6 tips on adapting during a match

29th January 2020

Having a solid game plan and knowing your game well is a real weapon when it comes to getting better results on the squash court.

Being strong-willed and determined to play the game on your terms can be a real confidence booster and make your opponent play in the style that you want. This is all good and well when going your way and you have your opponent under your spell. But what happens if they change up their game and plan and start to cause you real disruption? This blog will make suggestions on some different strategies to try and employ when this is the case:


Do what you do but better

When your opponent is now changing their game, this should be seen as a compliment to you. You have forced them to adapt to the landscape you are providing, and they are the ones who have blinked first and trying something different in order to get a foothold on the game. When this happens, and if their plan is not that effective, do what you do better. Double down on your game plan and keep turning the screw. Even if they get a few more points, if they are having to continually play out of their comfort zone this will be of benefit to you in the long run.


Recognize when to change 

A slight contradiction to the above plan, you do need to know and recognize when to actually make a big change and adapt your game. If the style they are now playing at is really having a profound effect on you then you need to consider something different. Don’t be overly stubborn and only stick to what you have done in the past. A smart opponent will know this and try and expose it. They will know and expect what is coming and will play a game where you will keep falling into their traps.


Fight fire with fire

I find it quite fascinating that an opponent often does not like their own game being played against them. Taking their game and copying it during a match can be an effective way to nullify their strengths. Fighting fire with fire can work well and take the opponent by surprise. Often an opponent thinks you will play opposite to what they are doing for example if they play slow then they expect you to play quick and rush it and vice versa. Taking their game plan and using it back against them has some profound and unexpected effects.


Consider the rally length

Being mindful of the length of the rallies during a match is a wise tactic to employ. Sometimes extending the rally a lot if you are playing someone who is trying to make it short and choppy can really grind them down. Alternatively doing the opposite to this can frustrate the player wanting to test your fitness and durability. Shortening these rallies can upset the plan they have put in place and can make them take unnecessary risks and then they have fallen into your trap a little.


Take your medicine 

There will be times that no matter what you do and how well you try and do it, your opponent will stay on top of you for sustained periods. This is the time that you have to learn to take your medicine and get your head down and work hard. You need to accept there will be moments like this but it’s rare it will last for a whole match. In this phase, be ready to work physically hard and look to get your defensive game on point. Lifting well to give yourself time as well as using a good counter drop in the front are two tactics you should be highly aware of and work well when having to weather your opponent’s storm.


Back to basics 

When all is said and done about different ways to adapt during a match, what will ultimately get you back on an even playing field is going back to your basics. Line and length to the back of the court and making your opponent play from behind you is the age-old tactic and one that will always stand the test of time no matter what the game looks like. Don’t be scared to double down on the basics if you are unsure of what to do. Get the ball behind your opponent so you can step forward and take the T. Doing this can really reset the situation if you feel it running away from you. Be aware then not to stay too passive and just do the basics with no threat at all. This now will wear you out physically and mentally so be ready to step it back up and employ your plan and game once again when you feel you have stopped the run of points your opponent is getting.


In summary, as you can see from above there are a number of different ways and strategies to use to try and combat an opponent who is taking you away from what you are good at and comfortable with. Not all of the above will work all the time but it’s about having the awareness and some tools to have to try and use when this occurs. Do try some of these out and start to log what works and what does not. You want to ensure you do not destroy your plan and style too much by going so far away from it. It’s about knowing how far you need to change your game plan in order to be effective and at the same time not losing your identity along the way.


Jesse Engelbrecht

Find out quick tips for consistent length hitting

Make sure to this series where Peter Nicol focuses on hitting with purpose by looking at amateur player Jamal Callender’s technique from the front and middle of the court.

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