By Richard Millman
Continuing with the subject of movement on court, let’s turn our attention to the “Full Court Press.” This term, often used in basketball but used in practice in many sports, refers to the pressure applied by denying time to the opponent. In soccer this practice is also used to great affect against a team that is trying to build an attack. By harrying and stifling the movement of the players with the ball, it is possible to pressure the opponent into making poor decisions and a loss of accuracy as, with less time to think, decision making is less proactive and strays into reactivity and even panic.
To do this in squash we must not only use our movement to recover, we must use the time we create to better advantage by reading the game and the opponent’s behavior and ‘pressing’ whenever possible.
Hence, when playing a shot, we must use the time that the ball takes to travel to get up the court to a position from which we can cover all possible shots from the opponent. This is done most efficiently by moving off of our shot as we play it, thus enhancing the mechanics as I described last month and further improving our situation by establishing a pressurizing presence forward in the court that the opponent can feel before they can execute their own shot.
There is even another opportunity to pressurize before the opponent strikes the ball, but to capitalize on this requires great timing and focus. When playing any ball to the back of the court, it is important to use the ball’s travel time to maximum advantage by gaining position as far up the court as possible. However more important than gaining a forward position is the maintenance of a continuous mental, physical and emotional connection with the ball—which is a player’s life line. Allow that connection to be broken and all is likely to be lost as the time required to regain the connection may be longer than the ball takes to get to its destination. However, providing your movement up the court is predicated on an absolute connection with the ball, there is a moment when further advantage may be gained if skillfully executed.
Your expectation must be that your opponent will attempt to cut off your length with some sort of volley or half volley. This being the case you must be balanced and ready to move before the possible cut off shot. If, however, your opponent fails to cut-off the length, there is a further window of opportunity to steal ground and ‘press’ yet more. As soon as you see your opponent refuse the cut off shot, steal another yard up the court. This must be done instantly and you must be still and ready to react/pounce before the opponent does indeed strike the ball. But by having stolen the extra yard, no matter what choice the opponent makes, you are in position to attempt to further ‘press’, harry and stifle your opponent, by being ‘onto’ their shot extremely early. If the opponent plays long and tight and you cannot intercept the shot, you will still have ample time to go to the back of the court and play. The beauty of this maneuver is that it offers the opportunity to ‘tighten the knot.’
So remember, always ‘press’ as you play your shot and, if the opponent doesn’t cut your shot off, steal another yard to ‘press’ even more. But always, always retain your connection with the ball first and foremost.