By Richard Millman, Owner—Westchester Squash
Last month, we introduced the fundamental mechanics and some of the most common boasts in squash. This month we will look at some more advanced boasting, but each has their place in the game.
A Squeeze boast is simply a boast that is ‘Squeezed’ from a ball that is tight to the side wall. You can ‘Squeeze’ any boast—trickle, working, volley, etc.
Don’t try and ‘Squeeze’ any ball that is stuck to the sidewall. But for balls that are just off the sidewall—up to around three inches—the method is to strike the ball with a more pronounced upward trajectory and to let your racquet clatter into the wall, relaxing your wrist as you complete the shortened follow through with a softening contact on the wall.
Again it is essential that the movement and power generation of the legs start this process, so that you are in position for the next phase of the rally before your opponent can play their next shot.
The value of a ‘Squeeze’ boast is that it can completely surprise an opponent who doesn’t expect a wrong footing boast from such a tight ball.
Struck with great force at a narrow angle along the side wall, the skid boast is normally struck high producing a similar effect to a cross-court float, with the exception that because of the suddenness of the shot, it can catch an unwary opponent napping. Again, power is generated from the legs with tremendous and dynamic movement combined with corresponding speed in the upper body and particularly “whiplash” from the wrist to produce a great deal of racquet head speed.
This is a great shot to play when an unsuspecting opponent thinks you are limited to a defensive boast or straight shot out of the back corner. Once again, make sure you move with your shot.
Players with enormous power, especially on a warm court, can play a low skid boast from the back middle or front of the court, which can really surprise a opponent as the ball explodes through the middle of the court, This is a very risky shot if you don’t have enormous power as it leaves you open to a counter volley, but it can be very effective.
More usually known in the rest of the world as a ‘Corkscrew’ shot, the Philly boast is not strictly a boast, as it hits the front wall on the striker’s side of the court first, before immediately ricocheting off of the side wall and literally ‘Corkscrewing’ or ‘ banana-ing’ diagonally across to the opposite side of the court.
Again this is a shot that requires tremendous power and should not be attempted by players who don’t have both huge power and great timing.
It is the only shot played in Squash (by normal human beings) that actually moves in the air (the spin on the ball curving it so that it moves away from its original path to the back corner/side wall increasingly to the back wall) and therefore is liable to fool unsuspecting/inexperienced players who are bamboozled by the movement in the air and either whiff the shot or fatally leave it to bounce.
Again this can be a terrific shot when well executed and used sparingly, but equally can be a disaster when poorly executed. Practice it like fury before you ever attempt it in a competitive match. All the usual rules apply—particularly getting into position as you play it—or you will find yourself not only stranded, but likely to get hit!
Back wall boast
This is the most desperate of all defensive measures—literally flicking the ball up, off of the back wall so that it loops high, soft and slow to the front wall, while giving you time to get into position to deal with whatever evil attack the opponent has to offer.
Power, once again, comes from the legs, traveling through the body, along the arm and being focused through the flick of the wrist into the ball. The mechanics are almost the same as a lob from the front of the court, with the exception that you are hitting the ball a little farther.
Make sure you move into position for the next ball as you execute the back wall boast, or you will worsen your already poor situation.
The best reply to a back wall boast is a lob, frequently leading to an almost tennis like back and forth repetition of back wall boast followed by lob, with the lobber being in control. People that try to drop from a back wall boast on the first or even second occasion it is played almost always lose the point, as the back wall boaster has had ample time to prepare and the dropper frequently doesn’t recover as they play their drop—thereby leaving themselves out of position.
Repeatedly lobbing the back wall boast usually exhausts the back wall boaster and leaves the lobber in control until such time as the lob either wins or an alternate shot becomes obvious because of the back wall boaster’s fatigue.
Boasts can add delightful color to the artist’s palette. But beware of over or early use, as warning an opponent of their likely use can severely limit their value.
Make sure that your first thought when thinking of playing a boast is your own movement, so that your crafty shot doesn’t leave you stranded.
Practice to the point of near perfection before attempting and even then continue to practice regularly. The margin of error with boasts is very narrow indeed.
Hopefully with practice and stealth you may become very arrogant indeed!
Next month: Are you ‘The Man (Woman) from U.N.C.L.E?’ How good is your Solo, Napoleon?