Put it into practice: James Willstrop’s backhand dropshot

21st October 2019

We’ve had the privilege of hosting some fantastic coaching insight from one of the greatest British professional players of the generation here at SquashSkills over the past couple of weeks, with our brand new ‘Best in the Business’ series featuring former world no.1 James Willstrop in its inaugural edition.

‘The Marksman’ is undoubtedly one of the finest ever English players to pick up a racket. His remarkable record began as a junior, becoming the first player to win National titles at all age groups – under-12, under-14, under-17 and under-19. Along with this, James also won the prestigious British Junior Open title multiple times at under-14, under-17 and under-19 level. In his final junior year, he established himself as the world’s top junior player in claiming both the European and World titles.

james willstropThis fantastic winning record continued as a senior player, with 18 PSA titles to his name (so far), helping him to a peak of world number 1 in 2012. He’s been an almost ever-present in the England squad for 15 years, helping his country to a number of World and European team championship wins. James has also had great success in the Commonwealth Games, winning several doubles bronzes and silvers, before perhaps his greatest triumph of all – winning the singles gold medal in Melbourne in the 2018 edition of the Games.

Anybody who has ever watched or played against James in his storied career will tell you what a fantastic technician he is on-court – equal part tactically astute, breathtakingly accurate, and mentally robust.

Perhaps James’s greatest trademark as a player is his clinical backhand drop. Countless players over the years have been taken apart by his precision from the back corner, with James firing in winner after winner into the front left of the court.

We thought we’d take the opportunity to get James on court and find out more about this ‘super strength’ of his and give our SquashSkills members the chance to learn from one of the very best in the business.

In the fascinating 2 part series, James was joined on court by SquashSkills founder Jethro Binns, along with one of our amateur members Andy – there to act as a willing guinea pig!

These engrossing playlists see James initially taking us through his thoughts and philosophy surrounding his long drop, recalling how he first saw one of the legends of the women’s game, Susan Devoy, using the shot to such great effect.

From there, James goes on to break down the tactical and technical considerations, discussing the swing, shape on the ball, and follow-through needed to successfully execute the long backhand drop.

Putting it all into action, James then takes Andy through a session teaching the subtleties of the shot, identifying key points surrounding movement onto the ball, the need for correct spacing, and the importance of not over-cutting the ball(!)

The purpose of this blog is to give you some suggestions on how you can incorporate James’s technical mastery of the long backhand drop into your own game, and the types of sessions you should be employing in your training for maximum benefit. We’ve included some sample sessions below for you to try, to help you start using the shot to best effect. We can’t promise you you’ll develop the effortless skill of The Marksman, but we can certainly help you improve your depth of understanding surrounding the shot, and hopefully bring a little something new to your on-court toolbox!


Put it into practice

james willstropSolo practice

This solo session is designed to get you started off with some of the fundamentals, thinking about racket preparation, contact point, and ball placement.


james willstropPairs practice

This pairs session works through a series of drill progressions to allow you to practice playing the long backhand drop in the more natural context of a rally and to begin pushing yourself toward being able to use the shot in a more realistic environment.

james willstropPairs practice

This second pairs session is based around a progression of conditioned games, to allow you to really start applying some of the themes and ideas presented by James in the playlists into a ‘live’ match-based situation.


Strength/stability circuit

Having a good base of strength and stability will help you when you’re working on a shot such as the long backhand drop, as it’ll allow you to hit from a firmer and more balanced position. Give this strength/stability session a go, working a variety of lunge variants and bodyweight exercises.


Related content

Drops from deep with Lee Drew

In this series, Lee Drew teaches you everything you need to know about playing dropshots from the back of the court.


Backhand technique session with Jethro Binns

In this series, Jethro takes Paul Miles through a coaching session to improve his backhand technique and ball striking.


Movement masterclass with Jesse Engelbrecht

In this 10 part series Jesse teaches you everything you need to know to become an efficient mover on court.


Let us know how you get on with the sessions, we’d love to hear your feedback!

Haven't seen the full playlist yet?

In this series, we dive into the tactics and technique of James Willstrop’s super strength, the backhand drop, with a special focus on his ability to play the shot from the back wall.

Watch the playlist in full