RacquetWorld's Newsletter Racquetball Tip of the Month


The Game within the Game - Deep Court


There are many instances of mini games going on inside the bigger overall game of racquetball.  You need to recognize these mini games so that you can take advantage of other player’s faults in these areas.  More importantly though is to identify your weaknesses in these various areas so you can improve on how you’ve been being exploited.  In this article we’re going to look at play from deep court.

During a recent pick up game of doubles, my partner assumed I was shooting every ball from the backcourt and thus he should too.  The difference, beside our level of play (sorry Jim), was that he did attempt to shoot everything regardless of his movement, the type of setup and where our opponents were positioned.  All shots, setups and movements are not created equal at the 39 foot court depth.  In addition, most of the time your opponent(s) are setting a trap for you by pushing you to this court depth.

Let’s look at movement first.  The biggest mistake made at this depth is thinking you can be moving backwards and shooting forwards.  The ceiling ball goes over your head…it’s going to come up a hair short of the back wall and you time it as you move backwards.  However while your timing seems correct because you meet the ball exactly as it’s dropping into a setup position, your body momentum is still moving backwards.  It is so hard to be consistent with a shot when your body momentum is fighting your swing momentum.

The correct movement would have been to rush to the back wall ahead of the ball.  Don’t take your eye off the ball, reach back with your racquet (or hand) to exactly gauge the distance to the back wall, and set your footwork.  (The difference between reaching back with your racquet or your free hand is whether you are setting up for a forehand of backhand return)  If you are going to error on deep court movement it is always better to be closer to the back wall than not back far enough.  It’s always better to move forward in the direction of the front wall to make a shot then having to reach backwards.  Reaching backwards means you will have no base footwork, no power and you won’t be able to see your opponent(s) at all.

Setups in deep court are not the same either.  Balls that come up short of the back wall (moving away from the front wall) are harder to shoot than setups coming off the back wall.  The balls coming at you have momentum in the opposite direction as you are shooting.  Not only do you have to completely change the ball’s momentum, you have to be able to absorb that energy and then compensate to create the perfect angle and height for a great shot.  Setups coming off the back wall are already moving in the right direction…toward the front wall.  They are much easier to shoot.

Lets look at sneaky opponents.  Many opponents who keep pushing you back to 39 feet are really counter punchers.  They put you in the backcourt and then slide into great court position so that anything less than a perfect shot allows them to easily step over and put the ball away.  In most cases you are so deep in the court still, their shot doesn’t even have to be that good.  Don’t get played by these guys.  These are the guys who are typically hindering your cross court shots so they force a down the line shot...mix up your shots…throw in cross court shots…once you commit to a shot do not think about your opponents location…concentrate and take your shot.  They are banking on forcing you into their shot selection not yours.  (I know it may seem I’m telling you to hit other players with your shot…but if you’ve told them you are entitled to that crosscourt shot 20 times and they refuse to move…they may have had it coming.)

What does all this info really mean?  It means if you pay attention to better players, they are beating weaker players up during rallies in the deep court.

Here are my general rules for deep court play written for the A/B player…

If you are moving backwards and just getting to the ball, go back to the ceiling and get your opponent out of center court.  Your perfect shot, with so many factors against you, is too elusive.  Too many skips occur when your body momentum is going the wrong way…play it safe and get better position on the next setup.

As soon as you know you’ll be deep in the court, get there as fast as you can so you’re looking at the ball and get a peripheral view of your opponents.  If your opponents have setup on you…meaning your dealing with a ceiling ball and not a waist level shot that got deep faster than your opponents could setup…I would still go with a ceiling ball to reverse the positions. 

Any setup off the back wall I would shoot.  I would mix up my shots between down the line, crosscourt and pinches so that my opponents could not trap me as easily.  Balls that again are faster and allow for less opponent setup time are easier to shoot with less thought.  Be careful with ceiling balls as they give your opponent(s) time to setup on you.  But the advantage is still yours.

The last couple thoughts for deep court play…don’t think you have to be so perfect that you either roll it or skip it.  Skipping the ball is one of the biggest no-nos in the game…right behind the double fault.  When skipping seems to seep in, go with the safer crosscourt pass shots.  Remember that going down the line can also be considered a passing shot and doesn’t have to roll out every time to be a winner.  

Lastly, patience is a virtue in the mini deep court game.  If you don’t get into the right position or your opponents are setup on you or anything else clouds your shot, there is nothing wrong with going to the ceiling and sending your opponent(s) to the back court.  This is a reset to wait for a more opportune situation. 

After the serve and serve return, the back court game is where you’re going to win or lose most of your matches.

As always, you comments are appreciated.