I saw someone asking for some clarification on a post on Reddit, so I hope this finds him/her. Today I'm going to follow up on my last post about my number 1 most COMMON (I wouldn't say the biggest error) fundamental error. This was standing too far back and not getting to the T. Why is this such a problem? Is it always a problem? How to fix this? How to play against someone who stands way back? And although this may not be the worst bad habit I see in squash, it is certainly one of the most common problems I encounter.
So I'm going to start with explaining this a little further. How far back is too far back? This obviously changes depending on who you're playing, the tactical situation within the rally, how bouncy the ball and court is, how tired you are, how well you move around the court (especially to the back corners), and your concentration level. In general terms, an average or neutral T position should be midway from between the service boxes and using the north and south lines on the court about midway. I consider this a neutral T position. Although this isn't the actual centre of court it is 3 steps (with proper squash movement) to any corner of the court, at least it is for me and I'm only 5'7. If you are a foot too high (say fight up on the short line) you are not closer to covering the front of the court, but are now 4 steps to the back corners. If you move 1 foot back on the T you are now 4 steps to the front corners.
This neutral T position changes quite a bit during a match. Often we get dragged deeper back as we get tired and as our opponents continually hit the ball deep. But if your opponent has the skill and perceives this situation evolving they should start throwing in a few attacking shots from the back to the from of the court. I find many players are already moving or shifting their weigh backwards before I've even hit my shot. This means they are giving up the T without me forcing them off of it and they are leaving open court at the front of the court.
So why else is a deep T a problem? I'm sure everyone has encountered this at some point. You are hitting a straight drive out of a back corner and as soon as you take a step to clear to clear to the middle your opponent is right there and you end up playing a let. This should be an obvious warning signal to start using the front corners more. I also mentioned the other day how a deep T makes your volley more difficult (if you do even volley). This is because if you are that deep, if your opponent moves well they will actually be up on the T by the time you are volleying the ball and in front of you. This limits what options you can hit on your volley now because going short on the volley from behind your opponent means your shot has to be more precise. Obviously letting your opponent get back up to the T and in front of you takes away a big advantage of hitting a volley, and that is to take time away from your opponent. If you are higher on the T and volleying the ball earlier you are hitting the ball earlier so your opponent is further back in the court and you also are closer to the front wall (your target). Although this means the ball has to be quicker or maybe higher in the air it puts much more pressure on your opponent, so in the end you have more options on the volley and your shot doesn't have to be as accurate to put pressure on your opponent.
So I hope I've explained this concept a little more thoroughly and you understand why this is such a bad habit and how come it happens so frequently. If you are older or have an lingering injury you may not move well enough to the back corners so you hang back. But if you are young and abled, learn how to move properly into the back corners from higher up on the T, in the neutral position. On top of learning how to move into the back corners more efficiently, most people need to work on how to clear out of the back corners without exerting a lot of energy. I do this by giving myself good spacing and using my followthrough (on a full swing always) on giving me momentum to clear out towards the middle of the court. At my size I also use a backwards skip, so for example on my backhand back corner I will skip out on my left foot and my right foot is the first actual step I take. This first step should be to the middle line and then you have just 1 more step straight up to the T. If you can learn how to move more efficiently it won't be as physically demanding to get back up onto the neutral T position.
Sometimes I get my students to get right up onto the actual T, which is higher than they should be, but it helps them learn how to move faster, more efficiently and also makes it seem much easier afterwards when they only need to get back to the neutral T position.
Most people get away with hanging back, but when I play someone and I sense this happening I start attacking short right away. If they even get my shot at all they are working hard and will have to lob. So this puts some good work into their legs and lungs and then I try and follow up by attacking their lob if it's short. Good luck with your game. Move up a step on the T, take the volley earlier and take away the open court at the front of the court! It may be tough on you physically at the beginning, but your body will adapt if you consciously make this a good habit.