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Is Hitting The Ball Down The Middle Of The Court That Bad?

Squash has changed a lot since its creation. All sports have. If we were to have 4k footage of squash from the very start we would be shocked at how different it is.

22 December 2022 / 3-Min Read

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I'm not just talking about the equipment, which is obviously a huge change, but "how" it's played. Can you imagine players from the 1940s competing against Miguel Rodriguez? They would be flabbergasted by the dives and as a general point they would be almost frightened by the athleticism seen today.

That change I mentioned in the introduction, well I'm sure it goes in stages and it would make for a nice documentary, but we don't have time for that now. Are these changes directly related or even caused by the changes in racket and shoe technology? Maybe, what do you think? What I do know is that tactically, what was considered "rubbish" a few decades ago is now considered "smart".

Let's look at a specific example. I was looking through a "Squash: Technique, Tactics, Training by Eric Sommers published in 1991 and in it he says

Key Point: Never hit a shot that finishes in the middle of the court. To a good opponent, this is just cannon-fodder

Eric Sommers

In this context, cannon-fodder means shots that are easy to win points from.

As a general guide, it would agree that Eric's advice is good advice, in fact Dardir El Bakary took it one step further...

The back cover of the book

Taken from the back cover of Squash with Dardir published in 1986

And yet, you only need to watch a professional squash match to see the occasional shot hit purposefully into the orange area. I would aslo argue that the orange area on the front wall is a perfectly acceptable target to hit good crosscourts from. The problem is that target areas on the front wall are greatly affected by the point of contact, so making a general "rubbish" area seems a little over prescriptive to me.

Squash has become much more attacking that it used to be and I certainly attribute that to the rackets which have allowed players to develop the skills to play those attacking shots. So if we agree that professional squash players are allowed to hit the ball down the middle, can we do the same for club players?

Not yet, at least I'm not ready to say it's okay. And the reason I am not ready to allow it is not the "What", but the "How, why and when". Let me explain.

How, Why and When

I am going to use the example of the reverse angle, sometimes called the "leisure Centre" boast because you can see it very often in public courts around the UK. Both professional squash players and club players play the shot (The what), but there are big differences:

HOW: Pros make a reverse angle look like any other shot, meaning it's well disguised. They make contact with the ball in more or less the same position, in relation to their body, as they do for other shots.

WHY: Pros play a reverse angle because their opponent is out of position or because they can cover the contact point with their body. Club players play it because they think it's cool and will surprise their opponent, and at club level it can, but as Eric Sommers said earlier, against a good opponent a club player playing a reverse angle shot is cannon-fodder. A pro player might also play a reverse angle as a defensive shot, whereas it's unlikely a club player would do that.

WHEN: This point is a little harder to qualify. It's possible that a pro will play reverse angle shots more than club players, but they seem to select the best moment for it.'

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the conclusion that the "How, Why and When" are more important than the "what".

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Shots Down The Middle

If we apply that thinking to shots down the middle, then yes, I do think club players should experiment with an occasional shot, but choose the moment carefully, otherwise you will give your opponent an easy shot. I would suggest waiting until the second game and also for a point where if the ball were to go down the middle, it would leave your opponent with little time to react, so perhaps when they are further forward of the T than usual.

Aiming at your opponent can also cause them trouble, but obviously AFTER the ball has hit the front wall and never for the face area. Make sure that the ball is not near you or you might be giving a stroke to your opponent.

Final Thoughts

Just like diving, jumping to smash the ball, and drops shots off the back wall through the legs à la Mohamed El Shorbagy, play shots that make squash fun and effective, just always be safe!

Remember though, if your opponent is expecting everything they will never be surprised, you need to play foundation squash most of the time, for those unusual shots to work. Good luck.

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