Archive for Racquetball Pro Tips

PRO TIP – PLAYING DOUBLES

By Wanda Collins
Doubles can be a great game if you understand the basics. Strategy changes a little when there are four of you on the court! Remember that you and your partner want to control center court. Ending up in back court is a sure way to lose a point (even more than in singles). Here are some hints to keep you in position and play well:
1. When your partner is serving, be sure that you exit your box and move away from the wall as soon as the ball passes the short line so that you can establish a good position before your opponent does.
2. Never serve to your partner’s side of the court (except an occasional lob), as it places him/her at a disadvantage in gaining position after the serve. Chances are, they will have to cringe on the wall, rightfully worried about getting hit on the return of serve.
3. Let your partner cover their side of the court! If you cover too often for ceiling balls and other passes on their side, they’ll have to give up their court position and will begin to expect that you will be there all the time. This will lead to problems: An open space on your side of the court that your opponents can take advantage of and your opponent will be out of the rhythm of the rally and lose their edge.
4. Speak up! Sometimes you will need your partner to help you out. Saying ONE word – “yours!” or “mine!” should do it. And before you start, ask your partner who will cover the center court shots so that you don’t run into each other, hit your racquets together, or watch a shot go by.
5. Crosscourt passes don’t work well in doubles. An opponent will be waiting and your partner may be in the way. Best way to get the ball by the other team is a down the wall shot, a ceiling ball, or a wide angle shot that hits front wall and then side wall just behind the short line so that it wraps around the court behind your partner and your opponents.
6. When the serve goes to your partner’s side of the court, move up to center position on your side right away so that you can establish yourself and be prepared for the front court shots. Doubles can be fun. Ask someone who is experienced to join you and show you the ropes!

Racquetball Tip – Missed Ceiling Shot

How many times have you experienced the awful feeling of trying to catch up with your opponent’s shot when it flies from front wall to back wall and zips by you toward the front wall again? And what about that panicked feeling of what to do with the ball once you catch up to it? This should be a time when you could be thinking “Automatic Point for Me!” rather than feeling panicked about what to do. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction:
A missed ceiling shot is most often the cause for the above situation for experienced players. For beginners and some intermediates, it’s just an errant shot that flies too high in the court. If your opponent hits a ball that is obviously going to fly directly from front to back wall without bouncing, you should:
1. Take off running at top speed to the top line of the service box.
2. Pause there and look for the ball as it comes toward front court, getting turned sideways to be ready to hit a backhand or forehand shot.
3. Let the ball continue to come forward to the front of your stance and then move with it until you can contact the ball knee high or lower.
4. If you don’t have a sense of where your opponent is, don’t start trying to locate him/her now.
If you take your concentration and eyes away from the ball, you’ll surely miss the shot.
Shoot one of two shots:
– Directly into the front wall so that the shot “kills” (hitting below one foot into the front wall) and travels to a back corner of the court.
– “Pinch” the shot into the side wall so that it carries around a front corner of the court and dies.
BOTH of these shots should have a good chance to end the rally as long as you WAIT for the ball to be below your knees when you contact it. You can practice these shots by setting yourself up with these “fliers” on an empty court. If you practice your run and return over and over, that feeling of panic should leave you in an actual game situation and you’ll begin to think “AUTOMATIC POINT FOR ME!”

Racquetball Tip – Returning Serve

One of the toughest assignments in the game of racquetball is to successfully return a well-placed serve in the backhand corner. It is improtant that the receiver be able to neutralize the server’s advantage and get on an equal footing to play the point out. Notice that I didn’t say it is important for the receiver to “kill” the server return or hit a winner to end the point, although there are times when players look like they are trying to do just that. Remember that you are at a disadvantage: the server has great center court position and you are being forced to hit a backhand return from about 38 feet from the front wall. The better his or her serve is, the more you should be thinking defensive, not offensive play.

The best return to a tough serve is a ceiling ball. Ceiling balls force the server to run all the way to the back court from the service area where they will encounter a ball that has to be hit from shoulder height or higher. You should aim to hit the ceiling about 2 to 7 feet from the front wall. Use a full smooth stroke: make sure you don’t “punch” at the ball with your arm or you will not be consistent.

If the serve return can be hit with a good stroke before it gets to the back corner, or if it is hit hard enough and high enough to come off the back wall, you can begin to think more offensively. This is the time for a straight shot down the wall or a crosscourt pass shot to the opposite back corner. Make sure that you have time to actually set your feet and get back far enough to be in position to take the shot.

Remember to be SMART when returning serve. Force the server to back court and wait for another time to try and “kill” the ball in front court…and don’t forget to move into center court position as soon as you can!

Complete Swing

Using a complete swing when hitting the ball can provide a wealth of benefits:

  • It will help you to keep your racquet level – which eliminates hits into the floor, or shots that fly too high.
  • It increases the speed at which you can hit the ball.
  • It will improve your consistency.

 

There are a few tips you can try to help you finish your swing:

  • When you practice hitting the ball, tell yourself to hit THROUGH the ball, not AT the ball.
  • Your swing is finished when your racquet travels around to point at the back corner of the court. When you practice, check out where your finish point is: what is the racquet pointing at?
  • Tell yourself when you swing that the head of the racquet should point at 3 different walls during its travels: the side wall, the front wall and the other side wall behind you.
  • Imagine that the ball is lying on the top of a table and your job is to sweep the racquet around to hit the ball without touching the tabletop.

 

A smooth, repetitive stroke that uses these techniques will cut down on your errors and make you a better player.

Making Your Backhand Better

I can’t count the number of players who are looking for tips to make their backhand better. Players who are self taught have some obstacles to overcome to improve their stroke, but the most important one is something they overlook: you have to be willing to make some changes to your current comfort zone. This might mean a different stance, stroke and timing. You might have to train your body to move differently. This takes patience and a lot of practice outside of a game playing situation. Players need to play less and practice more when working on a skill. It can reap big benefits down the road in your matches, but requires that you feel uncomfortable for a while. That’s a hard pill to swallow because it means that you’ll be worse before you become better.

Start with a check of your grip. A forehand grip should feel like you’re shaking hands with the racquet (NOT the flat side, but the frame edge of your racquet). When you need to hit a back- hand, that grip should rotate ¼ turn (or so) to the left, if you’re right handed, or a ¼ turn to the right if you’re a leftie. If you don’t change your grip, you will be more limited in your ability to hit flat, level shots without contorting your arm. This can cause a lower percentage of success and possible pain in your arm and elbow over time. Switching to a backhand grip is an essential part any game.

Watch Those Feet!

It is important to remember the rule regarding leaving the service box early after serving. If you (or your partner in doubles) steps over any part of the back line (the “short line”) of the service box before your serve passes that line on its way to the back of the court, it is an out. You do not get a 2nd serve when this occurs! This rule usually comes into effect when you lob serve, as it takes a while for the ball to pass the short line. Hard hit serves usually cross before you have a chance to step out. So get used to timing yourself out of the box appropriately, and remember to look for this when you are the referee of a match!

Be Ready from the Start

When you’re waiting for your league or tournament match, or just that grudge match with your weekly playing buddy, be sure you have prepared to play your best from the first point. Too many people run into the locker room, grab their racquet, and declare themselves ready to go. The first 10 points of the game are messy, and you are not hitting your best shots. Your mind might be ready, but your body may need a little help. Get on a stationary bike for about 10 minutes and get your circulation going. Find a warm spot – maybe the sauna – and do a little stretching routine to help your muscles loosen up and be ready to cooperate when you take the floor. Spend the time when you’re stretching visualizing your swing…. Feet turned like a batter at home plate, ball over the plate like a pitch, and your racquet swinging out over the plate as you turn into the shot. Finish your stroke. When you hit the court, take your practice shots just as you visualized them, and be ready to play ball!

Using the Lob Serve

A lot of racquetball players neglect a serve that can actually be a good weapon in their game. The lob serve – that high, arching soft serve that travels to the back corner of the court – isn’t just a second serve to get the ball in play. It can be a valuable tool if you learn to hit it correctly and use it against certain opponents. Some players only use this serve if their first serve is short or long. Many of the game’s really great players use this as a first serve on a regular basis. If your drive serve – that hard, low shot to the corner – isn’t working because 1) you’re off that day, 2) your opponent hits harder and lower than you do, 3) you’re so slow at getting out of the service box, you should consider using a lob serve as your first serve. Hard hitters can get frustrated at the lack of pace on the ball, and if you hit it correctly, it will force your opponent to hit an overhead backhand – one of the hardest shots to execute on a racquetball court, OR a tennis court. So if that hard hit serve isn’t impressing your opponent, save it for another day and lob!

Warm Up for a Match

Pre Court:

  1. Find a stationary bike, tread mill, rowing machine. Get on and do a slow gradual start for about 10 minutes.
  2. Stand in a forehand position and swing a forehand swing 50 times. Start with a shorter stroke, thinking of perfect form and work your way up to a full body swing.
  3. Stand in a backhand position and swing a backhand swing 50 times. Start with a shorter stroke, thinking of perfect form and work your way up to a full body swing.
  4. Stretches: Find a quiet place and stretch biceps, triceps, calves, hamstrings, groins. Every part of your body that you’ ll need to stroke and run.

On the Court:

Develop a warm up plan that you use consistently – every time you warm up for a match.

  1. Stand behind the short line close to the side wall. Hit 10 – 20 forehands down the wall. Concentrate on hitting the ball flat and using a complete stroke.
  2. Stand midway from the short line to the back wall. Hit 10-20 forehands down the side wall. Concentrate as in #1.
  3. Feed yourself balls off the back wall and hit your forehand down the wall, 10 – 20 times.
  4. Feed yourself balls off the back wall and hit your forehand pinch.
  5. Practice ceiling balls down the wall until you feel you can hit them with accuracy. Concentrate on full strokes and correct velocity. Switch sides with your opponent and do the same sequence on your backhand side.
  6. If you have the court to yourself, practice a pinch shot drill before you start the match.
  7. If you have the court to yourself, practice your drive serve and lob until you feel comfortable.

Handling the Blast Shot

How many times have you experienced the awful feeling of trying to catch up to your opponent’s shot when it flies from front wall to back wall and zips by you toward to front wall again? This should be a time when you’re thinking, “Automatic point for me!”, rather than worrying about what to do and what shot to make as you chase the ball down. You may even be sensing that you are totally out of position for the next shot. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

A missed ceiling shot is most often the cause for the above situation for most experienced players. For beginners and some intermediates, it’s just an errant shot that flies too high in the court. If your opponent hits a ball that is obviously going to fly directly from the front to the back wall without bouncing, you should:

  • Take off at top speed to the “top” of the service box.
  • Pause and turn sideways to locate the ball as it comes toward front court.
  • Set yourself for either a forehand or a backhand shot.
  • Let the ball continue to come forward until it falls to a height at your knees or lower, if you can.
  • Let the ball come to the front of your stance: pulling it forward from behind you makes you lose control of the shot.
  • If you don’t have a sense of where your opponent is, don’t start trying to locate him/her now. If you take your concentration and eyes away from the ball, you’ll surely miss your shot.
  • Shoot one of two shots: 1. Directly into the front wall, in front of your body, so that the shot “kills” as low as possible and heads down the wall to the back corner. Or 2. “Pinch” the shot into the side wall so that it rolls around the front corner of the court, as low as possible. Both of these should produce an end to the rally as long as you WAIT until the ball is only a foot or two (depending on your abilities) up from the floor when you take your shot.
  • Avoid shooting crosscourt as much as you can!!! Hitting away from yourself usually means you’re hitting to your opponent and you will be out of position to retrieve the next ball.

You can go into a court and set yourself up with these “fliers” in order to practice your return. If you practice the return over and over, that feeling of panic should leave you in an actual game situation, and you’ll begin to think “Automatic point for me!”