Thursday, November 20, 2014

Attacking From The Back Of The Court

Today I'm going to talk about attacking from the back of the court on the bounce. As a coach these shots are normally considered risky, low percentage or ill advised. But for a player with confidence and good racquet skills these shots are important and should be practiced. Most people only practice length and boasting from the back of the court. No wonder most people can't attack well from back there. Becoming effective at attacking from what is normally considered a defensive position requires a lot of precision and will mean a lot of mistakes learning how to hit these shots well. So if you want to incorporate them into your game spend extra time fine tuning these shots.

I'm going to start off with who should learn these deep attacking shots. Not everyone is suited to play attacking shots from the back. It takes a lot f control to hit close to the tin from the furthest possible location on the court. So if you're still having trouble hitting a length out of the back I wouldn't concern yourself with attacking drops, but I may introduce an attacking boast. Some people are just not very attacking players as they rely on their retrieving ability to make the rallies long and physical. Some players just don't have the control to attack from the back mostly due to faults in their mechanics.

If however you have solid mechanics, decent touch, good footwork and you want to be a complete and creative player learning attacking shots from the back is an important skill set. This is an advanced skill, but like any skill set in squash the earlier it's introduced the more natural the shots and style become. I also believe that to attack short from the back you also need to be able to cover these shots. So if you are quick, move well and fit you may be a candidate for working on these challenging shots. The attacking boast in particular is played quite regularly with a high degree of effectiveness in the junior girls and women's game at every level.

Now let's discuss why you should learn to attack from the back. The first reason that comes to mind is that it keeps your opponent honest as you have more options from this area of the court. I see many people hang well back on the T or that don't move well and if you hit a drive you are almost hitting the ball right back to your opponent. Other players don't watch very closely while on the T. If you had a good attacking short shot from the back you will not only work your opponent very hard into the front corner but you may win the point outright. It takes a lot out of the legs to move to the front under pressure and get back to the T. This in turn makes you drives more effective later on as they move up on the T.

Against top players, a loose ball can be attacked with a high degree of accuracy from anywhere in the court; this includes the back corners. Whenever I hit a ball slightly loose and under or overhit a length I feel uneasy on the T. Against a good player I know this is an opening and they have any options. To attack well from the back you need time and space. You shouldn't make it a habit of attacking short from the back off of a good length. These are shots that are also best played if used sparingly. If you always go short from behind your opponent you are asking for trouble as they will just move their T up to cover the front.

Time to learn how to attack from the back and what type of shots you can play. Here is a list of the backcourt attacking shots you can play.

Straight Drop - the main goal is to get it tight to the sidewall. If you can get it to come up short hitting just above the tin that is a bonus.

Crosscourt Drop/Flick Drop - I don't see people play this too often. When it is played you wouldn't be wise to go for the nick. You are better to aim to get it tight to the sidewall by the time your opponent would be playing the ball, so just before the second bounce. You can also flick it crosscourt which can be quite deceptive.

Straight Kill - I like this shot because the setup looks like a straight drive. You can hit it flat or with an open racquet face to take some pace off the ball. The further the ball is off of the sidewall the more severe you can hit it, meaning you can go for the nick. As the ball is tighter, you are better just trying to ht it parallel to the sidewall.

Crosscourt Kill - I see even less of these into the nick then the crosscourt drops from the back. Normally the shot that works here is bouncing twice around the short line. You hit is so low and with the right width that it catches your opponent off guard. It is normally most effective if played infrequently.

2 Wall Attacking Boast - this is another one of my favourites because again the setup looks like a straight drive. If you can delay your swing slightly you can catch your opponent flatfooted on the T. Even if your opponent gets to the ball, but is late they will be limited to what they can do and you can probably keep the pressure on them the next shot.

3 Wall Attacking Boast - this is a shot I hit when I'm feeling it. If you don't hit the nick it doesn't normally spells trouble. You need to do a lot of boast and drive to get good at this one.
Aussie Boast - this is a shot I see very sparingly, but is normally effective. It's kind of in between a straight kill and a 2 wall attacking boast. It just clips the sidewall first and the angle actually makes the shot come towards the middle of the court, but bouncing twice before the T. This shot is played rarely, but can be effective if refined and played irregularly.

Reverse Boast - this is a dangerous one that I don't recommend to amateur players. I know Shorbagy hits it once in a while, but I've never seen him peg someone with it. An amateur would. So don't do it unless you are in front of your opponent or you play hardball doubles.

The above mentioned shots can all be improved by being deceptive. If you are really talented with your racquet skill you may even be able to make a shot look like one shot and hit another. This is easier for say shaping up for a drive and hitting a boast or a 2 wall attacking boast. Can you shape up for a boast and hit a straight kill? Can you shape up for a drop and hit a straight drive? Can you shape up for a straight drive and hit a crosscourt drop. If you can execute some of these skills well you will drive your opponent nuts. It takes a lot of time on court to get good enough to play these shots in competition against talented players.

This is an area of the game that I feel most people are quite weak and for good reason. This post is more suited for elite players or young juniors with high aspirations. Think about what options you have from each spot on the court. Can you add in 1 or 2 new ones? Maybe you don't bring them out in serious competition, but in practice matches go for it. You'll need to make a few mistakes if you want to get good at them, so be prepared to stick with it regardless of what happens.

Ok, so you're psyched up to attack from the back. How do you practice this. Well for starters, solo hitting. This is what I did all the time as a kid and I got pretty good at it. Defy the odds and make turn low percentage odds into high ones for you! Here are some other drills you can do to practice your attacking shots from the back of the court.

Two Person Drills and Condition Games For Attacking From Back
1. drop drive
2. boast drive
2b. boast or drive to self and then boast, drive
3. drop or straight kill drive
4. Drive drive drop
5. Deep vs. short
6. Deep vs. short (short can be hit with pace, anything landing first bounce before the short line)
7. Long long short short
8. Rotating drives with the option to boast
9. 1 player can hit anything, the other only length
10. 1 player has to hit every shot into 1 back corner, the other can hit anything

Just like any other skill, if you want to become proficient at attacking from the back you need to spend time refining it. I suggest that you have the skill to attack well from the front and middle first before practicing too much from further away.

On the flipped of this topic, if you are getting beat on short attacking shots from the back of the court simply move your T up. If you're still getting beat move up even higher. Force your opponent to beat you with a perfectly weighted drive. And of course this also means that your length is not putting any pressure on your opponent. Sometimes you play a person who is out of shape with good hands and you know they want to go for winners every chance they get. This can be a tricky opponent because you are are relying on counter attacking and that they make mistakes. Focus on your lines and stay high on the T. If you force them to hit length you are extending the rallies and giving yourself the best chance to win.

Do you have an attacking shot on the bounce from the back that works for you? Which shot that I listed would benefit you the most if you added it to your repertoire?

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