I’ve been playing squash for over 5 years now. I’ve definitely improved since I first picked up a racket. I think most of the improvement comes from adapting my previous experience with tennis, a general athletic ability to pick up sports and a dedication to breaking down all parts of my game from swing mechanics to strategic shot selection.
In the most recent local squash tournament this past weekend, I failed to win 2 matches on the first day which guarantees participating in the second day matches. Analyzing what I did right/wrong afterwards I came to a few conclusions.
- Given enough time to set up, I usually will hit a good rail or cross court shot.
- My strategic/tactical squash play is good enough to play at a higher skill level. My court awareness comes from being able to slow the game down with lobs and deep rails. However, once the game speeds up, I lose awareness of the court and prevents me from executing my shots. My shots tend to become just punching at the ball instead of swing/stroking.
- My general form and movement is also good enough to play at a higher skill level. However, my overall fitness is an issue. As I grow tired, my form breaks down leading to loose play and multiple mistakes. This prevents me from executing my shots and general court strategy.
- When I’m hitting rails, I tend to hit the ball straight back at me irrespective if it’s a forehand or backhand stroke. This is great if I’m close to the wall hitting the ball. But if I’m in the middle of the court, this becomes a big liability as the path of the ball puts it close the T. This allows my opponent to not stray far from the T to return the ball. This is also bad if I’m trying to hit a cross court shot as the path of the ball isn’t wide enough to actually traverse the width of the court.
- My lob serves are not consistent enough to rely on from both service boxes. However, when the lob serves are working, they are generally hard to return.
So this new female squash player has horrible form. A glaring example is when she hits the ball. Her wrist isn’t naturally “cocked” which is one way of saying that the racket and the forearm forms a 90 degree angle. So when she goes to hit a forehand shot, it looks like the racket is an extension of the arm with the racket and the forearm forming nearly a 180 degree angle. Her backhand is very similar to the forehand but there’s an added element of trying to snap her wrist on her backhand in order to generate “power.” This results in a “broken wrist” which is bad form. Playing with bad form affects your squash game limiting the strategy and tactics available.
I was also a beginner once. I also believed in establishing strong fundamentals. For squash, a proper forehand and backhand swing is the foundation of being able to tactically hit the different squash shots which opens the court up for even more efficient movement. Don’t get me wrong… Movement is also a squash fundamental too. But movement tends to comes more from playing experience and the discipline/muscle memory of all the squash practice (if hitting with a partner/coach). In some ways, I practiced and corrected my form constantly for 6-12 months because in my mind, I was in no condition to play anyone. Why? Because playing with someone, not only do I need to focus on returning the ball but I also had to focus on the where the opponent would hit the ball and also focus on my movement around the court. Having to think about all these items is added brain functionality that ultimately breaks down everything resulting in nothing going right.
I suggested that this new squash player focus on just hitting against the wall to get her form correct. Her response? She countered that that playing against other people allows her to learn ALL aspects of squash from hitting to movement. I’m not sure how much she’s learning when she doesn’t have a consistent swing and constantly running from side to side.
Trying to be as descriptive as possible…
1) I hit a forehand drop shot/kill shot that is placed at the bottom right front wall just above the tin. First bounce is probably 1-2 feet from the front wall. From my viewpoint, it was less than an inch from the right wall and eventually hit that right wall after the second bounce (which bounced about a foot after the first bounce).
2) When I hit the drop shot, I’m standing on the left side of the court if facing front wall and about 2 steps from the T diagonally backwards to the back left corner. My opponent is even further back probably another 2 steps behind me. When I hit the, I stepped forward towards the front wall to “clear” since the trajectory of the ball was along the right wall. This action (I thought) allowing him access/path to the ball. Although in retrospect, where would I “clear” to?
3) After I hit my shot, I feel him trying to get past me as the ball bounced the first time. Then because he couldn’t get to the ball, he decides to call a Let. His reasoning is… He couldn’t see the ball. Therefore could not react to the shot and ultimately, wasn’t able to retrieve the shot. He cited this “Fair view” rule.
4) After reading this rule, I will admit that I am a big guy. He probably couldn’t see the ball given where he was standing. Yes there was some interference since he bumped into me trying to get to the ball, but I wasn’t purposely blocking his path to the ball.
5) After playing squash, I get a feel for how fast the opponent moves and I think that this shot was definitely a shot he couldn’t have gotten. It was a) well placed, b) tightly hit along the wall, and c) he was backed into the corner and out of position.
6) We argued about this call because he expects me to acknowledge every Let he wants when I clearly think some Lets he calls are really not justified because I caught him flat footed and in a weak position. He disputes the fact that it’s not returnable because he wasn’t able to get to it. But that’s a circular argument. How do you know if you can return a shot if you can’t get to the shot. On a similar reasoning, how are you able to react to a shot if you weren’t able to see the shot because the opponent was blocking your view?
7) If this were a competition, I would have ruled it No Let because it was too good of a drop shot.
Over the weekend, I participated in the Equinox Irvine Squash tournament. It’s one of the two SoCal tournaments with the other being the San Diego Squash tournament. In the previous tournament entry, I washed out of the consolation round relatively quickly. At that time, I lost the first match putting me into the consolation, won the second match in the consolation bracket but lost the third match in the bracket. I had played horribly as well. My serves were not effective. None of my rails were effective. None of the shots were effective as well. And having come back from a vacation, I also was not relatively fit.
This time around, I won the first match, lost the second and lost the third. My serves were better overall, my shot selection was much better than last year and my fitness was improved but still not as good as I need to be to. In the two matches I lost, I made too many unforced errors giving the opponent free points. In one match and over the span of two games which I lost 11-8, 11-9, I made about 7 unforced errors. That’s 7 free points that I just gave to the opponent. For that match each of the games were very close and very competitive and it came down to the player who makes the least errors in all 5 games.
In another match, I made at least two critical mental lapses resulting in giving the opponent 2 free points. As the referee told me before I left, he honestly though that I lost the game as opposed to the opponent winning the game. Although I didn’t make as many errors in the match, I started to get tired and winded. My form started to break down during certain points of each game affecting both the placement and execution of the shot.
The biggest take away from this weekend might be that improving my fitness should lead to fewer mistakes due to fatigue.
This past weekend San Diego Squash hosted a Squash tournament.
The Men’s 3.5 was divided into two groups: a group of three and a group of four. I happened to be in the group of four that needed to play three Best-of-Five matches (two on Sat, one on Sun) with a potential fourth match depending on how well I do against the opponents. Fortunately I did pretty well and won against all three opponents. It should be noted that two of the opponents were junior’s. Their games were pretty straight forward and was easy to either overpower or deceive to win the match.
Unfortunately though, the game on Sun started at 11:15am and ended around 11:40am. And the Final game started at 12:30pm.
Going into the finals, there would be a number of different factors that would undoubtedly affect my performance…
- I was already tired from the 1st game and having less than 1 hour to recover was not enough time. I drank some chocolate milk for quicker recovery but that milk didn’t seem to do much.
- I tried to stay loose by continuing massaging my leg muscles. But the right leg effectively cramped up during the match limiting my mobility.
- I was also sick and/or recovering from some weird flu I got earlier in the week. I didn’t get the full blown flu symptoms but I got like 20% of the symptoms… a little cough, a little runny nose, a little fever, etc… Warming on Sat, I was out of breath just hitting. So I knew my fitness would be impaired. The lack of fitness is what probably did me in.
In the finals, I figured, I can probably go full speed for about 4 games. I had to take and put pressure on the opponent before my fitness broke down. Sadly, I couldn’t last long enough to finish the game. If I didn’t have to play that first game on Sun, I think I probably might have won. I would at least not have been tired to start with.
Overall, I think I did pretty well. I was a bit disappointed that I got sick which affected my fitness. My mobility was fine until the finals which I attribute to fatigue. My service game was pretty good. My drop game suffered in the finals as well probably also to fatigue. I know I made some bad decisions in the finals. The fatigue affected my form. I think I was over-hitting and over-exerting on my swing. My right upper arm muscle (deltoids?) are extremely tight and sore since Sat night. I usually experience this when I try to force a swing in order to smash the ball.
I have to figure out some way to quickly recover in the future. I guess not all chocolate milks are equal. I should have spent the time to go to Whole Foods to buy the Metro Cocoa Milk instead of the Horizon Chocolate Milk that I bought at Starbucks that morning.
Washington Post has this new article about Squash.
Read it here.