Down the Middle Solves the Riddle

By Preston Quick

In tennis doubles, the mantra is: down the middle solves the riddle. In squash doubles, however, it is an uncommon shot. But strategically hitting the ball in the middle of the court, at the varying angles, pace, and height, is one of the best ways to surprise your opponents and open up the court. Having the shot in your arsenal will make your cross courts more effective by forcing your opponent to move away from the side walls and be ever wary of what is up your sleeve. Many players end up experimenting with down the middle shots by accident, but it ends up being a great shot the majority of the time. Use the down the middle shot to create some controlled chaos, as Gary Waite likes to say.  There are several ways to execute this shot effectively and from different parts of the court.

From the service line:

  • Hit the ball straight to the front wall and down the middle of the court. (Image one) Ideally you get a free point from your opponents being confused as to who should hit the ball. (For the record, the forehand should take it, so usually that is the left wall, right handed player). This shot should be played exponentially more often when playing a team with two forehands—a lefty and righty both playing their forehand side. More accurate players will try to adjust the shot slightly towards the weaker player or the person who would have to play a backhand.
  • Hit the ball cross court but more or less right at your opponent, so they have to play the ball with the swing they are not planning. A good place to aim is the inside (toward the middle) hip of your opponent.
  • Hit the ball into the front wall near the side wall so it comes back to the middle of the court. (Image two) The striker should clear to the sidewall. This is a great way to focus on your opponent on your wall without having to continually hit straight balls up and down the wall.

From the front of the court:

  • An attacking shot from the front middle can be struck with force and hit just behind the striker. (Image three) Be careful: if your opponent guesses the down the middle shot, it will be a penalty stroke against you.
  • A surprising option is to play a drop shot in the middle of the court. Again, it is unexpected: most opponents will be looking for drops to end up in either corner of the front court.

From the back of the court:

  • A great time to hit down the middle is when you are forced to play a shot from the middle near the back wall. You can hit a straight drive or even a straight lob forcing your opponents to play from the same position you were just in.