When you watch professional squash, it’s easy to focus on the kills, the nicks, the flashy, unusual shots. And while it is fun to do that, there’s more to be learnt from other shots. Sure, the shots that I will be taking about in this series of articles and videos will never win “Shot Of The Month”, but for club players they might bring more benefit.
As you have seen from the title, the very first one in this series is a simple crosscourt from Joel Makin. But simple, doesn’t mean easy, neither for the striker nor for the opponent. It comes from the Qatar Classic 2021 Quarter Final game one, between Joel Makin and Mazen Hesham. See the game on the PSA Squash TV YouTube Channel. I highly recommend you watch it.
I’ve already written an article about crosscourts called 3 Crosscourts Every Club Player Should Know, and if you haven’t read, maybe now is the time. Joel’s crosscourt is one of those 3. Oh, BTW, there are other types of crosscourts, but those are important ones.
When you hit a crosscourt, you are trying to move your opponent off the T, the same for most shots really. You hit it to stop them stepping across and volleying your straight drive. It adds variety to your game and makes it harder for your opponent to guess or anticipate your next shot.
Hit it too wide and the ball will hit the side wall near the service box and be easily volleyable (new word?), hit it too directly into the corner and it will come too close you your opponent and again be easy to volley. The sweetspot is a crosscourt that hits the side wall just behind the service box. Let’s call it the Goldilocks Crosscourt Angle. All this assumes that you are rallying from the back and your opponent is on the T.
But it can’t hit the side wall too high, otherwise it will bounce into the area near the door and be easy to hit. It will also mean you can’t get to the T as you will have to leave enough room for your opponent to have fair view of the front wall. Conversely, if it is a great angle, but hits the floor before the side wall, it will bounce upwards, giving your opponent time and space to hit a shot.
The image above shows the different angles of squash crosscourts. You, the striker, are the blue spot, your opponent, the green spot. The light blue shot goes directly into the corner, but would pass too close to your opponent, the light purple shot, is wider but still comes back to the middle of the court. And finally the gold angle goes to the sidewall behind the service box.
One thing I want you to notice is how close on the front wall each shot is to each other. The difference in angle is quite small, which is why they can be difficult to hit consistently.
So, we want the ball to hit the side wall behind the service box and not too high, say below the height of a racket length. Easy, right? Well, not so much. Judging that angle, speed and height in the middle of a rally is harder than it looks. Also, even if you hit the target area, there’s no guarantee that it will be a cause your opponent problems, much less be a winner.
However, over the course of a match, your opponent will be dragged wide and made to work. AT first this shot doesn’t seem to have an effect, but as the match goes on, if you can consistently hit the ball to this area, it’s like the body shots in a boxing match – it gets them out of position, allowing you to throw the winning punch, or killer nick.
In the video below, Mazen seems to have no problem returning the shot, but I am sure you or I would struggle to turn quickly enough to get our racket behind the ball and hit a good straight drive to the back. Maybe most times we could, but certainly not all time. At worst, this shot has just forced your opponent back, at best they hit a very weak return for you to take advantage of.
Every crosscourt nick, killer drop or amazing kill is almost certainly preceded by a shot that doesn’t look amazing, but forces the weak return. In British English we say these are your “bread and butter” shots – used in reference to something everyday or ordinary.
A Reminder About Boring But Effective Shots
I really want to stress the point about these types of shots being the framework, the core, the foundation of attacking squash. I don;’t want you to only hit to the back. I want you to hit to the back with purpose, and that purpose is to create opportunities to hit beautiful nicks, winners and flashy shots.
Every club player can smack a nick every now and again, but the better players create opportunities and problems for their opponents by hitting very accurate deep shots. Pay more attention to those and the opportunities will come more often.
About The OneShot Series
One Shot is a series of short articles and videos where I look at one shot from a game found on PSA Squash TV’s Free Game Friday and briefly explain why it’s so good. Don’t expect spectacular crosscourt nicks or through the legs drops though. I talk about shots that create opportunities, take away your opponent’s advantage and help you see squash in a new way.