You will encounter and come across some players whose main goal is to try and eke out every small window of opportunity to win, and they often have a “win at all costs” mentality. They are not really interested in long, nice competitive rallies. They are not interested in having a “good game”. They rarely play pure and clean squash. At every chance, they are asking for the let when far out of position or they are fishing and hunting for the stroke when it is not there.
As you can imagine, this type of player could be categorised as the most frustrating and difficult player to play against as they are playing right on the edge of the rules and using the fact that they either have no marker or a weak marker and exploiting this fact.
For argument’s sake, I am assuming here that you are unlikely to have a marker or referee, or if you do then they may not be fully versed in the rules and they become manipulated by the fisher. Below are some tools to try and help you deal with the fisher and let hunter.
Let’s call a spade a spade. No one really likes playing this type of player and often in a club setting this type of player will rarely have people lining up to play them, as they can suck the enjoyment out of the game. But you may HAVE to play against this style of player whether it be in an internal league match, or for a team match, or in a tournament, so it is worth arming yourself with how to try and handle it. Acceptance of the fact is going to be key. Get your mind in gear knowing that it is not going to be pretty or nice or the squash that you really would like to play. The game will be a stop-start, there will be lots of contentious decisions, and the whole point is your opponent is trying to break you mentally and rattle you. You need to try and accept the inevitable and let go! Very easy to say, very hard to do. It will take time and practice. Recognise and catch yourself getting frustrated, stop for a moment, breathe, tell yourself you are prepared for this and it’s no surprise, and then let go. Refocus your mind to affect the next shots you play. Ultimately that is all you can do and control. You cannot control your opponent’s decisions.
Alongside this, you also need to be proud of yourself and it should give you motivation knowing that they cannot beat you with proper squash. They are looking for all they can to win, and they are using dark arts and playing on the edge of cheating. They probably know deep down that this is the only way they can win so be sure to acknowledge this and use it as fuel to your fire to stay motivated and positive.
The most effective way to combat the let hunter is to play high-quality squash. Tight and accurate. Controlling the T, and not allowing them to try and use their dark arts tactic against you. This is all good and well saying but in real terms the execution is a lot harder. Even the best players in the world will offer up loose shots or choose the wrong shot and then this allows the fisher to get their tactic working and look to rattle you. So, you must accept that at times you will offer up some rubbish squash and that they will be hunting for the stroke or calling a soft let. Build this into your mental buffer zone and keep bringing yourself back to the fact that you are trying to achieve good high levels of accurate squash.
Alongside this, you also need to be clear and stick to the way YOU want to play no matter the external forces trying to pull you away from this. Trust in your game plan and keep reminding yourself of it between rallies. Try and not let your mind become clouded with their antics and tactics as this is exactly what they are hoping will happen to you. Play your good quality squash! And be ready to do it for extended periods of time, no matter the chaos going on around you.
Clear your shot
You will have to look to play and clear your shots a little quicker and with a little more urgency against this style of player. This is not ideal as it can lead you to pulling out of the shot too early and making it even looser and therefore giving them more chance to fish for a stroke. But this is a tradeoff you must consider. Playing a straight drop, for example, and getting out the way to avoid the contact would mean they have to go through and play the ball. Giving them a clear line and sight of the ball will be important.
This will be even more highlighted when the ball is a bit looser and in the middle of the court. If they have played a loose shot and you are looking to capitalise, be sure to play and clear best you can. This may not always be possible as they will likely be already hovering on your shoulder and looking for the contact early on.
Similarly, when it is their turn to play their shot, give them more space than you think they need, especially when your shot is loose. They will often have a huge swing and look to fish for the stroke by trying to imply and show that you are in their swing when all they have done is be excessive. Be ready for this, as this is a big part of their weaponry.
You will need a high level of awareness of where they are in the court against the fisher, and you need to choose your shots wisely. You may opt for a few more shots such as boasts and cross courts from when you are behind them rather than playing a straight drive. When you play a straight drive from behind them, and you are trying to move to the T, this is when they really “look” for you and try and get the soft let or stroke. Playing to the open parts of the court and often as far away from yourself as possible can mitigate them running into you and looking for the stroke and let. This is obviously not ideal as you want to play the game a lot straighter and tighter against the sidewall. But, at the right times when you are behind them, opening the court up can help.
When you are in the middle and looking to attack, this will be hugely important too. Often this type of player will make contact with you as, or even before, you play your shot. They know then that they have a good chance to call for that annoying let regardless of where you have played it so be ready for this and choose the correct shot.
Variation of your shots is so key. I often encourage this tactic of variation and it does apply to pretty much every style of player. But using a lot of HEIGHT variation on the front wall with the let hunter will be key. They love the game when it is fast and scrappy with a hot ball and not much control. They can hunt those strokes with a big swing and look to run into you when they are out of position and call those soft lets. The lob and lifting the ball does wonders in mitigating this and gives you time to clear the way a little also. You need to ensure, like anything, that the quality is relatively high as loose shots when trying to lift can just dig your hole even deeper against this style of player.
Know the rules
It will be wise to be brushed up on the rules. If it gets ugly on the court, you can try and negotiate with your opponent and try and point out to them why it should not be a let or stroke.
This will not always work of course and could cause more issues or anger on there, but, if you are able to explain in a clear and precise way what the rules are regarding lets and strokes, this may just help the situation and make your opponent aware that they are contravening some of the rules. In simple terms, you need to give your opponent a clear line of access to the ball. They should not be looking to play the opponent and should be looking to play each ball on merit. If you feel that your opponent is taking excessive and exaggerated space or running into you constantly, you can try and point this out to them and calmly explain that this is against the rules.
Fight fire with fire
Lastly, and not my favourite tactic, you can fight fire with fire. Meaning that you can flip it on its head, and you can start to ask for soft lets or look for strokes the same way they do. I really do not like this, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures and giving them a taste of their won medicine can stop them doing it to you. Unlikely to stop them trying to hunt the stroke in all honestly, but at times you can make a point of how it feels to be on the receiving end of it all.
Just be sure to not overuse this as when done badly you are lowering yourself to their game and it can massively take you away from how you want to play and the shot selection and tactics that will work to beat this player. Try and beat them the right way with good quality squash and let the ball placement do the talking. You must walk a tightrope here of not descending to their level and negatively affecting your game.
In summary, there is no easy way to play this type of player and the biggest thing I would try and do is get the mind in a state of acceptance. This is not going to be your most fun and memorable match and should be seen as a match you want to try and win and move on from. It all starts with the correct state of mind to play the fisher and let hunter and once you can cultivate this positive and accepting state of mind you can look to employ some of the more nuanced tactics and shots outlined above.
Every time you play this style of player try and frame it up in your mind as your ultimate test and challenge to get through as it will only add layers to your game already if you can handle it and deal with it well.
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