Set The Tone Of The Match From The First Rally

Have you ever played somebody who gave 100% from the very first point and who also was so focused that it was a little intimidating? Well, that could be you.

15 January 2024 / 2-Min Read / Translate↗

Not everybody is as fit as they would like be. In fact, is anybody? I'm not and I'm pretty sure you aren't either. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to play to our maximum physical effort. And let's be honest, you probably don't heat up properly either.

Therefore, if an opponent makes the first rally a really tough one, and you aren't ready from the very first shot, you can easily find yourself 5 or 6 points down pretty quickly. but this article is not just about making sure you are physically ready from the first point. It's also about the concept of "Setting The Tone" of the match from the first point.

Tarek Momen focuses on a shot he has just played.  Original photo by Petteri Repo.  Used with permission.

If you have played some competitive matches, you will probably have found yourself playing against very serious players. They can be a little scary at first, but are not always the toughest to play against. The ones who make the best decisions i.e. shot selection, even when they are tired, are the oens that actually win the most.

Setting the Tone, is about establishing a particular mood or frame of reference for something. If you start the match with wasteful shots, silly attacking shots or thoughtless returns, they you are telling your opponent, that you are not going to fight for every single point.

Breaking your opponent's spirit can be as important as the physical aspect of shots and fitness. Making them understand that there will be no easy points with you can be such a powerful weapon.

I'm not saying that you have to keep the ball going when a clear opportunity for a winner is created. I am saying that you show your opponent you are prepared to wait for the RIGHT opportunity and will TAKE it when you can.

Playing long, tough rallies takes as much mental fortitude as it does physically, and players often take the easy option. Don't be one of those players.

By setting the tone of the match from the first rally by playing tough, sensible squash will get you a reputation as a tough opponent, not a push over who plays well sometimes and not well others.

Consistency is about controlling as much as you can and your approach and attitude (mindset) is one of those things. The next time you play, heat up properly and make those first few rallies of every game, tough ones.

Olli Tuominen is about to play a shot from the middle of the squash court.  Original photo by Petteri Repo.  Used with permission.

Final Thoughts

Mindset and decision-making are as important as ball control and physicality, both for yourself AND how your opponent sees you.

If you get into the habit of not taking the first few points seriously, then for amateurs, it can be hard to switch gears. You've probably heard players say things like "Right, that's it, no more mistakes" or "Okay, now I am going to play seriously". You should never get to that point. Start seriously and keep it that way.

Yes, you can have a few smiles and laughs along the way, but nothing that would distract you.



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I am a squash coach with nearly 40 years experience; teaching complete beginners through to professionals.
Currently, I call myself an "online squash coach" as I rarely coach on court.
I enjoy working with club players and strive to present information in an entertaining and engaging way.

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