How To Develop a High-Quality Short Game

11th June 2024

Going short with quality…now that’s a big topic, so let’s break it down into a digestible format. Many of us go short with the intention of winning the rally. Many of us also force the short ball when we aren’t in position. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s take a step back for a moment.

Let’s begin with a simple concept: A loose ball

Reflection question: How would you define a loose ball?

Typical response: Something that comes through the middle of the court, that is not very accurate, and is easily volleyable, etc. etc.

That is partially correct, but there’s one thing missing. A loose ball is only “loose” IF and WHEN you are in position to play it. This is important. Even if your opponent inadvertently hits a shot through the middle of the court, if you are not ready to play it, it is no longer deemed a loose ball in my books. This is an extremely common cause of errors amongst players of all levels. We stab at balls that may be “loose”, but aren’t loose for us in a specific situation because we didn’t see them early enough, we didn’t move our feet quickly enough, we didn’t prepare our racquet early enough, and as such, the balls get behind us, or we try attacking them from an unbalanced position, and more often than not, either (i) clip the tin, or (ii) fluff up a loose ball and find ourselves under pressure.

With that context, please consider the following when thinking about your short game:

On-court approach:

  1. Identify the correct time to take the ball short (based on everything we just discussed).
  2. Become aware of your opponent’s position in the court, as well as their tendencies / habits.
  3. Choose the correct shot and execute it – please note that this gets nuanced with disguise and deception.

Long-term and training approach:

  1. Ensure clear mental representations of the correct ways to attack the ball short.
  2. Reflect upon your ability to go short from either side of the court, and from various positions on court.
  3. Reflect upon your ability to go short off different angles, paces, and heights.
  4. Work with a coach to break down the nuances of going short given all of the above.
  5. After a robust foundation has been built, become conscious of building specific patterns of play, and then using natural deception to break those patterns.


My favourite example

Reflection question: What is the most common type of shot in squash?

Typical response: A length / drive / rail. Something into the back of the court. Correct?

Reflection question: What implications does this have on me?

Likely response: It means that I will be hitting out of the back corners fairly often (assuming that my opponent hits a deep length).

Reflection question: If I only ever hit it deep out of the back, how predictable will I be?

Likely response: Extremely predictable.



One of the first skills we’re all taught is to hit the ball deep. Then we learn (slowly, I might add) how to dig the ball out of the back corners. Next, we focus on our serve, return of serve, and finally, some simple drop shots from the mid and front court. Eventually, we progress to the volley. I know I know, “So what?”, right?

Well, if we’re all taught to hit into the back corners, and we all aim to return the ball deep out of the back corners, how disruptive will we be out of the back? How one-dimensional will our game be if all we ever try and do is hit high-quality length, and then play a (volley) drop from the mid-court? Please don’t get me wrong. The strategy I just described is powerful and essential, however, it leaves a lot to be desired.


My recommendation:

Add in a long (straight) drop or straight kill out of the back court; ideally with the same swing as your drive. Mix it in sporadically in rallies after hitting a handful of drives. This builds the pattern of deep hitting, likely causing your opponent’s ‘T’ position to drift back, and creates an opening for you to disrupt them.


To learn more about what I’ve described, and how to actually execute some of these shots, watch the following playlists:

  1. Developing a World-Class Short Game – With Sarah-Jane Perry
  2. How To Play Drops From Deep – With Lee Drew
  3. An Introduction To The Kill – With Jethro Binns


Ahad Raza

To work directly with Ahad check out the 1:1 Online Coaching for personalised coaching. 

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