Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Disguise From The Back Corners

Today I'm going to talk about something that is often overlooked by most amateur players, disguise and deception from the back corners. It's tough enough to hit a good length out of the back corner that most people can't focus on disguising their shot or using deception from the back. But the lack of disguise makes it very easy for good players to control the T. Especially if someone is receiving a pretty good drive, all they can really hope to do is get it back down the wall and possibly even play a boast. Today I'll explain why when you play stronger players they can cut off even your best drives and what you can do about it.

The idea about using disguise from the back of the court is the same as the from the front, only one thing is much more challenging. What makes this tougher is that most people are restricted in the back corners with the side and back wall and are lucky to just hit a straightish drive. To be able to disguise your shot you need to have time. If you're under pressure in the back of the court you won't have any options, you'll just be trying to return the ball. But if you have time and space (to take a full or almost a full swing) from the back corners you should have some options.

I feel that this part of the game isn't noticed when watching the top players. But from the back of the court if the ball is overhit and not right on the side wall, all the top pros have a number of options. From a singe setup position they can hit straight or crosscourt drive, straight drop, a boast, or a straight kill. I know Shorbagy really likes his backhand revers boast too, but we'll leave that out of the discussion for safety reasons.

Okay, so you get to the ball with the same setup, your racquet preparation and your spacing is the same. Now can you each of the various shots I listed above without telegraphing your intention? Just using variety if it isn't disguised will not work against a top player. So how can you practice this? Well I use to practice these with hours of solo hitting. Set up a camera/phone and film yourself and see how similar you can prepare for these various shots. You can also practice them using a number of drills and condition games. Here's a few

1. player A can hit boast or drive to self then boast, player B hits straight drive from the front
2. player A can hit straight or crosscourt length, player B can hit straight drives
2b) I like to add an option here where if player B volleys player A's length they can go short.
3. rotating drives with option to boast
3b) same as 3 with option to trickle boast off the boast
4. length game plus 1 short shot each per rally
5. player A has to hit everything to 1 back corner, player B can hit anything
5b) player A has to hit straight drives, player B can hit anything
6) player A can hit straight drop or boast (from the back court), player B hits straight drive
6b) player A can also hit a straight kill drive
7) straight game (short or deep)
7b) straight game with option to boast

Remember that first thing you need to be able to do is get to the ball with time and space. Having a good early racquet preparation gives you options. But if you're opponent hits a good length and put you under pressure this isn't the time to be thinking disguise or deception. Having good footwork into the back corners is an important factor to give you the time and space needed to use a variety of shots. And you also need to reinforce your length (drives especially) to make a straight drop, kill or boast from the back more effective. Being further from the front wall and having the receiving ball travelling now back towards the front wall makes these short shots more challenging, but I feel they are important shots for top players to learn. Use them sparingly and you will keep your opponent off the T and off balanced.

Next time you watch some top pros play, see how the prepare and what shots they hit from the back corners. If their opponent knows they have to hit straight drive the quality has to be almost perfect of their opponent will be waiting to pick it off on the volley.

The last thing I should add is that it is also possibly to show one shot and hit another from the back, but much more challenging to do this from this area of the court than the front. It takes a lot or practice and forearm strength to say, show a drop and get enough mustard on your drive to hurt your opponent for leaning the wrong way. A number or players do this more commonly, some to varying success. They open their shoulders as if they were going to crosscourt and hit a straight drive. This is also a similar idea to Shorbagy's reverse boast. It looks like a crosscourt because he opens up to hit it that direction. They can tell he's going to hit it hard, and then he does, but a bit wider than expected and this is why it works. But again this particular shot will only work if played very infrequently.

That's it for today. I hope I've got you thinking a bit more about this area of the game. It's a part that I have always enjoyed. Now you know why the better players are always waiting for your length to cut it off, they can read you too easily. If you suspect they are cheating/poaching, then try and add in an attacking boast or crosscourt from the same setup, or maybe even a hard struck down the middle shot!

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