Beware Defensive Boasts

There are many ways to define a player’s standard or level, the easiest of which is match results. But match results are not always a good guide to how well a player plays and over the years I have developed a theory about defensive boasts that I would like to share with you today.

24 October 2022 / 3-Min Read

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Let me start by stating my theory: The better a player is, the fewer defensive boasts they play. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And I suppose it is, but why?


The first reason is technique. Being able to hit straight, or int he case of pros crosscourt, even though the ball has gone past you is a sign of good technique. Being able to use the forearm not the wrist, to keep the racket face open and stop it from twisting on impact is key to hitting the ball straight.

Some club players can do it on their forehand, but can’t on their backhand. It’s especially true when the ball comes off the back wall and there is limited space to swing. You need a strong forearm and good timing to be able to do it and that takes time to develop.

Beware Defensive Boasts

This player definitely has good backhand technique.


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Reading The Game

Another reason defensive boasts seem to indicate level is the ability to read the game or the ball, and quickly, or even better, early recognise that a ball needs to be hit sooner rather than later. Many times I have stood on the balcony and seen what was coming. The player doesn’t take the ball early and it just gets worse and worse for them. A prefect example is when the ball has been hit crosscourt and a better player makes contact with it as soon after it has hit the wall as possible, but the lower level player leaves it. Either because they didn’t realise in time or they don’t have the confidence in their technique to hit it straight.

Beware Defensive Boasts

I can’t see the ball in this photo, but it doesn’t look as far back as the previous photo.


The last point I want to make is tactics. When you have the frame of mind that you are not going to hit boasts, it’s easier to try to hit straight. Sure your straight shot will be terrible and I will be shouting at you to “play a defensive shot!“, so you feel aggrieved. “What do you want me to do Phillip, play defensive or learn to hit straight?” Of course, being a human, I shout back “BOTH!“. Which makes no sense.

In real, competitive matches, I want you to play defensive – you are trying to win. In practice matches and drills, I want you to try to hit straight.

Final Thoughts

You will never reduce the number of defensive boasts you play if you keep playing them. The next time you walk on court say to yourself “no boasts, under ANY circumstances”. Learn to move your opponent around the court without them. learn to stay in the rally without them. Is it easy? Hell, no, but it’s worth trying.

I’ll be talking about boasts in future articles as it’s an interesting area.

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