Monday, March 22, 2010

If It Works, Why Change It? Lob vs Backhand Serve...

I am a student of the game, just plain and simple. I study this game and am always looking for ways to improve my understanding, my technique, level of play so I can pass that on to my students or anyone who listens. I am fortunate because my son is a high level player and I can always pass these things by him and thrash it about. He is also an astute student of the game, but his goal is to pick up things he can use first and foremost in match play.

About a month ago, much to the encouragement of my son I started converting my service to the forehand side to my opponents backhand receiving side from a very effective lob serve to the backhand serve the pros started using years back. My son has been using this server for a number of years. I knew it had an advantage, a significant advantage, in theory but I have a great lob serve so why would I change it? That the backhand serve is a better serve, straight and simple, there's no doubt -- the pros wouldn't use it if it weren't. It eliminates one complete step (this is a game of inches, here we're talking about a foot or more) in moving to the T off the serve and preparing for your opponents return. It's not an eacy serve to hit but with practice and the right technique, it didn't take long to start hitting that serve with a good deal of effectiveness. And most importantly, I find myself early in preparing for my opponents return off the serve.

My most favorite student, Margaret Higgins, started converting to this serve and, while it's only been a couple of weeks, it's coming along nicely. She recently told me she played one of the better players at the club and faulted alot. Her opponent remarked, "if the lob serve works, why change it?" I didn't have much time to go into it with her, but just told her stick with it, it will happen and it's without a doubt a better serve. I should have qualified this by explaining you basically target the ball in the same way you do with the lob serve with a couple of differences, one of which I already described with less a step for early preperation to receive the opponents return of your serve. The other, is you put a slight angle slice on the inside of the ball (that part of the inside of the ball closest to the racquet face), creating a rotation on the ball equivalent to a righthand pitcher's curve ball tailing away on a lefthand batter -- I think that's right. The ball isn't flat nor does it have the underspin of a lob server. The motion on the ball is different.

The great thing about squash is that it is constantly evolving, changing, as a number of outside variables come into play and pro players adapt to changes in fitness levels, speed, racket technology, even changes in the ball composition. Students of the game learn from the pros, learn by observing and understanding what they're doing and why they're doing it.

During our club round robin the other day Margaret served from the backhand side to her opponents rightside forehand and faulted. A few points later, she served with the backhand serve to her opponents backhand and faulted and shot me this dagger of a look, as if to say, "you're making me do this!" and being the fierce competitor she is, she doesn't like to give any points away. When she came off the court I remarked how well she played, and then paused, and reminded her matter-of-factly that she earlier faulted on the forehand side of the court as well. No explanation needed. She got it.

I will be surprised if her opponent who remarked on why 'change her serve' isn't hitting the same backhand serve in 3 months, certain then that Margaret was only too happy to show him how.

1 comment:

xenic said...

I agree with you. There are advantages of backhand serves. But I try to mix it up with forehand serves, as I found my opponents adapting to my style if I stick to one pattern. Isn't an element of surprise also an important factor of squash?