opponent. I had at least 3-4 points per game that was a result of my lob serve being unreturnable. This also included in the match I lost. This is good validation that this new way of serving should be refined and perfected more.
Based on what I’ve learned and thought about, I think my next steps are to adjust my mechanics based on the speed variability of the ball and less about the overall speed of the game. The best way to to do that would be to play against higher level players during the round robin.