Whenever I walk past a court and see two decent amateur players having a match the first thing that strikes me is the sound that is being produced by the players. Often it is quite a loud sound with lots of hard hitting and heavy movements.
After watching for a while, I also notice the pace of the game stays mainly fast and hard with very little variations especially when length hitting is involved. It almost seems like the players are keen to blast away at each other and to see who the first person is that can hit the ball right through the front wall. On the surface, and to the untrained eye, this can look quite impressive as it’s fast, dynamic and relatively frantic. But when you scratch beneath the surface, and when these opponents come across someone more experienced, there are a lot of weaknesses in this style of play. The lack of chipping the ball is a huge common amateur fault and one area that when done well can really raise the level of one’s game to new heights.
When chipping the ball will rise off the strings and have a loop in its trajectory towards the front wall, and subsequently also hit the front wall and rise again.
This blog will look at why chipping the ball is a very effective weapon to have and the reasons this is so.
Varies the pace
The ability to vary the pace away from constant hard hitting will give you so much more in your game. Opponents can get very used to one pace especially when it is hard. It may seem like a good idea to hit the ball hard and try and inject pace into the game to continually rush the opponent, but if this is their only frame of reference they have to pay attention to then it can become quite predictable. The variation of pace during a rally makes the opponent have to pay more attention to what is going on. This means they have to concentrate a lot more and over time this can be mentally draining. Not only mentally does it become tiresome but the fact that the movement is now at different paces also takes a physical edge out of your opponent. Moving the same, even if slightly fast, is quite energy efficient. Stopping and starting and checking and accelerating is way harder for an opponent and is not efficient at all.
Slowing the ball down and chipping it can become very energy efficient and you should feel you are able to extend the rallies and control the game more. Not only does it make it less energy efficient for your opponent but will help your energy efficiency over the course of a match. Because it is YOU slowing the ball down and chipping, you can then have an appropriate flow and movement attached to this shot. Also, because the ball will be lofted and travelling through the air slower, this gives you time to get back to the T with really good timing and almost walk there. When this happens the split-step is also engaged a bit easier and more efficient and everything then starts to feel on your terms.
Lowering the levels of constant hard hitting should increase the levels of accuracy. It is really hard to combine constant hard hitting from the back of the court alongside accuracy. You should find that with more subtle hitting and placement of the ball that your accuracy should increase. This is not always the case and you need to be confident and have practised this shot in training and matches in order to feel the benefits of the accuracy. It is really difficult to be in the back corners at a slight stretch and then swing hard and hope for accuracy. The correlation here is not in your favour. But being more calculated with your swing and placement when under a little pressure will heighten the chances of you hitting an accurate shot.
Good way to defend a tough situation
When you are getting pinned back deep in the corners, rather than trying to hit your way out of trouble it will be wise to chip the ball. By doing this and having good levels of accuracy, your defensive game will become stronger. It is such a satisfying feeling being able to press the reset button on a rally when you feel your opponent is starting to command and get in front of you. Chipping the ball allows the ability to reset a rally when it is matched with good accuracy. This can be hugely frustrating also for your opponent who can then start to make rash decisions and panic a little.
Can get you back on the T
As alluded to before, due to the nature of chipping, the ball will travel through the air slower. Because of this, you should be able to get back on the T with more time and be able to formulate your attacking game from this part of the court. Squash is a game that is won by the player who is predominantly on the T and in the middle of the court. Going at the ball hard all the time does not allow this to happen and when you get confident in your chipping then your ability to get back on the T more often with control starts to happen.
- Shorten and lower your backswing in order to get under the ball more efficiently with softness
- Open your racket face as you want to get most of your racket under the ball and give you height on the front wall
- Consider slight adaptations with your grip in order to get it more open, softer and under the ball. You may consider holding the grip more in the fingers than the palm as you will get a lot more control and touch from the fingers
- Soften your body as you execute the shot. Being hard and rigid won’t give you the skill to chip well and feel the ball. Consider dragging your back leg a lot when chipping as this also helps soften the body
- Relax the follow through and let the wrist and racket head do some of the work for you
In summary, I believe the lack of chipping the ball at the amateur level is a huge common fault that should be addressed sooner rather than later. As you can see from the above discussion, having this weapon in your game will hugely benefit you as a player and you may be surprised that with adding this subtle layer into your game how you are able to not only compete with the players above you in your club but take some decent wins along the way. Good luck and enjoy adding this part to your game and seeing the effects it will have.
Want to learn more about common amateur faults?
Then make sure to check out the series where Jesse discusses some common technical and tactical amateur faults, explaining how to make small adjustments that will vastly improve your performances on court!Find out more