5 tips on playing against very traditional players

9th April 2020

When players encounter an opponent that plays very traditional squash, they can prove very difficult to get a win over. This opponent tends to play a lot of straight shots, predominately hitting the ball to a good length and keeping the pace relatively the same. They are strong and fit usually and rely on taking very little risks. There is a reliance from these opponents that they will win the match by grinding you down and boring you to death. It can be a very effective ploy and game plan as it is very easy to fall into their traps of either playing the same game as them or alternatively going for shots that are too risky and they can pick you off. This blog will look to give you some tools to take into these matches in order to get the win over these very traditional style players


Understand their tactics

As alluded to in the introduction, you should be very clear about why the traditional style players play as they do. Their goal is to take very little risks in their game, to play a lot of length, to make the game long and drawn out, to drag you into their style of play. Now that you are aware of what they bring to the party you can start to implement ways to combat this plan of theirs. I would encourage you to align your tactics with the style of player in front of you. All too often I do not see this alignment and players fall into the trap of not fully understanding their opponents and using the wrong tactics and inevitably becoming unstuck



Linked to the above point, spend some time assessing and seeing what their common patterns and shots are. You will unlikely have to guess too much and you should be able to start to predict what is coming most times. Because of this, and when you have enough data points, try and anticipate more. Start simply by anticipating the straight drive from the deep backhand. Get high on the T, move a little towards the sidewall and take the volley. This is a great way to start to build your mindset into anticipating what is coming. When you get in the habit of doing this it becomes quite addictive and enjoyable and you will start to pick up more of the subtle patterns. This can really start to destroy a traditional player’s game plan



There is nothing better for the traditional player than playing someone who takes loads of unnecessary risks. They feed off this so well. If you were to lose your patience and start opening the court up by taking the ball in short early on, adding in angles, hacking the ball hard the traditional player will likely clean this up with ease and make your life very difficult. They feed off the open and random style of play when the risks are too high, and they are able to keep the game neat and tidy and close it all off. Saying that, you do also need to be the more positive player and step forward and take the opportunities when they arise. There is no point being passive but be smart with getting your balances just right



Variation, as we know, with any style of play is important. You will need to employ a lot of smart variation against the traditional player as they will tend to play with very little variation themselves. If you are able to be less predictable but without taking too many unnecessary risks, then you will start to make some inroads. I would suggest matching their style of play for short periods, lull them into a little false sense of security this way, but be on the hunt and lookout where and when to inject pace. Try and inject two to three shots in a row of pace and then add a few shots of really slow and accurate shots. Continually playing around with these variations on your terms disrupts the traditional player massively


Know your levels of fitness

Normally the traditional player will have a decent level of fitness. Due to their style of game and how they want to play, they need to be able to produce this game for long periods and hope that their fitness levels can be better than their opponents. Because of this you need to be highly aware of how long you can last with them. If you feel they are dragging you into their style of game and your fuel tank is emptying quickly, take evasive action. This would mean heightening your risks a little in order to stop them grinding you down and beating you by purely making you fatigued. This can obviously backfire and be a little desperate, but I think it’s better trying this tactic that losing by the inevitable


In summary, the traditional player is really hard to break down, plays a low risk and safe style of game and tends to have decent levels of fitness. All these combined make for a formidable opponent. But the beauty of this, and once you are aware and tuned into it, means that you will have a level of prediction about what they are going to do. They will unlikely have alternate weapons and rely solely on grinding down opponents and frustrating them. When you employ smart tactics and are on the lookout for opportunities to anticipate and change the pace, you will start to make their strength into a weakness. Be aware of your own fitness levels as if they are lower than they should be, you yourself may need to take some calculated risks to get the win. 


Jesse Engelbrecht

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