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Attack,
Defend, or Changeover: Shot Selection …

..
the most signficant mistakes players make are related to shot selection…

By Alistair Duncan, Scottis Squash
Rackets Club, Maryhill, Glasgow.

February 18 2000: © 2004 SquashTalk LLC

As
a coach, I feel that the most significant mistakes players make
are related to their shot selection. By this, I mean that a player
like Power hits his winners, not off an opponent’s well-selected,
well-played shots, but off shots resulting from poor shot selection.

Having
spent a memorable week in Aberdeen at the British Open, watching
the best squash players in the world play some superb matches, I
was left with the feeling that even these top players pay less than
adequate attention to the importance of their opponents when deciding
which shot to play. For example, their attempts at keeping their
reply “tight” were often thwarted by their opponents, who would
not only reach the ball, but who would also be able to put them
under even more pressure with well thought out replies.

Many
moons ago, I played regularly against Bruce Headey (then a lecturer
at Strathclyde University), who believed there were only three types
of shots in squash: “attacking”, “defensive” and “changeover”. Also,
Bruce asserted that most points were lost when either player failed
to recognise that a “changeover” shot had been played.

Over the
years, my belief in that statement has evolved, from mild scepticism,
into a wholehearted acceptance of it as the best description of
what is involved in playing controlled squash that I have heard.
May I describe as accurately as I can what I believe Bruce meant?

Attacking
Shots:
When a player has total choice of shot to play.
This can range from an outright winner to a shot that increases
the pressure on an opponent. Or, conversely, due to poor selection
or execution, a shot that allows an opponent to attack: a “changeover”
shot.

Defensive
Shots:
When a player’s choice is restricted to ensuring
that the opponent cannot finish the rally off his return. Top players
sequence their shots. They play shots into areas where they know
their opponent has a limited choice of “escape avenues”, and then
close down those “escape avenues”. This enables them to hit the
ball earlier, thus applying more pressure if the opponent hits into
these areas. To enable a good defensive shot to be played, an awareness
of these “escape avenues” is necessary, and an avoidance of hitting
the ball through them is essential. Winners can be played from defensive
shots, and, with careful selection, a “changeover” shot is always
possible.

Changeover
Shots:
When an attacking player becomes a defensive one,
and vice versa.

The players
in Aberdeen confirmed my belief in “Bruce’s Law”. They are so good
themselves, that they forget how good their opponents are. Time
after time, players had an excellent attacking shot played against
them. Instead of recognising the need to defend, they tried to attack
by hitting through the “escape avenues”, with the consequence, if
not of losing the rally immediately, then of having an even more
difficult next shot to deal with. Similarly, opportunities to attack
were not recognised.

At this
level, any failure to seize the initiative is punished; the opponent
exploits the weakness, and a rally that could have been won is lost.