RacquetWorld's Newsletter Racquetball Tip of the Month
The Tortoise and the Hare
This month's question has been submitted in various forms from many of you. In this case I'm paraphrasing...
"Pat, I'm doing all the things you describe...I'm serving much better, I'm hitting more passing shots and better ceiling balls but now what? I still can't beat some of the same players who don't really look like they play better than me on the court?"
I was recently asked to watch a player who fit this situation to a tee. He was getting better but with his new found abilities he was also "experimenting" with higher risk shots more often trying to emulate the even better players. This caused more unforced errors than necessary and in many cases took much of the pressure off his opponent.
He was playing more like the Hare. He was starting off right by going for an ace or short on the very first serve but during his rally play he was over playing his actual ability and forcing awkward shots. This resulted in unnecessary skip balls and other setups. While he did make some great looking shots on occasion, the " FORGOTTEN misses" outnumbered the "great REMEMBERED shots". A racquetball Hare is often too anxious to put the ball away. A racquetball Tortoise is patient. He makes very few mistakes but he accepts that fewer mistakes may mean less dramatic awesome shots. A Tortoise player may appear to have a boring consistent style of play but they are very tough to beat. They will not lose a game you have to beat them to take the game and this is much different than playing a Hare who many times will beat himself.
Instead of listing what you should do...I'll list in order what you should never do...then you can go around from outside the court and determine what type of player you're watching...then call the Hares Bugs Bunny or something and walk away...they'll have no clue and we can both get a little laugh especially when it comes full circle and somebody writes to me asking what it means to be called Bugs Bunny.
The worst infractions list:
A double fault (or an out serve like hitting yourself with the ball etc) is the absolute worst error you can make. This is the most relief you can offer your opponent. This may be obvious, but since I'm continually telling you to go for an ace or short on your first serve, I want you to always, without fail, get your second serve in play.
Skipping the ball. Skipping the ball takes all the pressure off your opponent. How many times after you skip a ball did you wish you hit a safe ceiling ball or a pass shot...well don't wish, hit those shots the first time around. The correct shot is not that fancy put away you hit right 25% of the time and skip 75% of the time. You want to remain in the rally at all costs and this keeps the pressure on your opponent always. Constant pressure in a racquetball game is like a body shot against a boxer. At first, they don't seem like they will affect the outcome but constant pressure mentally breaks a player down. It also breaks a player down physically. They know they have to move for every shot you hit because every shot you hit will remain in play.
Point Hinders. While many "friendly games" don't call point hinders, the basic cause of point hinders should be avoided...namely getting in the way of your opponent's shot. This should easily be avoided since you know (most of the time) where you will be hitting your shot that he must retrieve. A little planning and you should be well out of the way.
Don't miss your setups. You work too hard to get a nice easy setup. It's not enough to not skip it. You have to put these setups away. Keeping the ball in play is great but that philosophy is all geared towards you eventually getting a clear setup and winning the rally. Don't let this opportunity slip between your fingers.
Missed Ceiling balls. Ceiling balls are like a reset when you're in any kind of trouble or out of position in a rally. If you can't execute a reset from almost any point on the court when you're behind in the rally, well you're not a tortoise. Ceiling balls should be synonymous with a tortoise...they are both slow paced and should be very consistent.
No Back Wall. This is a subtle guideline I preach...if your ball isn't coming off the back wall you only give your opponent one chance at a shot. This strategy puts a great deal of pressure on an opponent.
The list of DONTs are geared to add up to a pressure cooker so that your opponent explodes under that pressure and his game breaks down. The typical after game lines I hear most often from an opponent are "it just wasn't my day out there" or I couldn't catch a break today" when in reality the tortoise game is designed to do just that.
OK...your game should be coming together now with a more complete list of not only DO's but now also DON'Ts.
Questions or comment…Pat@Racquetworld.com