Sunday, July 20, 2014

Improving Your Ability to Flick the Ball

Just a quick note before I get into today's topic. I've created a Facebook page where I will post links to my posts. Check it out at facebook.com/serioussquash.

Today I'm going to talk about the benefits of having a quick wrist and being able to snap the ball. This is an advanced skill and is something all professional male players can do. I know this has a lot to do with strength, but if some of the women playing the WSA tour can learn to do this they will be very successful. Having a quick wrist means you have the ability to rapidly increase (or even decrease) the racquet head late into your downswing, just prior to contact using your forearm and wrist muscles. There are a number of reasons why this is such an important skill to posses. I believe I developed this ability from all the hours I've spent solo hitting over the years. Now I'm going to go over some of the benefits of having a quick wrist and being able to snap the ball.

Deception: As you get better at squash and you play more experienced players they will be able to read your setup and shot earlier and easier. Unless your shot is hit close to perfect, they will retrieve the ball and put you under pressure. Many people don't disguise their intentions at all. For this reason it is important to be able to accelerate your racquet head from an abbreviated backswing to change the direction or pace you strike the ball with. If you can do this well you will be able to set up and show one shot and be able to hit another. If you can do this well your opponent will be slowed down because they cannot anticipate and will be caught flat footed often. When i'm practicing this is drills I really want to sell one shot as best I can. Think about if you actually look the exact same hitting different shots. I also like to try to see how long I can hold the ball. If I get to a lose ball at the front early I can either hit it right away (if you're shaped up to do so) or you can wait wait wait and then hit. Just be cautious you don't delay your shot. I see many good open players hold and flick crosscourt from their forehand in the front corner. This becomes predictable and they would often be better off playing the straight drop or at least hitting the ball earlier.

Retrieving: having the ability to just flick the ball when it is almost out of your reach is another great quality. Often the ball gets just behind me and I can use a short snap of the wrist and get the ball back down the wall. I like practicing this shot when an opponents crosscourt gets by me and they think they can cheat over and cut off my straight drive, but to their surprise I flick the ball from behind be (in an open stance) and hit the ball tight and deep and by them. A quick wrist is also great when you are under a lot of pressure at the front and want to lob the ball. If you aren't balanced and can only barely get your racquet under the ball, having this flick will allow you to get some air under the ball and get back into the point. I think Ramy has the best lob in the game and he probably has the quickest and strongest wrist/flick in the game. Another defensive shot that you can hit with a quick snap of the wrist is the back wall boast. When the ball gets behind you and it is going to die in the back corner you can reach out and with just a quick snap you can generate enough pace to hit a back wall boast. This isn't a shot you want to play unless you need to, but it is always better to get the ball back in play. You never know what will happen in a rally when you make your opponent hit 1 extra shot.

Quick Racquet Preparation: often times a shot is hit and you don't have quite enough time to prepare your racquet for a full backswing. This happens more as you get better at squash. If you have a quick wrist you can still get your wrist cocked which means your racquet head is shaped up to hit even with a limited backswing. So if you watch some of the pros on the T and their racquets don't seem to be up very high, it's because they have the ability to cock their wrist and hit with a very short backswing. With this limited backswing they can still produce a lot of force because their forearm is so strong meaning they still generate great racquet head speed.

So here are some of the advanced skills you can perform if you have a good forearm strength and a quick wrist. If you want to improve this part of your game than you should work on the strength of your forearm and wrist. I suggest building this up slowly or you may hurt yourself. If you're playing weaker opponents you should have lots of time to hit most of your shots, so try and delay and snap the ball. I also recommend doing a lot of short hitting. Stand in front of the short line and hit low and hard drives on the bounce. This will tire out your forearm quickly at first. I also like the hard low kill drives into one of the front corners. Do this on the bounce and hit the ball hard with a short backswing. You can also do some exercises in the gym to further develop the strength in your forearm and wrist. A final note on this, is that I also shave off the bumper guard on my racquet to make it a little more head light which allows me to create more racquet head speed. I play with the Harrow Dread and it originally weighs 140g, but plays significantly lighter when I shave the top part of the bumper guard off. So I suggest a headlight racquet if you want to maximize your ability to snap the ball. Also remember that just flicking the ball isn't the goal, but to generate as much racquet head speed late into your downswing as possible.

I know some badminton players are very good at this because they have many hours of practice with very light racquets and birdies. Badminton players are in their element on a squash court when the ball is up above their head. When this happens a shorter swing and a flick of the wrist is an effective technique for attacking a high ball. The challenge is that they tend to always flick the ball...even when they have sufficient time to prepare a full backswing. Hitting with such a short backswing and flicking the ball all the times mean you are not using your largest muscles and your forearm can only produce a limited amount of strength. It won't take long before your forearm and wrist tire out. A squash racquet and ball are heavier than badminton. So I urge these people to learn how to hit with a nice full swing but also learn how and when to use this flick properly. If they do so they will become very tricky opponents because of their deception, retrieving, and their ability to attack on a high volley.

When you learn how to delay your shot and flick the ball suddenly there are so many more shot options when you play squash. Of course, remember the shot quality must remain high. It's a great feeling to send someone the wrong way and to see their legs almost buckle. Next thing you know is they stop going short or try to attack with less margin at the front of the court because they don't want to leave you up there with time. When this starts to happen it normally means easy points for you!

1 comment:

  1. I have recently been trying to take the wrist movement out of my full swing.... It seems like there is a time and place and a certain type of wrist movement that is acceptable though!!

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