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Contact PersonGlenda Erasmus

Tel:  021 674 6717
Fax: 021 674 6717
Email: administrator@wpsquash.co.za

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President: Andre Naude
Cel: 076-370-5436
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                                        Balls to the Wall – You Gotta Serve (to) Somebody"

                                                             With Apologies to Bob Dylan


You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir.

But you're gonna have to serve (to) somebody, yes 
You're gonna have to serve (to) somebody,

You are ready to serve. You stand, one foot in the service box, virtually at the tee, ball in hand, in control of time. You can speed things up, or slow them down; an opportunity to hit the ball hard and wide, or soft and high; to attack your opponent’s weakness. Your confidence is up, having just won a point. Your opponent hovers in the back corner… just where you want him - confidence down, having just lost a rally. Opportunity waits!

The majority of squash players, however, will mindlessly smash the ball back into play, without thought or care. Rally started. Opportunity lost.

Coaches know. The serve is one of the most difficult shots to coach. For many, this shot is the stumbling block to starting squash, as transferring ball from hand to racquet is not easy. This shot is the Holy Grail which will open doors to the wonderful world, the camaraderie, the exercise, the blood, sweat and tears of squash. (Just a tip to those parents and less experienced coaches – start coaching the serve from the left hand service box.)

Once the penny drops, and it is like that, an AHA experience, the junior has a ticket to Playdom. Sadly, the serve soon becomes an abused, ignored and a wasted ploy.

Sadly too, too few coaches spend time focussing on coaching the service, and players don’t really like to practise  it, as it is boring, requires skill, and it doesn’t make you tired. South African squash players (and sportsmen for that matter), often judge the quality of a coaching session on how tired they are, after the session. One day, when we are big, and when Apartheid is not being blamed for all ills anymore, hopefully we will realise that sport is cerebral. 

The Server’s initial target is the sidewall, just in front of, or opposite where your opponent is standing. Most servers are not even aware of where their opponent is standing, so that target is often, just a guess. But that should be your first focus, as the position of your opponent should dictate which type of service to serve.

“Different types of services? What Greek heretical rubbish does this man speak? I’ve watched the top players and they just klap the ball onto the wall” Yes, they do. But they, like Federer and Djokovic, are pin-point in their direction, and they hit their target, regularly. Also, their opponents, generally speaking, do not have glaring weaknesses in their make-up, which can be exposed by a clever player.

The most common variation to the “Standard Service” is the Lob Service. Most players don’t really like this serve as she is difficult. She is a woman. She can be erratic; she requires feel, touch, thought and practice. When loose, she offers easy return options, and worse, often goes out. But, when good, and treated and caressed properly, the Lob Serve can be a honey, leading you to wins, never expected.

Most squash players do very little with a high backhand volley. If you can develop a Lob Serve, with lots of height, and little pace, you can take advantage of some very weak returns. And to avoid that horrible out-of-court call, lift your Lob Serve, high on the front court. Aim it onto the front wall, on your side of the court. This throws the ball above the head of the receiver, cramps his space, and makes his return even more difficult.

The converse of this serve is the masochistic Bullet Serve. This is hit with POWER. But not aimed at the side wall. Aim this directly, at your opponent, ideally like a yorker in cricket. With every good serve, there is a low margin for error, but the rewards are great. To be safe, aim higher, and be like Cupid. Attack the heart.

Then there are other options - the surprise down the middle paddle. Be careful here, as it can result in a rubber-burned, bruised bum! (Oh, by the way, let’s kill the myth, that different rules apply to service when hitting your opponent.) The PLOP Serve - A soft little shot with no pace , that, JUST, reaches the Service Box and, used selectively has an amazing success rate .Your opponent, normally standing too far back in the court, will see a Million Dollars, and will do some amazingly stupid things with this serve. Hugh Glover’s speciality, the Corkscrew which hits front wall, then side wall, screws high across court, and if hit perfectly, hits the side-wall, and runs parallel with the back-wall. But this shot requires lots of practise and skill.

And serving from the right hand, and left hand box are 2 vastly different serves. From the right hand box, you have more options. Your angle is wider so you have more choices. You can choose forehand, or backhand both of which change your angle of attack. From the left hand box, you have less options and your angle of attack is more acute. Try here, to angle the serve down the wall, but making contact with the wall is critical, or you leave your opponent too many options to attack.

Once you have mastered the various options, then you can start anticipating the rally. The slow lob serve, should produce a weak shot, ready to be cut off; the hard Heart Jammer should produce a short jabbed cross-court response; the Plop, a mad smash at the ball which could go anywhere, normally cross-court. Often into the tin.

If you have all of these variations up your sleeve, the next key is how to use them. Choose one, and make it your speciality. Your signature. But more importantly, test your opponents out, and if you find there is one option where she struggles, pummel that option. But throw in some variation as you go along.

The best between-game advice I have ever heard, is “Serve More”. Learn to serve well. She will serve you well!

 
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