Some of the most effective players in the squash clubs up and down the land are the drop-lobbers. They tend to be really accurate, really deliberate in what they do and really frustrating overall to play. They have the ability to really take all the pace out the game and make the court long, wide and high. They attempt to use every spare inch of space available to them and try and get you into the extremities of the court to test your physical and skill levels in these situations. This blog will point out some ways and strategies to cope with these players and nullify the weapons they bring to the game.
Increase the pace where possible
If you are able to inject pace into the game above the level of what the drop-lobber is comfortable with then they will have to take some more risks and inevitably give you more opportunities to attack. There is nothing worse for a drop-lobber to be playing with a ball that is moving fast through the air and coming at them at a pace they would not feel comfortable with. To control a fast-moving, and maybe hot, ball with feel and touch and placement is a hard ask and is the first area to look at to reduce their control over the game. Be careful of this as if you are playing loose and fast this can cause you problems. There needs to be a level of accuracy mixed in with this faster pace
Fight fire with fire
Sometimes you need to take your medicine and accept that their shot is so good and so tight and so accurate that you will not be able to do much with it. This is particularly true when the drop-lobber has taken you in short and you are glued to the wall and right near the front of the court. The way to combat this is to play exactly the same shot they have, hence fight fire with fire. The counter drop is such an effective shot to use against a drop-lobber. Too often players try and hit themselves out of this situation and this is exactly what the drop-lobber is looking for and can feed off. The counter drop nullifies this tactic effectively. Alternatively if there is just enough space, room and angle, using a lob is another effective way to cope with their drop shots and using one of their weapons against them. Often you may find using a players strengths back against them can really mess with them.
Greater levels of anticipation
Due to the nature and accuracy of the drop-lobber you should look to anticipate the shots more often than you would with say a regular type player. A higher and more aggressive T position would be encouraged to cover their short balls but you should also be mindful of them putting the ball over your head. You will need to try and spot their obvious shots nice and early and create a database of knowledge of these and anticipate them early. Once you can start to get onto their better shots early this can frustrate the drop-lobber and they ultimately take more risks giving you more chances to get on top of them. In the short term, even if you get it wrong, try and use and trust this tactic as you will quickly learn the levels on anticipation required in certain situations.
Volley where possible
The drop-lobber will look to get the ball high in the air more often than a regular style player and get it buried in the back. The ability to volley well and volley effectively now needs to become a major part of your game in order to deal with these high balls and to attempt to intercept them before the die on you in the back corners. The high volley above the shoulder is a skill to master and one bit of advice I always try and tell players in this situation is to use the height that you already have in the ball. Do not attempt to take a high ball and hit it onto the middle line or below, this is exactly what the drop-lobber is looking for. Try and attempt to chip the ball back high onto the front wall using the height you have. You need good shoulder and core strength for this as well as a controlled wrist for control over the racket head.
Get good at digging the ball out the corners
You will have to accept that with all the will in the world to volley that sometimes the ball will be played so good and so well that you will be stuck in the back and having to now try and dig the ball out the back corners. It is worth getting good at this skill as a great defensive tactic overall but particularly more so against the drop-lobber. Being able to take a situation where hope seems lost and to reverse it back on your opponent can really mentally damage them. Good digging requires a smart body position in relation to the ball and the back wall, a short and chocked up grip, getting a really low body position, super open racket face for underspin and good strong and quick hands to turn the ball out onto the front wall.
Warm the ball up!
A drop-lobber loves a cold and dead ball. If you are able to get the ball as warm as possible before the start of each game this will help keep the game on your terms for longer. I often see the drop-lobber style player using a cold ball at the start of the games to their advantage. They take the ball is short very early and use the cold and dead ball to get a streak of points before the opponent has any idea what is happening. Be mindful of the drop-lobber looking for this and if you notice the ball is cold be ready for them to use their strengths well. Ideally, even during the game, get the ball as warm as you can as the with the extra bounce in the ball the drop-lobber has to execute the shot almost perfectly to be effective. A slow and dead ball is the drop-lobber’s best friend. Learning how to play in ‘cold’ conditions is a good tactic.
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