Thursday, December 25, 2014

Does a Slow or Bouncy Ball Suit Your Game?

Today I'm going to talk about how the ball changes the game. I discuss this a little in a previous post about controlling the weight of shot http://www.serioussquash.com/2015/01/controlling-weight-of-shot.html. Clearly the ball makes a big difference with this. A new ball is normally much bouncier. Does a hot and bouncy ball suit your game or does a cold ball? This probably also depends on who you're playing. Let's take a look at it in more detail.

I remember one time in college playing Colin West who hit the ball so hard it was bouncing like a racquet ball. This was the first time I noticed how much this could change the game. Of course, Colin always hits the ball this hard and was used to controlling the ball flying around super fast. I on the other hand had trouble just finding any type of length or even getting my racquet prepared on time. I noticed that if I got used to practicing with such a bouncy ball it would eliminate most of my competition. I started solo hitting a lot more and strengthened up my forearm and started getting comfortable controlling and cutting in drops shots with a very hot ball. This wasn't always easy to do as the courts I practiced on in London, Ontario were frigid in the winter months. Basically if the ball got to the back wall the player was lucky to dig it out straight. For this reason I also started practicing with blue dot balls on occasion. 

You can see from the above description that the ball temperature and what you're accustomed to makes a huge impact on your performance. If you're used to playing with a super hot and bouncy ball, or say at altitude and then you went and played at my freezing courts in London surely you would also have trouble adapting. So how can you prepare for this? Practicing with a bouncier ball is a good example, but it's difficult to go the other way. If you play at altitude or at a high level normally the ball will move quicker and you will be hitting the ball higher off the floor. How can you prepare for those frigid conditions? I have a couple of ideas you could try. 

First, you could play a match with 2 squash balls. You alternate after every rally and keep the other in your pocket. The balls will both stay warm, but not as bouncy as normal. Secondly, you can try playing some high games, so no pace is allowed. The issue with this idea is that yes the ball may not be as bouncy, but your also not hitting the ball like you would have to on a cold court. Of course you can also try and use some old squash balls, maybe even ones that have tiny breaks in the seam starting. You can also try playing or doing drills with someone that hits without any pace. This may be one of the older people at your club that play the old lob drop game. Finally, you could string your racquet tighter so you get more touch and less power. Other that that it's just helpful getting experience on playing in different climates and with different types of temperature or bounce of squash balls. 

So do you like playing with a hot ball? I do, because I'm used to it. I also find that it allows me to get most balls back, get to the ball early and is easier to delay and flick the ball. If you are a retriever, fit, or are deceptive you may prefer a hotter ball. With a colder ball or on a cover court, the ball bounces lower, the court plays bigger and you generally have less time to play your shot. This type of game is more about volleying and hitting dying length. A slow ball or court suits the lob and drop player and less so the fast and super fit one. If you have great control you will do well on colder courts, but on the flipped of this will not be able to cover the court as well as if the ball was warmer. When I see older or less mobile people play on colder courts or with a slow ball they often attack short on the return of serve and guess a lot. Of course with short rallies like this the ball stays freezing and it suits their games even more. But if these same people played with a bouncier ball they may enjoy the longer rallies and improved cardiovascular workout. 

So what suits your game? A bouncy or cold ball or court? Or is it likely somewhere in between? If you get on court with a really bouncy ball can you adjust the height and plane of your swing? How do you tactics change? If you play with a colder ball can you move your T position up as the court will play longer and with a hotter ball do you settle a little deeper into the T? If you've played a lot of squash you likely do some of these things instinctively. 

With the racquet and string technology, there almost needs to be an even slower ball then the double yellow dot. The low tin doesn't seem to be enough for top open level players on traditional courts. Even on the glass courts at the TOC last week some of the top players couldn't make it through a single game at the Motor City Open. This isn't good for squash or for the athletes. On a standard squash court with two hard hitting open level players the rallies are still often won or lost on mistakes. If you've ever seen pros play on a traditional panel or plaster court you'll know exactly what I mean. I'm sure this will be a change at some point in the professional and maybe even the top junior game. While at the amateur level many would be better off playing with a single yellow or blue dot. This is part of the reason it takes so long to hit a drive off of the back wall as someone progresses in squash; they just can't get the ball warm enough.

In closing, at the beginning of any match I focus on finding my weight of shot. This may take time if you're playing against a hard hitter, a lob and dropper or on a different court. it gets really tricky with a super hot ball as most lengths tend to be well overhit; cause if they're not you don't have time to get to the T. If you find yourself in this situation I recommend taking a bit of pace off of your drives to find the weight. Taking that little bit of pace off the ball will make you slightly more accurate and give you a fraction of a second more time to get back to the T. Maybe because I'm shorter than some men I've played (I'm 5 foot 7) that I can't play the super hard low drives with them. That may suit some peoples game, but not mine. What type of bounce, pace and weight of drives suit your game and stature? 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Chris. Really enjoy your posts.
    I play in cold courts and most days my equipment is in a cold car for a few hours beforehand.
    I have started putting the ball in the locker-room sink with hot/warm water running over it while I change. The ball is good to go immediately & stays lively for the hour.
    Keep up the great articles. thanks Geoff

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