Squash deception is all about creating that wonderful moment where you send your opponent the opposite way to where you play the ball. It’s about creating that element of uncertainty in your opponent’s mind – that split second where he or she has to lose their rhythm, pause and determine which way they need to go. Sometimes it is known as wrong-footing your opponent.
“…you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” – Abraham Lincoln
In its most basic form, squash deception is setting up for one shot and then playing another or put another way, making it look like you are playing one shot and then playing an entirely different shot. Deception usually goes hand in hand with squash disguise. Disguise is preparing for many shots in the same way so that your opponent has difficulty in determining exactly which shot you are about to play.
“Squash deception that wonderful moment where you send your opponent the opposite way to the ball.”
It’s all about applying additional pressure on your opponent by hopefully sending them in the opposite direction to where you are playing the ball or by wrong footing them by keeping your opponent guessing as to where you are going to play the ball right up until the last second.
To deceive your opponent in this way you have to set yourself up so that you look like you are playing one shot but then you actually play a different shot entirely.
Your opponent can only chase after the ball once they know which way the ball is heading.
But how exactly do you go about creating disguise and/or deception? How do you make your opponent have to guess which way to go?
Well for a starter check out this video which demonstrates how to look like you’re about to play a cross-court drive when in fact you actually play a straight drive.
Twelve Techniques You Can Use To Create Disguise And / Or Squash Deception
- Disguise: Try and use the same preparation for every shot you play. Whether that shot is a boast, a drop, a cross-court or a straight drive. Using the same racket preparation for each different shot will make it much more difficult for your opponent to determine exactly where you are playing the ball. Start each forehand and backhand swing from exactly the same position, usually with your racket in the air and the tip of your elbow pointing forward.
- Deception: You might be surprised to hear this one but here goes… Take your eye off of the ball. Obviously, most of the time you need to have your eyes glued to the ball, tracking it all of the time so that you are clear which part of the court your next shot will be coming from. However, for deception, there is a moment just as you strike the ball where it is better to keep your eyes firmly stuck to the exact point where you struck the ball. Don’t follow the ball with your eyes after you have made contact with it. Following the ball with your eyes gives your opponent a great big clue as to which direction the ball is heading. Instead, keep your head still and just have the confidence that the ball will go to the point where you intended it to go.
- Disguise: Delay or hold your racket for as long as possible prior to taking your swing. Holding the racket is excellent for squash deception. It creates that sense of uncertainty for your opponent. Done well it can make your opponent commit to movement in a particular direction before you’ve even struck the ball.
- Deception: From the back of the court stand in such a position that it only looks possible from your opponent’s perspective to play a boast. At the last second change so that you play a straight drive shot. For this to work you might have to use your wrist a little.
- Disguise: Even though your intention is to disguise your shot you should always know in your own mind exactly where you intend the ball to go. Changing your mind as to where you’re going to play the ball can often end with you only fooling one individual and that’s yourself!
- Deception: Use a really short backswing to make it look like you are playing a drop shot and then at the last moment flick your wrist to play either a cross-court shot or a straight drive.
- Deception: As in technique 6. above, use a short backswing to make it look like you’re playing a drop shot and then use your wrist to flick the ball high up on the front wall and lob the ball to the back corner of the court. When this technique is done well your opponent lunges forward in an attempt to play what they think is a drop only to see the ball float way above their head to the back.
- Deception: Turn your body away from the sidewall so that it faces the front wall. This position should make you look like you’re going to play a cross-court shot. Change the shot with a short, sharp punching movement into a straight drive. This technique is demonstrated in the video at the top of the page.
- Deception: As in technique 4. stand at the back of the court in such a way that it looks like you could only play a boast or possibly a straight drive and then at the last moment use a lot of wrist to flick the ball fully cross court.
- Deception: Attempt to use your body to block your opponent’s view at the point that you make contact with the ball.
- Deception: Deliberately play the same shot repeatedly from a particular position on the court. Change only after you feel you’ve planted that expected pattern of play in your opponent’s mind.
- Deception: Use your body language to mislead your opponent.
Practice Makes Perfect – Or At Least Makes You Better Than Before!
For disguise and deception to work well it needs to become effortless and natural. You need to be confident in your own abilities to disguise and deceive your opponent. A great way to do this is simply to practice.
Good deception can often result in a winning shot or at least put you in a really strong position in terms of the rally. However, poor deception just leaves you completely open to failing. As deception often makes a lot of use of the wrist it can be difficult to do and result in a weak open, mid-court shot.
Deception in matches should only be used when you are well practiced and comfortable at playing that particular shot.
Try the following routines for solo practice, use both the backhand and forehand sides of the court…
- Feed yourself a short, loose ball at the front of the court and then practice hitting both straight drives and cross-court shots. Focus your eyes on the ball only up to the point of striking it. From then on have the confidence that the ball will go to where you want it to.
- Feed yourself a short ball to the front corner. Practice looking like you are playing a drop shot and then using your wrist to flick out a cross-court or straight drive.
- As in practice routine 2. feed yourself another short ball to the front corner and show a drop shot but at the last minute flick the ball high up the wall and play a lob.
- Stand in a position so that your body is facing the back wall and the only shot that looks possible and then practice playing straight drives from that position. Use your wrist if you need to.
- As in practice routine 4. stand with your body facing the back wall but this time try and use a lot of wrist to pull out a cross-court shot.
Practice With a Partner
- One of you plays boast shots from the back of the court. The guy at the front practices deception by playing either a straight drive or a cross-court. The back player should shout out when they think the deception was good.
- Play a game where you are only allowed to play boasts and straight drives. A straight drive has to be played after a boast but only play boasts occasionally. Try and practice showing a boast but playing a straight drive.
- Do the same as the practice session above but throw an occasional cross-court into the mix too. Use your body position to disguise the cross-court.
- Get your partner to boast from the back of the court and then move directly to the T. You then play either a drop or a straight drive. If you play a drop then your partner counter drops, if you play a straight drive then your opponent boasts again. Get your partner to rate how well each shot was disguised.
- A variation of practice session 5. above is to allow the player at the back to straight drive as well as counter drop. A straight drive would effectively swap the back and front players.
Have some fun while you are practicing the above. Squash disguise and deception can be very difficult to master so don’t get too down if it doesn’t come quickly for you. Keep practicing and something will work for you. In matches only use the techniques that you feel very comfortable with.
To get a good feel for exactly how well you are at disguise and deception try and get someone to video you on their smartphone during your practice session. Look out for anything that you do that might give away the shot you play.
USE YOUR WRIST
Squash deception is an advanced skill as it often requires your body to be in a position not suited for the shot you are about to play. The use of the wrist often has to come into action so as to pull the shot off – this can result in a potentially weak or poor shot.
(Photo Credit: Jo Christian Oterhals)
DON’T OVERUSE IT
The trick with deception is not to overuse it. If you are known to play the same shot over and over again your opponents will become aware of it.
Below is a video of Jonathan Power. Jonathan was known as a master of deception…
CROSS COURT OR STRAIGHT DRIVE?
A great deception shot is to move your body so that it is facing the front wall making it look like you’re about to play a cross-court and then use your wrist to pull out a straight drive. Clever players also use their head to look in the direction of the cross-court. This makes the shot a tad more difficult but adds that extra layer of deception if you can pull it off.
BOAST OR STRAIGHT DRIVE?
From the back of the court, you can try and deceive your opponent by facing your body towards the back wall to make it look like you are going to play a boast off of the side wall and then again using your wrist pull out a straight drive.
Closely related to squash deception is squash disguise which is all about setting yourself up so that it looks to your opponent that you are going to play a particular shot when in fact you actually play another.
For me, one of the first disguise shots that I learned was a short back swing to look like you are about to play a drop shot and then at the last minute flick the wrist upwards to lob the ball over your opponent to the back of the court. Try and hold off playing this shot long enough until you sense your opponent moving forward.
A slight variation on the above shot is to again show a drop shot and use a flick of your wrist to play a cross-court drive.
Disguise is used often by top-level players – you will often see them preparing early and then holding the shot as long as they can before striking the ball at the last possible moment. Holding off from playing your shot as long as possible can result in your opponent committing to move in a particular direction too early. Holding the shot is all about good racket preparation – so when practicing make sure that you have your racket up and ready.
One great tip I was told to make all your disguise and deception shots stronger is to only look at the ball for the moment before and at the time you strike the ball. After you have struck the ball have the confidence to know the ball is going where you wanted it to go. Don’t give your opponent any more clues by watching the ball immediately after it leaves your racket.
What Others Have To Say About Squash Deception
“Deception comes in many forms but it is most effective when it is subtle. The less time your opponent has to process information from you prior to impact with the ball, the more success you will have.” – David Campion
“Sending your opponent completely the wrong way is one of the most satisfying feelings on a squash court. Making it happen however can be a challenge.” – Peter Nicol
For an excellent journal article on squash deception please see “Anticipation and Deception in Squash” by Roger Flynn who is the Head Squash Coach – Victorian Institute of Sport and was the Australian Junior Men’s Team Coach from 1998-2000
In this video, Karim Darwish demonstrates how to look like you’re playing a drop shot but actually play a straight or crosscourt drive…
Don’t Overuse Squash Deception
Disguise can and should be done all of the time if you are able. Squash deception however should be used sparingly. It’s not something you should be doing every second shot. Overusing it will enable your opponent to better work out exactly what you’re doing. They will begin to read your game and have you and your shot completely sussed out before you play it.
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