It's early January and here we are again with another collaboration with CrossCourt Analytics. As before, a big thank you to Jamie for supplying the data.
Before we get to the actual data, I want you to ask yourself "How often do you hit deep from deep, especially straight shots?". Is it as much as you need to? Is it as much as your opponent? If it's not, why not? Do you lack the skill to be able to get the ball out of the corners? Do your shots hit the side wall first and then land near the middle of the court? What I am asking you you, is do you hit deep to deep less often than you should because of a technical issue or because you lack patience?
There could be many reasons, but even asking yourself is the first step on the road to improvement.
HALF! Yes, HALF!
So let's start with the data. Here is what Jamie leads with.
The one line summary is this: at the top of the pro game, players hit shots from deep down the wall back to deep 1 in every 2 opportunities on the backhand, and 1 in every 3 opportunities on the forehand.
To be clear, Jamie does say "at the top of the pro game", so this is not all pro players, but probably within the top 25 or top 10. That in itself might be telling, but would you have believed that on the backhand, it's one in every two shots? That's half the shots they hit on the backhand are deep straight drives. Another point to make is that this data is where the ball lands, not the intention. So if a player hits a straight deep drive from the back but the ball is volleyed, it's not included in this data. That makes the number even more amazing. Half the shots the pros hit from the backhand corner GET to the backhand corner!
Let's delve a little deeper (pardon the pun).
Being a little more exact, at the top of the men's game, players hit backhand shots from deep down the wall back to deep on 53% of opportunities (that is, looking only at those shots that the top pros hit from the deep left region, they make their opponent hit their next shot from that same region 53% of the time). On the forehand equivalent it's 34%.
So significantly less on the forehand, which is fascinating, and probably a whole article in itself. But at club level, I suspect the difference is even greater. I suspect, that club players hit MORE deep drives on their forhand than on their backhand. I don't have data to support my claim, but if you were to watch club matches, rallies up and down the backhand wall are no more common than on the forehand. There's a reason Squash TV has a camera in the backhand corner in every match!
What's important for you is to realise that if you can improve your backhand straight drive, you might gain an advantage over your opponents. They will not be able to keep the rally going up and down the wall, and probably play more boasts from that backhand corner, giving you the chance to hit winners or make them run.
In comparison with the Women's game, the proportion is more or less the same.
In the women's game, players at the top of the rankings hit from deep straight to deep on 49% of shots (backhand) and on 33% of shots (forehand).
The difference is not worth analysing between men and women in this statistic.
As always, there are players that stand out either by hitting much more or much less than the pro average.
There is of course variation amongst the top pros. In the matches we have analysed, Marwan ElShorbagy is the most consistent player at hitting backhand deep shots down the wall to deep: 58% of opportunities. Paul Coll hits 38% from deep forehand down the wall to deep, but Mostafa Asal does this only 26% of the time.
WOW, nearly 60% from Marwan. That's a lot. And Paul hits a few more straight drives on his forehand than most pros. What's not surprising to me is that Mostafa only hits 26% straight from the forehand corner. I have to admit I have watched very little of Mostafa, but he seems to hit a lot more crosscourts than other pros. I believe he likes to surprise players by being able to hit those crosscourts when the ball is well behind him - that's just a guess though.
Let's have a look at two women.
Hania El Hammamy hits 55% of backhands from deep back to the same region, and 39% of forehands. This is significantly more often than Nouran Gohar, who hits just 26% of forehands like this: she much prefers to reset rallies onto the backhand, hitting 42% of her deep forehands to the back left region instead of hitting it down the wall.
I'm going to dispute Jamie's use of the phrase "reset rallies". It's a phrase used by some Squash TV commentators and while some shots are played to simply take away an opponent's advantage, I don't want to give readers the impression that all straight drives down the wall are to "reset the rallies". They are not. They are mini-rallies in themselves. They are a psychological battle for Tightness Supremacy.
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What About Left Handers?
does playing against left handers make a difference? Yes, absolutely.
Playing against left handers also causes players to buck this traditional pattern. When playing Youssef Ibrahim, for instance, his opponents hit just 40% of shots from deep left back to deep left (down from the average of 53%), preferring to hit crosscourt in order to keep the ball away from his dangerous forehand. From deep right, however, players hit straighter against Ibrahim (43%) more often than average (34%).
What I believe this data shows is that players of all levels believe a backhand is weaker than a forehand. They are prepared to play shots into the backhand more than into the forehand, which supports my suggestion earlier than improving your backhand can make a significant difference.
It also raises the question of what you should do against left handers. Well, put simply, play to their backhand in the same way you play to a right handed players backhand. You just have to make the conscious decision to do so.
Some of the difference between pros nd club players is due to the ability to hit straight from deep in the back corner, but also due to patience. That increase in straight drives is partly caused by greater fitness but also by mental patience. Club players often lack patience and it is an undervalued spect of amateur sport.
The next time you play, give yourself the objective of playing more straight drives from the backhand corner BACK to the backhand corner. Not only will you have to improve your technique, but you will also be increasing your patience. Think long term, both in each rally, but also throughout the rest of the season.
CrossCourt Analytics is a squash data services provider. In their words: “You send us the footage of your match and we compile, analyse and return the data straight to your inbox“. I’ve been in contact with them since just after their creation and found them very helpful. They have worked with the PSA, international teams and various coaches and players around the world. Their service is available to you for a very reasonable fee. If you are interested in learning more about them or using their services, visit their website.
This monthly series of articles uses data provided by them. I am not connected with CrossCourt Analytics in ANY way, and the links above are NOT affiliated links.
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