An issue that I am asked about by players I coach is how to deal with and combat a shot player?
The best way to define these players is that they like to take the ball into the front of the court at every available opportunity. They tend to play with a high-risk tactic that when works can really be disruptive. They are able to rattle off points quickly and tend to be able to not let their opponent get into any sort of rhythm. Often when going in short, they will also use angles, cuts and spins on the ball in order to be most effective. All of the above lends itself to a bit of a stop-start game and the shot player likes nothing better than this. Below are a few tips and tactics that can be employed to try and nullify the shot players at your club.
High on the T
The nature of a shot player is that they win the majority of their points in front of the court. They are taking high risks and exposing their opponent’s lack of awareness or speed to the front of the court. Because of this, the odds of the ball going short are high so most times you will need to push up higher on the T than you normally would. Once you get used to this and keep telling yourself to do so you should find you are able to get back a lot more of their shots than normal. Be aware though that it is hard work going up high on the T and the chances of them passing you are higher also. You need to try and use your fitness appropriately for this tactic and be ready for the hard work it entails.
Tidy the game up
It is rare a shot player will take the ball in short and be super accurate on every single occasion. The tactic a lot of the time when your opponent is going for their shots is to neaten and tidy up the game. Sometimes you do not need to do much more than this as they often take a high risk and go short when they are not traditionally in a great position. If the ball pops out a little, then simply try and tidy the game up. At this point, you do not need to take unnecessary risks but merely tuck the ball into a part of the court that will cause some form of frustration for your shot playing opponent. A common mistake I see is players try and play ‘too good of a shot’ when at that point ‘good enough will do’ and you don’t need to play anything too special.
Pin them deep
Shot players like nothing better than being on the T with a loose ball to show off their skills and chop the ball in. Often the shot players will have this mindset and mentality all the time in a match, so pinning them deep in the corners is the best place to put them so they attempt their shots from the most difficult part of the court. This tactic does work against any player but seems a lot more relevant against a shot player. Attempt to take away their area of strength (on the T and around the middle) and get them to try and attempt their shots from an area of weakness (pinned deep in the back corners).
Like with most styles, variation is the key to have in squash. With the shot player, this is highly important. Shot players love it when their opponent is just bashing away at them thinking that the harder the pace the more disruptive this is. This is often not the case and employing a wider range of varying paces and shots will test the shot players skill and ability to keep playing their shots. The lob is a really fantastic shot to use more often against this style of player as when done well there is also nothing on offer off the back wall for them to attack you with. I often see players hitting a good length but overhitting against a shot player is almost as bad as under hitting a length. Using the lob effectively and variation to the back of the court will not allow them the freedom from there also.
I tend to find there seems to be a correlation with shot players and their fitness levels. Usually, a shot player does not rely on their fitness to win matches so if you are patient enough and try and extend the rallies long enough, the shot players fitness will be called into question. This tactic requires you to have a certain base level of fitness also so work on getting this up. This tactic also requires you to keep the ball out of the tin as well as in play for longer. This links to an early point about tidying the game up. If you are stubborn and refuse to gift your opponent any cheap mistakes you will see that their fitness level will be tested. Be aware the shot players fitness is rarely high so do all you can to expose this and watch them self-implode by taking more risks to win more rallies when tired.
Mentally it is worth getting in the right headspace. The nature of the game will unlikely be free-flowing with a lot of rhythm. The rallies are likely to be shorter and you need to be ready for this and alert. Trying to find a beautiful rhythm, flow and timing is going to be unlikely against a shot player as their whole goal is to attack and take risks to rattle off quick points. A shot player will rarely revert to a long drawn out game so even if you are ahead and feeling in control be wary as they will still back themselves to go for these shots. I have often seen a player well in front and then the shot player gets their eye in and their shots start coming off. The rallies are short and sharp and very quickly the game is back on even terms.
In summary, the shot player is a difficult opponent to beat but with a few smart tactics and ideas, you should be able to put yourself in a good position to win these matches. Be accepting of their strength and know what will work best in which situation. With the above bits of information be cautious to not try and do all of them at once but pick and choose which will be the most appropriate and when. Try and not to get too frustrated with their good shots as they are very likely to get a lot during a match, but inversely if you can test them well enough and keep them honest, a lot of errors and tins start to appear.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT PLAYING DIFFERENT STYLES?
Check out this series where DP shows what to expect when playing different styles fo player and how to negate their play.Watch now